After visiting various Kiva borrowers throughout the lush tea and dense maize fields of western and central Kenya, I now get to work with Milango Financial Services out of the coastal city of Mombasa! There is a lot to enjoy on the coast.
You do have to adjust to the heat, and be aware of the sometimes tense environment due to assassinations, violent protests and terrorist activity in the area. Thankfully, my first borrower visit on the coast was in a sleepy beach town north of Mombasa known to some as the "Little Italy of Kenya". The evidence of the many Italian expats that live in or visit the town is seen in the numerous Italian restaurants and advertisements, Kenyan children shouting "Ciao!" to foreigners, and the bidets in bathrooms.
The conversation flowed (as did the sweat on my forehead) as I asked about the history of her stand, the produce she sells and her impressions of VisionFund Kenya services. It flowed until I asked, "What would you do if you had unlimited amount of money?"
The question confused my colleague Martin, who was translating, so I rephrased it before he translated it for her. I asked her what she would do with 100,000 Kenyan shillings ( four times the size of her current loan). She immediately had a very astute answer. Sidi would purchase produce that is in demand but expires too quickly so is too big of a risk for her currently.
She would also travel to her suppliers and try to negotiate for better prices rather than depending on a middleman to deliver her produce to her. Finally she would also use that money to open another larger shop in a more trafficked part of town.
Her current resources allow her to purchase produce such as coconuts, potatoes and ocra that have a longer shelf-life. However, she wanted to buy more mangoes and bananas as they are more lucrative but expensive for her. They also expire sooner and thus present a risk she is not willing, or even able, to afford.
After a a few laughs and pictures we prepared to leave. I was not prepared for what she did next.
Sidi stood up and told me that she wanted to gift me 2 large mangoes and coconuts. After having told me how expensive and limited in supply mangoes are, she still wanted to gift me some. I was shocked by her generosity and kindness.
I wanted to hug her but a firm handshake and a smile were more appropriate for a stranger. Needless to say, she looks forward to getting another Kiva loan to continue providing for her 4 children and take one step closer to reaching her dream of having a bigger and better shop.
There was one final detail that made her gift even more amazing. I learned she is a widow. Not only did Sidi amaze me as a hard-working mother of four with limited education and big business dreams but she did more than that. She is a living example of kindness, hospitality and generosity.
Lend to Kiva borrowers like Sidi today!