Bonjour, Bamako: Soro Yiriwaso’s Monument to Sustainability

22 February 2009 at 06:35 9 comments

By Jessica Chervin, KF7 Mali

Save for the high beams of the Land Cruiser and a few fluorescent lamps, I couldn’t see much as we drove off the paved road and onto a bumpy street, nestled deep within the quartier Cité UNICEF, a relatively poor neighborhood of Bamako (the capital of Mali) and my home base for the next few months. Then, from the darkness and dust, it rose: a glistening yellow building that, against the local backdrop, appeared rather like Oz…

I am Jessica Chervin, age 24, from New York, New York, and a proud member of the seventh class of Kiva Fellows. I have had the tremendous fortune to be placed with Soro Yiriwaso (which means “fructify the revenues of the home” in Bambara), Kiva’s first and only field partner MFI in Mali. As the first Kiva Fellow ever to work with Soro, I am charged with getting to know their organization deeply in the spirit of strengthening its partnership with Kiva.  So, what of this “Oz”?

Soro Yiriwaso's new facility in Bamako

Soro Yiriwaso's new facility in the Cité UNICEF neighborhood of Bamako

Soro, which is currently headquartered in small town called Bougouni, has just constructed its first facility in Bamako. On my third day there, Soro’s director invited me to attend their direction’s official walk-through and reception, at which the architect and several members of the board were also present. The mood in the conference room was solemn.  This building, for them, is a dream realized. Soro’s arrival in the capital heralds the organization’s coming of age.  But as I listened to each of them reflect on the project, a deeper and greater symbolic power of the building emerged.

I thought of Soro’s mission, “To increase economic opportunities of disadvantaged Malian entrepreneurs, particularly women, in offering them enduring access to financial services”.  And of Soro’s vision for itself: “A solid, autonomous, and perennial microfinance institution”.  In every way, this building is the physical embodiment of each of Soro’s values.  The idea of accessibility, for example, cannot be overstated. Soro’s choice to erect its magnificent headquarters in a poor neighborhood of the capital sends a bold message to its target population: we are HERE, for YOU, and we are not going anywhere.  It beckons.  It inspires.

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A placard, detailing Soro Yiriwaso's mission and values, that hangs in the conference room of its Bougouni office

We members of the Kiva community, Kiva Fellows and lenders alike, see everyday that the basic and empowering principles of microlending work. But the consistent and enduring provision of financial services by microfinance institutions, the superstructure over a world of people ready to put their dreams into motion, is what makes the system run. Soro’s monument to sustainability is bona fide proof that, at the institutional level, microfinance can, does, and will work.  And, as Kiva lenders, each of us has the special privilege of partnering in this industry-building effort.

I look forward to sharing stories of Soro in action with you in the months to come!

Click here to lend to Malian entrepreneurs through Soro Yiriwaso (check back soon if your friends have beat you to them), and join Team Fructification, Soro’s new lending team!

Entry filed under: KF7 (Kiva Fellows 7th Class), Mali, Soro Yiriwaso, a partner of Save the Children. Tags: , , , .

How Risky Are MicroFinance Borrowers? It’s the reasonable repayment plan-stupid!

9 Comments

  • 1. Dave Diedrich  |  12 May 2009 at 16:45

    Jessica, sending many good wishes to you and everyone at Soro. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bougouni from ’01-’03 and Soro Yiriwaso is an institution with integrity, professionalism and an all-star lineup. Give my best to all my friends there. I was just back in January and their growth has been amazing. Feel free to contact me if I can ever be of help.
    Dave D. aka Daouda Dembele

  • 2. Willa  |  11 March 2009 at 06:45

    Hi, I am doing work for a quarterly magazine and I am looking to track down some information about a group of women that received a loan from Soro Yiriwaso. I hoping that you could give me the contact information for someone at the agency. Thank you for your time and please feel free to contact me via email.
    ~Willa

  • 3. Lo  |  10 March 2009 at 08:16

    I just scored a loan in Mali a couple weeks ago, and was surprised & delighted. Having a Kiva Fellow there is even better! Look forward to future blogs.

  • 4. Glenda  |  23 February 2009 at 12:07

    Red brick Rd..?? or Yellow??

  • 5. jnlchervin  |  23 February 2009 at 10:59

    Hi Guide Me Green,

    Soro’s got a bunch of loans in the hopper. Check back at the very beginning of March. There are other MFIs in Mali, but this is Kiva’s only partner to date in this country.

    Cheers,
    Jessica

  • 6. Guide Me Green  |  23 February 2009 at 10:48

    Have you come across any other MFIs in Mali or is this the only one? When will the MFI be posting loans?

  • 7. jane  |  22 February 2009 at 18:21

    Bonjour Jessica!
    After traveling in Mali and Burkina last year I was delighted when Kiva found a field partner in Mali in Soro Yiriwaso. Throughout my travels I was consistently amazed by the ingenuity and productivity of folks with few resources and sometimes fewer choices. Best wishes for a successful partnership.

  • 8. Unilove  |  22 February 2009 at 08:34

    The first KIVA MFI for Mali, and there you are! As a lender, your posts give us dimension to your work, and to the people you work with. Here is wishing you a rewarding fellowship and a productive one!

  • 9. Jan & John  |  22 February 2009 at 07:32

    Wishing you all the best, Jessica. That photo looks hot and dry. I searched today’s weather for Bamako, Mali and came up with 36C which feels very warm compared to our -12C today 🙂 Thank you for speaking about sustainability. None of us can/should help one day and then look away the next. The committment of Soro Yiriwaso should be reflected by our own staying power. Please stay well and we will appreciate every word and photo you manage to send our way. Jan


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