I am more than halfway through my Kiva Fellowship now, and have been really encouraged by the many Kiva borrowers I have met in the field. It is perhaps timely to take a moment to reflect on a few of them, and share their stories with you here! I am wearing a smile on my face as I titled this post Hushbaht, which means “Happy” in Tajik!
Meet Magruba, a 33-year old mother of four. Of all the homes I have visited, her home must have been one of the poorest. Walls of mud props up her humble abode in a rural village in the Istraravshan region. From the moment I met her till the time I left, she couldn’t stop smiling. Due to the lack of employment opportunities in this country, many Tajik men end up leaving for Russia to find work. Magruba’s husband is no exception, and this leaves her at home looking after her four children. She had taken out a loan to pay the school fees for her children, as well as to obtain school supplies for them. “The most important thing is for them to get a good education”, she remarked. I met her on a cold day in Spring, at mid-noon it was about 2C. Sitting in her mud-house, I was freezing despite having multiple layers on. Despite the cold and the lack of substantial living amenities, Nasiba continued to wear the largest smile on her face. “Hushbaht?” I asked. “Hushbaht!!” she replied.
Meet Nasiba, a 45-year old mother of two. Like Magruba, she also lives in a modest home made of mud-walls. When she found out that her older son needed an medical procedure, she turned to the assistance of microfinance to help pay for the cost of the surgery. When I visited her at her home, she shared that her son has recovered quickly since the operation. Extremely thankful for the help of Kiva lenders from all over the world, she kept saying “Rahmat, rahmat”, which means thank you in Tajik. The small piece of garden outside their home laid bare in the cold, but she was full of optimism and exclaimed, “When it gets warmer, I will be able to grow tomatoes, carrots and potatoes!” “Hushbaht?” I asked. “Hushbaht!!” she replied.
Meet Maksuda, who already has 4 grandchildren but continues to work hard in life. She recently took out a Kiva loan to start a small pastry business. Most Tajik women bake bread in traditional mud ovens called “tanurs”. One would heat up the tanur with firewood, and when it gets sufficiently hot, stick the dough on the inner walls of the tanur and let the bread bake. However, you cannot bake pastries with a tanur. Maksuda used her loan to purchase a modern electric oven, and is now able to take orders of Bulochkas (pastry roll filled with jam). She makes US$1 for each kilogram of her pastries, and most orders come from neighbors and friends. When I asked her if she could sell it at a higher price, she explained that she would never want to make them pay so much for her pastries! Using milk from her cows and eggs from her chickens, together with flour from the market and her homemade apricot jam, Maksuda makes delicious Bulochkas with her simple electric oven. Of course, given the unstable flow of electricity, she has to wait for the right window of opportunity everyday to turn on the oven! “Hushbaht?” I asked. “Hushbaht!!” she replied.
I hope these stories give you an idea of how diverse microloans are in the developing world. From personal use to support family necessities, to medical emergencies and to start-up small businesses, the availability of microcredit in rural areas provides the much-needed support for many village folks. I was personally encouraged by how happy they were with how little they have – truly a big life lesson for all of us from the developed world.
And here is a final treat, the majesty of mountains in Central Asia!