“I am focusing on a bright future”

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Posted by James Wainaina, Nakuru, Kenya

Hi Everyone,
We are at the middle of the dry season in my country. The dry season starts from January to around the middle of March. During this period farmers get an opportunity to prepare their land for planting in March and April. It is also a period when Form one high school students join secondary schools. So, most parents who are also farmers are having a hectic time preparing for both of these activities. The two activities hold the central focus on our lives and can easily be described as the cornerstone of our existence. We have to take kids to school as it builds a more bearable future for them; our economy depends so much on education. We have to cultivate land since it is one of the main sources of our income.
I am in the process of digging a well as I had planned to do when I applied for the loan. Digging a good and reliable well is a long process since we use people to do this; and it has to be well over 140 feet. The equipment used are not very effective. It takes well over two months. We have mechanized diggers but they are beyond my reach.
God has blessed me well. Despite my well not being ready, I have bought a diesel water pump which I am using to irrigate a small portion of land. The portion is under kales and tomatoes. Therefore, I am still making good money. The cows have increased in number; I bought three heifers of good grade during the Christmas festivities when people were eager to spent and therefore ready to sell. The goats and sheep have since multiplied.
I am focusing on a bright future and an improved living standard. This has been made possible due to Zidisha.
Thank you and may God bless you.

To view more comments and photos, visit James Wainaina’s Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

Zidisha now offers “Starter Loans” for borrowers without local credit histories

An idea that has long been advocated by many of our lenders, borrower applicants and volunteers is now taken live on our website:

Starting today, Zidisha will no longer restrict membership to borrowers who have previously taken loans with local banks.  Instead, each new member will be allowed to raise up to $100 for his or her first Zidisha loan.  Successful repayment performance will qualify members for progressively larger loans over time.

Applicants must still pass a background check, provide extensive personal data and have the support of a local community leader in order to join Zidisha.  Eliminating the prior credit history requirement is intended to open up access to individuals who lack access to local financial services, such as youth or people who do not own assets that can be used as collateral.  This brings us closer to our mission of breaking down financial barriers for the world’s most marginalized communities.

To learn more about the new loan size progression criteria and view some of the discussion that informed this decision, please visit the threads Adjustments to eligibility criteria and loan size progression and Starter Loans for Social Capital in our User Forum.

“Quality education for all”

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By Traci Yoshiyama, Kenya Client Relationship Manager

A humbling quality of many Kenyans I meet is their strong desire to help one another, whether it be assisting a lost pedestrian, or lending money to a struggling neighbor despite their own financial challenges, or even starting a school in hopes of providing quality education for all.  Although I have been to many schools since my arrival in Kenya, I never tire of seeing the infectious smiles of the students or the staff working tirelessly to succeed in this admirable endeavor.  I had the pleasure of visiting Vision King Academy for the second time, excited to see Pherister Ndoge once again, this time a new member of Zidisha.

Never envisioning what it is today, Pherister began her career as the director of a daycare, wanting to help working mothers in her community.  With three children to start, the numbers quickly multiplied and eager parents persuaded her to embark on the creation of a school.  Although Pherister’s background was in accounting, she took the ambitious leap into education.  Finding a location was the first obstacle and due to the decrepit conditions of her newly rented space, many did not think she would succeed.  Sewage lined the entrance of the school, the rooms were in no shape for a classroom, and the building was also shared with live-in tenants.  Despite the onslaught of negative feedback, Pherister persevered.  She fixed up the room and cleaned up the entrance, covering the walkway with cement.  As improvements were made, more and more started to see Vision King Academy as a viable place for education.

Vision King Academy now has almost seventy students with classes ranging from baby class (children less than 2 years old) to third grade.  Renting only one room last year, Pherister is now able to rent five!  With palpable gratitude, she tells me how receiving the loan from her lenders has given her hope.  Due to the high demands of other institutions (i.e. interest rates, savings, meetings, groups), Pherister had no options, but when Duncan Chege (Volunteer Mentor of Zidisha) introduced her to Zidisha, she knew she found what she was looking for.  With the loan, Pherister was able to purchase wooden benches for her classroom, as the plastic chairs would easily break.  She also anticipates painting her walls because parents would often say the red and white walls of her classrooms resemble a butchery (all butcheries in Kenya are painted red and white).  With the help of Zidisha, Pherister hopes to show more families that Vision King Academy is a great learning environment for their children.

Pherister is currently taking Early Childhood Development courses on her holidays.  She would like to see Vision King Academy receive more students, which will enable her to rent the entire building, no longer having to share the space with tenants.  Intending to be a long-lasting Zidisha member, I know she will achieve this.  Knowing I was coming, Pherister planned a special morning for the students, treating them to biscuits and colorful balloon hats.  It was a sight to see and despite the pouring rain and chill in the air, our morning was filled with such warmth and heart.  Thank you Pherister for a wonderful morning!  I hope that attendance rises now that elections are over.  I can’t wait to see how Zidisha can assist you and Vision King even more!

If anyone would like to make a donation to Vision King Academy, please feel free to send an email to service[at]zidisha[dot]org.

To view many pictures of my visit with Pherister, go to www.talkingstory.posterous.com/pages/snapshots.

To view a video of Vision King Academy students singing, go to www.talkingstory.posterous.com (I apologize for the darkness, the school has no electricity).

Translation access now open to all Zidisha users

I’m pleased to announce that we have opened up access to post translations of loan profiles and comments to all users of Zidisha.org.  Going forward, anyone at all can contribute translations using the “Add Translation” links in each loan profile page.  I hope many Zidisha users will pitch in and assist our hard-working team of volunteer translators with the rapidly increasing volume of francophone members!

“Till I realize my dreams…”

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By Mark Opondo, Nakuru, Kenya

Thanks to zidisha team for their tireless effort and trust they have on us with their money in improving of lives in kenya. This being my second loan with zidisha, i have not regretted being a member of the team and i have introduced quite a number of business people to join zidisha. 

The first loan helped me establish a computer firm that picked up so well and the second one i used to establish a farm at home that is slowly picking up. I establish a horticulture farm. I dung a small dam, bought a water pump and pvc pipes. I planted cabbages and tomatoes in 1 hectare farm. the december rains was too heavy and the market supply was too high and therefore the sales was not good as i had approximated but i have not given up, what i have done is to give a second chance by now planting maize using irrigation and if all goes well I plan to sell when green and make big repayment of the loan come june.

The dairy farm that i also establish along side the farm is also doing well though the cow is producing little milk but still hopes to get a more productive cow that will produce much milk come december this year. i’m also rearing local chicken that freely roam in the farm. i started with four of them and their number has so far gone to thirty six and iam targeting around 150 come december. the farm is having two employees, one is casual while the other one is permanent. i part with kshs. 8000 on their salaries. 

my humble request to zidisha is just to understand and support my business till i realize my dreams, should i become succesful in all my undertakings, i swear not only will i remain a borrower member to zidisha but a donor too. May the almighty lord grants your team more strength as you continue to support us.

NB: The old woman attending my dairy cow is a widow, she has been supportive to my farm and have leased me i hectare farm for the pastures. she is committed to seeing our farm grows. 

You may view more photos and comments at Mr Opondo’s Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

Homeless Single Mother Uses Microloan to Launch Yogurt Business

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By Andrew Weber

My name is Andrew Weber and I recently served as a Zidisha Client Relationship Manger in Kenya. There I paid a visit to Catherine at her business in a town on the outskirts of Nairobi.

In a short period of time, Catherine has gone from sleeping on the streets to operating a successful yogurt business out of her home thanks to the support of a Zidisha loan. “Zidisha helped me so much, I had nothing before”, beams Catherine. “I am so happy with Zidisha”. 

Catherine is a single mom currently living in a small rented room on the outskirts of Nairobi with her five-year-old son. This room also doubles as a storage unit for her business, distributing yogurt and milk products to shops in the area. The yogurt business has been doing quite well over the last few months and things are looking up for her, but this was not always the case. Rewind one year and Catherine was spending nights sleeping outside because she was unable to afford rent. Without her own business, she had been making ends meet through working as a house cleaner. She was only making about $30 per month at this job and the work opportunities were inconsistent. She was living in a state of constant worry over how she would be able to support her small child.

She decided to try to increase her income through starting a business supplying yogurt and milk to shops in the area. But the initial returns were meager. She wasn’t able to afford a large enough supply to make the business viable. She explored the possibility of a bank microloan but was denied because she did not own her own plot and had few assets. That’s where Zidisha came in. 

“If not for Zidisha, I would remain poor”, says Catherine. Once she received her Zidisha loan, Catherine’s life and business began changing for the better. She was able to start buying trays of yogurt packages at discounted bulk rates so she could meet the local demand that she always knew existed. Her home now contains stacks of yogurt and milk packets (no refrigeration required) from the floor to the ceiling. She sells about 30 trays of yogurt per day now, pulling in about $200 per month in profit which enables her to afford rent and school fees. And she is quick to point out that her business is just getting started. With her next Zidisha loan she wants to buy a motorbike so she can deliver her products in a more cost-effective manner. Ultimately, she hopes to open her own shop to sell her goods. Armed with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and direct access to capital now, Catherine seems destined to achieve that goal. 

You may view more comments and photos at Catherine’s Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

Zidisha Lender and Borrower Meet in Burkina Faso

By Mien De Graeve, West Africa Client Relationship Manager

Zidisha lenders and Zidisha borrowers are communicating with each other every day, thanks to the wonderful World Wide Web. Real-life meetings between lenders and borrowers are rare though, and probably what happened last week in Ouagadougou was unique! Sigmund Elias Holm, a resident of Norway, booked a ten-day trip to the capital of Burkina Faso to attend FESPACO, the biennial pan-African Film Festival, together with a friend. He had been lending through various microcredit sites before and only recently discovered Zidisha. He also found out that Zidisha has a lending program in Burkina Faso and he decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to learn more!

No sooner said than done. He wrote an email to Zidisha and quickly got in touch with me. As you may know I am Client Relationship Manager in Burkina Faso since last September. We met last week in the beautiful garden of a guesthouse in Ouagadougou and I did my best answering many questions about Zidisha and about what makes Zidisha so very different from other microfinance initiatives. Nothing is more convincing though than seeing something with your own eyes. That is why we visited one of the active borrowers in Ouagadougou, Mrs. Safiatou Dao (check out her borrower profile at https://www.zidisha.org/microfinance/loan/DAOSafiatou/1298.html). Mrs. Dao runs a small restaurant, where she serves breakfast in the morning, lunch at noon, and fresh drinks (including delicious bissap, made from hibiscus flowers and mint) all day. Thanks to her first Zidisha loan Mrs. Dao was able to build an extra shed next to her “kiosque,” buy extra tables and chairs, and some new plates and cutlery. Since the enlargement of her restaurant Mrs. Dao saw her clientele growing steadily. Many employees from the offices around and students from the schools nearby appreciate that they now have a place to sit down quietly to enjoy a simple but delicious homemade meal. That was exactly what we did as well, while chatting with Mrs. Dao. She felt really honoured with the visit, and I bet Zidisha has two more loyal lenders!

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Zidisha lender Sigmund Elias Holm in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

The View From Kenya: Part III

Kenya emerged from last week’s poll with a new president-elect and a sense of relief that there was no repeat of the 2007 election’s massive violence.  The country is slowly returning to business as usual, and several of our members have returned to the cybercafes to share their perspectives with lenders:

“Hello everyone, i trust you are well. Myself and family are well and thank God. Its been a tricky and tight month for business due to elections and i had to close my business earlier for security purposes, but all went well we Kenyans maintained peace as we vowed never to shed blood of our brothers and sisters because of politics. Am looking forward to revamped business as we wait for officiating of our President in a weeks time and fully go back to operations. Looking forward to great success in spite of the hurdles that i choose to use as bridges to the next level. Thank you Zidisha team and all my lenders i wish you well and Gods blessings.” – Milcah Wairimu Wagura, Mombasa, Kenya

“I wanted to send money for repayment of my loan yesterday but was unable. This is due to mainly acess to mpesa agents. There were romours yesterday that the lossers in the just concluded general elections were going to hold a demonstration. Demonstrations here are usually violent, therefore the agents closed shop earlier than usual. However, this was not to be and we are back to normal…” – Jane Wanjira, Kiti Estate, Kenya

“hellow all my lenders, im very greatful to all my lenders. am doing well in my business i have not been transporting my goods to the eastern part of our country for the past few weeks. this has been in the result of the election which was there for some few days back. now elections are over and we have a new president in our republic. i hope to continue working hard untill i will be able to catch the rope…” – Veronica Wangui, Kiptangwanyi, Kenya

“dear lenders the elections in kenya is over and business is coming back slowly i was able to reload my business with more stock and i was able to service my Mitsubishi track. it is now helping me with supplying building materials wherever it is need around my home town and beyond…” – Evanson Gitau, Kiptangwanyi, Kenya

“Dear lenders,am still doing fine and am grateful to God.Last month was a critical month since our country was undergoing elections but God has seen us through and the elections were peaceful and are now over.However business went on as usual apart from the election day on Monday last week since I had to go and cast my vote. This month I have only added cement, jerrycans and traditional mats.I had added enough stock on January so I did not need to stock much.God willing,tommorrow am planning to restock nails ,paints and brushes.thanks” – Violet Karwimbo, Nairobi, Kenya