Posts tagged ‘Middle East’
” After weeks of headline news about the Arab Spring, we seem to have forgotten the man who started it all: Mohamed Bouazizi, the [26 year old] Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself on fire after police confiscated his small cart. It was Mr. Bouazizi, a microentrepreneur, who sparked this revolution in a single act of protest against the same harsh economic realities shared by the majority of citizens across the Arab world.” ~ Elissa McCarter, Vice President of Development Finance, CHF International
Taline Khansa | KF19 | Jordan
Since arriving in Jordan last Tuesday night for the start of my Kiva Fellowship, I’ve ridden at least a dozen taxicabs which are prominent in Amman’s streets. The daily commute has sparked some very interesting conversations with the drivers who have given me a glimpse into the peoples’ challenges and the country’s current affairs. A 20 minute cab ride to work costs approximately 3 Jordanian Dinars ($4.25 USD) and provides my morning dose of news and chitchat.
Update from the Field: Going the distance in Pakistan and putting Kiva Zip together. Plus, a word on the Olympics.
Compiled by Isabel Balderrama | KF17 + KF18 | Bolivia
It’s once again time for an update from our Fellows in KF-18. This week we have three posts from four fellows, all of whom are busy learning from and making a difference in their respective assignments. From looking for potential Kiva Zip borrowers in Kenya, to crossing a wide swatch of the South Punjab region in order to visit clients, these fellows will do what it takes to get the job done. And best of all, they are willing to share their unique experiences with us all.
Compiled by Chris Paci | KF16 & KF17 | Ukraine
As regular readers of Kiva Stories from the Field will know, it’s not always easy to extend microfinance services to the people who need them most. Aside from the usual barriers - poor infrastructure that makes it difficult to connect borrowers with an MFI, the difficulty of disseminating information about available services, and the danger of over-indebtedness among those in greatest need - there are sometimes even more intractable political and regulatory challenges that make it very difficult for microfinance to be viable. This week, our fellows have investigated a few of these problems. Read on to learn about the unique challenges that come with owning a farm in the West Bank and the barriers that Turkish microfinance institutions face in trying to expand their services; then, get another window into the Kiva borrower verification process and learn how Kiva Fellows forge connections with the entrepreneurs they visit. (more…)
“What can we do, but wait and see” a borrower told me a couple of days after the highly anticipated speech by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Adapting to new environments can be tough, but adapting to ever-changing uncertainty is even tougher and it’s a skill that the people of Lebanon have mastered.
By Heba Gamal - KF15, Lebanon
“It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Gibran Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
Having grown up in Egypt, I know that family is an important part of daily life in the Middle East. So, when it came to my Kiva Fellowship – I knew that in Lebanon I was going to be well-fed, watched over and taken care of. What I didn’t know is how this family-style love I was too familiar with was going to translate into the workings of micro-finance in Lebanon.
When I arrived at Al Majmoua‘s Headquarters in the heart of Beirut, I was met by the head of Human Resources and Business Development, Alia. After a thorough 2-hour overview and introduction to Al Majmoua; one of my first questions to Alia was how long she’s been with the organization (followed, of course, by where the best place for lunch around was). The answer was: “10 years!” The idea of someone being in one organization for that long caught me by surprise, but it wasn’t until I started meeting other Al Majmoua team members that I started realizing that there’s something that keeps people here this long. Dr. Youssef, Al Majmoua’s executive director, has been with the organization for more than 11 years. Nadine, Al Majmoua’s Kiva Coordinator and Research & Development Assistant has been with the organization for more than 9 years. She’s done everything from being a Loan Analyst to Internal Auditing to HR and now Kiva. Nadine even left Al Majmoua for a year, but quickly found herself back at Al Majmoua.
This sense of familial love and belonging isn’t just apparent by the number of years people have been here; it’s in their attitude! In a country such as Lebanon, where sectarianism has had a long and tragic impact on the people and the country – it’s refreshing and inspiring to watch a network of ~170 employees all over Lebanon maintaining a family style work environment.
On my first field visit at the Beirut Branch, the Branch Supervisor, Diala, sat me down for a thorough introduction of the branch operations and procedure. During our conversation she said something that stuck with me: “Everyone at Al Majmoua behaves as if this is their home.” Later that day, I was introduced to Ismail, an Al Majmoua Loan Analyst. He was going to be my guide for the day. The plan was to go meet 2 new borrowers and check on a couple of existing Kiva borrowers.
I had been carefully asked and semi-warned the day before by Nadine that I will be joining Ismail on his scooter or as the Lebanese call it “Motto”. Ismail was zooming through the Palestinian refugee camps and neighborhoods only like a local from the area would. Micro-finance is highly dependent on social relationships and reputation within the community. Ismail is a local; when he walks the streets of Beirut’s suburbs and refugee camps people know him as their neighbor. During our field visits, we ran into his father-in-law and cousin separately.
When Al Majmoua first started in the late 1990′s half of its staff was made up of former borrowers. Now with ~170 employees and 14 branches across Lebanon, Al Majmoua still tires to keep the family connections strong. Today, roughly 30% of the loan analysts are former Al Majmoua borrowers themselves or are friends and/or relatives of current borrowers. Utilizing SMS technology, Al Majmoua’s HR team sends out job vacancy ads to their pool of borrowers to get referrals and applicants. This sense of “community first” extends to the interactions between borrowers themselves and how they view Al Majmoua.
In “relationship-driven cultures”, like Lebanon, personal relationships are built on the basis of social interactions especially within the family and community. My first stop with Ismail was a new female borrower, Nadia; she heard about Al Majmoua through her sister-in-law who is on her 3rd loan cycle. Next we stopped to check up on longtime Al Majmoua borrower Mohamed and his son, Salah, a recent Al Majmoua borrower as well. During our visit, borrowers greeted Ismail and I like family. Often inviting us into their homes or businesses for an afternoon drink or snack. They often asked Ismail if he had received a call from a friend or a relative that they had recommended Al Majmoua to. Word-of-Mouth seems to be the organization’s strongest and most effective marketing tool.
Besides being well-fed and taken care of as part of the family, I’m thrilled to be a temporary family member of an organization that stays true to itself and its community!
Compiled by Caree Edson, KF 14, Armenia
One of the unfortunate sight-seeing adventures that you never sign up for when you travel (especially in developing countries) is the unseemly amount of trash cluttering the otherwise beautiful landscapes. In Armenia, it isn’t possible to see the horizon through the smog most days and the streets are covered in cigarette butts and litter. I found no exceptions to this as I inquired from other Kiva Fellows about the dire situation in their countries. Environmental education and reform are simply not a top priority in many countries. But the future of climate change initiatives are not entirely hopeless…
Celebrate Good Times, Come On!
Here at a growing microfinance bank in Jordan, it’s now always about looking forward. Sometimes, it’s about looking back. Tamweelcom started in 1999. In only twelve years, Tamweelcom has gone from a few hundred clients to over 57,000 currently active clients. If you’re a bank, how do you celebrate your longest-standing borrowers and show newer borrowers that they are valued customers?
A party with a big cake and gifts is one way to do it. I tagged along with Tamweelcom staff to visit two branches where the celebrations took place.
All Locally Sourced: The celebratory cake was prepared by a local baker.
Cake > Staff: The cake takes up half the counter. Dana, one of the staff from headquarters who visited the field offices that day, is a member of the Customer Service Center, which fields client calls, complaints, and questions.
Teamwork: Loan officers work together to divvy up the cake and practice their balancing abilities. Loan officers are often from the same communities as the borrowers.
All Eyes On Deck: Borrowers eye the cake as it’s being served. Over 98% of Tamweelcom’s borrowers are women and many brought their kids to the celebration.
Pashmina Time: Borrowers for more than 4 years received Pashmina scarves. Borrowers for more than 10 years, almost since the banks inception, received watches as a sign of gratitude from the bank for their long history and the strong example they set for the newer borrowers. Many of these borrowers began with a small loan ($200-600) for a project from home and have since graduated to loans tailored to small businesses (up to $14,000).
It’s a Work Day After All: Despite all the festivities, work carries on. Hundreds of clients visit the branch offices each day to make repayments or take out loans. Tamweelcom just established a partnership with Zain, Jordan’s biggest telecom company. Clients can now make loan repayments using their mobile phone.
To make a loan so that future borrowers may have something to celebrate, click here.
Alex Silversmith is a Kiva Fellow working in Jordan.
Phoneix from the Rubble by Caroline Pattinson KF13
My heart fell when I opened up the e mail, ‘Congratulations…….. you’re going to Beirut’. I hold my hands up, my first thought was warzone. A quick scan of the UK Foreign Office website confirmed my fears, general risk of terrorism, violent clashes in previous months, not somewhere I was in a hurry to leave the UK for. Fortunately I didn’t send an immediate ‘thanks but no thanks’ e mail. I told a friend expecting him to laugh and his response was ‘awesome’, another friend said she had always wanted to visit. With such a positive response from others maybe I was missing something and Lebanon deserved some research and I am glad I did.