This lovely and somewhat tired-looking lady is 40-year-old Fatuma Samson from Morogoro, Tanzania. She is the person we are lending money to this month through KIVA.
Fatuma is married with four children between the ages of 4 and 13. She has been in business since 2006, operating a mama lishe, a local restaurant or café. From it's name I'd venture to say that mama lishe means something close to our English phrase Home Cooking.
In Tanzania a mama lishe is outfitted with a rough wooden table and long, wooden benches. The food is all-local: rice, ugali (a hot sticky dough made from maize flour), plantains (a cooked savory banana), served with beans, vegetables, meat, and a variety of sauces.
Fatuma works at her mama lishe five to eight hours per day, six days per week. She is assisted by her husband. She asked for a loan of 300,000 Tanzanian shillings ($250.00 USD) in order to purchase additional ingredients in bulk to expand her menu and increase her profit margin.
The agency administering the loan is called SELFINA, which has taken a lead role as a pioneer of micro-credit in Tanzania. The organization is engaged in the economic empowerment of women in Tanzania. Customs and traditions in Tanzania make it difficult for women to own land and assets, and they are termed non-creditworthy by financial institutions. This leads to poor financial support and poor access to basic needs and services for women with low incomes.
KIVA allows individuals like us, who may only have a few dollars a month to spare, to pool funds with other micro-investors and provide loans to hard-working small business people around the world. As they repay their loans our investments are returned to us, and we can invest it in another business, and thus help another person.
The first two women we loaned money to, Jane Mbasagi and Sabina Anyango Otieno have already begun paying back their loans. We have put their repayment funds right back into KIVA, cooperating with other KIVA lenders to lend Fatuma the money she needs to prosper and lift her family out of poverty.
Unlike money handed over between governments, which often ends up in the pockets of corrupt politicians, this money goes directly to the borrower, where it is needed. The people on Kiva's site are real individuals in need of funding. You can browse entrepreneurs' profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a small loan, thus helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community.
I'd challenge my readers to share the enormous wealth we enjoy with others who work just as hard, but do not live in such fortuitous circumstances.