By Anne Hector, KF9 Kenya
My microfinance institution is the Small and Micro Enterprise Programme of Kenya (SMEP) and it is located in Nairobi… not at the foot of the Ngong Hills, I have to admit, but it is very very near Ngong Road.
I am a new Kiva Fellow and proud member of its 9th class. My project is to help SMEP move from its pilot program into an active phase with a healthy flow of loans posted on Kiva for funding. Last week, I navigated my way to Nairobi, settled into a hotel, bought a local cell phone, found SMEP offices (above) and the bus to get there. On Tuesday, I felt very much the working Nairobi girl as I walked to the bus with my fare ready in KES and was even able to grab a copy of the local paper, The Nation, to read on my commute (headlines all focused on the ICC prosecution of post election violence instigators.) I think it is safe to say that try as I might, I do not exactly blend into the crowd in the morning commute.
Over the course of the week, I worked with the SMEP team and the incumbent Kiva Fellow and began to get the hang of my assignment. SMEP is one complex proposition! Beginning as a church-based feeding program for the poor in Mathare in 1975, it evolved over the years, and ultimately has become a private microfinance company. As a result, religion and business mix in the work culture in a way somewhat eye-popping to your average godless American. Meetings begin and end with a free form prayer incorporating references to the issues at hand, the participants and general hopes for success. It was kind of a great mix of lofty sentiments and hard headed business talk that certainly sets an inspiring tone to a business meeting.
For my first real assignment, I am going to pick up the very brave SMEP intern, Mary Chege, and we are going to drive to SMEP’s branch in Kitengela, about one hour outside Nairobi. Our mission is to help that branch with uploading photos for Kiva loans (a major technical issue) and to visit a few group loan meetings. Driving in Nairobi is not tame and is, of course, conducted from the left hand side of the road.
Stay tuned and take a look at SMEP’s loans to date: http://tiny.cc/LALS4 We hope to be posting quite a few more./>