By Adam Grenier, KF6 Sierra Leone
Excerpt from recent conversation with Archibald Shodeke, Finance Manager, SMT:
Archibald: “Would you like to participate in a market survey of the Waterloo district near Freetown? We are considering a partnership with a U.S. based organization called Shine on Sierra Leone that may enable us to open a branch office there. They heard of us through the Kiva website.”
Me: “Definitely! Can you tell me more about it?”
Archibald: “Well, I think it was founded by an American artist or actress…Stephanie Parsons? Or, Tiffany Spears? Something like that…”
Me: “Britney Spears?!”
Archibald: “I’m not sure. We’ll have to check the website.”
For a moment, I actually thought Britney Spears might know where Sierra Leone is on a map of the World, never mind the possibility that she was part of anything meaningful, like a partnership with a microfinance organization. Alas, the founder is not Ms. Britney. And no, I’m not disappointed. The organization sprang from the creative mind of filmmaker Tiffany Persons.
The partnership Archibald referred to has the potential to be a very special one. Shine on Sierra Leone is “a human service foundation that provides education, mentoring, and nutritional support to African diamond mining schools.” A partnership with Shine on Sierra Leone (visit http://www.shineonsierraleone.org) will allow SMT to expand into the Waterloo market. This is a very exciting opportunity for both organizations.
During a recent trip to the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) School in Waterloo, we interviewed 23 parents of FAWE girls – 21 moms, 2 dads – to get a sense of whether they are interested in the services we provide. Their daughters are particularly vulnerable to the poverty trap. At any given moment, they may have to be removed from school to work, to generate income for their families in the Waterloo area. Providing microfinance services to their parents improves the daughter’s chances to stay in school.
The results of the FAWE survey were as follows:
- All 23 were interested in SMT’s microfinance services
- 5 of 23 have borrowed from other MFIs, but are willing to switch over to SMT
- Most common loan amount needed = 500,000 Leones ($167 USD)
- 22 of 23 would prefer group loan product versus individual loan, seeking cohesiveness and building community relationships
These results verify the potential to provide a much-needed service to these hard-working parents. More importantly, their daughters can continue their education in a positive learning environment found at FAWE.
Thanks to Kiva and the people at Shine on Sierra Leone (heck, you too Britney, if you’re reading), there is a very good chance Kiva will be able to provide their services to the FAWE parents and the broader Waterloo market. This is just another wonderful example of Kiva’s reach and mission to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty./>