I can’t believe my work here is almost coming to an end! It feels like just yesterday (or a couple days ago) that I was getting off the plane in Maputo – uncertain, nervous, and excited as to what this entire experience would be like. I still remember flipping over and over (and over) again through my copy of all of FDM´s Kiva clients, wondering what it would be like to meet them face to face. In fact, I looked at those pictures so many times that every time I met a client, I could literally see their picture and their description in my mind.
I met a client the other day who I found truly amazing. Not only was she incredibly warm, inviting, and generous, but I have absolutely NO idea how she does what she does everyday. She teaches primary school in the mornings, runs her business as a very successful seamstress in the afternoons (she has clients that leave orders with her from all across Mozambique), and travels to the capital of Maputo every night to take classes so she can start teaching secondary school. Yet, what I admired most about her was what she calls her most cherished and long held dream, hoping one day to open her own primary school to serve the local impoverished children. Education, she tells me, is the most important component to developing the area and creating a stronger Mozambique, and she dreams of a better future for her children and the next generations. She already has the course materials prepared, and has a step by step plan to realize her goal. As she explains, she first hopes to open the school at her home early next year until she has saved enough to purchase an old, abandoned home nearby to set up a proper school there. She projects that she will be able to begin enrolling students in January and hopes to open the school by the end of that month! Additionally, her husband is a disabled war veteran and she currently supports her children entirely with the profits from her business and current salary as a teacher. Needless to say, the women here never cease to amaze me, and I’ll miss having the opportunity to meet women like her everyday when I go home in a couple weeks.
At the same time, some of the most telling and moving experiences have come from meeting clients of FDM who are not on the Kiva website (for everyone one Kiva client, I usually accompany the loan officer when they visited two others for FDM). There was one client in particular who is no longer receiving loans from FDM because she has put her business on hold, but the promotora wanted to stop by and visit nonetheless. She has been sick for quite a while now, almost six months, and when she went to the local clinic (the one and only time) they simply told her that it was malaria and sent her back home. While she received some general form of treatment, she her health has been getting worse and she was forced to stop her business selling charcoal and can no longer pay for loans. Her promotora tells me that there are days that she will stop by and the client can’t even get out of bed, and while she keeps telling her to go the clinic and take an HIV test, her client has yet to take her advice – not because of the cost but because she’s too frightened to go. We sit down to talk for an hour or so as the loan officer reminds her again to go to the hospital, seek the tests and the treatments she needs if not for herself, but for her son who has no one else if something were to happen to her. It truly touched me to see how much the loan officer cared, how much she wanted her old client to get better and see her healthy, happy, and doing well. Her client finally tells her that she will go next week, her usual answer, and as we walk back to the main road to catch our next bus to take us to our next client, I’m left to wonder what will happen to her and her young son if she doesn’t get better.
This entire experience has left me irreversibly changed and the lessons I´ve learned I will carry with me the rest of my life. Sure there are a couple moments I would rather forget. For example, I have helped push chapas out of ditches, shared the back of trucks with goats and other various livestock, and waded through puddles of mud (and trash) 10 inches deep, but I would trade any of these experiences for anything. The women I´ve met her have inspired me to be a stronger person (literally – as Roslyn describes, women three times my age have skipped past me balancing buckets of water or multiple sacks of potatoes on their heads) as well as reassess my understanding of what it means to be successful and what it takes to be happy. I can honestly say that all the clients I have met have been nothing but gracious, warm, and have welcomed me into their homes like members of their own family. Without a second thought, they share much cherished information not only about their businesses, but about their children, their hardships, and their dreams for the future. During our talks, one of the best moments usually comes at the end – when I take their picture. Some simply smile, some strike a well practiced pose, some run into their homes first to change and fix their hair, and other gather their children and spouses to make it a family shot. After, I always show them the picture I’ve taken on my digital camera, and every single time, without fail, they´re positively beaming. I tell them that the picture is beautiful, and they laugh and can´t help but agree.
What will I miss most? Without out a doubt, I will miss being able to wake up every morning knowing that I will meet people that day who I will say goodbye to ever-so-slightly, but forever changed. I will miss working with the promotoras who have taught me what it means to work hard and live a life doing something you love to do. Not to mention the fact that FDM is simply an amazing organization. I just now realize that I’ve have yet to mention FDM´s administrative head, Ana Maria, who will always my role model, the person I will strive to emulate – ceaselessly diligent, intelligent, and devoted to the organization (and the workers and clients here at FDM respect and adore her). She is currently spearheading innovative projects to further serve FDM’s clients which include agricultural initiatives where they will begin selling plots of cultivated land next year for clients to run their own farms as well as plans to begin training rural clients in cattle raising. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with all three of FDM´s different offices, and have every intention of returning to Mozambique one day to visit and maybe even work them again.
I was told before I left that when the time would come to leave, I would want to say and I can honestly say that that person was right. I feel like there’s so much more to learn, so many more things to experience, more inspiring people to meet, and so much more I could do, but sadly I’ve been postponing school and my classes long enough.
It’s been an incredible, strange, difficult, exhilarating, and life-changing experience and I want to thank Kiva and Kiva´s wonderful lenders for having given me the opportunity to take this adventure.
Also, I have no idea if they will ever read this, but time to give a shout-out to all the workers of FDM that have made this experience so incredible – Ana Maria, Leopoldina, Esmeralda, Don, Bridgette, Margarida, Sandra, Rosalina, Suzette, Minarsanda, Ricardina, Edineria, Dercia, Jamie, Francisco, Ricardo, Arcenia, Madalena, Lidia, Rosa, Nelizarda, Elina, Ermelinda, Arcenia, Benevenita, Irenia, Simoes, Ilda, Ana, Zelia, Brito, Roda, Deocleciana, Esmeralda, Eulalia, Ana, Marta, Adelso, Carmelia, and Manuela! I will miss you all so much, and thank you.
Finally, while this will be my last blog from Mozambique, inspired by Drew Kinder´s wonderful write-up on Sam, I will be doing the same by giving you all a glimpse into the history of Fundo de Desenvolvimento da Mulher and their amazing Executive Director, Ana Maria. I regret to say I don´t have the amazing specifics that Drew provided in his own blog, but I will try my best to do FDM and Ana Maria justice and reveal a little more of what makes FDM such a powerful organization./>