Building His Way to the Top

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Senaya Edem Kwasi is a Ghanaian man with a vision. He was brought up in the Ho village until he was about 12 years old and then his father took him to the city to be educated. When he had reached stage 5, his father asked him to stop school to learn fitting (as a mechanic). At this point, Edem was faced with two options. The first option was to become an apprentice mechanic while the second was to continue his education, but by doing so, he would be on his own and forced out of his father’s house. Edem knew that he wanted to continue his education and he found himself on the streets and working menial jobs to make a little money.

After a lot of hard work and saving, he enrolled in a private school to finish his primary education. Afterwards, he continued by enrolling in a Junior High School for the following three years. This was by no means an easy season of life for him and he says, ‘The only way to work my way through is to be working whilst going to school and studies became very difficult because I am always tired at the end of the day. Luckily for me, I had a penpal from Canada who decided to sponsor my education and I had to study hard.’

He was then able to sit for his final exams where he finished as the second best student in his class! As a result of his impressive scores, he was admitted to Mawuli Senior High School. For Edem, the next step was university. He carried his strong work ethic with him to secondary school and was later admitted to Kwame Mkrumah University of Science and Technology where he chose to study Civil Engineering.

Starting university was difficult, as the financial burden was heavy. Fortunately, he was awarded a full scholarship by Educational Pathways International, which eased the financial aspect. However, he knew that it was essential that he maintain top scores in order to keep his scholarship. He proudly shares, ‘By God’s grace, I graduated from the University with a second class upper honors degree in Civil Engineering. I graduated from the university at the age of 28 years! I did the compulsory national service and have gotten a job with a Chinese company where I worked for about four months.’

Now that he has completed his studies, Edem has a new goal in mind. He adds, ‘It has been my desire to make life a little easier and create opportunities for people around me. So with this in mind, coupled with the high unemployment rate in Ghana, I have decided to form my own construction company. It has been duly registered and I have obtained license for operation last year. The name of my company is Conciv Engineering Services. Conciv is currently in operation but on a sub contract basis.’

Here is what Edem has to share about the business, ‘Conciv Engineering Services (CES) is a construction company formed in the year 2015. The main idea behind the formation of this firm is to provide employment to the many unemployed youth in Ghana and also bring relief to others by providing them with quality services at an affordable prices.The mission statement of CES is : To become the number one construction and infrastructure development company in Ghana, a national player who safely, profitably and sustainably delivers best-in-class integrated services, products and solutions to meet our client’s needs. The vision statement of CES is: Bridging the infrastructural development gap between the rural and urban centers.’

For Edem, education is close to his heart because of the many personal struggles that he went through to receive a good education. He hopes that his new business will be able to provide the much needed infrastructure and support to rural children who struggle to keep up with their classmates living in cities. For children living in rural areas, they often have to walk long distances just to get to school in the morning. Edem is optimistic that he can use his company as a vehicle to create better opportunities throughout Ghana.

Edem is excited and optimistic about his continuing partnership with the Zidisha community. So far, he has had four Zidisha funded loans. He requested his first loan of $10 in August 2016 to purchase a printer. He knew that a printer would allow him to print reports and proposals when meeting with firms or individuals for his business. In addition, as a new business owner, he also predicted that he would need to print flyers and business cards, which his new printer would make possible. By using his own printer, he could create these materials for a fraction of the cost.

A few months later, Edem sought out his second Zidisha funded loan in December of 2016 and for this loan he requested $19. With this loan, he was ready to purchase some equipment. He continues, ‘I am currently working on sub contracts but with limited tools and other constructional equipment. To pursue the CES agenda of bridging the infrastructural development gap between the rural and the urban centres, CES needs fund with which to start so we are currently working on contracts in order to gather enough funds for that.’

For his third loan, in January 2017, he once again requested $19 to promote and implement a water closet toilet design that he developed for his community. As he says, ‘The existing structure is in a dilapidated condition and is a death trap.’

Most recently, Edem secured his fourth loan in March 2017 for $471. His largest loan yet, he is excited to make progress on this new project. For this loan, he is using the money to pre-finance a construction project. The money will be used for labor costs. While this is a huge project that he is taking on, it’s clear that he is ready and willing for a new challenge.

In his words, ‘I am a determined person and always pursue my dreams till the finish line.’

Do you have a heart for education like Edem? If so, head on over to our Lend page to find other hard working students that need your support.

Changing his own life now…to someday change the world

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Bismark Mawuse Bissi is a twenty three year old student living in Takoradi, Ghana. His parents, Ernest Bissi and Rebecca Arkon are both subsistence farmers and have fifteen children. Bismark is their youngest. Out of the fifteen, Bismark is one of three, who was able to further his education. As a younger student, he was able to do some basic trading with his mother and aunties to pay for his basic needs.

After completing his secondary education, because of financial struggles in his hometown of Juapong, he moved to Takoradi to find a job and to continue his education. The economic struggles in his home city were due the collapse of the only textile company in the city. His new city of Takoradi is the oil and harbor city of Ghana. Upon moving, he was able to secure a job with a security company as a night security guard. His new life keeps him pretty busy as during the day he is a level two hundred student at I.P.M.C Training College pursuing a diploma in Computer Systems Engineering.

He found himself struggling to pay his expensive school fees and was unable to get a loan. Fortunately, a friend of his introduced him to Zidisha. Through Zidisha, he has been able to receive three loans to pay his tuition and school fees. He continues to use his monthly salary as a security guard to help repay his loans. Bismark is excited to finish his diploma and in the future he hopes to be able to employ many of the unemployed youth throughout his country.

He shares, ‘My ambition is that one day, I will also marry and have kids where I will be much more responsible for giving them quality education, and also supporting my community in the areas of education, sport, good health, etc.’

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While it’s hard to imagine that he has much free time between his intensive studies and a night job, he enjoys reading, researching, football, and boxing.

Once he finishes school he hopes to go into the repair and servicing of computers for companies and selling of computers and computer hardware parts. In life, a big indicator of success and happiness is simply surrounding yourself with the right people and choosing a good environment. His new city of Takoradi is the third biggest commercial town in Ghana with a harbor and an abundance of shipping and clearing companies. There is also some oil exploration in the deep sea leading to a lot of economic activity.

Bismark shares with lenders, ‘I believed it’s a right place for me to use my skills, creativity, innovation and marketing, so as to liberate myself and my family from the shackles of poverty, and then make a meaningful living. It’s also my plan to expand to other nearby towns and cities. Computer literacy is still low in most of the basic and second cycle schools. It’s my hope that if my loan is successful with Zidisha and I am able to complete my course, I would make computer literacy in rural communities a priority. Computer Information Technology (I.C.T.) can be a useful tool in fighting world poverty and that is one reason why I am joining this rightful course.’

In the future, he is also interested in the buying and selling of security gadgets like CCTV cameras to enhance security situations in cities. He believes that this would allow citizens to feel a deep sense of security as they go about their daily business and lives. In addition, as he plans for his business post graduation, he is prepared to make reinvestment into the business a main priority for the first three years. He is also looking forward to being able to provide financial assistance to his family members and neighbors. Furthermore, he believes that he will be able to employ at least 4 people to assist him in his business.

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So far, Bismark has successfully secured 3 Zidisha funded loans. He requested his first loan of $174 in July 2016 and he put this loan towards his school fees. He also used part of the loan to purchase a used laptop computer.

A few months later, he secured his second loan in December 2016 of $354. He was able to use this loan to pay his semester school fees and to buy books for his academic work. He notes that he really appreciates the Zidisha support as having this loan allows him to pay his fees on time avoiding the harassment and embarrassment that students often receive from school authorities when they don’t pay on time.

His most recent loan was acquired in June of 2017 when he requested $535. Similar to the others, this loan was put towards his school fees as he prepared to start his 300 level coursework. He thankfully shares with lenders, ‘Counting on the good lenders on the Zidisha platform for your kindness and generosity. Thank you all in advance, and God bless you all.’

Would you like to make an impact in the life of a student or entrepreneur? Head on over to our lend page to read about other incredible Zidisha borrowers.

Searching for Beautiful Ornaments

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Bernard Mwangi may have passed through some hardships throughout his life, but he has always been able to overcome them. As a high school student, he lived in Nairobi and attended, Muhuri Muchiri High School where he did his K.C.S.E. in 2014. Afterwards, he joined Skylink Flight Services where is currently pursuing a course in aeronautical engineering. His strong work ethic has allowed him to excel in difficult work environments such as working in construction sites and other difficult labor jobs. While difficult, it was through these tough jobs that he was able to save the money to start his business.

Being observant, Bernard discovered that his city had a definite competitive advantage, the high volume of tourists. He found that tourists were always searching for beautiful ornaments, beaded sandals, Massai Kikoli’s and African Art. Because he is a business minded man, he set out to make a move and delve into this industry. When he is not working on his business or busy studying, he loves visiting new places and observing people from other cultures. He also really enjoys watching documentaries in the little free time that he has.

In his business, Bernard provides Maasai beaded sandals, Maasai vikoi’s, and beaded wristbands and necklaces. He notes that his goods are really in demand both locally and internationally because of the genuine quality of the leather. Bernard sought out this particular business because he found it to be rewarding and there has always been a ready market of customers. He has even been working to implement the use of social media as a new way to market his goods.

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With his business profits he is able to pay for his school fees, food, life insurance, and has even been able to expand his business.

Bernard set out to obtain his first Zidisha funded loan in October 2016. With this loan, he was excited to buy new materials such as, ‘beads, refined leather, sewing wool, scissors, leather glue, and rubber sandal shoe soles. He also intended to use some of his own savings and hoped to produce 3 pairs of leather beaded sandals, 4 leather beaded wristbands, and at least 8 necklaces.

Selling these items alone would be enough to pay his bills and put some money away in savings to expand his business in the future. He says, ‘From my business, I will be able to add employees who I will manage to pay them well and also come up with an affiliate program which will do the sales and marketing process all over the world.’

He also hopes that by starting his own business, he will inspire other members of his community to start businesses of their own and to dream big and come up with new ideas.

In January of 2017, he set out to obtain his second loan of $19 for new materials. He predicted that the beads would cost around $10 and the remaining $9 would be put towards leather material. With this loan, he continued to increase in his confidence in himself and his business. He excitedly shared ‘I will gain more profit which will enable me to expand my business hence to others I will help them understand that self employment is great and profitable more so this will be to the young people.’

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His most recent Zidisha funded loan was in May 2017, when he requested $74. Similar to his previous loans, he used the funds to purchase leather material, rubber soles, beads, sewing string, and cobbler’s glue. With additional materials, he will be able to increase his production and by doing so, increase his profits as well. He is able to sell each pair of sandals for $30.

On May 1, 2017, Bernard shared on his discussion page, ‘I am thankful to all my lenders and wanna wish them a happy new month and God bless them for their hand in helping the new, young, promising entrepreneurs. Merci beaucoup!’

He was excited that with the profits of this loan he would be able to repay his loan, save for the future, invest, and even set a little money aside for personal development. In addition, he views his business as a way to positively impact his entire community. He is even able to teach young entrepreneurs in his community how to invest and to make sandals and in doing so, creating their own businesses.

Recently, on September 19, he shared with lenders, ‘Dear lenders, the loan I received is of great help since my business is doing good. Thanks a lot.’

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As of September 2017, Bernard is an aeronautical engineering student and hopes to be graduating in 2019. He notes that he is doing great in school and that his business is thriving. He is so appreciative of his lenders and says, ‘Zidisha is really making me grow.’

Would you like to support another student/entrepreneur like Bernard? Head on over to our lend page to read about our other inspiring entrepreneurs.

Dancing to a New Tune

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Beatrice Moraa is a hardworking woman, and a single mother to two teenage children. With an open minded approach to life, she believes that we have the potential to improve or better our lives and through doing so we can also empower others to do the same.

Although she had a fairly average childhood and grew up in a family of 6, her world was shaken when her mother died when she was in high school. As her pillar of strength, her death affected Beatrice deeply. After high school, she got married but once the marriage ended she was left with the burden of providing for two young children.

While she has a part-time job, she’s found that she doesn’t earn enough through that job to adequately support her family. Therefore, she determined that a side hustle would be a great way to supplement her income from her job. Through her business she supplies toiletries to hotels and has also started getting orders to supply housekeeping and kitchen items. She says that she chose this particular business because the goods were readily available.

When she’s not busy working or running her business, she is also part of an organized dance troupe of around twenty ladies. She notes that their objective is, ‘to empower ourselves economically with the aim of encouraging more ladies in decision making. Under the group we have a traditional dance troupe which we use as an income activity as well as for culture preservation.’

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Beatrice serves as a great example that small loans really add up over time. Since she requested her first Zidisha funded loan in February 2017, she has had five total loans and all of them have been under $100. When she first discovered Zidisha, she was struggling to build up her working capital. She found that she had no problem finding orders, but didn’t have the necessary money to buy enough product to meet the demand and had to turn down orders. Therefore, she used her initial loan of $9 to build up her fund for buying inventory.

A few months later, she requested her second loan of $14 in April of 2017. With this loan, she bought two bales of toilet paper to re-sell to a hotel that she had secured a contract with as a supplier. The cost of the tissue was ksh. 1520 and then she was able to re-sell it for ksh. 2400 making a profit of ksh. 880 or ($8.50 USD).

Seeing success with her first two loans, Beatrice prepared herself for a $21 Zidisha funded loan in May 2017 to purchase five soft brooms. She was excited that once she was able to sell these five brooms, she would be one step closer to one of her big goals, purchasing a laptop computer for her college age daughter as she prepared to write her thesis.

On July 10, 2017, Beatrice shared this inspiring update with her lenders, ‘With the cash I bought housekeeping items as indicated early and I used the profit to make a down payment for a second hand laptop for my daughter. I intend to finish paying for it soon for her to use it for her project. My daughter is excited already she is so willing to assist with deliveries whenever she is free. The most interesting part of all this…my son is going round looking for orders. He wants to have his own clientele. He is willing to also join the Zidisha family and this is due to the friendly atmosphere exhibited by the Zidisha family.’

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As she set her sights on another loan, she continued with the same goal in mind of slowly and surely setting aside money for her daughter’s laptop. For this fourth loan, she requested $32 and used the loan to buy five wheeled mopping buckets which she could re-sell and earn a little over $1 USD per bucket.

Recently, Beatrice prepared for her largest loan yet, of $79 which she requested in September 2017. While her profit margins had remained fairly low on her first few products, she was ready to up her game. She prepared to purchase a few bales of jumbo toilet tissue, making a profit of $14.94 USD per bale. With the profits, she is excited to re-invest in her business so that she can continue to purchase larger quantities of products in the future. In addition, as her daughter will be sitting for her final exams in the future, Beatrice hopes to clear her college fee balance. She says, ‘this will be a great achievement for my children in general, especially my daughter.’

On September 8, 2017, Beatrice took to her discussion page and shared, ‘Zidisha is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am really grateful to my lenders for the support they have given me and my children by extension. Since I joined Zidisha things have been really easy for me because of the additional capital.’

It’s clear that Beatrice and her family have a great future ahead of them. She even adds that her dance troupe recently participated in the International Investment Summit where they were the main entertainers. She notes, ‘I must confess it was a memorable occasion. I thank God for the opportunity and exposure and we hope and believe that this is just the beginning of many more to come.’

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Would you like to invest in another family like Beatrice’s? Head on over to our Lend page and check out more amazing entrepreneurs that are changing the lives of their families and communities.

A Master of the Chicken Business

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

‘I, Lucas Omuko, was born in one of the poorest and violent “hoods” of Thika. Second born in a family of Six brothers and sisters, it was not easy growing up. Many days we went without food, but mama was determined to send us all to school. Her belief was that at least with a high school education, we could get by, and be ready for the job market. I got good grades in high school, and I could see myself in Uni. However, this was not to be.’

When it came to her children’s education, Lucas’s mother was faced with a lot of difficult choices. With a desire to help his family, Lucas started taking a variety of odd jobs and ended up at a factory. He knew that he had the grades to attend college and secretly suffered knowing that he could do more with his life than carry around heavy boxes.

Finally, he’d had enough. After failing to secure a job for the day, he left the factory and never returned. He notes, ‘Instead, I sought solace in the only place that had meaning to me; a district library about four kilometers from where we lived.’ Unfortunately, now that he was not contributing financially to the family, he was ostracized and forced to leave his home.

However, he didn’t let this setback discourage him. Instead, he moved out and started applying the skills that he had taught himself regarding repairing electronics. He quickly became a repair technician, got married, and eventually pursued the college education that he had longed for, graduating in December 2015. He is even on course to soon complete his Master’s degree as well.

By early 2015, Lucas set his sights on the agri business. He saw the potential in raising chickens and began by building a standard chicken coop that could house 300-500 birds. He says, ‘The reason for going into chicken is because I realized that the farmers in Kisii cannot satisfy the existing demand for chicken and eggs. Eggs are being imported from Uganda. I am aiming to be the person people come to when they want affordable chicken in Kisii. To achieve this, I am seeking someone, or people who will see beyond the cry for self preservation and into the desire to break free of the poverty cycle, not just for myself, but others too, by providing them with affordable food sources; someone or people to lend me a hand and see this vision come true.’

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With this vision, he soon after discovered Zidisha. In January 2016, Lucas requested his first Zidisha funded loan of $100 which he used to increase his number of chickens. A few months later, with a 3 part plan in place, he requested his next loan of $202. He used the first third of the loan to purchase feeding ingredients to make his own feed. He predicted that this would cut down his feeding costs by about 35%. In addition, part of the loan would go towards purchasing 50 new birds. Thirdly, he planned to use the remainder of the loan to make some improvements to his chicken coop to accommodate for more ventilation and space.

A few months later, in July 2016, Lucas requested his next loan of $303 to purchase more birds. He also planned to create a raised floor on one side of the coop to separate the growing birds from the mature birds. Finally, with the rest of this loan, he purchased additional vaccines and medicine.

On December 7, 2017, Lucas excitedly shared, ‘I am thankful for having my two sons with me at home. We get to play games together, and we all look forward to the evenings when I get back home so we can share stories and try to beat each other in playing soccer video games. I don’t always win, neither do they. The highlight of it all is getting daily updates from the elder son, Amos, on how the chicken are doing. He has taken up the role of managing the chicken, and I am reduced to overseeing what he does every once in awhile. He has set up a routine for himself, and has even mastered how to mix the feeds. He sometimes forgets to provide water for the sixty high-grade chicks (a later addition from five weeks ago) in the night (they drink a lot of water). About four times I have had to do it in the middle of the night. He has transformed into an accountable and responsible teen. What else could a parent wish for? I am thankful.’

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By January 2017, Luas was ready to buy an incubator. He had found that a hen could only successfully manage seven big eggs, so, with a $454 Zidisha funded loan in hand, he set out to purchase a good incubator that would require little attention. An added benefit was that he could share it with other farmers in his community. He predicted that the incubator could hold around 96 eggs.

On January 9, 2017, Lucas took to his discussion board and posted, ‘Thank you lenders for your confidence and contributions. I really appreciate your generosity and kindness. I realize there are many people who borrow, and some never get fully funded. Once again, thank you. Over time, hope to achieve one of my dreams; to be the most affordable source of chicken in the region. With my knowledge of feed formulation, different from the mainstream ideas, and disease management (again different from the mainstream practices), and now the ability to hatch chicks, I can say it is more likely that once I am done with own studies, I will devote a good amount of time to grow this venture, and all this because of your help.’

Lucas requested his most recent loan for $676 in August 2017. He says, ‘With this current loan, I will invest in something I tried before, and which is turning out to be central to my interest in education through poultry production. Animal feed production. This is a viable market, and the demand is there. I will use this loan to buy maize, and fishmeal primarily, and what is left, I will start as savings for a mill/crusher, or animal feeds machine.’

He has even inspired some other members of his community to get into the chicken farming business themselves!

Most recently, on August 27, 2017, he shares, ‘I take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for your investment in me. Your trusting me with your money is something that I cannot thank you enough for. This loan will go a long way to alleviate some financial constraints I have had because I am able to free some of my finances for school, and still have enough to invest in my proposed project. I really want to upset the chicken market balance in Kisii. I still look forward to the day when I shall be able to reduce production costs to a point where I can be the most affordable supplier of Chicken and feeds in Kisii. It is a big ask, but possible.

Lucas has truly taken what might have seemed to be an insurmountable problem, and now serves as an inspiration for his family, sons, and community. He concludes, ‘Being able to manage my son’s education is one of the reasons we have worked to grow the business. This would not have been possible without the money from Zidisha lenders.’

Are you an advocate for education and change? If so, head on over to our Lend page and find other incredible borrowers who are hoping to change their lives through education.

Zidisha team spotlight: Rodrigo Reyes, CTO


Rodrigo with son Mati in their hometown, Guayaquil, Ecuador


By Julia Kurnia, Director

Rodrigo joined Zidisha as an engineer over a year ago, and became Chief Technical Officer in January.  It’s already hard to imagine Zidisha without him.

The role of CTO is central at Zidisha, because we are a technology organization.  By automating tasks hitherto done manually, our technological infrastructure makes it possible to offer microloans at far lower cost to borrowers than traditional microlending institutions.  And technology is what enables the direct connections between lenders and borrowers that make the Zidisha community one of a kind.

As CTO, Rodrigo has the incredibly important job of overseeing the technological infrastructure on which our platform depends: our website code, database, website server, Android app, data science and metric tracking platforms, and more.  Zidisha members produce tens of thousands of communications and transactions each day.  It’s thanks to Rodrigo that these connections take place accurately and seamlessly.

Rodrigo is not only a talented engineer and skilled communicator, but also shares our community’s passion for social justice and bringing people together to improve lives.  I am inspired daily by his dedication to excellence in the service of a higher purpose.

I finally managed to catch up with the busy Rodrigo this month, and he generously took some time off from his many responsibilities to participate in this interview.

How did you hear about Zidisha?

Late one night, I was reading Hacker News while also looking for some interesting project to collaborate with. That’s when I saw Zidisha’s ad and it struck a chord for me: it was a microcredit project, they were helping real people with real problems and I had previously worked for another NGO around the same area!!! Besides, they were looking for a developer to help them improve their platform and that was exactly what I had been doing for the last ten years for different startups around the world!!!

So, I spent some time making sure Zidisha was a real NGO and the more I read about it, the more enthusiastic I felt. So, I sent my resume as fast as I could and prayed someone would notice it. And indeed, Julia wrote me back some time later and I was given the opportunity to start collaborating with Zidisha.

Why do you choose to spend time working with Zidisha?

I’ve been involved in social work one way or another since I was in high school. By the time I got out of university, my career looked to me more and more unrelated to my social vocation: a software developer working for social justice was not a very common thing indeed, but that was what I wanted to do!!! Probably out of this disconnection, once I got my degree, I started to look for an opportunity like this. Part of me thought it was not really going to happen ever, but even though it took some time, here I am!!! So, Zidisha’s opportunity to combine my profession and my social vocation feels like the fulfillment of a longstanding wish to me.

What does your work with Zidisha involve?

Currently, I am Zidisha’s CTO and I am responsible for our software platform and the decisions related to its maintenance and evolution. I am actively involved in both creating new features and improving the ones we already have. Lots of coding and research, both of which I love. 🙂

Do you have a favorite Zidisha entrepreneur story?

Yes. It is called “The stuff heroes are made of” and it’s about Sammy Kanja, a founding member of Zidisha’s community in Kenya. He is a volunteer mentor that in October 2013 lost contact with one of the members he had helped, Mr. Francis Kiiru. After several unsuccessful attempts to call, Mr. Kanja went to visit Mr. Kiiru’s home and discovered that Mr. Kiiru had been injured during the Westgate Mall shootings in Nairobi and had been hospitalized. His condition was serious and he had no money to pay for his medical bills.

At this point Mr. Kanja could have gone home quietly, telling himself that there was nothing he could do to help. Instead, he traded his business assets, the source of his family’s livelihood and hope for a better financial future, to procure life-saving medical care for Mr Kiiru!!!

Ultimately, Mr. Kanja’s story was known and lenders touched by it raised enough to cover the cost of a new high-yielding dairy cow for Mr. Kanja’s family.  Mr. Kanja tells us that the new cow is extraordinarily productive, yielding as much as 20 liters of milk per day.  He keeps two liters for his family and sells the rest each day, generating a comfortable flow of cash for school fees and other family expenses.

When I read this story, I was humbled by this man’s and his family’s generosity!!! Stories like that bring back to me a song’s verse in Spanish that goes something like “¿Quién dice que todo está perdido? Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón” (“Who says that all hope is lost? Here I am, offering my heart”).

What do you like to do in your free time?

Traveling with my family, reading, programming, social work, watching movies and practicing Yoga. 🙂

Rodrigo, thank you so much for sharing this interview, and for giving so generously of your time, energy and talents.

Styling Her Way to Success

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

As a single mother with six children, Dorice Mikanga has not always had an easy life. She was forced to end her own schooling when she found out that she was pregnant while in Primary school. She then got married and had two more children but found herself in a bad home situation as her husband had hallucinations and would beat her at all hours of the day. After ending the marriage she eventually married again and had three more children, however, this was also a troubled marriage as her husband drank heavily and did not provide for the family in any way.

After 6 tumultuous years, Dorice summed up the courage to start a new life for herself and her children. She returned home to see her Mother, acquired a passport, and set off to Saudi Arabia to work as a housemaid. Unfortunately, the family that she worked for treated her poorly so after her contract ended she was ready to return home to Kenya.

Although she didn’t have much, she used the little money she had to start two businesses, one selling used clothes, and the other a beauty shop and salon called Mama Vera where she also sells beauty products such as shampoo, hair extensions, and wigs. Her shop is located in the Kima area which is home to around 50,000 residents. Dorice notes that with it’s semi urban lifestyle, ‘my business is bound to grow by leaps and bounds.’ There are also two schools within close proximity, which account for a large number of her customers.

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Dorice first discovered Zidisha in June 2016 and began with a modest loan of $20. At this point, she was receiving about five customers each day and during the busy season in December, had around 10 customers per day. With her first Zidisha funded loan, she hoped to put the money towards a new digital ceramic blow dry machine. She adds, ‘my current one is not enough as blow dry is becoming more popular hair styling gadget here.Thanks lenders hopefully you will help my dream become a reality.’

A few months later, Dorice was ready for a second loan. In September 2016, she requested a $40 loan to purchase smooth egg shampoo in bulk. She mentioned that this is the best product on the market and that buying in smaller quantities would be much more expensive. She determined that after buying in bulk, she could also re-sell the product to individuals and other business owners.

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She requested a second loan in September for $111, which she was excited to put towards an electric massager. She says that she is ‘slowly turning my small salon into a beauty parlour.’ Initially, she expected to charge $5 for 30 minutes for using the massager.

By December, Dorice was once again ready to expand. With this next loan of $272 she was ready to purchase a hair drying unit. For her business, this meant she was entering into the busiest time of the year. With only one hair dryer on hand, she knew it would not be enough to sustain the surge of business she would be receiving. The new machine would handle the excess clients who would previously have had to wait when she only had one machine. She was also excited because this new dryer would also have steaming abilities as well.

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On December 8, 2016, she posted on her discussion board, This business has helped me take my daughter to a good school. She is finishing high school now. Thank you my lenders.’

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By April 2017, Dorice was ready to share an update and request a new loan. She mentioned, ‘Hello lenders. Thank you for my past loans, truly I am succeeding. I have managed to buy some machines for my salon and I am planning to relocate to a more up market stall and locate my salon there in order to have customers who pay well.’

For this loan she requested, $497 in order to purchase a modern salon station which would include a manicure set, large mirror, reclining chair, and a place to house all styling accessories. She notes, ‘this station will allow me to beautify my salon and make it modern.’

A few months later, Dorice requested her most recent Zidisha funded loan of $859. She begins by sharing this inspiring update with her lenders, ‘Thank you my lenders and Zidisha team at large. It has been a very fruitful walk with Zidisha. My lenders, you have transformed my life, with every loan my business is doing so well that I never miss a chance.’

With this loan, Dorice planned to hire an extra 10 girls to work in her business. She explains, ‘For me this is a great loan it has come at the right time as Kenya is going through the election period. Most people here in the western region move from cities to come and vote in their original homes. So the village is flooding with city people and they have to maintain their hair styles.’

Shortly after, on August 15, 2017 Dorice shared on her discussion page, ‘I want to register my great gratitude to my lenders. I wish I could name you all. Thank you very much, this is doing me a great service and I will prosper.’ She also says, ‘I promise to be faithful and hardworking so that one day I may also be an instrumental lender.’

It’s incredible to see how far Dorice has come. It’s clear that she has so much to be proud of and is certainly a source of inspiration to each of her six children. For Dorice, Zidisha, her lenders, and her business have truly transformed her life. She shares, ‘Wow. Thanks lenders for putting your trust in me. My dreams are unfolding before my eyes. In this part of the world where poverty is the order of the day and banks are charging poor people a lot to get a loan, I say thank you. My lenders I will never disappoint you. This business has seen my children through secondary school and they are still continuing. I am praying hard for God to help me see all my children succeed in life even as a single mother.’

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Like Dorice, there are hundreds of other borrowers ready for the next loan that could change their lives. Check out our lend page to learn more.