“Hard work always pays”

Mr Konde’s focus and steady determination to get ahead is inspiring, though not exceptional at all in developing countries. It’s a great thing to be able to provide a service that amplifies the returns generated by such entrepreneurs’ efforts.

“Dear lenders thank you once again and thank God the almighty due to hard work and marketing my product i finished selling my broiler chickens and this my very slow selling since i started this broiler business.
Now i have new 4 days old chicks which i brought to the farm on the 27th of May Monday and am looking at the chicks like small babies because of the weather and rains.
Its a bit cool and cold so i need to warm the brooder and the house to keep the chicks warm for atleast a week or more then after they have enough feathers i can let them warm themselves.
It is a hard task because i sleep in the same farm house with the chicks staying awake each after every few hours adding charcoal to my jiko small charcoal burner till morning,what an experience but tells you all about working hard and getting benefits after your hard work.
Second week is not also busy with vaccine given to the chicks and making sure all the litter is cleaned out then new wood shavings is introduced into the chicken house.
Well more is still to come but hard work always pays.
Thank you for now.”

– Posted today by Norman Konde, Mtwapa, Kenya

The Impact of One Person

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Kenya Client Relationship Manager Traci Yoshiyama

 

One of our most valued staff members, Traci Yoshiyama, completed her service with Zidisha today.  She has led the development of our platform in Kenya since joining us as a Client Relationship Manager in June 2012.

When Traci began working with our clients in Kenya one year ago, our lending program was still quite small, with just a few hundred clients mostly located in the villages surrounding Nakuru, in the Rift Valley province.  Since Traci arrived, we have gone on fund more than a thousand loans throughout the country.  

Many of these loans were a direct result of her work.  Traci spent countless hours, days and weeks traveling up and down the country under rough and grueling conditions, conducting information sessions and forging outreach partnerships with local NGOs and other community leaders, and patiently sitting down with one client after another to introduce them to the Zidisha website.  

The connections she made resulted in new opportunities and real hope: children eating better food, living in better housing, life-saving medical care becoming affordable, teenagers completing secondary school, and university education within reach for the first time.  Traci’s work to forge connections between these individuals and Zidisha has opened up opportunities that have changed the trajectory of hundreds of lives.  The ripple effects of this work will continue to grow and spread long after Traci has left Kenya.

Along the way, Traci has distinguished herself for her talent in connecting with our clients with empathy, and telling their stories beautifully and unforgettably.  She authored many of the accounts in Venture, our recently published ebook collection of entrepreneur stories.  You may find many other remarkable borrower stories she has written at her weblog, Talking Story.

Traci’s sincerity and dedication to advancing opportunities for all of our clients have won the respect and goodwill of Zidisha members throughout Kenya.  The strong relationships she built over many months have bridged many challenging barriers, and become the foundation for a positive and lasting partnership between our members in Kenya and our international staff and lenders.  

With time, the quality of these relationships made it possible for Traci to multiply her impact by becoming a leader of leaders.  The result is a strong network of several dozen Volunteer Mentors, experienced borrowers residing in communities throughout Kenya, who volunteer to reach out and assist other borrowers to join and interact successfully with Zidisha.  

Words cannot do justice to the momentous legacy Traci has built in Kenya over the past year.  The impact of her work will live on in transformed lives, and the continued success and growth of the Zidisha community in Kenya.

– By Julia Kurnia, director Zidisha

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Letter from a student of the Terrian School, a charitable early education institution started by Zidisha member Teresia Kabiti in Nairobi, to a pen pal at Hongwanji Mission School in Hawaii.  The pen pal partnership between the two schools is one of many legacies of Traci’s service in Kenya.

“Au dedans de toi est la source de la vie”

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By Mien De Graeve

My name is Mien and I am Client Relationship Manager for Zidisha in Burkina Faso. We just had a few members in Burkina Faso when I arrived here last September. I am very proud to tell you that the number of loans financed in this country reached 100 last week!
One of these 100 entrepreneurs is Justine Ouedraogo. During her loan application I communicated with her through email. I got very curious though after a while, not only because it is quite particular to meet a writer in Burkina Faso, but also because she started to speak about Zidisha to the members of her association Amour Divin, some of these members have applied for Zidisha loans as well and all of them seem to meet exceptionally motivated people.
Yesterday afternoon I finally met this extraordinary woman!

When you have a look at the titles and covers of her book, you may think that she’s writing about religion. She is not! She is writing about spirituality and she asked me to stress the difference between those 2 concepts. Religion is about a set of rules, it’s a system trying to guide people to live according to important values. Religion is about attributing responsibility for what happens to you and your life to someone else. Spirituality is about the inner force that guides you to live according to the same values and about believing that you are capable of changing things, of achieving your goals yourself. “Au dedans de toi est la source de la vie” (“The source of life is inside of you”), that’s the most important message Justine wants to spread through her books, her songs and her lectures. 

It was very interesting to hear how she became the promoter of this message. She used to be a very pious catholic, just like her first husband and father of 4 of her children. At a certain moment she decided to leave the catholic church and she converted to evangelism. She was then still fully convinced that a religion was the best answer to the spiritual questions we all have to deal with. Her conversion caused a lot of trouble in the relationship with her husband, to that extent that he started to ill-treat her and finally repudiated her. 
First she found comfort and consolation in her religion and in praying but after a while she started to realize that it’s not your religious belief that is going to change your life and the world, it’s your acts and the way you interact with people. She then turned away from church and religion completely and started to work on her own ideas and concepts. She created the association ‘Amour Divin’, she started to write and to sing. It’s hard to survive with the revenues of sales of her books and records, but she’s very determined to continue. Actually ideas are a product as important as food or clothes, especially in a developing country as Burkina Faso. Many people are trained to rely on help from others or to belief that one day help will come as long as they continue praying. What Justine wants to make clear is that each and everyone has a personal responsibility to work towards the changes he would like to see in his or her life, and that guidance is to be found in each person’s heart. She said yesterday that if she would have understood spirituality a few years ago as she does now, the conflict with her first husband would never have occurred. 

Although I am an atheist myself, I found it very inspiring to speak with Justine and it makes me happy to see how some people in Burkina Faso are so determined to invest in the mental, moral and spiritual development of the country. It also makes me very happy to see and feel how Justine really lives according to her values and principles and how she supports and inspires so many people in her community. 

This was indeed very different from visiting a more traditional business such as a pig farm, a hair dresser or a hard ware store but it was a wonderful discovery! Check out Justine’s books on www.shopmybook.com (author name: Justine Marie Philippe OUEDRAOGO)

Putting Capital to Good Use

“Hi Zidisha Family. I received the money on Sunday 19th at 6:15 am East African Time. I have already started my rabbit project and I will post the pictures as soon as possible. With the remaining amount of Ksh. 1,500, I have also used it to put to use an idle land which my Mum gave to me just behind our home. I have choose to plant some vegetables and general home groceries.
I have already set up the Farm’s website, which is http://thekamandesfarm.kbo.co.ke/ 
I have also taken the initiative to create awareness to my friends and family and generally the youth in our area about Zidisha, how they can put into good use the capital to add more to their profit and give back to the community either directly or indirectly.
I am also a Fourth Year Engineering student at the Technical University of Kenya. I am working on my final year project that involves speed synchronization of multiple motors in industries. It will cost me $789 to purchase the Do It Yourself Kit from http://www.edgefxkits.com/speed-synchronisation-of-multiple-motors-in-industries. I am currently soliciting funds from well wishers worldwide to help me purchase the kit, and even if it was to be in form of a loan, I would be very much willing to repay as with this project, I will make a significant impact on my five year degree…
I look forward to soon, in less than 15 months to change my status from a borrower to a lender in Zidisha. You really have made a significant impact in my life and I will be forever indebted to you.”

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Ripple Effects

“I take this opportunity to thank you for changing my life and my entire family. Through this loan I was able to expand my business just as intended. I am also able to help ten young children below 10 years by feeding and clothing them for their parents had passed away due to H.I.V. AIDS. I am also intending to use part of my profit to take them to school. May God bless you.”

– Posted by Eunice Ngetha, Nairobi, Kenya

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An Amazing Mother

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Serah and her granddaughter

This story, by Kenya Client Relationship Managers Achintya Rai and Lauren Rosenbaum, was originally published in Zidisha’s book Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories.

Serah Wanjiku Mukuria works at the Mugaa Village Secondary School, a rare rural high school nestled in the highlands of Kenya’s Rift Valley, as a secretary (many people affectionately call her “Madam Secretary”) and also takes care of her farm and animals. I was a little startled when she said to me, “Zidisha will start giving milk from next month.” I later found out that Zidisha is the name of her cow. With her first Zidisha loan Serah started a photocopying business. The business didn’t do too well, so she sold her photocopying machine and bought Zidisha. With her second loan of $424 she has bought a little plot of land near the earthen road leading to the village. She intends to build on this plot and rent out the premises.

I am always curious about the ages of people here, because they never look their age, but I avoided asking Serah about hers because she’s a lady. Then she told me that she has only four years left to retire and that she will shift to her new plot after retirement. I couldn’t resist asking her age and was surprised to find that she is 52.

Serah is a little bundle of energy. We walked from her home to the school together (it’s a forty-minute uphill walk) and she literally floated. She is also one of the most pleasant people I have met here. She is always smiling (I think what helps is that she is not a teacher in the school and thus doesn’t need to scare the children) and comes across as very warm and generous (on the way back she kept asking if she were walking too fast for me). She insisted on carrying my laundry with her, using a strap across her forehead to lighten the load in the customary style of Kikuyu women.

Serah and her husband, Jackson, live in a two-room house. Their kitchen, “guest room,” and latrine are made of mud and sticks. All of these buildings are new; the original ones were destroyed during the 2007 post-election violence that swept through the country following the announcement that incumbent Mwai Kibaki had won despite opposition leader Raila Odinga’s consistent edge in opinion polls. The people in this area call this period, which resulted in the death of about 1,300 people and the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands, “the clashes.”

Serah’s village was particularly affected because of its close proximity to areas populated by members of the Kalenjin tribe, who were disillusioned what many believed to be a plot to keep the Kikuyus in power. Political leaders exacerbated the violence by supplying youths with weapons, transport, and angry slogans. Serah and her husband were forced to flee their farm and most of their belongings and animals were lost. Now an area that once had many houses and shops is sparsely populated. The village market is nearly nonexistent but for a few shops made of mud and sticks.

The political crisis in Kenya preceded an economic downturn and severe drought that dramatically affected the region. This is the first year since the crisis that the farm has actually been able to grow maize. Serah’s husband, who had been employed as a truck driver from 1977 up until the outbreak of the violence, has been unable to find work for months. He plans to help Serah start her business in order to maintain a more reliable source of income. He also hopes to someday buy a mill to grind maize for a profit.

Serah is an extremely hard-working lady. Even on the weekends she is constantly in motion, whether she is walking seven kilometers to the nearest market, working in her small farm, cooking, cleaning, or entertaining visitors. She never sits down to rest except for at mealtimes. She is always pushing herself to help everyone in her family and community in any way she can. Perhaps that’s why she has about a million friends.

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Serah with one of her daughters

When we were on our way to the market she passed an old lady who was struggling to carry a twenty-pound bag of beans to the market to sell. Serah promptly took the bag from the lady and slung it over her own back to carry it. When we got home she had a visitor, Joshua, who suffered from a brain injury and now has difficulty walking, writing and talking. Serah gave Joshua a hug and some chai (Kenyan tea made with lots of fresh milk and sugar), explaining to me that she assists his mother, who is also disabled, to take care of him. Every Sunday she pays for a pikipiki, a motorcycle taxi, to help him get to their church located seven kilometers away.

Over the weekend she was constantly visited by friends and neighbors. She was always happy to entertain them and offer them chai, no matter how busy she was at the moment. On Sunday, she had about ten relatives from Nairobi who came to enjoy nyama choma (roasted meat – her husband slaughtered a goat for the occasion). She insisted that they return home with bags and bags of maize, beans, and charcoal.

Two of Serah’s daughters stay with her with their children and Serah takes care of them and the children’s school fees. Serah has studied through secondary school, but her daughters have only finished primary school due to financial constraints. Serah understands the importance of education and wants her grandchildren to finish their education.

Serah’s Words:

“After changing my first business from photocopying, typesetting and selling stationeries to dairy farming, am now contemplating good milk production. A liter of milk sells at KSH 40 [$0.50] and am planning to produce about 45 liters of milk every day after I manage to buy two more cows each at KSH 35000 [$437]. Hope I will get a fat loan.”

You may view the latest news and photos of Serah’s business at her Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

“A Good Stepping Stone”

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This remarkable personal story was posted by Sylvain Yameogo, one of our earliest members in the desert country of Burkina Faso, West Africa.  

The area where I live is called KOUDOUGOU. It is located in the western part of the country, 100km from the capital, Ouagadougou. As stated in this profile, my name if YAMEOGO Weindate Sylvain. I am 24 years old and am the oldest of a family of three children. I lost my father when I was nine, on December 15th 1996. After his death, my mother who was a housekeeper was forced to work even more in order to feed us. Our situation was made even more difficult with my younger brother’s illness. From this point on, I spent the summers working to help my mother and to pay school for my siblings and I. 

Our situation did not improve and my mother passed away from a long illness on September 13th 2003. After her death, I took on the responsibility of caring for my younger brother and sister. I continued to attend public school and obtained my license in 2009. After graduating, I enrolled in the geography program at the university level to better support my siblings in their schooling. I chose geography for the ability to quickly obtain a diploma even though my dream was to become a pharmacist. Unfortunately, an extended strike in the geography department affected the availability of classes. It became impossible to attend the regular program within the planned graduation timeframe. This situation was conflicting with my desire to help my brother and sister succeed. So I decided to start a small scale chicken farming business to occupy the free time created by the professor’s absences and the continuous strikes on campus. 

More importantly, I made this decision to create a revenue stream allowing me to fulfill my duties of oldest son to support my brother and sister. With the revenue from the enterprise, I am in a better position to provide for my brother and sister, pay for medical appointments and prescription medication for my ill brother. I also buy material needed for my geography training, internet access to be able to visit the Zidisha website, etc. I am very passionate about my small experience in chicken farming and am interested in turning it into a true professional and scientific career. 

In my opinion, the Zidisha concept constitutes a good stepping stone. Ambitious entrepreneurs like me don’t always have the opportunity to see our dreams come true since the access to credit is complicated in the country. First and foremost I would like to congratulate Zidisha. If their system didn’t exist it would need to be created. I am very motivated, ready for work and think of myself as an innovator. My hope is to be successful and be seen as a model for generations to come as an inspiration to develop my country and all of Africa.

To view more comments and Mr Yameogo’s original words in French, please visit his Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

What it Takes to Survive

What it Takes to Survive

By Traci Yoshiyama and Achintya Rai

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This story was originally published in our ebook last fall.  At the time, Mr Mwathi was far in arrears and struggling to support his family.  Last month, he repaid his first Zidisha loan and raised a new one, which he reinvested in his business.  Last week, Mr Mwathi posted a note to thank his lenders: “Now i have increased my stock and business is cool.”

From barber, to shoe salesman, to water delivery boy, to the selling of eggs and sausages; often times this is the path one must take to survive in Kenya. Though he is only 23, John Mwathi has tried his hand at all of these jobs and more.

As we walk through the muddy unpaved streets of John’s Nairobi neighborhood, he points out his competition, a young man carting fifteen twenty-liter jugs of water. Water transport being a common business in this community, I ask John how he manages to get any customers. “Speed,” he replies. With a universal price of $0.12 per twenty-liter container of water, agility is what stands between you and the next guy.

By 4:00 PM, John retires from transporting goods and begins to set up his food stall in the market center. Customers are plentiful during the evening hours, for work has finished and appetites are high. On a good day, John is able to make as much as $6.30 from snack sales, though most of his income goes towards basic necessities and supporting his younger sister, who lives with John’s parents in their hometown in western Kenya, with school fees, food, and clothing.

He took a Zidisha loan of $204 to purchase a motorbike, which he intended to use as a taxi – a common business venture with the potential to offer a substantial step up in income for those who manage to acquire a vehicle. However the bike was of poor quality and needed frequent repair, and so did not give him the returns he expected. John finally sold the motorbike, and used the proceeds to relocate to Nairobi, where he hoped business opportunities would be more abundant.

In Nairobi he first tried opening a small barbershop. He used the front of his shop to sell shoes and also kept a small kiosk to sell steamed sausages and boiled eggs. The revenue from the haircutting and shoe sales being insufficient to cover the cost of renting the premises, John closed the shop after just a few months. John is now transporting water during the day with the help of his donkey and cart, and continues to sell boiled eggs and sausages in the evening.

I found John to be a very pleasant person. And even though he seemed a little shy in my presence, he was constantly smiling. He explained the economics of the sausage and eggs business to me in great detail. John’s future plan is to open a snack shop where he can sell hamburgers, cakes, biscuits and chips.

After hearing John talk about hamburgers and cakes I was obviously hungry so I decided to buy a sausage. John asked his friend, who was manning the cart at that moment, to move and prepared the sausage for me himself by slitting it and filing it with a salsa like preparation called kachumbari and sprinkling it with salt. It was delicious.

The inconsistency of income and the responsibility of supporting his family have made the repayment of his loan difficult. Having recently moved his egg and sausage business to a new neighborhood where nightlife proves better than in his first location, John is confident he will be able to repay his loan and would appreciate the opportunity to take out a second. He intends to use a second loan to open a snack shop, for acquiring stock is affordable and unlike the shoe or salon business, customers come on a daily basis.

The inevitable world of adulthood has its ups and downs, and as a young entrepreneur, John is still learning the tricks of his trade. Although unforeseen challenges have stifled his plans, John’s enthusiasm and good-natured spirit push him forward.

John’s words:

“This was my first loan and I overestimated my paying capacity. Also I moved from Nakuru to Nairobi and started a new business here… Also I have to support my little sister who is at my rural area with school fees, and also with pocket money for food [and] clothing.”

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

Trust

“thanks is to you all lender and the whole company at-large, was it not for you what had happened and what is already happening to date could have been a history .i never thought that one day my business will grow that big a and have a lot of client to an extent of employing someone to help me in serving all those client .i dont know how to say thanks to you people for trusting someone whom you even never seen or talk one on one by offering a loan.thanks once more for helping me .

i will not hesitate to update you.
thanks”

– posted today by John Macharia, Cybercafe owner in Gilgil, Kenya

View Zidisha Microfinance profile page