Readers of the Kiva Fellows Blog may be familiar with this outline:
- New Fellow arrives at placement
- Fellow goes on first borrower visit which involves bumpy roads and/or novel forms of transportation, questionable directions, meeting borrowers, and some unexpected form of hijinx
- Fellow returns home after a long day in the field both exhausted and exhilarated
There’s a reason why you’ve read this story before and why you’ll continue to read it on this blog: Meeting with borrowers is a rare privilege and we Fellows want to share it with you. It’s not every day that you get to go on a long, dusty drive in KwaZulu-Natal, spend the morning with a room full of micro-entrepreneurs, and feel like you’ve gotten acquainted with something small but true about microfinance: at times it can be messy and imperfect and imprecise but there’s no mistaking the look on a borrower’s face when she finally has access to capital in support of her business and her family.
So, without further adieu, my first borrower visit included:
- Waking up at 4:45am
- Questionable directions (check)
- Bumpy and dusty roads (check)
- Run-ins with cows, chickens, and school children
- Wrong turns
- Funny stares
- Factory towns
- Beautiful views
- Tree farms
- Learning some Zulu
- Making ten women laugh with my Zulu
- Hanging out on the floor with an 18 month-old girl
- Transcribing Kiva’s Client Waiver and Client Interview forms from my phone onto notebook paper after the loan officer forgot to bring them from the office (check for “unexpected form of hijinx”)
- Eating fresh off-the-fire “mealie” (corn-on-the-cob) from the shop of one of the borrowers on our long ride back
The purpose of this field visit was to sign up two new groups to be listed on Kiva.org. One of the highlights for me was showing off Kiva.org and the Kiva Fellows Blog on my phone. The women loved it. And I loved that technology was bringing me closer to them in the moment – they could actually see a Kiva borrower page and how they would be presented online – while knowing that I would be able to connect them to you once I returned home and wrote up this blog post.
So, like just about every Fellow before me and every Fellow after me, I absolutely can’t wait to get right back out there and do it again.