By Julia Kurnia
At Zidisha our mission is not only to fund loans, but also to connect people across geographic, socioeconomic and cultural barriers. We do this most powerfully by hosting stories. In addition to information about their loan projects, our members share stories of their childhood, how they acquired education or started businesses, their families and their hopes for the future.
Many of our members lead inspiring, even heroic, lives. They overcome overwhelming obstacles to achieve their goals, and give back generously to their communities. Zidisha lenders play transformative roles in those lives, bringing opportunities within reach and amplifying the enterpreneurs’ impact.
Thanks to Betsy, these stories are reaching a wider audience. Each week she selects an especially inspiring Zidisha entrepreneur to profile, and skillfully combines photos and narrative to present the story in our blog. She also shares the most interesting news and content from the Zidisha community in Twitter and Facebook. I am always amazed by her ability to communicate these stories in such a vivid, memorable way. Reading one of Betsy’s stories makes me feel as though I’ve met the entrepreneur in person.
Betsy joined our volunteer team almost a year ago, and we finally caught up with her for an interview this week, reproduced in full below. Betsy, thank you so much for generously giving of your time, energy and talent to our community!
How did you hear about Zidisha?
I first became interested in Microfinance as a grad student studying entrepreneurship back in 2011. I read a few books but nothing really happened beyond that. Then, in early 2017, I was browsing volunteer opportunities on Idealist and came across Zidisha. I checked out the website and knew that I wanted to be a part of what Zidisha was doing. The Entrepreneurship writer position really pulled together all of my passions and past experiences from getting a Master’s in entrepreneurship, working for a few startups, and living in Africa for three months.
Why do you choose to spend time working with Zidisha?
I’ve found that the Zidisha lenders, borrowers, and other volunteers are some of the most inspiring, resilient, and warm-hearted people I’ve ever met. As I type up each borrower story, it is so clear to me that Zidisha is making a profound difference in that person’s life, family, and surrounding community.
When I first started with Zidisha, almost a year ago, the thought of writing a new story each week felt really overwhelming. I also wondered if I would get burnt out after a few months, fortunately that hasn’t happened at all. Instead, I’ve discovered that the practice of writing has started to come more naturally and now I really enjoy the process of storytelling.
What does your work with Zidisha involve?
I am currently the Entrepreneurship Writer for the blog. In a typical week, you can find me researching and digging to find our best borrowers. If needed, I will reach out to them with additional questions or photos that we might need. I then write and edit a new post each week which will go live on the blog Monday morning. I also connect with the borrowers to let them know that we have shared their story with the Zidisha community. In addition, another interesting role is Social Media Management. Specifically, I work with the Facebook and Twitter accounts. It’s fun to see what content really sticks or resonates most with lenders and followers.
Do you have a favorite Zidisha entrepreneur story?
Wow. What a hard question! One that immediately comes to mind is Jared Mogendi. As the sixth of eight children with two unemployed parents, his early life was certainly not easy. However, he was still able to go on and receive a certificate in both Computer Science and Development. Now, he’s the founder of a project called, ‘Amazing Smile Children’s Centre’ which supports orphans and children from poor families. Plus, he is a Technology Manager and also runs two cyber businesses.
I love his story because it really echoes the lives of so many other Zidisha borrowers. There’s often a huge ripple effect because most of our borrowers are hugely invested in improving not just themselves or their families, but their communities at large. It’s inspiring to see how a single Zidisha entrepreneur can change the entire trajectory of a town or city. And I think that’s really the heartbeat of Zidisha.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I would say that my #1 hobby is reading, in fact, I’ve loved to read my entire life. I try to read a few minutes of non-fiction each morning and then some fiction right before bed. Right now a new hobby of mine is learning Mandarin. I am a complete beginner but try to practice for at least a few minutes each day. I also enjoy spending time outside with my husband and listening to as much K Pop as I can.
What do you wish borrowers knew about lenders and volunteers?
I hope that borrowers know how inspired we are by their stories and perseverance. Our borrowers are always quick to thank the lenders and volunteers and show their appreciation. I know that if I’m having a bad day, one of my favorite things to do is to read through the kind comments or notes that I’ve received from borrowers. Zidisha is such a supportive community and I’m always learning lessons from the borrowers that I can take and apply in my own life.