By Laurie Young, KF16, Indonesia
When we last left off in this new adventure, I hadn’t yet stepped foot into the office of my Field Partner, VisionFund Indonesia (VFI). It’s amazing what a difference two weeks makes! Not only have I now spent time in the office with the staff at Headquarters (HQ) and met with loan officers at two branches, I was also invited to attend the Annual Meeting for VFI near Bandung, Indonesia! What’s a better way to get to know an organization than by spending a week attending presentations about the past, present, and future of the MFI and participate in team building activities? Thanks to the help of the Kiva Coordinator and others who probably regretted sitting next to me during the training (because they ended up having to translate pieces of presentations from Bahasa Indonesian to English), I’ll fill you in on some of the great things I’ve learned! Also, if you manage to make it to the end of this post, I promise to provide you with a great surprise that we could call ‘Laurie’s Justin Bieber Indonesian Karaoke debut.’
1) Background-The relationship between VFI and World Vision and how it translates to VFI’s work:
VisionFund Indonesia was initially setup to support World Vision Indonesia with the stated mission: providing financial services to empower the enterprising poor to liberate their families from poverty in the communities where World Vision works.
Using the World Vision/VisionFund 5 category economic ladder (From World Vision presentation):
World Vision works in over 40 Indonesian districts including the islands of Aceh Sumatra, Java, West Kalimantan, Sulawesi, North Maluku, West Timor, and Papua, mainly focusing support of people in categories 1 and 2. VFI supports World Vision’s work by providing microfinance products (including credit, savings, and microinsurance) to category 3 and 4 Indonesians in districts where World Vision operates (i.e. as World Vision operates only in North and East Jakarta, VFI will only have branch offices setup in those parts servicing clients). Currently, VFI is operating in 7 districts on Java and the long term goal is to eventually operate in all districts in which World Vision works. The staff of VFI is now at around 80 people located in 9 branches and the HQ office. The organization currently provides general loans (i.e. no education, agriculture, etc.) but hope to begin to make agriculture loans during the next fiscal year. Mostly the loans are to solidarity groups of borrowers, and currently the borrowers are about 90% female. They also partner with an external provider to offer several microinsurance/savings products (may be a topic of a future post as I’ve found it quite interesting the more I learn!). VFI also collaborates with Habitat for Humanity International to help build/renovate houses for their borrowers.
2) Day 1-VFI is more than just an employer:
I had just settled into my desk after a morning of introductions and a brief presentation about VFI and World Vision when Pak Hendrik (See #3 for more about him!) walked by and casually asked me if I wanted to go to the Hospital to visit the one-year old son of a Branch Manager.
In the spirit of embracing any and all new experiences, I jumped in the van to join. The child had been rushed to the hospital the prior evening because he began turning blue and it was determined that he had an abnormal white blood count (if you are a medical professional and this correlation makes absolutely no sense to you, then something could’ve been lost in translation). We arrived to Rumah Sakit Islam Jakarta Hospital and brought fruit to the family and, as a Christian organization, said a prayer for the health of the child. It was extremely touching to be a part of this support system on my first day and I immediately realized I was working with extraordinary people who consider this job not simply a 9-5 paycheck, but rather an extended family invested in all who work there. I’m also happy to say the adorable little boy appeared to be recovering well and they thought he’d be just fine with the proper treatment.
3) “Expand with Quality”- Growth, Growth, Growth!
The VFI Team is headed by their fearless and consistently smiling leader, Pak Hendrik (Director). He joined VFI about 2 years ago and explained to me that at first he wasn’t sure why he left is comfortable job at a large Indonesian bank but felt that it was his time to do something more meaningful by serving poor Indonesian people.
In the past year he’s been able to double the portfolio of loans and open 2 new branch offices. His goal for the future is to again double the portfolio in both dollar value and loans outstanding each fiscal year. He is optimistic that their model of expansion will succeed and do so with quality. What’s his secret? Before a new branch office can open, an existing one must meet certain measures (mainly the ability to cover costs/profitability) and then some loan officers or branch staff can move to a newly opened office to help it be successful. Only time will tell if this growth strategy is sustainable, but by speaking with Pak Hendrik you don’t sense a hint of doubt in the organization’s ability to open 2 offices on the Island of Kalimantan and another 6 on the island of Java during fiscal year ‘12.
4) Loan Officers
Do you ever wonder about the people who meet with borrowers day in and day out and witness firsthand the successes and failures of microloans? What about the people that collect information and take photos for the borrower profiles that you see on kiva.org? Well, in VFI’s case, those are the loan officers. The typical age range of a loan officer here is 20-25 and most haven’t finished a 4-year college degree yet. Six of the loan officers are also former children sponsored by World Vision Indonesia which paid for there schooling starting from Kindergarten through High School. The enthusiasm and energy of the group of over 25 men and women that I met was inspiring! Many of them enjoy the flexibilities of the position because it enables them to work as a loan officer during the day, providing an income that can be used to pay for their University classes in the evenings. Only the 3 best performing loan officers (of 5) from each of the branch offices were invited to the annual meeting. You could tell how excited and proud they were when each Branch Manager was giving a presentation about the performance of the individual branches and their statistics were highlighted on the big screen as being at the top of clients served and low portfolio at risk.
I spoke to three separate loan officers to find out how they feel about Kiva clients and the extra work involved. One loan officer, who is currently spending evenings studying cost management at a local University, said he enjoys working with Kiva and doesn’t mind the extra work that is involved for Kiva loans because he feels that by VFI partnering with an international organization, it differentiates them from other MFIs in the area. Another loan officer, also spending evenings in University but studying English, enjoys working specifically with Kiva clients, because of Kiva, the clients are easier to collect repayments from and work with because they know they are ‘on the internet’ and want to be ‘model’ borrowers. The final loan officer had my favorite answer. After he takes a photo of the borrowers for the Kiva website, he returns with a copy of the photo for the borrower/group leader and enjoys the excitement and pride that the borrowers get from receiving a copy of the photo.
I hope throughout my first two posts that I have been able to inform you of one of the outstanding organizations that Kiva Partners with, the city in which they are located, and the people that constantly work to make the relationship a success!
Now as I promised, a special surprise:
One of the annual meeting evening activities was a karaoke competition. Each branch office had to sing Justin Bieber, ‘Baby’ and another song of their choice. To my friends and family out there who already know this is my favorite karaoke song, I promise you the song selection had already been determined prior to my arrival in Jakarta! I would’ve included a video montage of the event but fear that would violate some copyright laws so, alas, a few photos will have to suffice. I was, however, chosen to sing lead for the HQ office and must say I did receive much applause….or was it laughter?!
Laurie Young is a Kiva Fellow (KF16) working with VisionFund Indonesia in Jakarta. If you would like to learn more about VisionFund Indonesia, please visit its partner page and stay tuned for part two of this series! Laurie also just created a lending team for VisionFund Indonesia so please join her if you would like to support them and their work throughout Jakarta and Surabaya!