By Leigh Madeira, KF10 Ecuador
Seeing as it’s my final week in Ecuador, I decided to take Kiva’s commitment to P2P to the max by meeting a borrower who had actually received a loan that I personally made at the start of my Kiva adventure! After reading Jose´s profile multiple times over the past few weeks, getting to meet him in person was by far one of the coolest things I have done so far as a Kiva Fellow, not just because we shared a connection through my loan, but because Jose has a very inspirational story and is living proof that microfinance works.
Jose is only 25 years old. He used to work as a mechanical engineer, but suffered an accident and almost lost his arm. Due to the accident, he was forced to retire early and, although he receives a monthly stipend, this is not nearly enough for him and his family to live on. Jose turned to the Fundación D-MIRO for help and started with a $400 loan to open a general store. He told me he began with only three products: rice, oil, and sugar. During that time, he and his family were living in a very small room connected to the store.
Jose´s current loan of $1,000 is his third loan with D-MIRO and his store has much more than rice, flour, and sugar now! He works every day from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm and his wife takes care of their son, who will be turning 2 soon. Jose was very proud to show us all the new products he has in his store now thanks to the loan – soda, shower and toilette products, eggs, canned foods, and more – all of which have helped increase his profits, serve his community, and improve his family’s life. He even used one of the loans to buy a large refrigerator so he could sell cold beverages (very important when it is 90º+ in Guayaquil!). The Kiva coordinator and loan officer both agreed that the store looks completely different from only a few months ago when he received the loan. In fact, the store was so full that we barely had room to conduct the interview! Thanks to the growth of the business, Jose was able to construct a home above the store with much more room for his family.
Jose is very proud to be able to provide for his family. He mentioned that there are plenty of people his age with 2 good arms and 2 good legs who are living on the streets and he feels so lucky to have a happy and healthy family. At one point, Jose quoted a Bible verse: “Muchos son los llamados, pero pocos los escogidos,” which translates to “many are called but few are chosen.” I was completely blown away by Jose´s positive attitude in the face of such challenges — he said many times that he has nothing to complain about and is a very lucky man.
I also was able to show Jose his Kiva profile with his picture, story, and all the lenders who funded his loan (including myself!). He was so excited to see it that he asked me if he could make a copy. When I told him he could just keep that one, he was overjoyed and said he can´t wait to show his wife. (Sidenote: Those of you without photos on your profile, please add one, because the borrowers want to see you, as well!)
At the end of the visit, Jose thanked me for coming and invited me to come back in a few months to see how much the store has grown. I am not sure when I will be in Guayaquil again, but whenever it is, I will certainly take him up on his offer! After all, it’s quite a unique opportunity to actually meet these borrowers and witness in person the impact of microfinance on their lives – an experience I’ll certainly never forget! I could not think of a better way to conclude my time as a Kiva Fellow…thanks to Kiva and D-MIRO for the experience!
Leigh Madeira is finishing her last week in Guayaquil, Ecuador with Kiva Field Partner Fundación D-MIRO as a member of the Kiva Fellows 10th class. Please join D-MIRO’s lending team, make a loan to a D-MIRO entrepreneur or donate to Kiva today!