Riding a motorcycle in a developing country is, well, eventful to say the least. The term “road hazard” takes on a whole new meaning. Horse drawn carts, herds of cattle, stray chickens – the possibilities are endless. The first time I had the pleasure of experiencing a motorcycle ride in Nicaragua was the day I met Claudia.
The purpose of my adventure was to meet with multiple Kiva borrowers in order to complete what’s called a Borrower Verification, or “BV”. As part of our work plan, many Kiva fellows are asked to complete a BV in which we interview and gather data for a sample of ten Kiva borrowers that have a loan outstanding with one of our partner organizations. This involves things like meeting the selected individuals at their place of business, asking them questions about their loan, and making sure our partners are following our policies and treating borrowers justly.
My meeting with Claudia began like all the others. My approach was to start by asking generic, friendly questions about their business and family before jumping straight into the checklist of items I needed to gather. I found that this approach worked well in order to break the ice and make the borrowers feel comfortable since I eventually needed to see some personal items – nationally issued ID, loan documents, etc.
My initial conversation with Claudia was amazing. She was genuinely sweet, friendly, and adamant that the multiple loans she received had helped her business tremendously. After talking with her for about 10 minutes I asked to see the first item on my list. “Deyanira?” I asked, “Would you mind if I see your ID? I continued, “As part of my process I need to verify your identity to ensure I’m speaking with the correct person.” A look of utter confusion came upon her face. “My name is Claudia,” she replied. I turned to the loan officer as he frantically shuffled through the listing of names I had provided. After hesitating, he said, “I’m sorry Matt, I took you to the wrong place.” I explained to Claudia what had happened and that I was sorry for the mix-up. I expressed that I was very interested in hearing more about her story, but was pressed for time because I needed to meet with the real Deyanira and other borrowers on my list before the end of the day. “It’s ok,” she said, “you are welcome back anytime.” She graciously offered for me to come back the following Saturday afternoon and I accepted her invitation.
When I returned, Claudia and her husband Pedro took me to her place of business. It was a stall in the local street market where she sells chickens. The timing of my trip was perfect; Claudia had just re-stocked her inventory with 100 chickens. There were chickens everywhere. Her husband brought me into the pen and proceeded to demonstrate how chickens can’t fly for longer than a couple seconds. I’m no farmer but did happen to know this little fact; I played along.
Claudia explained her story in greater detail. Before receiving loans from ADIM (a Kiva partner in Nicaragua), she was extremely poor. She told me that her and her family used to live alongside their chickens in the very same marketplace stall we were visiting. Since she didn’t have any funds to work with in the past, she could only buy and sell a few chickens at a time. She went on to explain that over the past 3 years she had received 5 successive Kiva loans. With the capital she was able to buy chickens in bulk from a local farm. By buying in bulk she was able to lower her per-unit cost and increase sales volume, which translated into a higher profit margin and more revenue.
As her business grew, Claudia was able to gradually improve the life of her family. With the proceeds from her business she was able to buy a piece of land, materials to construct a home, a motorcycle, kitchen appliances, and much more. Her financial stability has allowed her kids to return to school and has provided a living environment in which they can complete homework. Her dreams for the future are to continually grow her business and help her kids succeed. The dramatic contrast of Claudia’s life before and after receiving loan capital brings to life the importance of Kiva's mission and is a memory that will remain with me forever.
As mentioned, ADIM is one of Kiva's partners in Nicaragua that originated Claudia’s loans. I had the pleasure of working with ADIM for three weeks and discovered that they are a truly special organization that works extremely hard to empower women entrepreneurs buy doing more than just giving loans. Here is a blurb about ADIM from their partner page on Kiva.org: “ADIM is a small organization in Nicaragua with a strong social focus. ADIM provides loans to women in Nicaragua, but in addition also provides an array of non-financial services such as business training, women's empowerment training and much more. In a market with many microfinance institutions, ADIM stands out as one very focused on the holistic development of women and the provision of responsible financial services. For a small organization like ADIM, Kiva's funds are critical to helping them grow and reach more borrowers, and continue to offer the critical additional services they provide.”
Empowering women is something that is very important to Kiva, and Claudia's success story illustrates how loans can unlock potential and truly change lives.