Hello Kiva Supporters! My name is Stephanie Koczela, and I am ecstatic to be headed to Uganda to spend three months with an MFI called Pearl Microfinance Limited. I am writing to you today from a bus traveling from New York to Boston. I am amused to be writing to you from this bus as it is running on a smooth road, has plugs for computer cords in each seat, and even has high speed wireless internet – it seems a far reach from the conditions I imagine I will be living in the upcoming months…
I am traveling back to Boston, where I currently live, to finish up a few last packing chores. I take off Monday to head to Nairobi, Kenya connecting through London. I will spend a few days in Nairobi and then travel to Entebbe, Uganda where I will be greeted and taken to Kampala by a wonderful family that has agreed to host me during my stay.
Despite the looming unknowns, I find myself very ready for this adventure I am setting off on. I think credit for the ready feeling must be given to the wonderful training that the Kiva Fellows are given in preparation for our department. Before taking off, I wanted to share with you my reasons for being delighted with this opportunity.
Two years ago, with a group of women from Mathare Slums in Nairobi, a friend of mine from Chicago, and two community organizers, I started a small fair trade bag company called Witethye. This business was possible because of a $40 loan that my grandmother sent to us. When the group began the women could barely ensure access to meals each day for their families – now, two years later, they are able to send their kids to school and some have moved out of the more standard slum housing (iron sheet roofs on top of walls make from mud and sticks) into apartment buildings made from cement. This business has shown me the power of a little bit of money when put in the hands of entrepreneurs in the developing world.
Naturally, my experience with this business led to an intense fascination with the idea of alleviating poverty by investing in small businesses in developing countries — thus the discovery and love affair with Kiva. Working with Pearl Microfinance Limited will be different than my own small company, because I will get to meet and interact face to face with dozens of business men and women all over Uganda. Not only will I get to meet them and hear their stories, but I will get to increase the connections that you all have with entrepreneurs in the developing world.
I can’t wait.
Join Pearl Microfinance Limited’s lending group on the Kiva website to connect with others who are excited about the entrepreneurs in Uganda!/>