Fellows in the field

In the 24 years since the genocide, more than 3.4 million Rwandan refugees have returned home, and people are still crossing the border back into Rwanda today. But while the Rwandan government and economy have largely stabilized, those of many neighboring countries have not.

In March 2018, I had the pleasure of attending the ICT4D Conference held in Lusaka, Zambia, which brought together representatives from NGOs, the private sector and academia to discuss how ICT and partnerships are being leveraged to solve different development challenges.

Never has the saying, ‘If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation,’ resonated more with me. Before starting my fellowship with Kiva, I always wondered why most lenders loan money to women rather than men.

When I first arrived in Lusaka, I didn’t know how I would spend 2 months here. “There’s nothing to do in Zambia,” a friend helpfully told me when I asked them for some travel advice. However, upon arrival my calendar quickly filled with things to do and my time in-country has flown by.

The Specific Union for Farmer Women was founded by Zeinab Almomany in 2007, and today is comprised of 22 local associations, representing about 5,150 individual women farmers across Jordan.

I am in a shed out the back of a small bank branch near the bustling Kimironko market in Kigali, Rwanda. It is busy, dark and noisy. About 80 people mill around, chatting and making last-minute phone calls to see where missing group members are.

The moment we step under the palm thatched roof, it starts to drizzle. “You brought the rain!” jokes Mariluz, the borrower I have come to visit. Her home, in the northeastern corner of Bolivia, is a simple, 2-room set up, with the thatched roof covering the area that fronts it. 

As a Kiva Fellow in Southern Africa, I get to pursue that interest in my work with a company called iSchool that develops educational technology for primary school students and teachers in Zambia.

It was the morning after a night of heavy showers as I made my way to meet Eddry. Along the journey, the road quickly turned from gravel, to dirt to wet mud and it wasn’t long before the staff 4x4 was unable to go any further.

On June 20, 2017, Kiva launched the World Refugee Fund to match loans to refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) to help them rebuild their lives and create some stability. Traditional forms of finance are often out of reach for refugees, and as such supporting loans for this population is vital.

As I get ready to start a new chapter in Nairobi, Kenya with the Kiva Labs team, I can’t help but reminisce on the last 6 months abroad as a Kiva Fellow in the Philippines and Timor-Leste. Although it was not always easy to be on my own, I’ve grown so much as a person because of all the “Yeses” I reluctantly agreed to.

Full disclosure: This post is not about the actual mayor of Dar es Salaam, but rather a Kiva borrower named Samweli whom I had the pleasure of meeting, and the story behind his nickname, the “Mayor of Dar es Salaam.”