Meeting with Kiva borrowers is a privilege that I have had the opportunity to enjoy multiple times since I have landed in Africa. Oftentimes, their stories, professional or personal, have made me forget the initial reason for my visit. Every single story has something special, and you never know what to expect until you arrive at their home, sit on a wobbly seat and start listening. Whether they are touching, inspiring, heartbreaking or promising, stories always move me deeply.
My name is Victor, a Kiva fellow based in Cape Coast, Ghana, and I wish to introduce you to Joyce - a Kiva borrower and a self-made woman.
Strangely enough, her story exhibits as much uniqueness as it does ubiquity across both the country and other borrowers.
When we reached her business place - a food stall along the main road of the small town she has been living in since she was born - 4 children were silently sitting on a hastily fabricated bench with their empty plates in their hands. Behind them stood Joyce, finishing serving a customer and immediately welcoming us in a friendly manner, as I have always had the pleasure to experience anytime I visit a Kiva borrower.
Joyce is a borrower from the Kiva Field Partner ASA Initiative, a financial NGO operating only in the Central Region of Ghana and one of the poorest in the country. Wisdom, who is a credit supervisor, and Anthony, who is a loan officer, also attended the meeting to make her comfortable and to translate our conversation as she speaks the predominant local language, Fante.
We talked about her business and how she has been running it for 25 years; how she is taking care of her 4 grandchildren while their parents are away; and, how she used her loan to purchase bags of maize flour and peanuts. Her co-members of the loan group, 2 mothers living in the neighborhood, then joined and briefly introduced themselves. At some point, she enquired about when she could be eligible for a new loan, a request to which Wisdom replied as soon as they fully repay their current loan.
Joyce started then a long speech in Fante, miming gestures with her leg and pointing to the ground, her tone betraying a sense of sorrow. I was not impatient for translation to start, as I knew I was about to hear a distressful story. She first explained how she was trying to recover from the unfortunate events that followed the disbursement of her loan, and how she is now on her way to being able to make further repayments.
Joyce recounted the loss of both her daughter and her son who passed away and left 4 young kids behind. After the burial, which she funded thanks to the loan, she contracted a fungal disease that caused her to swell to the point she could not walk or work anymore. Although the hospital could admitt her to more efficiently treat the fungus, she instead decided to commute for a 3-hour long return trip from home to the hospital every day so that she would still be able to take care of her grandchildren. It had been her routine for no less than 3 months. She could also afford this costly treatment only thanks to the rest of the loan.
Her business was closed the whole duration of the treatment, and so was her access to revenue.
Now her business is flourishing, allowing her to begin repayments again. Her resilience lifted both my admiration and compassion, neither of which she was seeking. Her pride lied within her ability to educate her grandkids, to reopen her business and to now repay the loan that saved her and her family's lives.
Before we left, Joyce emphasized how ASA initiative has been supportive the whole time, never harassing for reimbursement or charging additional interest for late payments. She feels dignified in not defaulting on her loan and in being eligible soon for a new loan, for which she hopes that Kiva lenders will continue to entrust her.
ASA Initiative is a local NGO targeting the most vulnerable and financially underserved farmers and entrepreneurs in Ghana’s Central region. Our support to their success is precious.
Click here to view their currently fundraising loans!