To love beauty is to see light

The concept of looking beautiful within an underdeveloped region of the world might seem like a Western concept but such imperialist stereotypes are slowly being eradicated through the works of talented individuals in Kenya such as Mary Matheya. Her career is enshrined within a salon, where she sells beauty products and manages to make her clients depart by looking and feeling beautiful. A college-level educated woman, Ms. Matheya understands the risks of running short of funds and knows that a deep influx of clients would only serve to generate greater demand for her products, even though she might not possess the capital to deliver these products. Yet, she continues to ensure the daily satisfaction of her clients and is doing a successful job at it. Below is a recent account of the activities in her salon through her interview with our Client Relationship Manager in Kenya.
Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in and around Nairobi.
Named after a favorite cousin, Tamara Beauty Salon screams of femininity, with its walls covered with posters displaying various hairstyles and catchy phrases such as, “Build your confidence”, “Stand out”, or “You look fabulous”. “Women want to feel beautiful. If you promise them beauty, the cost does not matter.” Zidisha borrower, Mary Matheya, makes this claim many times while in deep concentration braiding a customer’s hair. Fashionably dressed in high-heeled boots and stylish jeans, Mary has hours of braiding ahead of her (four hours to be exact).
Many women share the memory of grooming the hair of their favorite dolls when they were young, but for Mary it all began with grass. Finding joy in braiding, she practiced with blades of grass, later turning to her schoolmates. Realizing her hobby could become her profession, Mary took a training course which specialized in teaching various braiding styles. In 1999, Tamara Beauty Salon was born. Remarking on the significance of doing something you love, Mary shows a palpable sense a pride for choosing her path in life.
Although she has come a long way, Mary has big dreams to expand her business and Zidisha is just the organization to help her accomplish them. Being new to Zidisha, Mary wants to receive a loan in hopes of purchasing more chairs for added comfort for her customers and items to sell, such as nail polish, earrings, and hair dye. Like many borrowers, Mary heard of Zidisha through a friend. Understanding the importance of networking, Mary gets many of her customers through this very method. She comments on the quality service she provides, which results in many recommendations sent her way. Her current customer, Lencer, hearing about Mary through a friend and this being her first visit, can attest to Mary’s service, for after hours of braiding, the satisfaction of Mary’s work is evident on Lencer’s face. She does not leave without saying she will be back and will not come without a friend.
As the afternoon turns to evening, my day with Mary must end. I look forward to her joining the Zidisha community and I hope to be here to see Tamara Beauty Salon prosper. As I am getting ready to leave, Mary extends an offer of her braiding expertise to me. After observing her obvious talent and meticulous nature for perfection, I strongly contemplate a new hairdo. Next time I am in Ongata Rongai, I think I will take Mary up on her offer and let her work her magic to make me beautiful!
To view more pictures of my day with Mary, visit my blog, talkingstory.posterous.com

Crowdfunding Transforms The Charity Landscape

While charity organizations have been around for decades to assist those in need, the rise of the internet and crowdsourcing websites has transformed how charity is handled today. Microfinancing sites play an especially huge role in this as they allow donators to get their money directly to those who need it. Instead of donators placing their money in the hands of a charity that may never end up diverting the funds to where it is intended, donators can feel safe and confident in knowing that their money is directly handled by recipients in need.


Helping Businesses with Microfinance
Besides helping individuals gain access to things like education or an increased amount of savings, microfinancing also does a fantastic job at helping many businesses to grow. Around the world and in many poorer areas, many individuals who run their own businesses may be running into problems because of factors such as broken equipment or lack of resources and, therefore, cannot afford fixed price recruitment in order to hire others to help run their business. For most business owners in these rural areas, microfinancing is the only source of income for both them and their family.
If they have to end up shutting down their business, problems can soon occur. Microfinancing helps these owners with things like a new vehicle for their business, new fabric for a clothing company, or even money to produce additional food for a restaurant.
By helping these businesses, you aren’t only helping the owners and their families, but also the local economy. After all, one of the best ways to help a city’s economy to grow is to support the local businesses in the area. If a local business ends up having to close, this leaves a huge economic void for the area. Money spent at these local places will typically go straight back to the economy as much as two or three times over.

Microfinancing Helps Increase Savings of the Poor
As this article by AllAfrica.com says, microfinancing has helped to destroy the myth that the poor do not save their money and is instead showing that most are credit worthy and do intend on saving. Microfinancing loan institutions are an essential part in helping those in rural communities to gain access to the financing they need. The only challenge right now seems to be that many citizens have trouble accessing these forms of credit. However, many microfinancing services around the country are working hard to implement this infrastructure and bring it into the hands of more people so that they can be helped. According to AllAfrica.com, a World Bank report has said that the number of people living on less than $1.25 per day is over 1.4 billion. With unfortunate statistics like these, it becomes apparent how important infrastructure like microfinancing is along with access to things like fresh food and water.

Microfinancing May Help To Solve Academic Issues
Thanks to budget cuts within education sectors throughout the world, research projects are getting cut, and tuition continues to rise. In many parts of the world, education is not even an option and many people can only work without ever having the chance to get a higher education. Microfinancing sites are increasing the ability for many throughout the world to be able to get an education.
Since many children have to work for their families each day, many are not able to go to school because they must help their families. Along with this, education is often expensive and is not free in all cases. Regardless, extra money that families receive can help to keep children in school and help them get an education. 

Why Is Microfinancing Better Than A Traditional Charity?
While it is true that there are plenty of fantastic charities out there, many of them are major for-profit corporations, and only a fraction of the money you end up donating will actually go to where it needs to go.
While not all microfinancing institutions are like this, a majority of them are non-profit, and their main goal is simply to get the donated money from you directly to the person that needs it. The existence of a company that handles your donation and distributes it when they feel it is necessary is eliminated by p2p microfinancing; it allows you to help many individuals around the world in a major effort to get out of poverty and improve the lives of both themselves and those around them.


Guest post by Eve Jamieson

Comfort Food in Ongata Rongai

Hi lenders! Here is a great update from Traci in Kenya. She recently had a chance to meet with Jane Njoroge, a resteraunt owner who is looking to expand her business. Read about Traci’s visit below, and don’t forget to check out her blog! 


Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in and around Nairobi.

The up-and-coming town of Ongata Rongai, home to many Zidisha borrowers, is a mini Nairobi, with its numerous supermarkets, sprawl of modern flats, and lining every street sit local restaurants and fast food chains. Just around the corner of the city center, away from the hawkers and fast-moving traffic, you’ll come across Liz’s Kitchen. Potted plants hug the exterior of this charming hotel (a hotel in Kenya often times refers to restaurant), while the inside is bathed in sunlight. Several rounded tea tables cover the floor of Liz’s Kitchen, giving off a European café vibe. The minute I step into Jane Njoroge’s hotel, I know I will be a returning customer.
Named after her sister, Jane started Liz’s Kitchen in 2010. Although she does not have formal training in the restaurant business, her prior profession as an educator has well equipped her in culinary arts. When still teaching, Jane took a six-month course specializing in nutrition and food preparation, as the skills acquired were needed at the nursery school. Jane decided to leave her job at the school when she had her youngest child, Wanjiru, who is now three years old. Although Jane is no longer a teacher, her passion for education never left her side, for her dream is to open a school in Ongata Rongai. With the help of her hotel business, she would like to buy land, build a school, and provide transportation for the students. 
Being new to Zidisha, Jane heard about the organization through her son, borrower John Njoroge. With her first loan, Jane would like to employ one more person at Liz’s Kitchen. Adding another employee would help Jane and her staff of two with the arduous task of morning food preparations. With extra hands, the cutting of vegetables; making of snacks such as chapati, samosas, and mandazis; and the labor intensive task of using charcoal will be much more manageable. Jane also hopes to find a reasonably priced machine to make chips (french fries). Being a popular snack for both adults and children alike, Jane finds herself turning away eager customers in want of this delectable treat. With the help of Zidisha, Jane hopes to soon add one more item to her already mouthwatering menu.
Before I could leave and it being time for lunch, I had to try my first meal at Liz’s Kitchen. A little bit of meat, a small serving of vegetables, a light soup on the side, and a whole lot of rice pilaf; the fact that my plate was empty in just a few minutes is a true testament to the quality of Liz’s Kitchen. Making frequent trips to Ongata Rongai and always struggling to find somewhere satisfactory for a quick bite, I know I have now found my haven. Jane, I wish you all the best with your loan and hope to enjoy some chips at Liz’s soon. 


To view more pictures of Jane, go to talkstory.posterous.com 

5 Things You Can do to Help Zidisha!

So, you’re a long time Zidisha supporter. You have financed businesses, changed communities, and altered lives. Now what? Why not help Zidisha using some alternative methods! They are easy, free (well, most of them are), and they will help us out a bunch!
1. Spread the word! 
Did you know that we are on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest? By liking or following us you help us spread the message to your friends and family. See an interesting Tweet? Share it! Think that we posed a great picture? Like it! These simple actions help us create awareness, and increase our overall impact.
2. Use a search engine!
What, you already do that? Great! If you switch your default search engine to GoodSearch you can earn Zidisha 1¢ for every search you perform. Sure it’s not a lot, but it can add up fast, especially with everyone’s support! 
3. Shop online!
I don’t know about you, but I have an addiction to Amazon! It just so happens that if you shop with Amazon by using GoodSearch you can generate us a 1.5% donation. Don’t use Amazon? No problem! GoodSearch has thousands of online retailers who donate up to 4% of the total sale to your nonprofit of choice (Zidisha of course). There are even exclusive coupons for you to take advantage of.
4. Buy Zidisha gift cards!

Ok, this one will cost you money. However, buying a Zidisha gift card for a friend or family member will introduce them to the world of microfinance and the life changing impact that Zidisha has. Every dollar that we lend will benefit a needy entrepreneur

5. Share your ideas with us!
We have been around since 2009, but we are still growing and always learning. If you have a good idea to help us raise money or awareness, let me know

From the Ground Up




Here is a quick update from Traci in Kenya! She had the chance to check in with Rose Karanja the other week and was able to post some great pictures. You can view more of the pictures by going to Traci’s blog, the link is at the bottom of her post.


August 29, 2012

Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in and around Nairobi.
A few days ago I had the pleasure of finally meeting the much talked about Rose Karanja. Featured in many Zidisha posts and appearing in various forms of news media worldwide, I felt as if I already knew this truly inspirational individual. The epitome of a woman, Rose exudes a confidence that has surely been the driving force of her success thus far. The pictures highlighted in Alex Villec’s article show the foundation of a house being built. Look at the transformation now! 
To view more pictures of Rose, visit my blog: talkingstory.posterous.com 


Fighting Global Poverty with Microfinance

The concept of microfinance is typically related to financial services provided to low income companies and individuals that do not have access to economic services, such as banks, credit cards and insurance companies and government sponsored enterprises. Although the idea of helping to ‘lift people out of poverty’ through microfinance has not been without its opponents, and for some microfinance is not always viewed as the only tool to end poverty.
Evidence that Microfinance Works
However, ‘silencing the critics’ is the phenomenal amount of ‘evidence’ that microfinance has a positive impact on the lives of those living in poverty. According to the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), comprehensive impact studies have demonstrated the following:
  • Microfinance can help to give power to women and help promote gender equality by   supporting women’s financial participation in the household.
  • Microfinance enables low income households to meet basic needs and helps to protect them against risks.
  • Poor households assisted with microfinance will have improved economic welfare and a greater stability of growth.

CPAG claims that: “Increased earnings from financial services lead to better nutrition and better living conditions, which translates into a lower incidence of illness. Increased earnings also mean that clients may seek out and pay for health care services when needed, rather than go without or wait until their health seriously deteriorates.” 
Microfinance in Africa
Further proof that microfinance has a positive economic and social impact on the world’s poorest can be seen through the work of Martin Connell, an executive and philanthropist. During the early 1980’s Connell travelled to India, Bangladesh and Egypt, keen to promote economic and social development. Connell supported the idea of microfinance and making financial services available to diligent, yet poor, self-employed people in Africa and strived to make financial services readily available to these people. Whilst the main platform of microfinance had been relationship-based banking for small startups and individual entrepreneurs on a low income, Connell’s innovatory vision and approach to aiding development saw him create the first microfinance investment fund to buy shares in microfinance in Africa. The notion of buying shares in microfinance in Africa is typically regarded as being a group-based model of delivering financial services, whereby a handful of entrepreneurs collaborate and apply for loans and other financial services as a group. Shares in microfinance can be compared and bought on the internet and comparing and buying shares online is becoming increasingly popular. Investing in microfinance in Africa proved successful confirming that positive financial and social impacts could be produced by microfinance investment funds.
Empirical evidence

According to CGAP, empirical evidence has revealed that those living in poverty that had participated in microfinance schemes and who had access to financial services, such as banks, credit and loans, were able to improve their standard of living with a greater effect than those living without access to financial services.
CGAP uses several examples of empirical evidence to show how microfinance has helped to lift global poverty. In India, for example, half of SHARE clients have been lifted out of poverty. Whilst in El Salvador, the incomes of many involved in microfinance programmes have increased by as much as 145%. CGAP goes on to state that in Lombok in Indonesia, the typical wages of Bank Rakyat Indonesia borrowers has increased by 112%, lifting as many as 90% of households out of poverty. In Vietnam those participating in Save the Children condensed food scarcities from a total of three months to just one. Whilst in Ghana, 80% of poor people involved in Freedom from Hunger now had a secondary source of income, a stark improvement in the 50% of people enjoying second incomes who were not participating in Freedom from Hunger. 
Microfinance empowering women

By making women in developing countries and who are living in poverty responsible for loans, repayments, providing insurance and maintaining savings accounts through women-based financial programmes, microfinance is playing a central role in empowering women. Studies have shown that having access to financial services and being involved in the upkeep and preservation of such services has improved the status of women within poor households and communities. As Rose Athieno, a produce reseller in Uganda states:
“Today I’m a very respected women in the community. I have come out of the crowd of women who are looked down upon. Due to the loan that I received…. You have made me to be a champion out of nobody.”
Guest post by: Eve Jamieson