I am a huge supporter of Kiva.org. Through the years I’ve made 54 microloans of 25 dollars each to women in 44 countries, and I’m thrilled to say they’ve always paid me back. While loan defaults have been known to happen, Kiva’s default rate is amazingly low. (I think I did lose about 10 cents once due to an exchange rate fluctuation between the time the loan was repaid and the time it was posted to my account, but 10 cents to change the lives of 54 families? That’s not too shabby.) I can’t think of any other example in which I could make such a huge difference without sacrificing anything at all, can you?
One of my most recent loans was to a lady named Sehrinaz in Fuzuli, Azerbaijan. She had started a sewing business and needed the loan to buy cloth and necessary supplies. I look at this woman, who is trying so hard to improve her lot in life, and I think that but for the dumb luck of being born in a different location, this could be me. It was my pleasure to give her a helping hand, and she has paid me back in full. I think of her sometimes, sewing away in a war zone. There but for the grace of God go I.
Recently I got an e-mail from the lending organization in Azerbaijan, and with Kiva’s kind permission I will post it below, because it eloquently describes the lives that these people are forced to live and the difference you can make in them. So without further ado, here’s the Kiva Field Update from Azerbaijan:
Greetings from Azerbaijan. My name is Vince and I’m a Kiva fellow currently working in Azerbaijan. I’ve spent the last 3 months traveling with the Komak Credit Union and since you’ve made a loan to a Kiva borrower at Komak Credit Union I wanted to share some stories from the field.
Komak, which means ‘help’ in Azeri, was one of the first Credit Unions set up in the country. Credit Unions are non-profit organizations and owned entirely by their members who are also their borrowers.
Most of Komak’s members come from the Fuzuli area. This region is right on the border of the disputed area with Armenia and most of the borrowers are internally displaced persons (IDPs). In fact 80% of Komak’s members are IDPs. Life in this part of rural Azerbaijan is incredibly difficult without the added challenge and uncertainty of living next to an active frontline.
We meet Nirada, a 54 year old lady who is raising two calves bought with the help of a Kiva loan. Narida stays in a village just a few hundred yards from the conflict zone and tells me that most nights gunfire can be heard in the distance. She says this without emotion, it has just become an accepted part of life. A few weeks ago tensions escalated between the two armed forces and as a result, in an exchange of gunfire, a young soldier was killed. It is all very sad.
We also meet with Narida’s neighbor, Tovuz, who is also a Kiva borrower. She runs a small corner shop in the village which she is very proud of. Narida and Tovuz make me aware of the chronic unemployment issue that exists in the area. I have seen for myself that employment opportunies are very limited and that that manufacturing is almost non-existant. Job choices are mainly restricted to raising animals/crops, running a store, serving in a restaurant or driving a car for a living. Nearly every borrower we meet does a combination of these things in order to earn sufficient income for their family.
One of the things I like best about Azerbaijan is the real sense of community that exists. Neighbors look out for and help each other and the family bond is incredibly strong. It is not uncommon to see three generations of a family all working together in the field or in a store. As we drive from village to village with the Komak loan officer we occasionally stop to give people a lift. It does not matter if it takes us a little out of our way it is the accepted practice and the neighborly thing to do.
Komak has been working with Kiva for over 8 years.They are totally integrated into the communities they serve and provide great service with a smile. Microfinance is more than a job for the Komak staff, it is an opportunity to help people in their own community.
Thank you for your continued support of Komak and Azerbaijan.
Kiva Fellow, KF25 | Roaming Azerbaijan