Thursday, November 18, 2010

never posted this!

Thank you for loaning on Kiva, and for loaning to CREDIT MFI clients. My name is Jeff Zira, and I recently finished a four month volunteer post as a Kiva Fellow in Cambodia. I worked for CREDIT (, one of Kiva’s earliest MFI partners. You are receiving this email because you have lent to an entrepreneur who has taken a loan through CREDIT.

CREDIT has been posting borrowers to Kiva since May 2006, and has disbursed loans to over 4,000 Kiva borrowers. CREDIT is a medium-sized Cambodian MFI, with $19M of loans in its portfolio. It was founded in 1993 by World Relief, a US-based Christian relief and development agency. CREDIT focuses primarily on providing tailored individual loans, and does not typically provide other services.

During my time at CREDIT, I learned it is filled with a warm and fun-loving staff from the top all the way down. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to participate in a company-wide retreat, study Cambodian with the night guard, and attend a few CREDIT staff weddings. I won’t soon forget their warmth and welcoming attitude.

One of my most important tasks as a Kiva Fellow was to help CREDIT interview “entrepreneurs” and post their information to the Kiva website. I met with about 150 clients and asked them various questions about their lives and living conditions. As I have recently taken a strong interest in the relationship between development and happiness, I asked many questions to elicit responses that would reveal what made the borrower feel best, and what roadblocks to happiness could be removed by escaping poverty.

In general, I found that borrowers tended to require some or all of the following to be happy:

Stability: a steady income stream, and protection from income “shocks”

Health: a healthy family and the assurance that treatment is available when necessary

Improvement compared to the past: difficulty in the past made many appreciate the present (even if the current situation seemed dire to an outsider)

Good relative standing: feeling as though they were about on par with neighbors

Food: a good variety of tasty, high-quality food (more important than I thought!)

Hope: the credible possibility that education will help their children live better lives, that their living conditions will improve, and that life will be stable in the future

Good family: father present and good relationships between family members

As a specific example, one of my most moving and revealing client visits was to a village in Dangkao, a suburb of Phnom Penh located near the single-runway international airport. There I met borrowers living in some of the worst conditions I had seen during my time in Cambodia. Most had been former slum dwellers in the city who were forcibly moved to the outskirts of the city by the government to make way for development projects. Two borrowers’ stories in particular remain strongly imprinted in my mind.

Sous Saran ( is a single mother living with her four children in a shoddy bamboo house above a stagnant body of water. During my visit, I watched the children in the house, and I was brought to tears when I imagined myself in their place, experiencing the same conditions as everyday “reality.” Sous told me that she was probably only 10% happy with life because she can barely support her family, and because she is unsure that she will be able to fully educate her children. Taking out a loan through CREDIT helped her start a new business, but she still has a long way to go until she has a stable income. (Please view the full journal update and video here: )

Ke Sang Va ( )lives next door to Sous. She and her family contrasted sharply with their neighbor – despite their obviously impoverished condition, they reported they were 100% happy with their lives. Ke said it was because the family’s condition had improved so much in recent years. I could hardly believe that their condition had been so much worse in the past that they considered their current condition to be “good,” and was awed that a family could be so happy with so little. (Please view the full journal update and video here: )

By offering loans to borrowers like Sous and Ke, CREDIT is providing a valuable opportunity for people who would have never had a chance make investments in their families otherwise. Thank you for loaning on Kiva, and for supporting CREDIT borrowers. Keep spreading the word!
(Please click here to find more CREDIT borrowers: &_te=mj )