One of the highlights of the Kiva Fellowship is the opportunity to live somewhere far from home and learn about a new culture. I've met dozens of Kiva Zip trustees and borrowers during my three months in Kenya and unexpectedly forged a strong connection with one in particular. I first met Joseph* when he visited the Kiva office for a trustee interview. Joseph has an extensive background of community development and now continues his work as a pastor in Kenya, providing financial and educational services to his community. As a civic leader, he is a typical trustee that puts a great amount of thought and effort in endorsing and supporting his Kiva Zip borrowers.
At the end of our meeting, I accepted his generous invitation to visit the church, see the community programs in action, and talk to some of our borrowers. However, the visit did not happen as planned because I was unable to contact Joseph by email, phone, or SMS to finalize the details. There's a saying here, "this is Africa", which basically means to expect the unexpected, so it is not unusual to lose contact for days or weeks due to family, technology, or other emergencies.
Two weeks later, I received an email stating that Joseph experienced a serious emergency medical condition* and was admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital where he is not allowed access to electronic communication devices. Additionally, he requested me to visit him in the hospital to discuss rescheduling my visit to his church! I was caught completely off-guard by his dedication to his community even during a personal health crisis.
Joseph was chatting with his wife and children when I arrived at his room. There, I learned he hopes to be discharged soon and stressed how important it was to reschedule to visit in order to continue to build a good relationship with the Kiva community. Although I greatly admire his dedication, it surely cannot come at the expense of his health. So despite looking physically well and being in excellent spirits, I urged him to be cautious and take things slowly in accordance with his doctors' advice. I left the hospital assured that Joseph is in good hands and his son is already assisting with his duties to the community and Kiva. Unfortunately, my time as a Kiva Zip Fellow is quickly coming to an end so the visit seems unlikely to happen but it will definitely be recommend for the next class of Fellows.
Joseph's dedication is quite apparent but he is just one of many Kiva Zip trustees who unselfishly donate their time and energy to help alleviate poverty in their communities. Contributing to a Kiva Zip loan is a great way to encourage their work and empower their borrowers.
*Name and medical details changed to protect identity and privacy