by Jed Goldstein (KF9)

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with the post, but is "Christmasy"

Here at Pearl Microfinance we have a pretty tough task ahead of us: JOURNALING, JOURNALING and more JOURNALING.  Don’t get me wrong, I love journaling just as much as the next guy, but when you are dealing with a microfinance vehicle that disburses 275,000$ per month in Kiva loans, that is a lot of loans to keep track of and a lot of loans to follow up on after the clients have fully repaid. Nonetheless, we remain committed.

In case you (the reader of this blog) do not know what a journal is, the concept is simple. The journal is meant to offer a progress report to the Kiva lenders of how the entrepreneur that received your loan is doing.  Good journal entries will not only mention how the business is performing, but will also look to explore how the entrepreneur’s quality of life has changed as a result of the loan. For example, does Borrower X now have the ability to pay her children’s school fees? Was Borrower Y able to afford repairing her roof before the rainy season, so she does not have to sleep in a shower? If some of these questions are answered, then we have a good journal entry on our hands.

A plan of action has been initiated here at Pearl to increase our journaling rate from the lackluster 50% level where it currently stands to a more solid, respectable and reasonable 75% figure (Baby steps right??). This plan involves conducting 5-10 journal interviews per day for the next couple of months; a task that is more easily said than done.

We here at Pearl are currently working out the kinks of our journaling process.

Problem #1—DISTANCE

Pearl operates from 19 branch offices, so it is unrealistic that the Kiva Coordinator Grace and I travel to the far off regions of Uganda, some as far as 15 hours away, to conduct each interview. Also, what would happen if we got to the branch after a long journey, pen and paper in hand, and the borrower is a no show for the interview? This scenario would almost certainly occur and would be very frustrating.

Problem #2—LANGUAGE BARRIERS

Most people that I have met in Kampala have a working knowledge of English, but as you travel outside the city of Kampala, English is spoken less and less. In all there are 5 languages spoken throughout the country Luganda, Luo, Runyankore, Ateso, Lusoga. Grace, the Kiva coordinator here at Pearl, is fluent in Luganda, and Lukosa, but can not speak the other three.

As you can see Uganda is a land of many regions and kingdoms

So in order to address these problems a plan of action has been created:

  1. On the initial KIVA loan application form the phone number of the borrower (or at least someone who can reach the borrower easily) is included.
  2. When the loan has been fully repaid the borrower will receive a phone call from someone at Pearl head office and is asked for a brief progress report concerning their business, the loan and other miscellaneous items.
  3. The information we receive from such interview is then drafted into paragraph form, sent to all the Kiva lenders who made the loan happen and posted on the Kiva website under the Journal Tab.

The language problem has been addressed as well. Here at head office, we are lucky to have staff that hails from all over the country. I have recruited individuals from each region to help in the effort. Below can be found a few of their pictures and some brief information about them. Wish us luck and Happy Holidays from all of us at Pearl!

From left to right: Wilson from Luwero, Wycliffe from Bushenyi and Robert from Mbale

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