Wings of Change

1533c0792d78ae68932a0f00e02e8b68by Rebecca Wolfe

Dulo Kikkan and his wife Caroline care deeply for the wellbeing and education of the children in their community. With two children of their own, Feizer Torunn and Johnson Israel, they knew that they wanted a place where their boys would be happy and well taken care of, have the opportunity to identify and nurture their talents, and be encouraged to understand and appreciate the different tribes and backgrounds of their classmates. There were over twenty schools in their local area, but they fell at two opposite ends of the spectrum — so run down as to be ineffective and unsafe, or high-quality, but so expensive as to be unaffordable. “I saw this big gap,” Dulo says, “and felt compassion for the children.” Though he and his wife had little money, they had a vision for what a school could be — both affordable and outstanding. Working as a team, the two of them managed to scrape together the cost of tuition for Caroline to study early childhood development and education at Kericho School of Professional Studies. After graduation Caroline got a job as a teacher while Dulo, a trained journalist, worked any job that came along. They saved as much as they possibly could and, after a year, had enough to open the school that they wanted their children and their neighbors’ children to attend — Wings of Change Academy.

The Academy’s first classroom was a room in a local church, which the pastor agreed to lend to them rent-free. Using their savings to buy stationery supplies and a few desks, they then opened their doors to the public. When they first began they had six students, and Caroline was the only teacher. By the end of the year, they had sixty-five students across multiple grades and operated on their own plot of land.



Wings of Change Academy’s first building on their own land


“People knew about my school because of the six pupils I started with,” Dulo says. Their first six outstanding pupils exemplified the school’s core values of “honesty, integrity, faith, accountability, excellence, fairness, transparency, love, and concern for others,” as well as Dulo and Caroline’s wish that the students they cared for be “healthy, well-rounded, empowered, and responsible” as they move forward into the world. The school’s focus on strong language skills in English and Kiswahili, as well as a sense of community and belonging, made the school attractive to local parents and their young ones.  “Children wanted to come and join us,” Dulo says.



Young students at play with new toys


From the beginning, Dulo and Caroline wanted their school to be a gift to the community, and so aimed to be highly affordable. “The fee we charge is very small, yet we offer the best education in the area,” Dulo says with pride. Mission centered organizations, however, often find it difficult to generate the capital required for expansion and improvements. Wings of Change was growing quickly, and outgrowing its existing infrastructure. Not wanting to raise tuition, Dulo and Caroline went searching for an alternate source of funding, and in that search they found Zidisha. “A friend of mine called Denis Ngetich told me about [it]…that very day he invited me and now I am a member,” Dulo says.

In February of 2015, Wings of Change Academy’s first loan proposal was posted. Having expanded the size of their school more than ten times since opening, their original single  bathroom was no longer sufficient. Public health officials recommended they have a minimum of six. “If Zidisha can help me with this fund,” Dulo wrote, “then I can set up these toilets immediately which will be a great help to me, the children and the teachers.” They had a “great vision for this school but financial constraints have been a hindrance.” With a little help, they were set to go far.


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In a matter of days the Zidisha community came together to fund Dulo’s $100  loan, allowing him to lay the foundation and set up the walls for the new bathroom. It was a busy semester for the school and their population more than doubled — one hundred and sixty children and ten staff were now using the original, too-small bathroom. In June, having paid back the first loan, Dulo posted another appeal to lenders to help purchase lumber and iron sheets for the roof,  cement and sand for plastering the walls and floor, and new doors for each stall.  This $190 loan was funded quickly, and by the time school started up again, the students and staff of Wings of Change had a new, bigger, better bathroom to use. With this improvement, too, Wings of Change was able to gain a recommendation report from the Ministry of Public Health and officially register as an educational institution with the Kenyan government.

In October the steadily growing school taught preschool through third grade, with grades being added as the original six students and their age peers moved up. In January of 2016, Wings of Change’s thirty-six third grade students were set to move up to fourth grade, but there was not yet a classroom for this level. Dulo and Caroline had already gathered bricks, sand, ballast, and rebar, but sought help from Zidisha in the immediate purchase of cement and iron sheets to finish out the needed supplies. With a new classroom they would be able to expand their student population, increasing the educational quality for all students, with an increased tuition income allowing for the purchase of better school materials.


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By the December holidays the foundation had been laid and the walls built, with the roof being added on. In January the classroom was open and students were learning within its walls. It’s plastering and floor were unfinished and it’s windows missing glass, but it was functional and safe, and progress was still being made. Before the end of the semester the classroom was fully finished — plastered and painted, with a shiny new floor and glass windows. Happy pupils were learning well, and were well on their way to fifth grade.


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Happy pupils abound at Wings of Change Academy. With thriving classrooms and extracurricular programs, the school is alight and buzzing with the energy of its young people. Every July students have the opportunity to take academic tours (field trips) outside of class. “Academic tours are very exciting as they expose our children to many new things.” Chartering a bus, they venture outside of their rural area into urban centers, visiting places such as “parks, airports, lakeports, zoos, and supermarkets.” While these trips are certainly a highlight, Wings of Change staff go out of their way to make sure students feel engaged and appreciated on a day-to-day basis. The academy offers football (soccer), track, drama, traditional dances, poetry, art, and debate, amongst other things. They also celebrate student birthdays with snacks and songs and create ceremony around the transition from one grade to another.



Wings of Change 2014 Kindergarten boys football team


This October Dulo returned to his Zidisha page. His students were now reaching standard five and they needed a place to learn. “I don’t want them to leave school and go to other schools because we don’t have a class 5 classroom,” he said. With his new loan, Dulo sought to build a new building to accommodate rising standard four students and employ a new teacher at his academy. “I have saved some money to buy building materials, but now I need money to buy cement and pay the builders,” he told his lenders. When his loan was funded, he took to his page to thank his lenders. Three weeks later he posted pictures of the rising walls, and in early December was eager to show the progress they had made — the building was nearly ready to be roofed. By January, the standard five students of Wings of Change Academy will have a new classroom in which to learn. The gift of a safe, nurturing, intellectually challenging environment for these kids will shape their lives forever and, in turn, shape the cultures and spaces that they go on to inhabit and contribute to.


The new 5th grade classroom at Wings of Change, soon to be completed


Wings of Change Academy has been operating for four and a half years now. Dulo serves as a volunteer mentor for other Zidisha borrowers, giving his time in gratitude for what the community has given to him and his family. Dulo and Caroline have big plans for their academy. They want to see it grow, keeping up with their students as they advanced in their studies. During school holidays, they are hoping to use their space and skills to train disadvantaged young people, particularly young women forced to drop out of school due to lack of funding or unexpected pregnancy, in useful trades such as “basket making, pottery, welding, tailoring, painting and sign writing, soap and shampoo making, etc.” In this way, they hope to help these young people find gainful employment and better lives for themselves and their families. They have done this once already, and “it was a blessing to so many people.”

Just last week, Wings of Change was able to get clean water piped into the school. Dulo is hoping to purchase a 10,000 liter water tank to store and distribute clean drinking water to the women in the area who do not currently have access to water nearby. “Here clean water is a very expensive and rare commodity,” Dulo says. “I wish to be of help to my community this way.”


When speaking of his town, Dulo is filled with passion. He shares photographs of houses in his community, and of the original buildings on the land, comparing them with photographs of Wings of Change today. “Maybe you will understand when I say that I long to wake up one day to see my community also live like people. Education, sacrifice, love, and passion are the only weapons I can use.”

A member’s loan to Dulo and Caroline has not only affected their lives as direct recipients, but also the lives of the students and parents of their community. If you would like to help another change maker serve their community, head on over to our loans page and fund a project.


More on Wings of Change Academy:


A YouTube video from a group of Dutch visitors:

A video of one of Wings of Change Academy’s academic tours:

Zidisha team spotlight: Alejandra, Operations Coordinator


By Julia Kurnia, Director

One of the most inspiring things about the Zidisha community is that volunteers are at the center of our operations.  Volunteers undertake an incredible range of tasks: loan payment processing, borrower application review, email and SMS support in four languages, accounting reporting, sharing entrepreneur stories in social media, and more.  It is no exaggeration to say that without the generosity of volunteers, Zidisha would not be possible.

Our volunteer team is a collection of extraordinary people, who work from their own locations all around the world.  We have profiled a number of them in this blog.  Today, I’d like to highlight the contributions of our volunteer Operations Coordinator, Alejandra (“Ale”).

Ale joined us in August of this year, and it’s already hard to imagine Zidisha without her.  I’m inspired every day by the immense impact she has on the world and the joyful, giving way in which she lives.

As Operations Coordinator, Ale is responsible for welcoming and orienting new volunteers, organizing the volunteers into teams, and ensuring that everyone has the resources and information they need to participate successfully.   She has transformed the volunteer experience at Zidisha, by setting up a Slack room for our communications, and introducing fresh ideas like video introductions of new volunteers and group birthday cards.

As if that weren’t enough, Ale has taken on the additional project of bring Zidisha loans to her home country of Mexico.  Thanks to her, we are almost ready to begin disbursing the first loans there.  If our lending program grows in Mexico the way it has in other countries, her hard work will make it possible in time for thousands of people to access life-changing loan opportunities.

I managed to persuade Ale to take enough time off from her many activities to provide an interview, reproduced below.  It’s a rare chance to get to know one of the remarkable people at the heart of our community.

How did you hear about Zidisha?

I read about Zidisha in Y Combinator, they provide seed funding for startups, and they started applying their model to non-profits. Zidisha blew my mind by putting together the power of the internet with no interest loans.

With Zidisha I realized that lending money with no interest rates instead of giving handouts dignifies people.

What sort of activities have you done since you started volunteering with us?

My responsibility is that operations run smoothly and in order to do this I have been involved in activities ranging from helping our volunteer accountants with monthly accounting reconciliations to distributing duties among all volunteers. I have been responding to borrower emails, disbursing loans, entering repayments, reviewing new borrower applications, translating, helping volunteers through email by answering their questions and providing orientation to join a particular team. My work is motivated by helping our entrepreneurs.

The day I joined Zidisha I was curious to meet the amazing volunteers, I was also lucky to join the Ghana Payment team and quickly started disbursing hundreds of loans to entrepreneurs. One of my favorite tasks is talking to volunteers and thinking of ways to improve our daily work. We come up with proposals to spend our time more efficiently helping entrepreneurs.

Do you have a favorite Zidisha entrepreneur story?

My favorite story is the first loan that Zidisha ever gave, when I tell people about it I can see tears in their eyes. We disbursed our first loan to a Masai nomad in Kenya who wanted to buy cattle, he was a day away from a bank but had mobile phone with M-PESA, a money transfer service Zidisha used to send him the money.

To tell you the truth I easily fall in love with all our entrepreneurs. I enjoy reading all the stories, special from women. I can vividly remember they day I joined Zidisha as a lender, I remember choosing Rosine Sanogo from Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. She was born in a polygamous family with more than 10 children, she’s single with three children. I gave her money for her second loan, she sells shoes door to door her daily profit is $20 USD. Rosine’s customers enjoy buying shoes without leaving home.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy walking in the forest, I dive at least once a year, my favorite activity related to nature and the ocean is swimming with whale sharks in Holbox, Mexico.   

I love volunteering for different organizations.  In the winter time I work with my church to bring Christmas dinners to unprivileged communities. The rest of the year I’m involved in catholic retreats for prison inmates.

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The Future is Bright

profileby Rebecca Wolfe

Growing up in a single parent home, Wairimu Gathii  saw how her mother worked “single handedly… to bring up my siblings and I and give us an education.”  A child in Nakuru county, a poverty stricken area northwest of Nairobi, Wairimu is a daughter and sister, and now a mother.  Wanting to support her own family, to give back to her mother and siblings, and to  be the sort of role model for her son Victor that her mother was for her, Wairimu enrolled herself in university and started making plans for a business.

“I conducted market research and did due diligence,” Wairimu says, explaining her process of investigation. She found that “food products are very unlikely to lack a market because they are basic necessities. The target group for such kinds of commodities is virtually everyone.” Nakuru county, where Wairimu still lives, is “so fertile and the landscape is simply breathtaking.” When she can, she takes long walks “just to appreciate the beauty.” Despite this fertility, however, food insecurity is a major issue in the area. Entering the food business would allow Wairimu to contribute to greater food security and care for her neighbors by making sure they always had groceries available close by. Though not lacking in drive or ambition, Wairimu was lacking capital.  In a financially burdened household, Wairimu she was not able to start her entrepreneurial journey alone. Reaching out for help, she found a local community leader willing to give her a boost by supplying  a few kilograms of different grains that she could sell at market. This initial gift, she says, helped her“figure out a way to get on my feet.” It wasn’t long before her grain sales began to take off. She was proving to be a gifted businesswoman, her personality well suited for sales. “I love interacting with people,” she says, “and I do not pass by an opportunity to make new friends.”


In 2014, Wairimu was still keeping up with her many roles: mother, student, entrepreneur. She had a lot on her plate, and on top of that she was struggling to keep up with her customers’ demand. Applying her proven research skills, Wairimu went on the hunt for financial help. That’s when she found Zidisha. Posting a proposal for a $100 loan, she hoped to purchase extra stock to supply her growing clientele, construct a covering for her market stall, and hire an employee to manage sales while she was away at school or purchasing stock from other local agricultural entrepreneurs.

In a matter of days, five members of the Zidisha community had banded together to fund Wairimu’s loan. A week later she was posting on her discussion page, thanking  her lenders and sharing the good news that her earnings had already increased. “I cannot say thank you enough times,” she posted. “You have contributed a huge part to getting me where I am today, and I must say it is a better place than where I was a few months ago… thank you for believing in me” The boost that this loan gave her was not only financial, it was also emotional. “My first loan came as a major life saver,” she said later. “It was difficult to make ends meet, the costs far outweighed the gains, and not once, not twice did I convince myself that throwing in the towel was long overdue.” A vote of confidence from Zidisha lenders, though, made her feel as though she had people on her team, rooting for her — and she did.

On November 13th, almost exactly one month after she received her loan, Wairimu had another great report to give her supporters: her business was thriving and she wanted to repay her loan ahead of schedule. She was serving more customers than ever before, and had also been able to rent a storeroom near the market, enabling her to centralize her business and keep her from having to haul her wares back and forth. “My mother has noted the improvement too,” she said, “because I am now able to contribute towards paying the bills and meeting our day to day basic needs.” Wairimu was delighted to share that she was  even able to buy her mother “something nice once in awhile.” In December, Wairimu hit another major success: graduation from university. “I completed my degree course and am super excited. THE MONEY EARNED FROM MY BUSINESS ASSISTED TOWARDS MEETING MY EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS. THANK YOU ZIDISHA,” she shared on her discussion page.


A year later Wairimu was taking her education a step further. “I have been super excited this past couple of days,” she said. “I went back to school to take up my post graduate diploma, and I am studying hard for my bar exams at the end of this year.  My business is good, plus I have employed a person to manage the business while I am at school.” Not only was Wairimu succeeding in business, she was also succeeding in school, studying to become a lawyer at Kenya School of Law.

As the months went on, Wairimu was a continual bearer of good news. She celebrated rain for local grain crops, rising sales, her healthy, smiling son, and being able to invite some of her close friends to the Zidisha platform. In April, she reached out and asked the Zidisha community to support her and her business a second time. Her life was hectic, “trying to juggle between studies, and making a living both for myself and my family.” It was a lot to handle, but friends kept telling her something that she was truly becoming to believe as she saw it happening in her own life — the future is bright. Putting in a proposal for a $272 loan, she shared with the Zidisha community her big plans for this bright future.


Wairimu was planning to purchase a  quality, durable bicycle and employ a member of her community to make deliveries. Previously, she said, her business was exclusively retail and customers had to come to her. With her second her second loan, she was hoping to become a supplier to small restaurants all over her town.  “I will be able to deliver right to my customers’ doorsteps. This will help give a major boost and keep me way above the competition… My profit will hit the roof.” With an expanded customer base she would see an increase in bulk orders, which would in turn increase her profit margin. According to her calculations, she was set to see a fifty percent increase within a matter of months. This would help her to pay her school fees, half of which were paid and half of which were due at the end of the year. “I know I will be able to meet [this payment],” she said, “if my business keeps scaling heights as it promises to do with your help.”

When her loan was funded, Wairimu responded with glee. “Happy dance, happy dance,” she said on her discussion page. “Words cannot possibly describe the feeling I have right now, the future has so much possibility… to my lenders, shukran,shukran shukran (means a lot of ‘thank you’ in Swahili).” In a matter of days Wairimu had her bicycle and a growing clientele. “[Zidisha is] someone that tells me my dreams are valid,” she said. The support of a community has made all the difference.

In September 2016 she shared a photo of herself and her son Victor, posting good news alongside. “My business is running well, my son got into school, and I am working hard towards my post graduate diploma. Sometimes being a single parent really does keep a person on her  toes. The challenge is good. It keeps me on point. Thank you zidisha, you have contributed greatly towards these smiles on our faces.”


The next few months were hard for the business, but Wairimu stayed hopeful. The future, she believed, was bright. By December, the light was beginning to shine. “Things are looking up, slowly, granted, but surely. I am most humbled by your kindness,” she said to her lenders that month.

In Wairimu’s  most recent update, things are still looking up. Stock is going fast and her graduation from law school is growing closer. She living a full and joyful life as a mother, student, entrepreneur, self-described “terrible dancer” who loves to dance, book lover, and nature lover.  Her determination and business savvy are inspiring to those who follow her journey, and her journey is a testament to the difference that believing in one another can make. “My children, when they grow up,” Wairimu said. “I like to believe that they will want to be like their Mama… trying to make it, against all odds.” Wairimu has found, as many have, that the Zidisha a community is here to support and embolden her effort toward a brighter future.

If you’d like to support and embolden another entrepreneur, head on over to our loans page and fund another bright future.

A Space for Service


Edward with a shipment of medication the clinic purchased with the help of Zidisha lenders.

by Rebecca Wolfe


Edward Agola believes in his community, in “the blessings that come with giving, and the ‘power of many’.” Heading up HeCom (healthy community) Medical Centre, a registered Community Based Organization (CBO) with Kenya’s Department of Gender and Social Services, he is doing his utmost to meet the needs of his neighbors.

The organization has four core values: volunteerism, collaboration, integrity, and transparency. All of these are evident on Edward’s loan page. He posts photos of community members seeking medical care, communicates regularly with lenders about the progress of the organization, and is eager to speak with those who have expertise. Continuing in this collaborative effort, HeCom is staffed by “health workers of varied backgrounds” with previous community health experience — people who are involved in the community and care deeply for  those in need around them. Edward himself has an extensive background in healthcare and volunteerism. He has been formally trained in clinical medicine, community health, and surgery, as well as certified in community health work, newborn care, and reproductive health by organizations such as USAID, the Kenyan Ministry of Health,  and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and has volunteered his time in a variety of medical contexts.



Mr. and Mrs. Opiyo at the clinic.

At the organization, Edward and his fellow health workers go above and beyond. They are not simply employees or volunteers, they are friends and family, working alongside their neighbors and childhood friends. Knowledge is not handed down at HeCom; it is formed through community effort, shared amongst practitioners and patients. HeCom creates a culture of care and commonality around a potentially disconcerting, foreign-seeming medical process, weaving health practices into the fabric of its community. This helps form culturally appropriate procedures, making long-term health sustainable, practical, and above all, normal. With a majority of Kenya’s top ten causes of mortality being largely preventable conditions, including malnutrition, diarrheal diseases, and malaria, there is great need for this work.

Providing health education in local schools, churches, chiefs’ barazas (meeting places), and social groups, offering clinic services, and advocating for  policy reform, HeCom is a comprehensive effort. Its team of local, district representatives keep the organization constantly connected to the pulse of the community — literally and figuratively. Right now, all of this work is based out of a tiny health center. The clinic is doing amazing work, but it is not the only part of the organization’s effort. A year and a half ago, the clinic space, which doubles as the office space, did not even have a phone line. That is when Edward, on the hunt for solutions, came across Zidisha.


A HeCom worker giving a health talk at a local school.

In July 2015, HeCom was in need. Their computers needed repair, they didn’t have the capital to start a website, and they didn’t have a phone. Edward, under the mentorship of Silas Barasa, brought a proposal to Zidisha lenders. The fifty dollar loan, quickly funded by two lenders, helped them get their makeshift office in working order. “Thank you Markus and Paul,” he said. “Thanks to Zidisha for making it happen.”

Six months later, in January of 2016, Edward’s initial loan had been fully repaid. HeCom was becoming a true force in its community. “We are advocating for and supporting healthy behaviour change in the community through health talks in schools, churches, chief’s ‘barazas’, youth and women groups and through workshops,” Edward said. They hoped to not only provide health care in the clinic, but to reduce the demand on limited area health care providers. The pharmacy at HeCom was one of these strained health services. The organization had some money put away for the purchase of medicine, but not enough to meet the need of the community. As demand for the clinic’s service increased, so did demand on the pharmacy. Edward posted an application, asking Zidisha lenders to help care for his community. On the loan’s second posting, it was fully funded. One-hundred and fifty dollars, provided by four different lenders, brought the organization the funds it needed to order a new shipment of medicine. “What you’ve done means a lot to me and my community,” he thanked his lenders. “Deep inside I feel a ‘thank you’ is not enough but, that’s what I can offer for now.” The next week, Edward posted again to his discussion page, jubilantly sharing the arrival of medication for the pharmacy.  “We ordered for the drugs earlier this week and we’ve received the package today,” he said. “At HeCom we thank you dearly.”


Edward giving a health talk at a local school.

As Edward shared photos of people in his community seeking health services, it was clear to lenders that he was deeply invested in the well-being of his neighbors. In May, Edward posted to his discussion page thanking his lenders once again. In part because of their financial enablement, HeCom was able to officially register as a Community Based Organization (CBO), gaining mentorship, and potential funding, through the affiliation. With an official title, and many opportunities with it, the need for a separate HeCom office grew ever more apparent. The clinical space was simply too small to accommodate growing health education efforts. Bringing a proposal to the Zidisha community, Edward asked for help: one-hundred and fifty dollars to add to the organization’s funds. With this, they hoped to purchase a computer, printer, tables, and chairs, giving them a strong home base to work out of.


Edward and Mr. Dominicus, a beneficiary of HeCom’s services.

This loan has been funded and just recently dispersed, but the impact is sure to be great. As the community of Healthy Community Medical Center grows, so does its impact. Zidisha lenders are an integral part of this important work.

If you’d like to be a part of other important projects, head on over to our loans page and fund another entrepreneur.