Lending in Ukraine is Sexy!

25 February 2010 at 02:20 14 comments

When you look at the average photo of a Ukrainian Kiva Borrower, you’ll most likely see a woman about 40 standing in front of retail shelves stocked full of merchandise. Chances are she’s a vendor at one of Ukraine’s many outdoor markets, or Rynok (Рынок).

Meet Alla Slichko, a vendor at an outdoor market in Mukachevo, Western Ukraine. She's currently fundraising - consider lending her $25!

During Kiva Fellows training at Kiva HQ in San Francisco, I learned that Kiva borrowers located in Eastern Europe or Central Asia are often the least popular on the Kiva docket and the last to receive funding. One staffer even suggested that lending in Ukraine isn’t sexy. How could this be?! Perhaps it’s the well-stocked shelves, or maybe the often un-smiling, warmly dressed men and women, that do not illicit immediate sympathy or the thoughts of poverty that lenders often associate with Kiva borrowers?

One step toward understanding poverty and microlending in Ukraine is to understand where most borrowers come from – the outdoor market or Rynok (Рынок).

Just one section of Angolenko Rynok in Zaporozhye.

Rynoks are collections of hundreds, sometimes thousands of kiosks – the largest market in Zaporozhye, Angolenko Market, is home to over 2000! Generally, the kiosks are lined up next to one another with narrow paths in between where shoppers can walk. Rarely are these paths shielded from the elements.

You can buy anything you need at a Ukrainian Rynok. In fact, I challenge you, faithful reader of the Kiva Fellows blog, to visit Angolenko Market and not find everything you need: cell phones, household appliances, children’s toys and clothing, fresh produce and freshly butchered meat, furniture, books, school supplies…

The challenge, of course, is finding it.

When you arrive at the Rynok, you’ll likely see a map at the entrance instructing which section houses which items. This is useful not only for the consumer, but for the Loan Officer and his trusty Kiva Fellow sidekick seeking out specific borrowers to interview.

Volodya, a HOPE Ukraine loan officer, photographs the map of Osipenkovskyi Rynok to help him find his clients on future visits.

Weather is a major factor in the relative success of a small business owner in an outdoor market. And Ukraine is very cold, icy, and wet for over half the year. But like Olga – a vendor of used books and school supplies at Osipenkovskyi Rynok – told me, monthly rental fees for the cheapest indoor space at the local department store cost as much as she makes in profits each month. So Kiva’s borrowers in Ukraine usually opt for the cold, wet Rynok (thus the warmly dressed borrower), where they can rent more affordable spaces and sell their wares at cheaper, more competitive prices.

The wet and snowy reality of a Ukrainian Rynok in February

Having met several vendors in these outdoor markets already, I can tell you that they’re not only very kind, hard working individuals, but they need your support as much as do any borrowers on Kiva. They’re also generally happy people – it’s just more culturally common not to smile in photos here!

Kiva Fellow Leah enjoys long walks along the Dnieper River and lending in Ukraine.

Throughout this week and next, HOPE Ukraine (Kiva’s field partner in Ukraine) will be posting several new loans and I encourage you to warmly welcome them into the Kiva community and consider funding them first, especially if you don’t have any loans in the Eastern Europe/Central Asia region. I can’t speak for everyone, but this Kiva Fellow might just think it’s sexy.

Leah Gage is a Kiva Fellow serving with Kiva’s field partner HOPE Ukraine/Nadiya in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. Consider joining the Fans of HOPE Ukraine/Nadiya lending team!

Entry filed under: blogsherpa, Eastern Europe & Central Asia (EECA), HOPE International - Nadiya Ukraine, KF10 (Kiva Fellows 10th Class), Ukraine. Tags: , , , , , , .

Kiva Fellowship Sparks Self Awareness Not so micro credit


  • 1. Jane Braziunas  |  18 April 2010 at 20:14

    Great post, Leah! Hopefully by now the weather is warming a bit. Those are hardy entrepreneurs!

  • 2. D-Day in Liberia « Kiva Stories from the Field  |  22 March 2010 at 09:32

    […] — what if borrowers don’t have anything to smile about, or if their culture dictates serious faces when photos are taken, or if they don’t fit with the idea of what poverty should “look […]

  • 3. Sam  |  17 March 2010 at 00:09

    I have been living in Ukraine for two years now and I will attest to everything this lovely young lady says. The best part? Sometimes there are 15 stalls next to each other which are all similar. But one is usually the most popular. Why? because at one time or another, that one stall carried 1 or 2 items that the other stalls didnt have. Either that, or they know more people in town.

  • 4. Susi  |  2 March 2010 at 05:04

    I love your post, Leah! Thank’s for sharing your impressions and experiences.

  • 5. katimayfield  |  27 February 2010 at 05:42

    sexy indeed, Leah! Kiva love to you!

    • 6. Cheryl  |  8 March 2010 at 10:16

      Oh. I thought you could see my email automagically within the blog. Could you email me at soloveimagazine@gmail.com?

  • 7. Cheryl  |  26 February 2010 at 10:43

    Could you contact me regarding using this article in an upcoming issue of Solovei Magazine?

    • 8. leahespicea  |  3 March 2010 at 09:42

      Hi Cheryl – I tried emailing the contact on your attached website. Let me know the best way to contact you. Both Kiva and I are very open to working with you! Thanks for your interest.

  • 9. Beth  |  25 February 2010 at 17:28

    Fantastic blog Leah, way to brave the elements!

  • 10. Kim  |  25 February 2010 at 14:25

    Always happy to hear more about the conditions and area of any entrepreneur, thanks for that report! I only have one loan in the Ukraine; I often look when I’m logged in but there just aren’t any when I’m on. Knowing there are some coming online, I will keep an eye out. I would love to have more loans there!

    I think all Kiva entrepreneurs can be considered sexy… it takes strength and courage to create and grow your own business! They all are an inspiration to me… (and I’m sure most of us don’t choose by appearances, anyway… 🙂

  • 11. Monica H  |  25 February 2010 at 12:09

    Love it Leah, great post!

  • 12. Jeff  |  25 February 2010 at 09:11

    Thanks for your interesting report, Leah. I have one loan in Ukraine which is due to complete repayment next month (March). I will look for another one to replace it.

  • 13. Vishnu  |  25 February 2010 at 04:24

    I’ll be investing. Keep up the great work!

  • 14. New post on the Kiva Fellows Blog! « Grassroots & Global  |  25 February 2010 at 02:32

    […] Lending in Ukraine is Sexy! (You know it’s true…) Read my post on the Kiva Fellows Blog here. And comment! It makes me look cool. Kiva Fellow Leah enjoys long walks along the Dnieper River and […]

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