Fellows Blog Posts by farmers2foodstamps

Mar 17, 2009 BJ Benin

Africa. Bénin.

It shattered my worldview, changed my perspective on life. It nearly undid me. I was at times stupefied by heat and pollution, tongue-tied by the language barrier, unable to process basic thoughts, uncomfortable from stomach ailments, so overwhelmed by poverty that I could not imagine how to improve the quality of life. But I was also fascinated by the many cultures, bonding with friends of every nationality, living each day full of adventure as it were my last, traveling, collapsing into bed bone-...

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Jan 23, 2009 BJ Benin

Dedokpo Moise, the loan officer at Alide- Dedokpo, and I drove into the neighborhood of Aglas Hlazountas. In the mid-afternoon, the local market was pretty quiet, but we needed to scarf up some Kiva clients to interview, so Moise alerted the leader of the group, the woman selling charcoal. Evidently the word spread fast, because soon the Kiva women were upon us, joined by their entire group. Moise explained that the entire group consisted of 50 women who all shared the collatéral of the loan. Only a few of the 50 women were Kiva.  They came ready to see us with baskets of...

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Dec 23, 2008 BJ Benin

Abozu with Abby and I of "Why I can't give Abozu my Camera" blog fame

I spent the weekend in Lomé, Togo with Abby Gray, another Kiva fellow at WAGES. Wages is basically like Alide in a few years: larger, and with a deeper relationship with Kiva. To get to Togo, I had to cross the border from Benin to Togo alone, which was just a little bit more harrowing and stressful than was necessary between two small, relatively stable countries. I decided to go to Togo on...

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Dec 12, 2008 BJ Benin

Maurice, Alidé’s loan officer, and I ventured into neighborhoods even dirtier and more fly stricken to visit Alide’s clients. On Monday we visited the most intense location ever – the lake country. It reminded me a little of New Orleans. The houses were built on mud and some directly over the lake, the log slats spaced almost wide enough for a foot to fall through. The area was muddy with lots of flies and very poor. We interviewed one of the few male borrowers, Moise Dossa. He was a happy, attractive man wearing robes of flowing colors. In his bare feet, he led us into...

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Dec 3, 2008 BJ Benin

After a few days, I felt mostly adjusted. I liked what was I doing and I had gotten used to fans only at night. I was sitting at Alide at 3pm at Friday when the electricity went out. The A/C stopped its whir, the computers had to be turned off to save battery. The water had already been off for 2 days.

We wandered outside. For the rest of the day, the young people of Alide talked in Fon, French, and faltering English. I showed them my photos, they made fun of me, they switched back to Fon to gossip to each other. When the electricity had not come...

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Nov 27, 2008 BJ Benin

 “We thought you were a Muslim from Togo,” the Director of Alidé told me on the way out of the Benin airport.

“Pardon?” I asked, wondering if I had heard correctly.

“You see,” he explained, “Lawson is a common Togolese name, even sometimes a Beninese one, and in West Africa Sarah is usually a Muslim name. So I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.”

I explained to him that Lawson was originally English in my case. M. Valère Houssou, the Director of the NGO Alidé in...

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