To Have Illusions

By Shereef Zaki, KF9, Perú

What do you want to be when you grow up? What are your hopes? What are your dreams?

Throughout my childhood, these questions constantly attached themselves to the most prosaic daily interactions. In a sense I, and most of my peers, were conditioned to be ambitious dreamers, convinced of the limitless possibilities our futures held (and still hold).

When speaking with borrowers one of our unstated goals as Kiva Fellows is to uncover their latent sense of possibility and excitement at the prospect of success. During interviews I attempt to understand what aspiring entrepreneurs want for themselves and for their children. But one of the harshest realities that I confront concerns the occasional and precise absence of aspiration.

In no way am I implying laziness or even a lack of imagination; rather, survival tends to distract many Kiva clients from the potential realities that accompany success. And then I had an a-ha moment. While interviewing Yesenia Esmeralda Bances Morales (click to contribute to her loan), who seemed bemused when she heard the question ‘what are your hopes or dreams in life’ it dawned on me that it might have been the first time anyone had ever asked her that question.

Yesenia Selling at the Market

Yesenia Selling at the Market

Imagine that no teachers, no mentors, no leaders ever asked a child to dream big (Perú has yet to find its Obama). Adults here are in no way cynics but many times they are realists. Even linguistically speaking, Spanish comes designed with an icy grammatical irony. ‘Tener ilusiones’ translates literally into English as to have illusions and translates figuratively as to have hopes or dreams.

After a few minutes of talking to Yesenia about the ilusiones she holds most dear she efficiently described her plans to expand her business, and then the educational opportunities she hopes to make available to her daughter. Incidentally, the same young daughter organized fish and prepared for the day’s sales feverishly in the background.

One of the most important contributions we make as members of the Kiva community – lenders, fellows, administrators, etc – can be romantically understood as giving people the opportunity to dream big and then explicitly asking them to do so.

If I could do the interview again, I would only have changed one thing – I would have asked Yesenia’s daughter what she wants to be when she grows up.

Yesenia's Daughter's Fast Moving Hand

Yesenia's Daughter's Fast Moving Hand


Shereef Zaki is serving as a Kiva Fellow working with the new field partner EDPYME Alternativa in Chiclayo, Perú

To view currently fundraising loans from EA click here

To become a member of the “Friends of EDPYME Alternativa” lending team click here


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