A handful of maize

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By Julia Kurnia

Twenty-four-year-old Wairimu Gathii grew up in a single-parent household in Nakuru, a beautiful but poverty-stricken town in Kenya’s Rift Valley mountains.  “What is unique about the land where I live is the fact that the land is so fertile and the landscape is simply breathtaking,” Wairimu writes. “It is my mother who has single handedly worked to bring up my siblings and I and give us an education.”

Wairimu excelled in school, and upon graduating high school she was accepted into the Law School at Moi University.  Tuition was an obstacle, though: at several hundred dollars, it cost more than most Kenyans earn in a year.

But Wairimu was creative and not afraid of hard work.  A family friend gave her a few kilograms of maize to sell in the market.  Lacking money for a market stall, she sold the cereals outdoors with only an umbrella to protect her from the elements.  From then on, Wairimu would spend the mornings carrying her sacks of cereal out to the market, slowly growing her sales volume as she used the proceeds to increase her inventory of staple grains.  The evenings were spent studying for her law degree.

By the time she found Zidisha, Wairimu was earning around $60 per month to support her tuition and family.  Her first Zidisha loan, of just $100, had a transformative impact.  She used part of the funds to rent a salesroom at the market, so that she no longer needed to carry the sacks of grain to and from her home each day.

The rest went toward purchasing more inventory, which allowed her to begin filling large-volume orders from nearby schools. “I have even expanded my range of dry grain by stocking wheat, and it is already almost running out of stock because the demand for the commodity is literally hitting the roof,” Wairimu wrote in a recent update to her lenders. “You have contributed a huge part to getting me where I am today, and I must say it is a better place that where I was a few months ago… I cannot possibly say this enough times: God Bless Zidisha.”

While reinvesting much of her profits in her business, Wairimu did not forget her family.  “My mother has noted the improvement too, because I am now able to contribute towards paying the bills and meeting our day to day basic needs,” she wrote.  “I am now able to buy her something nice once in a while.”

But the best news came just yesterday, when an ecstatic Wairimu posted this message and photo for her lenders:

“I completed my degree course and am super excited… THE MONEY EARNED FROM MY BUSINESS ASSISTED TOWARDS MEETING MY EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS… THANK YOU ZIDISHA.”

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I hear stories like these every day, but they never cease to amaze me.  It’s incredibly inspiring to see so many people reaching out to help each other across such vast distances.  You are truly miracle-workers, and it’s an honor to be a part of this community.

Wairimu raised a $100 loan to grow her cereals business in October 2014.  You may read her story in her own words at her Zidisha profile page.

One thought on “A handful of maize

  1. Celebrating 2015 – Zidisha: P2P Microfinance

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