Author Archive

A Cry for Benin

Benin is a country not often in the news.  When I was a Kiva Fellow placed there, I’d come to appreciate this.  It meant we didn’t have the political instability of Togo, the violence of Nigeria, or the food shortages of Niger.  While Benin still had many flaws, it was stable compared to its neighbors.  This gave it hope for the future – hope for growth and international investment. (more…)

21 August 2010 at 01:00 3 comments

Does “a path always exist”?

In Fon, Alidé means “a path always exists (for the very poor).”  This is a touching sentiment matched by the equally strong social mission of the Kiva field partner that bears its name.  During my time as the Kiva Fellow placed with Alidé, I’ve been impressed with the institution’s passion and perseverance.  When I meet borrowers, I consistently see illiterate women who are able to send their children to school and praise Alidé for their success.  It’s easy to start thinking, “wow, there’s really something to this!”

But then there are also the times when I step back (more…)

7 May 2010 at 01:59 6 comments

Party for your bank

I like my bank in the US.  The staff is nice, they have a lot of ATMs in New York City, they once gave me a fruit basket (long story)…  But I would never think about getting together with other Wachovia customers to toast how much we like banking there.  Yet that’s exactly what a number of Alidé (Kiva’s partner in Benin) clients do regularly. (more…)

26 April 2010 at 02:23 3 comments

Building Poverty Museums

Just over a week ago, several Kiva staff members and Kiva Fellows (myself included) joined the president of Kenya, the prime minister of Zambia, the queen of Spain, the princess of the Netherlands, the former president of Peru, “inventor of micro-credit” Muhammad Yunus, and over a thousand others at the Africa-Middle East Microfinance Conference in Nairobi.

Not surprisingly, Muhammad Yunus was consistently the most interesting speaker throughout the four-day event (more…)

19 April 2010 at 01:10 2 comments

Fear vs. delight: The two sides to getting your picture taken for Kiva

There are two responses Alidé’s clients in Benin have when asked to have their picture taken for Kiva: fear and delight.  Generally, both paths end with laughter and a lot of pictures of me, the Kiva Fellow assigned to Alidé.

Fear:  They say that while Benin has about 50% Christians and 40% Muslins, 95% of the population simultaneously practices Voodoo.  This means you can buy fétiches (magical objects like monkey skulls) at the market, and that you’ll encounter a number of clients who fear that having their picture taken might steal their soul. (more…)

2 April 2010 at 00:16 2 comments

Getting schooled at your bank

In addition to loans (and savings accounts, social work, and coming soon – insurance) Alidé, Kiva’s field partner in Benin, offers formations, or training sessions, to its clients.  Some are optional but there are three that are actually mandatory for a loan.


24 March 2010 at 07:58 1 comment

The working mothers of Benin (includes instruction video: how to strap a baby on your back)

The one income family doesn’t exist in Benin.  Just like their moms and their mom’s moms, Beninese women enter the work force as soon as they’re able and keep going no matter what.  They’ll work through the rain, they’ll work through malaria, they’ll work while pregnant with all of their wares stacked on top of their heads and their children literally strapped to their backs.

For those of you who want to try this at home, here’s one Kiva entrepreneur teaching me the art of baby-strapping (and her amused friends in the background).


14 March 2010 at 14:04 4 comments

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