Esther at a Kiva training

In 1996, Esther Borh was a LEAP borrower.  She used LEAP loans to finance her business selling goods in Redlight Market.  She served as the secretary of a group of four borrowers.  Recognizing her leadership skills, Esther’s loan officer suggested that she apply for an open loan officer position within LEAP.  Esther, who had until this point always been self-employed, says that initially, she was not interested in becoming someone’s employee.  She felt that she would make more money selling goods at Redlight Market.  However, she did not want to disappoint the loan officer, so she applied for the job anyways.  Esther got the job and began training as a loan officer, still unconvinced that it was the best thing for her and her family, but not wanting to offend those that had thought so much of her as to hire her.  She says that only began to feel comfortable in her new role when she began to build a bond with her clients and see how much LEAP and her work were benefiting their lives.  She says that her clients became like family, coming to her with their problems, and inviting her to their children’s weddings.  She tells me that, “As a manager, I think, pray, and work for everybody.”

Esther began working for LEAP as a credit assistant, or a loan officer, in 1997.  That was the year that  Charles Taylor took office and the following years were filled with conflict of varying degrees.  In 2003, the war intensified and the fighting moved into Monrovia.  LEAP continued its operations, as best it could, during this time.  Clients’ daily businesses were disrupted, which delayed repayments.  Even when clients did have the money to make a repayment, depending on the political climate at the time, it may not have been safe to travel on the streets to make the payments.   The office was closed for fear of everyone’s safety and all of the banks in the area closed down as well.  Loan officers would transport money in big empty rice bags  and store large amounts of cash in their homes.  Esther says that her clients would protect her by escorting her from place to place.  Through all of the chaos and lawlessness that consumed Monrovia during this  time, Esther says was never robbed.

In 1998 Esther was honored to be recognized as The Most Hardworking Credit Agent.  She received a gift from the company.  In 2008, as LEAP was expanding into a new area, she was promoted to branch manager and moved to Gbarnga, an town 4 hours outside of Monrovia.  Today Esther manages four loan officers and she continues to think, pray, and work for everybody.

For another interesting story on a borrower who became a branch manager, read Kiva Fellow Karen Buxton’s blog post, From Borrower to Branch Manager.

Iyanna Holmes is a Kiva Fellow working with Local Enterprise Assistance Program (LEAP) in Monrovia, Liberia.  Join the LEAP Lending Team.  There are borrowers from Liberia with LEAP, and many other entrepreneurs from around the world, that you can help by making a loan on the Kiva site.

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