By Kimberly Strathearn | KF 16/17 | Turkey
In previous blog posts, I have introduced the Maya Istanbul office, the Sakarya branch office, and the Izmit branch office. This blog will highlight the Eskişehir branch office, introduce Nermin Akar and Serpil Altıntaş and provide an update on three entrepreneurs.
The Eskişehir branch was started with the participation of the Eskişehir municipal government and the Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (Maya is under the FSWW’s umbrella). The branch office was established in June 2010 and started disbursing loans in August of 2010. The municipality and Maya split the salary costs of Serpil and Nermin and they work in municipality offices. Nermin works in an office in the main Municipality building and is responsible for arranging coal (for heating), medical resources, and food for people in need. She refers those in need of clothing to Serpil, who works in the Women’s Counseling and Solidarity Center that is located nearby. Serpil is responsible for sourcing and distributing seasonally appropriate clothes to people in need. Since they work out of different offices, one challenge is to coordinate the sharing of the camera for borrower profile pictures. It is evident that Serpil and Nermin really like their jobs. They are enthusiastic about working with Kiva and currently 12 (about one third) of Maya’s 35 borrower profiles posted on Kiva are from the Eskişehir team’s efforts.
Maya Istanbul staff travel to Eskişehir every third Wednesday of the month, although more often if needed. During their visits, they review loan application files, meet potential borrowers, and sort out local office issues. It is about a four and a half hour drive each way.
I had wanted to visit the Eskişehir office for a long time but the visit just did not work out until the recently. I have visited all of the other offices and have spoken with the field staff about Kiva, client profiles and photos, and all the other important things we talk about in a loan officer training but just in a more informal atmosphere. I saw the need for a field manual that they could refer to when needed. I created a profile and journal update training (field manual), sent it to all the branch offices and my plan was to follow up with a visit to each office. Since I had not been to the Eskişehir office yet, this was the main reason why I was setting out for Eskişehir one very cold, windy and snowy Friday morning.
My day started out by slipping on the snow, down a couple of steps. I did not hurt myself (nice multi-colored bruise though) but broke the thermos I had filled with hot coffee. Although I had it loosely wrapped in a plastic bag, it seeped out onto all my training material, forms and most importantly it soaked my brains—meaning my new 2012 monthly planner—that almost made me cry!
I am probably one of the few left that has not moved my life to a smart phone. Well at least, I had sent the training material a couple of week prior so they could read it before I came. They had their copies and I could still read my copy (after spreading it on the radiator to dry out). We all had a good laugh about it.
The training went well and I had just enough time to squeeze in three borrower visits. The first visit was to Lütfiye. She was full of new developments. One of the workers in her restaurant wanted to open her own business and asked Lütfiye to be a partner. Lütfiye loaned her 500 Turkish Lira (about $285), helped her find a location, and helped her get started. At about the same time, she also bid on the snack shop (büfe) contract at the Post Office (PTT), and got it. Soon it all became too much. She decided to get her original investment back and gave over her share to the worker who had borrowed the money. Lütfiye told her she did not want any of the profits but that she just wanted her to make it work! She has her husband running the büfe at the PTT and her own business is going well. She is looking for a location on “Elite Street” as she calls it, the street that has the most expensive shops, cafés, and pedestrian traffic. If she can find a spot, she will close her current location and set up there. She currently has 4 ladies working part- time in her restaurant, 2 of whom were making dolma (pictured below) while we were visiting and offered us a sample. Çök Lezzetli! (Very Delicious!) They were nothing like any other dolma I have tasted before and incredibly delicious, even though they were not cooked yet. No wonder why Lütfiye’s restaurant is doing so well! Ellerinize Sağlık, Lütfiye! –literally, Health to your Hands, Lütfiye! (so they can keep producing excellent results, maybe more like Well Done! in English).
Next visit was to Hediye. Hediye’s shop is located in a small mall in the center of town. She reported that business is a little slow but that is normal for this time of year and she expects it to pick up in a month or so. I asked if she had looked up her profile on Kiva and she said she had not. I showed her how to look it up and pointed out all the Kiva lenders who had participated in her loan. She was surprised by how many there were and amazed that they came from all over the world. She said, she is thankful to all the Kiva lenders who gave her the chance to take out a loan and hopes that her repayments are helping other borrowers.
The last borrower before heading back to the bus station was Gülsüm. She reported that business is a little slow but that is normal for this time of year and like Hediye, she expects it to pick up in a month or so. I brought a print out of her profile and went over it with her. She had not seen it before and was pleased to be able to see pictures of those who had participated in her loan. She was a bit shocked when I pointed out Premal’s picture and told her that he is Kiva’s President! She blushed a bit and then broke into the most delightful smile. I also showed her the lending team section and that two of the lender came from the Turkey Lending Team (made up of Turkish Kiva lenders located all over the world). Gülsüm told me that she is thankful for the Kiva lenders who gave her the chance to take out a loan. She said her business had been in a hard spot and that the loan was like good medicine.
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Kimberly Strathearn is a KF 16/17 serving in Istanbul with Maya. Kiva’s newest Field Partner in Istanbul, Turkey. To learn more about Maya and their clients, please visit their Partner Page, join our newly created Friends of Maya Lending Team, or make a loan to one of their enterprising clients. Kimberly is a fan of giving Kiva Cards for just about every gift giving occasion. What could be better that giving the gift of helping someone?