Besides working with our field partners to improve their processes and brainstorm innovative solutions around the use of Kiva’s zero-percent financing, one of our key deliverables is to go out into the field to meet and verify Kiva lenders. This is part risk-management, but also helps Kiva build a connection with their lenders.
Over the past few months, I have visited about 40 clients scattered across the entire country. While each journey got increasingly longer and more arduous, every new story continues to be a source of encouragement. Here are a few stories to share, and if you would like to be part of Kiva’s mission, lend as little as $25 to support a loan on kiva.org!
56 years old Shodmonoy was one of the most memorable clients I visited during my Fellowship. I met her at the hospital where she works as a cleaner, in a small town in Southern Tajikistan. A few months ago, her daughter fell very ill and needed urgent medical attention.Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the idea of paying for healthcare gradually became a tremendous burden upon the people. Today, without formal insurance facilities, many people in the rural regions rely heavily on microfinance support whenever a medical emergency besets the family. Shodmonoy had taken out a Kiva loan through IMON International to pay for her daughter’s hospital bills. She was extremely grateful for the support of the Kiva community, and when I asked her how she felt about strangers lending her money, she tearfully remarked “I am glad that in my critical time of need, I wasn’t alone in the world.”
47 year old Latofatkhon runs her own retail shop in the town of Tursunzurda. She is a repeat lender and has frequently used loans to increase her inventory. With a larger buying power with the aid of credit, she is able to purchase a larger variety of items, and also obtain lower prices in bulk. Her story is pretty amazing – 7 years ago she started selling a few small items at a makeshift roadside stall which measured 1m2. Today, she has grown her business into a proper retail store in the town center. As I was leaving, she showed me her latest bulk purchase, an entire inventory of fresh flowers. She exclaimed, “Spring time is the best season for the flower business!” Such a smart and successful businesswoman in rural Tajikistan!
19 years old Zarifbek was one of the youngest lenders I came across during my time in Tajikistan. His parents are farmers in the North of Tajikistan and could not afford to send him for higher education after high school. Zarifbek was thrilled to find out about Kiva and IMON’s education loan product that has one of the lowest interest rates across all of Tajikistan. This is the diverse reach of microfinance, which also supports educational needs of the lenders. Zarifbek is currently pursuing an architecture degree in the capital city, Dushanbe. I was curious to know if he plans to return to his village after graduation, as most professional jobs are based in the main cities. He remarked “when I graduate in 4 years, I believe there will be a need for architecture specialists the region of my village and I plan to go back there to help design new infrastructure for my people”. I was very encouraged by his dream!