Family Portraits in Salgaa

Hello, my name is Dan Cembrola, one of Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Managers. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in Nakuru and its outskirts.

Today I visited Melchzedeck at his business in the town of Salgaa, 30 kilometers west of Nakuru. Three years ago Melchzedeck was working on one of the many flower farms around Salgaa. He grew unsatisfied with his job at the time and its future prospects. Melchzedeck always had an interest in photography, so, in 2009, he retired from the flower farm and purchased a camera for 4,500 Kenyan Schillings. He had decided to go into business for himself.
Three years later, he now owns his own shop selling photographs as well as cell phones, phone cases, phone chargers and other accessories. The shop has a small studio in the back of the shop where Melchzedeck is able to take portraits and family photos. He also operates a kinyozi (barbershop) within his shop in case anyone wants to have a last minute haircut before being photographed. 
In addition to photographing individuals and families who come into his shop, Melchzedeck also travels to weddings, graduations, birthday parties, and various other gatherings to document the memories as he says. He is one of only two photographers in the village of Salgaa so his services are in high demand. 
With his next loan, Melchzedeck plans to buy printing machine. Currently, he has to travel to Nakuru to print out the photographs that he takes. Though traveling to Nakuru takes a little over an hour round trip, it is an unnecessary burden as Melchzedeck wants to be able to photograph his customers and instantly present them the photograph. Melchzedeck is optimistic about the future of his business; he rightly views the growth of the population in Salgaa as an opportunity for more weddings, graduations, and every other celebration to be photographed. 

Technology Sets No Boundaries

Here is a great update from Traci in Kenya! She had the opportunity to meet with Duncan Chege earlier this month. Mr. Chege is a great example of the type of individual who is striving to make a real difference in his community. I hope you enjoy Traci’s update! If you have any questions for Traci leave a comment below and I’ll relay the message to her.

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

Minds alike, Duncan Chege and Zidisha both envision a world where technology sets no boundaries, where opportunity is no longer stifled due to economic standings, and where geography plays no role in one’s level of success. Although late in the game, the technology industry in Kenya is growing at an overwhelming rate of 20% each year. With rapid growth comes rapid change, and a shortage in skills is a challenge that Kenya is currently facing. 

Seeing the way of the world and a need for technology education, Duncan Chege moved from his rural town of Rongai to Nairobi, the heart beat of Silicon Savannah. In 2009, with only one computer to furnish his shop, it was here that Duncan opened Vision Computers. Within its three years of operation, one computer quickly multiplied to eight, and upon receiving his first Zidisha loan in June, eight grew to ten. With more computers, students are now able to work independently without the fuss of sharing a screen or fighting over who gets to use the mouse. Duncan wishes to pay back his loan quickly, in hopes of being able to take out a larger loan, which would allow him to rent a bigger space. 

Providing internet services is only a fraction of what is offered at Vision Computers, for Duncan’s main objective is community development. Seeing technology as a tool for empowerment, he offers computer-training courses to youths. Many students coming from the surrounding areas, including a nearby slum, Duncan’s rates are much more reasonable than his competitors. In addition to training courses, he has also partnered with a local primary school. In small groups, children come to Vision Computers to receive informal lessons to acquire basic computer skills. As I speak with Duncan, eight children work together on a paint program, directing each other on what to draw and what colors to use. As I peek around the cubicle, I see a lime green house in the making. Children being sponges of knowledge, Duncan expresses the importance of exposing them to technology early on, in hopes of better serving their future. 

Before my visit with Duncan ends, he takes me to his partner school. Not having electricity, running water, and limited space due to other live-in tenants, I see how fortunate they are to have the resources that Duncan is providing. Wanting to spread the word about Zidisha, Duncan introduces me to the director of the school, hoping to extend his services in more ways than one. 

To view more pictures of Duncan and watch a short video of him and his students, visit 

Fighting Crime in Bahati

Here is a recent update from Dan in Kenya. He met with Joel Mwangi this past week and was able to see what Joel’s Zidisha loan has done for him. Be sure to check out Joel’s profile page if you’re interested in learning more about him.

Hello, my name is Dan Cembrola, one of Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Managers. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in Nakuru and its outskirts.

I visited Joel at the place of one of his businesses in Bahati. It is evident that Joel is a natural community leader, and a well-respected one at that. His most idealistic long-term goals are eradicating poverty in Bahati. Toward that end, he has used his Zidisha loan to expand his farm and invested in higher quality fertilizer and seeds to ensure that his crops will be healthy and bountiful. Joel strongly advocates the use of high quality seeds and fertilizer to his neighboring farmers. He evidenced his point clearly as he gave me a tour of his village, pointing out which farms were able to afford fertilizer and quality seeds. 

In an effort to advance his community, Joel is selling a portion of his land that he has tilled and prepared for the next growing season to a neighbor. His intent is to give his neighbor an opportunity to begin a small farming business to help support his family. Joel regularly advises members of his community on improving their fertilization and irrigation practices. With the now abundant crops Joel is growing with his loan from Zidisha he has been able to employ laborers in Bahati to assist him and his wife during the harvest season. 

In addition to operating a three and a half acre farm, Joel also serves as chairman of the group of motorbike operators in the region. In the past few years, there has been a rise in the incidence of common thievery in Bahati, many crimes were committed with the aid of motorbike drivers. With the assistance of the local police force and the support of his fellow motorbike drivers, Joel was elected chairman of the group. As chairman, Joel has instituted a policy that mandates that every motorbike driver must have a registered identification card which is displayed to all of their customers. This measure has provided a sense of accountability to the motorbike operators and allows their customers to be confident that each driver is registered and approved by the local government and police department. 

Can Microfinance Revolutionize Car Ownership in Developing Countries?

When most people hear of microfinance for the first time, they often ask whether or not it actually works to benefit those in need. It is an excellent question to ask since it is supposed to benefit those who are vulnerable, poor, or simply need some extra help. As it turns out, microfinance is an amazing way to benefit those who currently have no access to capital and it comes along with many amazing testimonials regarding how a person’s life has changed after being given access to funding they may have never had.
For those who are unaware, microfinance is a basic way to provide loans and financial services to those in developing countries who currently do not have access to them. This type of strategy is one of the best ways to help many citizens become financially stable, which allows them to be able to provide for both themselves and their families during tough economic times. Since statistics have shown that over half of the world survives on less than $2 each day, microfinance is one of the best ways we can employ to help these people.

Microfinance May Impact Car Ownership on a Large Scale
As stated earlier, microfinance provides a large number of amazing benefits that can help both families and the local economy that they live in. One of these benefits that may soon be possible is the potential for those in developing countries to own their own cars. Since most citizens do not have access to car loans, owning a car may never be a possibility for them. However, microfinance has a huge chance of providing these citizens with access to car credit from a microloan. While the loan will not be providing them funding for a car specifically, these loans can help people get their feet off of the ground if they are trying to start a business of their own. Imagine that there is someone who owns a farming business, but has to walk three hours away, in order to pick up their much needed supplies. This means that their total trip will take six hours and by the time they return they will have to continue working. This is not only extremely tiring for the individual but cuts down on their productivity for the day, as six hours of their time will be spent walking. Less time for them to work means less money for them to be able to feed both themselves and their families.
If those same farmers have access to microfinance, they will be able to invest in certain items that can help their business to grow. Eventually, with the help of your loan, they are profitable enough to purchase a car and can now travel to the next town to pick up supplies. With this car, they have more time to work, can make more money, and the local economy improves. Without your loan, this would have never been possible. Success stories like these are what make microfinance such an amazing tool for developing countries to utilize. And there are several additional benefits that come along with your loan.

Microfinance Benefits
  • Ease of Accessibility

    Most banks out there simply will not provide loans to those who do not have any existing capital or assets. They want to see some sort of income that many people simply do not have a consistent basis. Because of this, many people cannot qualify for loans to help their small businesses or families in these developing countries. Microfinance gives citizens easy access to financing that has the potential to end poverty in many areas.

  • Creating New Jobs For The Community
    Job creation is essential for the sustainability of any area in order to help improve the lives of many citizens. Microfinance helps in a huge way by providing jobs for those who are looking to start local businesses of their own. Since these people now have funding to help their business costs, they have the ability to work and are running a business that aids in supporting the local economy. It is beneficial for everyone.
  • Ensures Continual Education
    It is very unfortunate that many children living in developing countries must be pulled out of their schooling because of economic issues. Microfinance ensures that these children can continue their education since their families now have access to funding in order to help enrich the lives of themselves and their community.
Guest post by Eve Jamieson

Building up for a better future

Supporting a wife and three children is not an easy matter when one’s occupation consists of being a small-scale farmer. But RichardMwathi was one step ahead and had decided to diversify his business by starting a barbershop in 2005. This move was made in order to help give his family a better life. Below is a recent update from our Kenya Client Relationship Manager on his whereabouts and the occupations he has been involved in:

Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in and around Nairobi.
Knowledge is power. As the leading mantra here in Kenya, it comes as no surprise that the enrollment rate for primary education stands above eighty percent; literacy among youths a whooping ninety-three percent! Parents making meager wages will sacrifice almost anything to ensure their children have an education that they themselves did not get. As my visits to Zidisha borrowers grow, a trend in loan impact reveals itself, for although microfinance was initiated to provide services to uplift small businesses, many see it as a way to empower their children through education.

Richard Mwathi, former owner of a kinyozi (barbershop) in Lanet, Nakuru is the proud father of three teenage boys. With one in Form 4, another in Standard 8, and the eldest enrolled in Egerton University studying natural environment, paying for school fees is no easy feat. Richard’s Zidisha loan was used to pay for tuition, and although he intended to pay back his loan with the revenue acquired through his kinyozi, sales dropped and he decided to close his business.

Seeing better opportunities in Nairobi, Richard is currently living with his sister and nephew in Utawala, while his children continue to attend school in Nakuru. Hoping to accrue enough money to pay back his loan, Richard is working odd jobs at the many construction sites in Utawala. Construction work being on a need only basis and one of the only options for many without additional employment, Richard waits eagerly to be called upon. With elections so close at hand, many construction sites are also at a standstill, lying in wait to see what the new government will bring.
Richard’s struggles are apparent on his face, but his optimism for the future is also unyielding. Making repayments more manageable, Richard has decided to make small weekly installments starting in October. He will continue to stay in Nairobi until the end of the year, seeking opportunities in the growing town of Utawala. My visit with Richard ends on a light-hearted note while we take photos outside and I get a grand tour of a new house his sister is in the process of building. Thank you Richard and family for inviting me to your home, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

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,

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