A Resilient Kiva Zip Borrower: Esther, the 'Annapurna of Kibera Slums'

Kiva Zip is all about human connections. Three weeks in Nairobi and I am just amazed to witness the direct impact the Kiva Zip model is having on their borrowers and the strength of this bond of trustee-borrower-lender relationships. 

This week, I met a Kiva Zip borrower, Esther.  She loves and is proud of her little shop “Facebook Cereal” in TOI market area of the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Starting from ground zero twice in the last 10 years due to internal Kenya riots and personal medical turmoil, Esther said, “Kiva Zip came as a miracle in my life, when I had lost everything. With instant small loan amount, I was able to buy bigger stock at once of my popular selling cereals. I am so thankful to Kiva Zip”.   

Esther is right now on her second Kiva Zip Loan. https://zip.kiva.org/loans/4601

I was curious about her business name “Facebook Cereal” and her motivation behind it. It was a response that I had not expected but it was funny, witty, wise and actually made sense.

She said, “I thought of several names. One of them was ‘Missed Call’; other one was ‘Revelation.' However, these names didn’t resonate with what I was doing, for example, there is a Matatu which is called ‘Missed Call.' Who knows? May be that guy got a Matatu business because of a lucky Missed Call? In my case, when you go to Facebook, you get everything. You get friends, they all are connected, and you find mix of everything. Similarly in my cereal shop, you get everything, all mix of cereals; rice, wheat, maize, kasava, millet, beans etc and they are all connected. See, I like mixing different cereals into flour that can heal mal-nourished children that I see everyday in slums – I supply to their mamas (mothers). If my mixed cereal flour recipes can help my clients with any health issues and they eat well they will come back to me.”

What a wise entrepreneur who deeply cares about how her cereal mixing can help her clients solve their health problems. In Indian philosophy, there is a concept of “Annapurna”.  Annapurna means 'food for the whole being'. In Sanskrit, it means ‘the giver of food and nourishment’, where Anna means ‘grains’. Purna means ‘full, complete and perfect’. After hearing Esther’s cereal stories, I told her you are ‘Annapurna of Kibera’.

Esther is thankful to her trustee, Wycliffe who has endorsed 30+ loans to 25+ borrowers similar to her in his community within and around Kibera slums of Nairobi at 99.9% repayment rate. He has strong long-lasting relationship with all his borrowers and endorses them based on hard work, character and business sense to get this 0% interest Kiva Zip Loan. https://zip.kiva.org/trustees/536

She had a look of deep gratitude when I showed her the faces of some of her lenders who has funded her loan from all around the globe. She said, “Ah, that’s Anders? He is from Stockholm. I am so thankful to all my lenders." She had spoken to Anders, one of her lenders via the “conversations” feature of Kiva Zip platform using mobile SMS interface but didn’t yet have a chance to see her lenders faces. 

You know you never forget your first time for something significant. As a borrower, Esther talked about her first Kiva Zip loan a lot even though she is already on her 2nd loan and expanding. I became a Kiva lender back in 2006 and as a lender, I remember making my first loan to a borrower in Uganda. I also remember when I had first recieved an email from Kiva saying, your borrower has made their first re-payment. Now as a Kiva Fellow, at the end of our first field visit, when I saw Esther's twinkling eyes looking at her lenders, my heart was filled with so much compassion silently saying "It Works." Kiva Zip, a new model of Kiva is actually having a deep impact in these entrepreneur's lives. 

Esther dreams that by this December 2014, when she is eligible for a higher Kiva Zip loan of 70,000 KSH, she will be able to go directly to the farmers to get her stock. This will expand her business and help send her four children to university.

Visit https://zip.kiva.org/ to lend entrepreneurs in USA and Kenya starting with as little as $5.00.

About the author

Nina Patel.

Nina has been working for NASA as a Software Engineer for the last 10 years. She graduated with Bachelors in Computer Science from Penn State University, Masters in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and studied abroad in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Growing up in India, she developed a deep interest in international development through interacting with small struggling businesses on daily basis – where each person had sense of sincerity, survival, and hard work. She first heard of Kiva in 2006 through an interview with Mohammad Yunnus. In Kiva, she saw the unleashing power of microfinance, a pure human connection, a never-ending selfless cycle of giving, receiving, and self-empowerment using web 2.0 technology. She wanted to be part of it, and instantly became a Kiva lender and volunteer. Empowered by her technical skills and cross-cultural experiences, giving back to society is a part of her life’s purpose. Her passions include technology, space exploration, art, social enterprises and conscious businesses. She is leaving her enthusiasm for NASA space exploration behind to pursue her passions further, starting with this amazing Kiva Fellowship in Kenya, Africa.