By Courtney Kemps, KF8 Peru
I thought I’d share this little story because I think it nicely illustrates both the typical and the wildly atypical in my work as a Kiva Fellow. And it also illustrates how these two opposites sometimes intertwine in unusual ways . . . .
In the course of my work with Kiva field partner Manuela Ramos I have spent a lot of my time interviewing Kiva borrowers to provide lenders with updates on their businesses. Each week I attend several communal bank meetings in order to meet the borrowers and set up interviews with them. All of Manuela’s communal banks meet monthly with their loan officers. These meetings, called “Reuniones de Pago,” have several purposes: 1) Review of the bank’s financial situation. The month’s loan payments are verified, borrowers’ passbooks are filled out, and any delinquencies in payments are discussed. 2) Participation in an educational session given by the bank’s loan officer. During the course of my work, these sessions have dealt with how to manage, promote and grow one’s business. 3) Discussion of any other issues and announcements from the loan officer regarding upcoming plans or programming from Manuela.
One afternoon this past week I attended a “Reunión de Pago” for the communal bank “De La Amistad” (Friendship). Arriving early, I had a chance to interview the bank’s president, Teresa, who is a Kiva borrower with a growing juice sales business. Before the meeting began I quietly went around the room, introducing myself to the 3 or 4 other Kiva borrowers in the group and setting up times to interview them.
Many of the original founders of “De La Amistad” are still members and are quite proud of the fact that “De La Amistad” is one of Manuela’s oldest communal banks. The members spent a large part of last week’s meeting planning a celebration for their 11th anniversary, an unusual activity for a communal bank. As they began their discussion, I assumed that such an event would mean going out for lunch or dinner as a group. Not so at all: “De La Amistad’s” 11th anniversary celebration will be an elaborate affair! After an hour’s planning, on the wall hung a piece of poster paper with a numbered schedule of events for the gala, to be held at a nearby event hall. Tickets will be sold. Everyone will dress up and bring her spouse or partner. There will be dinner and dancing. There will be a brief talk about the bank’s history, followed by a speech from a Manuela Ramos representative, followed by a toast. Finally, from among its members, “De La Amistad” will choose a queen for the year.
Near the end of this planning, Teresa called me up to the front of the room. I assumed that she was going to introduce me and explain my purpose to the group as a whole. Usually a loan officer introduces me when I attend meetings, but I figured that Teresa had taken on this task because we had already had a chance to chat. Instead of introducing me, however, Teresa asked me if I would be the godmother of the 11th anniversary celebration! I was rather startled. All I could think was to ask if this was the same as being the queen. “No, no!” the women told me. The godmother provides the cake and becomes the “guest of honor.” I protested that I was heading home next week and, therefore, could not attend the event, which was scheduled for the end of September. No problem, they told me, I could send someone to represent me. Another bank member recounted “De La Amistad’s” long, proud history with Manuela Ramos and their annual tradition of having an anniversary celebration. How could I refuse a roomful of 20 expectant women?
This is how I became a godmother. Not of a person, but of an event that I cannot even attend! On my way out the door, several women smiled, saying “Goodbye, Godmother.”
Courtney Kemps has been serving as a Kiva Fellow with Manuela Ramos in Pucallpa, Peru since the beginning of June. She’s had a great experience meeting many of Manuela’s Kiva borrowers and will be finishing up her Fellowship next week. Learn more about Manuela Ramos’s microfinance program or check out a list of currently fundraising loans for the organization’s borrowers./>