Noticed Improvements

Sammy and one of his donkey carts
Our Client Relationship Manager Achintya Rai recently met with two time Zidisha borrower Sammy Kanja in Nakuru, Kenya. Sammy runs a donkey cart transportation business in Kenya. Since receiving his first loan, Achintya has noted that he can see a real difference in Sammy’s quality of life. Check out what he said about meeting Sammy in his own words below:
Hello Lenders,

My name is Achintya RAI. I paid a visit to Sammy Kanja Nganga in Rongai area of Nakuru (Kenya) on the 28th of March 2012.

Sammy has donkeys and donkey carts which people rent from him to transport water and material. Sammy is repaying his second Zidisha loan right now. He used the first loan to buy new tyres for his cart and to repair it. With the second loan he bought another cart and donkeys. Now he has six donkeys and two carts. The names of the donkeys are- Toto, Jimmy, Tony, Kilo, John and Sammy. 
Kilo, John and Sammy are the new ones he bought with his second Zidisha loan. When I asked him if Sammy the donkey’s name was spelled the same as his, he said “like me” and added, “I do love it” as explanation. Sammy has four children (whose names I didn’t ask).

Sammy has a small shamba (farm) as well. His wife looks after it while he takes care of the donkey-cart business. He also now employs two persons to assist him in his business. He said that his life had improved because of Zidisha loans. This is something I have noticed in many cases. Second Zidisha loan onwards you start seeing a very noticeable and perhaps measurable difference in most people’s incomes, spending and lifestyles.

Sammy’s wife has studied till form-4 (secondary school) while Sammy himself has just finished primary school (Standard-8). With his enhanced income, Sammy now aspires to educate himself. He told me that he first wants to finish his form-4 and then go on to do a course in accounting so that he could take better care of finances for his business and possibly get a job in the field.

I met Sammy near the Railway Station of Rongai where he grazes his donkeys and parks his carts. I noticed that there were only three donkeys around. When I asked him he told me that the others must have got free and gone home. Apparently, whenever Sammy’s donkeys get free they go home. They reminded me of Homing Pigeons, only cuter. 

While Sammy’s Sammy was finding his way back on his own, I had to take a ride on Sammy’s bike to find mine. I wish Sammy and his family the best for their future.

14th May 2012 

Grace and her Donkey

Grace Wanjiru

Meet Grace Wanjiru, one of our borrowers from Nairobi, Kenya. Grace is a mother of three children, and one grandchild. After the death of her husband, Grace was forced to leave her home by her in-laws. Because Grace still needed to pay for her youngest son’s education, she decided to start her own business! Grace ran a shop where she sold various household items and foodstuffs. Grace applied to Zidisha so she could purchase more items to sell in her shop, and increase her profit. However, because of high rent and low profit margins, Grace sold her business and started a new endeavor!

Our Client Relationship Manager met with Grace recently. Read about his meeting with Grace and her new business:

Grace with Joyce and her cart.

Dear lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai and I am Zidisha’a current Kenya Client Relationship Intern. On 10th March I paid a visit to Grace Wanjiru in Utawala area of Nairobi.

Grace took the loan from Zidisha to increase the stock of her shop. But the rent she was paying for her shop was quite high and the returns were not enough. So she sold that business and used the money to buy a donkey and a cart. She uses this to transport water to construction sites.

The day I visited Grace it was quite hot. She told me she transports about 20 drums of water in each trip and she is able to make 7 to 8 trips in a day. This is hard labor, especially in that temperature. But Grace seemed happy with her new business and was quite thankful to Zidisha.

Grace has three children, two of whom have finished their education. Her youngest son stays 
with his maternal grandmother in Naivasha where he is studying (Grace pays the school fee). He recently cleared the form-1 exams well and Grace was very hopeful about his future.

On my way to meet Grace, I saw a man at a bore-well (place where donkey cart owners like Grace buy water from) beating his donkey. My first impulse was to shout at him, but I resisted, being in a foreign land. He stopped when he saw me looking but it was an upsetting site. To be fair though this is very rare in Kenya. In fact this was the first time I saw someone mistreating an animal. I was very pleasantly surprised when I found that Grace was extremely nice and kind to her donkey Joyce. She patted Joyce affectionately many times and unconsciously caressed her neck while talking to me. Joyce contently closed her eyes. When I asked Grace she told me that’s how Joyce caught on her sleep between breaks.

With her next loan Grace wants to buy a knitting machine to knit pullovers. These are in high demand as part of school uniforms and with many new schools coming up in the area, Grace sees this as a good opportunity.

As a last note I must inform the lenders that Joyce is pregnant and will be expecting a baby donkey in Jan next year. I hope Grace posts pictures.


9th April 2012 

Joyce the Donkey

Donkeys, Goats, & "The Mattress Doctor"

Two more updates from Achintya, our intern in Kenya:

Edward Waithaka
On 8th Feb I went to meet Edward Waithaka at his home and Shamba (farm). Edward works as a watchman in Mugaa Secondary School where I was putting up. With his first Zidisha loan he bought a donkey. I asked him what the donkey’s name was and he said “Geneva”. I said “I’m sorry what?” He replied “Geneva, like the one in Europe”. Edward did not complete his schooling and has studied till form one.

During the 2007-08 post-election violence Edward had to sell most of his flock of sheep and goats at very low prices. He, like most people in the village, sent his wife and children away during the conflict. The Zidisha loan helped him get back on his feet. He uses the donkey to fetch water for his Shamba and his family. He also invested part of the loan to build the roof of his house.

With the second loan he bought a goat, which later gave birth to a little baby goat (called Toto, which means ‘a baby’). Edward has 11 children, 6 of whom stay with him. The youngest is 9 months old. The milk from the goat is just sufficient for his family but he intends to buy a cow with his next loan. He expects that by then he’d have 4 goats and sufficient milk to sell in the market. I learnt from him that goat’s milk is costlier than cow’s in Kenya. I remember reading that Gandhi called goat the “poor man’s cow”. Apparently not so in Kenya.

Edward works as a night watchman in the school and he was utterly fascinated by my torch, which does not need a battery but can be charged by rotating a small lever on its side. He told me that he spends on 4 batteries every month for his torch so I have promised to give him my torch before I left Kenya.

Ironically Geneva, as if realizing I was from Zidisha, was very happy to see me (he overturned like a beetle and gave himself a nice rub in the mud right in front of me) but Edward’s little son was not (he bawled and ran away from me)- pictures of both attached. I found Edward to be a very simple hearted and genuine person, free from any guile. I’d love to see him employ his Zidisha funds in gainful uses and improve his lot.
Read more about Edward here 

James Nuthu Mwangi Yesterday I went to meet James Nuthu Mwangi at his business premises. James runs a cleaning business, specializing in cleaning mattresses. His business is called ‘The Mattress Doctor’. He and his cousin, who is an insurance agent, share the premises to cut down on the rent. James found Zidisha on his own. He went to a bank for a loan but the bank asked for a guarantor, a running business with stable profits and an interest rate of 13% to 15%. He then searched online and found a famous lending organization that referred him to a local micro-finance organization (which the famous lending organization funded). This local organization asked him to open an account with them and other complicated formalities and demanded a MONTHLY interest rate of 2% for their loans. In simple interest terms, that totals to an interest rate of more than 26% per year. With the next loan James wants to buy a bigger vacuum cleaner because the one he has right now is, though good for cleaning mattresses and sofas, not very useful for general cleaning. James persevered in his search still, and he found Zidisha. 

Today James is one of the strongest advocates of Zidisha and volunteers for us. He is also the de-facto coordinator of Zidisha activities in Nairobi. James used his first Zidisha loan to buy a steam machine and to design and print flyers that he used for marketing his business. When I asked him how he learnt to clean, he said “through the internet!” and proceeded to show me a bundle of downloaded literature on cleaning. When one of my professors said that Internet would democratize information (this was in 1999-2000), I did not expect it to manifest like this. After finishing school James did a course in programming and later used these skills to design his business website which I found to be quite interesting, informative and easy to maneuver.

Bright green is a color that Zidisha clients seem to prefer. The bicycle that James uses to commute to nearby areas for his business is the same bright green color as the pickup truck of another client I met recently. His bike is also the first geared bicycle I’ve seen in Kenya (the gears don’t work anymore though).

Check out James’ Zidisha page to learn more