Last week I had the opportunity take a trip to visit three of ARD’s branches outside of Freetown. I spent five days traveling around Sierra Leone with Jusu, the Kiva Coordinator and MIS Manager, and our driver, General. We traveled to Bo, Kenema, and Makeni, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th largest cities in Sierra Leone.

I enjoyed the trip and was excited about the opportunity to see other parts of Sierra Leone. It was fun working at the other branches of ARD and meeting their staff members, who were all very friendly and welcoming. Before leaving Freetown, I considered our working conditions at the head office pretty poor. Now, I consider the Freetown office a bit luxurious after attempting to work for four days with no fans, AC, running water and unreliable internet and power!

Kiva loans are currently at three of five of ARD’s branches. In January, I’ll spend a few weeks working at the Kenema branch to help initiate the Kiva loan process there. This should be challenging and I’m looking forward to it! However, one thing I’ll have to get used to is being started at constantly by just about everyone. People outside of Freetown are not accustomed to seeing white people and think we’re actually pretty amusing to look at. Whenever our car would stop along the trip, people (kids, adults, teens etc.) would literally come up to my window and just stare in at me. After our work day at Kenema, I went outside with the staff to watch the town’s amputee soccer team scrimmage. I was only outside for a few minutes until I realized that most people had stopped watching the game and were watching me. If I’ll be living in Kenema for two weeks, I’m going to have to find some light hearted way to deal with the stares.

The best part of the trip was the opportunity to meet Kiva borrowers and interview them. My favorite borrower was a woman named Hawa who was selling fabric. She helped me pick out fabric to have made into a dress. She was so excited to meet me and wouldn’t stop giving me hugs! Another great borrower I met was a girl, my age, who operated a stand selling kitchenware. She had two children and was pregnant with her third. She told me that because of the loan and her additional income, her family was now eating healthier and she and her husband were saving for a house. Donate to a borrower in Sierra Leone by clicking here!

Leslie Kincaid is a KF 13 Fellow working for Association for Rural Development in Freetown, Sierra Leone

ARD branch in Makeni

View from Makeni branch

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