A Meeting of the Center Chiefs – Welcome to Mombasa
By Jeremy Gordon, KF11, Kenya
Adet Kachi looked calm but a bit worried. “Not even 50% are here yet,” he said to me as we appraised the meeting hall’s interior. As CEO of Yehu Microfinance, a new Kiva field partner, Adet had reason to be a bit nervous — he and his staff had been working for weeks to prepare for today’s Annual General Meeting. Over 500 center chiefs (each the leader of 7-8 Grameen-model borrowing groups) from Mombasa and farther reaches of Kenya’s coastal province gathered for the meeting. Coming from different towns and villages, many were surrounded by unfamiliar faces. Adet noted with interest that many of those who had arrived the earliest, had also traveled the farthest — some must have departed their homes at 4am in order to make it to Mombasa for the meeting.
By 10:30am, Adet’s concern had faded. I stood at the back of a packed hall, and watched as Hiari, a dance troupe from Kisauni branch, energized the crowd with their performance.
The day’s events included announcements of Yehu’s new loan products (emergency loans, goats, and others), overviews of financials and new procedures, and stories from individual clients who came on stage to share their successes. Several times during the course of the meeting, Pamela, the meeting’s MC (and a Yehu client), involved the group in a Yehu tradition of call and response: “When we walk, we walk — Yehu“, “When we talk, we talk –Yehu“, “When we eat, we eat –Yehu“, followed by cheers and applause.
Before the day’s meal could be served, gifts which had been boxed and wrapped by the staff and interns on the previous night had to be given out. Names of the top performing center chiefs were called out from the stage, and the women (Yehu’s clientele is around 90% female) lined up to receive their gift, a certificate of achievement, and to shake the hand of Adet and the board members. These gifts were a surprise, of course — an acknowledgement of not the size or number of loans received by the group, but for measures like timely repayment, voluntary savings, and group attendance. After the gifts were awarded, Samburu was announced as this year’s highest-performing branch. To the beat of heavy bass from the sound system, fourty members of Samburu branch rose to join their Director, Mr. Achani, on stage, and proceeded to parade through the tightly packed crowd in celebration of the achievement.
By 4pm the food had been served, the meeting concluded, and I was left to consider what a perfect introduction to Yehu this had been. The experience was an important reminder for me that the Kiva lending community’s significant investments are supporting real organizations with real impact.
Jeremy Gordon is a Kiva Fellow working with Juhudi Kilimo in Nairobi, and Yehu Microfinance in Mombasa. Both organizations are recent additions to the field partner portfolio, and have exciting growth potential through this relationship with Kiva.