Dignity and Exhaustion

by Kelly McKinnon, KF9, Leon, Nicaragua

My attraction to Kiva and to their model of how microfinance fits into development, I’ve realized, has very much to do with their insistence upon the dignity of the individual. Throughout the Kiva Fellows training, through conversations and actions this concept was repeated, emphasized and modeled. I’m wishing I had the presence of mind to recognize that this exact insistence is what drew me here in the first place, wishing I recognized long ago this is what I felt during my summer in Honduras, wishing I had the eloquence to express this when I interviewed for this fellowship or for the dozens of forms I find myself filling out.

But my goodness! How guarding the dignity of another person is a delicate thing!

I visited my first client. An older woman in a nightgown opens the door to us; my exuberant colleague recognizes our intrusion and apologizes for the disturbance. We sit in the sala to explain what a journal update is, how Kiva is an odd funding entity that wants to know her dreams. She rocks back and forth, comfortable in her own home, but not in light of our probing questions. She is tired. I cannot pick her out of a family picture resting on the coffee table. The cast on her left wrist rests on a pillow in her lap. She is thin and her movements are those of someone who is more than just tired.

I am struck not by sadness, but by her honesty, her resolution. I sit in front of her embarrassed to be here as a business woman. She does not look to me for pity. As a business woman, she answers my questions. I am more grateful for Kiva’s oddity, for its requirement that the practice of business recognize this dignity.

We ask a woman with cancer what are her dreams. She is 66 and says with equal pragmatism that she has no dreams and that her loan payments are never late.


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