Bodas and Borrowers
By Sarah Curl, KF12 Uganda
Prior to finding myself in the middle of Uganda, I had the opportunity to be an intern at Kiva Headquarters in San Francisco working in the Customer Service Department for the past seven months. I talked and emailed with lenders daily about everything from their excitement and sometimes disappointment with microfinance to needing their password changed on their Kiva account. If you emailed email@example.com between the months of November through May, most likely I communicated with you. Talking to thousands of lenders during my time at Kiva made me wonder and be intrigued about the other side of the Kiva model, the borrowers. I wanted to see and talk with the entrepreneurs, to hear their stories, struggles, hopes and dreams. The idea of being able to visit borrowers was a big draw for me when applying to be a Kiva Fellow. Like every Kiva Lender, you have the opportunity to read about the entrepreneur’s story and see their pictures, but I wanted to experience a little more.
My first experience visiting borrowers came about when I had to complete my first task on my workplan. All Kiva Fellows have a workplan with various deliverables that must be completed. My first task was to complete a Borrower Verification (BV). This entailed finding ten randomly selected borrowers in seven branches, located all over the country. This adventure would take me throughout Western Uganda and areas North and West of Kampala. When I started my BV I had only been in the country for fourteen days. I battled dust, dirt, unpaved roads and many boda-boda rides to reach those important borrowers. A boda-boda is a form of transportation used very often in Uganda. It is a motorcycle that you can jump on to get you through the congested traffic in Kampala or take to go down very long, unpaved, dusty roads.
One of the branches that I visited was very concerned with my safety when I was to ride a boda-boda. The branch insisted that I take a few safety precautions. It was 90 plus degrees and I had a fleece jacked for padding, a motorcycle helmet and if that was not enough the reflective strips on my jacket where an added precaution. If you add in neon blue pants, I think I basically became indestructible.
Traveling throughout Uganda on my own, allowed me to meet and depend upon many different Ugandan people along the way. I discovered that every time I found myself lost or very confused, someone was there helping me get into a taxi, a bus or waving down a car that might have extra room. Through all of this, I have found that people in Uganda are nothing but generous, kind and helpful. If it was meeting a borrower or a taxi driver, I have learned to have a deep appreciation and affection for the people of Uganda.
Sarah Curl is a Kiva Fellow serving in Kampala, Uganda. She is working at Pearl Microfinance, enjoying eating traditional Ugandan food everyday and using boda-bodas as her main form of transportation around the capital.
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