As I stepped out in the oppressive humidity of a Manila morning, my spirit was excited and ready to leave the protection of CCT head office’s wonderful air conditioning because this was the day I got to do another borrower verification. Previous fellows have shared different aspects of what a BV (Kiva speak for borrower verification) is and so for more detailed descriptions I will leave that up to them to share. ( Look here to see details of BV and here to see the conclusion to this fellow’s BV story).
There are different ways you can view what the BV does but I have enjoyed every one of my visits to borrowers because it allows me to experience the very reason I became a Kiva lender and now, a Kiva Fellow; it’s all about the people we see on the profiles. (For a great explanation on this “Social Return”, see KF16 Laurie Young’s post).
This day’s journey is particularly exciting because the reward at the end of the two hour bus side in Metro Manila traffic, is Caloocan City, a place where nature begins to meet houses and instead of high rises and smog you plunge in to lush green hills and palm trees.
I had already established a meeting point with Branch officers at a local mall so they could escort me into the labrynthine communities where CCT’s partner’s live, even further north of the city. Most commutes here involved a crammed jeepney, a sort of jump on/off minibus.
I was pretty when excited when the local branch staff showed up with motorcyles to take us to our next destination. It would be my first time riding them and exposure to the open air was just the right remedy for the thick air.
The man on the front of the motorcycle is Kuya (term of older brother) Ronnie is the team servant (a.k.a regional manager) for the Caloocan City branches. For each of the MFI’s that Kiva works with, there is usually an army of people behind the scenes meeting with the borrowers, collecting information, writing stories, uploading profiles and corresponding with the Kiva Coordinator. (Here is more info on the job of a KC).
Kuya Ronnie corresponded with his branch leaders to help me set up the appointments to meet with my borrowers. The branch leaders are needed to navigate the cryptic mazes of alleys leading to the borrower’s home and businesses.
In addition to seeing CCT borrower’s businesses, we ran into other CCT borrowers who in true Filipino hospitality, invited us in to have lunch before our borrower visit. CCT pride’s itself on it’s development of Fellowship groups which focus on community-building and leadership development in addition to the weekly repayment appointments.
One of our BV visits in Caloocan was to a Peanut Butter Vendor named Girlie. I went through the list of BV items; Name, Passbook verification of dates, reason for loan and visual verification of loan use. Girlie was able to check out on my list. I asked Girlie to share more of her story with me and she excitedly shared the story of her business with me. Before I left, I asked Girlie to answer one more question for me, “What are your hopes and dreams for your business and personal life?”.
Girlie was quick to answer and she shared that her hope is to continue to build her business and become a distributor to local groceries stores. She hopes to make enough income to quit her two other jobs and make peanut butter full time. We laughed about how she already had the perfect name for her product, “Girlie’s Peanut Butter”.
In KF 16’s Eric Rindal’s last post he talked about “Why small business?.” He suggested the answer was the flexibility and ingenuity of small business and how they offer endless benefits in economies where unemployment is high and opportunities limited. Girlie already works 48 hours per week at a local store. In my experience in the Philippines, hours of overtime are often completed at work without pay and without complaint. If complaint occurs, there are 20 other people who are lined up and ready to take your job. An entrepreneurial effort by an individual allows borrowers the flexibility to work towards their goals and develop their own businesses.
Kiva states on it’s website that they do what they do because, “We envision a world where all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others. We believe providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their families.” Girlie is just one example of the people that CCT and kiva.org are trying to connect to the opportunity for a better future through access to capital. Be a part of a creating opportunity for someone like Girlie.