Are These Borrowers Legitimate?

25 November 2009 at 03:14 5 comments

Ed Coambs KF9 Philippines, Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation

What will the field hold for me today as I go out to complete my first Kiva mission. I have been asked to spend time completing ten borrower verifications. The idea is first introduced to me during my fellowship training. The borrower verification process is one of the requirements for a Micro Finance Institution (MFI) that has partnered with Kiva to move from pilot to active status. (The pilot stage is designed to allow Kiva to evaluate the MFI, and their ability to meet all Kiva requirements. All MFI’s start in pilot status with a low fundraising limit and once they move to active status have their fundraising limit raised.) During training as I am introduced to the borrower verification process I think oh no problem I can knock this out in a day. All I have to do is take some photo’s, check documents, and ask some questions about the borrowers business. Well what unfolds during my borrower verification experience is far from what I expected.

I would love to share with you one particularly fun and inspiring experience that I had while completing my borrower verifications. If my memory serves me right it was our fourth borrower during the second day of verification and we were headed to her local market place.

I feel a warm wetness down the front of my pants, oh no did I wet myself in fear for my life while riding the tricycle. Nope a water bottle lid is not closed tight in my backpack and I feel the consequence of this in my wet pants. Not to worry only my laptop and several books I was reading where in the bag. So simultaneously I rip my bag open while clinging for dear life to tricycle to save my books and computer from eminent destruction. Fortunately most of the water went through the bag and onto my lap. I was able to get the books out which Sheila kindly held in her bag and my computer was in a soft sided carrying pouch that kept it dry.

Just as this water incident is sorted out it starts to rain, or maybe I should say a bucket of water was dropped on us from the skies above. As naturally as I tie my shoes in the morning our tricycle driver slickly pulls out a crinkled plastic sheet that he tries to wrap around the front of his bike and the front of the sidecar. He hands clothespins for Sheila and Rowena to attach the plastic sheet to the frame of the side car. As soon as the sheet is secured in place the rain subsides. As quickly as the rain came it subsided.

When we arrive at the market place stall for Erlinda the borrower I am supposed to verify she is not there. One of the other vendors tells us that she sold out for the day and went to a friend’s house. We head over to the friend’s house and find Erlinda there. After talking with Erlinda for a few minutes and me explaining the documents I will need to see she tells me we will need to go to her house for those documents.

The duck lady Erlinda Untal

Erlinda flags down a teenage boy that is driving a tricycle to take us to her house. We turn through a couple of neighborhood streets and then onto the highway. Oh, did I tell you that Erlinda is a duck farmer and lives in the middle of a sugarcane field. No I didn’t think so. We pull off the highway and onto the sugarcane field road. Not too bad at first, very bumpy but manageable. It does not take long for me to hear eruptions of laughter as the girls are getting bounced around on our ride. Then comes the deep trenches that the sugarcane trucks have worn into the road. Our fearless tricycle driver with a look of determination in his eyes carries us further into the sugarcane fields plowing through the deep trenches. At last he can go no further. Yet all the eye can see is sugarcane.

We get off the tricycle and start to walk up the road. Then the sugarcane parts in just a small place and a few huts appear. Great we have arrived at our destination.  No not yet, Erlinda leads us another couple hundred yards to her sky blue concrete house. We settle on her small front porch to begin the borrower verification process. Before I know it her husband shimmies up the coconut tree in front of their house and I hear the loud thud of coconuts dropping from the sky. Her husband then with a couple quick strikes of his machete is pouring fresh coconut water in glasses for us to enjoy as we talk with his wife about her business.

Erlinda gleams with pride as she talks proudly more about the accomplishments of her daughters then her own business, but it is the skills that she has learned from her business that have helped her to teach the lessons of hard work to her daughters. In order for her daughters to pay for primary school she would send them every day with a duck egg to sell that would help pay for their school. This work ethic has helped carry one of her daughters into a successful career in computers and another daughter will finish stewardess classes to work in the cruise ship industry.

We wrap up our verification with Erlinda which felt more like afternoon tea or should I say afternoon coconut water then a borrower verification. She walks us confidently back to where we left our tricycle driver in the middle of the sugarcane field. He has managed to get the tricycle turned around and is patiently waiting for our return. While approaching the tricycle I can’t help myself but to stop and admire the beautiful setting that surrounds the sugarcane fields. There are mountains in one direction and an afternoon sun slowly moving towards the horizon in the other direction.

One Muddy Road

Our fearless driver, Sheila, Rowena, and Erlinda

The view from the sugarcane field

The tricycle roars back to life and we head back to the highway. Oh did you forget, because I didn’t the road back is waiting for us full of mud pits, large rocks, and a questionable bridge to cross. As we rumble over the rocks and in to the first mud pit the tricycle gets stuck. Sheila, Rowena and I climb out of the side car and the driver guns the bike hoping the lighter load will allow him to clear the mud pit. No such luck, but at last my size and strength come in hand. I help to push the tricycle past this mud pit. We all climb back on only to get bogged down in another mud pit. This cycle of everybody off Ed help the tricycle clear the mud pit everybody get back on happens no less than five times before we clear all the mud.

Now you are probably wondering much like I was how in the world did they get to Erlinda’s house and not get stuck once and now leaving they get stuck multiple times. Well your guess is as good as mine, the only thing I can think of is God wanted me to really remember my visit to see Erlinda.

As a Kiva lender or maybe soon to be Kiva lender you can rest assured that everything checks out good. Each entrepreneur has a real story and much like any of us they have their successes, their failures and their dreams, but the important thing is that they are all working hard to create a better life for themselves, family, and community. Please join me in changing life’s by making a loan today.

Entry filed under: blogsherpa, KF9 (Kiva Fellows 9th Class), NWTF (Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation), Philippines. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Microfinance, Migration, and a Constant Stream of Remittances (Part 3 of 3 of the Remittance Series) We Have to Know Our History too? (Part 1)


  • 1. ALEX  |  27 November 2009 at 20:17

    “…the only thing I can think of is God wanted me to really remember my visit to see Erlinda.”

    Ed, I love how your thoughts translate directly onto paper. Such words provide reflection for why I started this journey as a KF9 and helps overcome the fact that I’m flying solo in Vietnam. /ALEX

  • 2. Maria  |  26 November 2009 at 05:26

    I loved reading this – thanks for posting it – and for all the hard work you do!

  • 3. Agnes  |  25 November 2009 at 17:36

    I enjoyed your tale! I could see everything from the rain splashing down while you’re fumbling for your computer to Erlinda sending her kids out with a duck egg.

    Coconut juice is the best! Samoans have a fable explaining why the bottom of the coconut looks like a man. It’s the eel who turned into a man to please a girl.

  • 4. Bryan  |  25 November 2009 at 12:26

    Nice work Ed! Way to get your hands dirtly!

  • 5. Gavin  |  25 November 2009 at 04:39

    Great story Ed! This is hard core borrower verification. Makes me feel good knowing you’re on the case. Talaga!
    🙂 Kiva Love, Gavin

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