Hi, I’m Liz Vallette and I’m from Houston, Texas. I just arrived in Baku, Azerbaijan last Friday to work as a Kiva Fellow with Normicro. Normicro has 5 branches throughout Azerbaijan that serve internally displaced (IDPs) and low-income persons. I was lucky to show up right as the branches are having their annual General Assemblies.
Normicro has a unique structure that allows the customers to have a role in the governance of the organization. Each branch has an elected advisory council made up of three male clients and three female clients that meet monthly to review operations and financial figures. Each year, all of the clients gather to hear about Normicro’s progress and to vote for new councils members. Yesterday I went to Khachmaz where about 130 clients attended the annual General Assembly. Today I went to the General Assembly today in Aghsu, attended by about 75 clients. Tomorrow I am traveling to Beylagan for that branch’s General Assembly. Finally, next week I will begin visiting with individual clients and posting journals!
I’m staying in Baku with a terrific host family that I met through a contact at my university. I have my own room, more food than I should be eating, and easy access to the Baku Metro. I traveled to the Normicro branches in cars – and I should point out that driving here is much more of an adventure than back home.
Speaking of driving, the head of Normicro thought it would be a good idea if I drove for a little while on our way to Khachmaz yesterday. Since we were well beyond the congested streets of Baku, I took him up on the offer. I jumped into the driver’s seat and realized that it was a manual transmission. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I don’t really know how to drive a stick. He was totally nonplussed and said he’d teach me…as we drove. I made a feeble protest about licenses and police to which he responded, “Police won’t stop a woman.” So we were off, with me working the pedals and him shifting. After a little while, he made the observation that our joint driving was like the Kiva – Normicro partnership