It is the fifth and last Kiva borrower visit for the day. It is something that we, Kiva Field Fellows, do as part of our placement with microfinance institutions (MFI) around the world.
A dusty and bumpy rural road brings us to the village where Habiba, a 52-years old school teacher, lives. A loan officer from one of Kiva’s three partner organisations in Tajikistan, Microcredit and Deposit Organisation Arvand, goes to the door to call for Habiba. A slender woman appears from inside the house and greets us in a soft voice with a kind smile on her lips. Russian happens to be my first language and she has no problem conversing in it. Turns out that it is the subject Habiba teaches at school. She recognises the familiar face of the loan officer and says: “He was in my class at school.” She then adds: “His boss too. I am proud of all my former students' success in life.”
Habiba tells me that her late husband passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 52. Habiba's profile page on Kiva shows her still wearing the mourning clothes. Habiba's husband's untimely death left Habiba alone with her five children. Four of them are grown and have families of their own. They work as nurses and teachers, Habiba tells me proudly. Habiba’s youngest son, just 12 years old, lives with his mom. He is in Habiba’s class at school and, judging by his fluent Russian, they both do their job very well – as a teacher and a student.
To support herself and her family, Habiba had to start a small business, raising cattle and producing milk and cheese that she sells at the village market to her neighbours. Habiba offers a sample of her home-made cheese to us. I sincerely hope that my lactose intolerance won’t be perceived as rude by our generous host. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to affect Habiba. Her manners remain gentle and her smile warm and genuine.
Habiba’s tenderness stretches to all members of her small household. I witness it, when her son brings the calf that Habiba bought with funds provided by Kiva lenders. She talks to him softly in her native Tajik language as she pets him.
Kiva lenders from two teams – Kiva Muslims and PepsiCo Foundation, for Women in Food & Agriculture – came together to fund Habiba’s loan to buy two milk cows and a calf. Her loan application was processed and approved by Habiba’s former students at Arvand.
Life as a village teacher in Tajikistan is not an easy one. Life as a widow raising a teenage son on her own is twice as challenging. Still, Habiba emanates calmness and optimism in the face of her daily struggles. I ask her about her plans and dreams for the future. “I just want to see Tajikistan a prosperous, beautiful and modern country,” she answers. Habiba's wish is not selfish. It encompasses all people of her beloved country. I feel humbled and moved by this delicate woman’s unswerving spirit of optimism.
If you want to support Habiba's vision for Tajikistan, you may consider making a loan to her compatriots on Kiva.