This week, we spoke with Neely Evanoff, the Capital Access Manager for the Kiva Hub in Salt Lake City. In our interview, Neely detailed the relationship between the International Rescue Committee and Kiva U.S. and the work they've done together.
Tell us about how Kiva U.S. became connected with the IRC!
We partnered with the IRC to teach business classes to refugee women at the IRC’s microenterprise program and developed a relationship with their staff.
IRC already hosts an in-house microloan program and was hesitant to bring in another program. We introduced Kiva as a split-interest loan product that they could add on as a product to their in-house options to better serve the clients.
The HQ in D.C. greenlighted the Salt Lake City office signing on as a Kiva trustee, and then the managers and director out here all had to agree to partnering with Kiva. It was a cool journey!
What is working with refugees like? What challenges do they face that the average borrower does not?
Refugees as a whole are a humbling community to work with because of their drive and visions. My favorite part is learning businesses they ran back home and how they translate those skills to a new market and business culture.
Challenges we see refugees face are accessing financial resources like banks, understanding Western business culture, learning to market outside their community, and budgeting (but most people, in general, need extra training for good business budget practices).
Do you have any particular stories to share from your time working with refugees in the United States so far?
The program I taught at in the IRC was started originally by Naima, a Kiva borrower! I had never met her but heard about her awesome work. It was amazing to see her application come in for funding her new child care center. We communicated via email and text to polish up her application. She even hired a photographer to help her get a great photo for the application.
Naima’s story speaks to Kiva’s ability to be a great fit for a business at any stage. She shared that Kiva was one of the few options with shariah-compliant financing, which was necessary because of her culture’s law on riba and business funding.
Another borrower story that speaks to the cool partnership between Kiva and IRC is about a woman from South Sudan. She needed funding to get a food truck and was trying to take loans out from several places. She's running a really successful catering business right now, but didn’t have her business and personal finances separated (something Kiva U.S. looks at).
This raised a discussion for the partnership between IRC and my Kiva Hub (Salt Lake City). While she wasn't a good fit for Kiva now, how can we support her? We set her up with on-going appointments with business advisors to look at her cash-flow and banking practices so she can get better positioned to succeed (and apply for Kiva down the road!)
Refugees, asylum seekers, and IDPs need a lending hand now more than ever. Help the world’s most vulnerable individuals rebuild their businesses, homes, and lives by contributing to Kiva’s COVID-19 Response fund at kiva.org/covid19response.