As I approach Faleula, one of the many villages along the road that circles Samoa’s Upolu Island, I am excited and a little nervous. I am about to meet a Kiva borrower for the first time! I wonder what she will be like; will she be happy to meet me and talk about her business or will she see me as an interruption or even an intrusion.
When I arrive at Mile’s general store, she greets me with a warm smile and all my reservations fade away immediately.
Mile tells me that she has experienced big improvements in her life since she became a micro-loan borrower with South Pacific Business Development (SPBD), a network of microfinance organisations working in the South Pacific.
With her first loan of about US$250, Mile started a little taro and banana chip business. In 2013, after numerous loan cycles and lots of hard work baking chips and “keke-puaa” (steamed pork buns), Mile graduated from micro-loans and became eligible for a small-business loan of US$4,200. With this loan she was able open her own store, the one I meet her in today.
Talking to Mile and seeing her interact with customers, I can tell how much she enjoys running her store. However, it is when she talks about her children that she really lights up. It is clear that she is primarily driven by her wish to give her children the best possible opportunities in life. And that is exactly what she has done.
The loans not only allowed Mile to gradually grow her business, they also enabled her to pay for higher education for her children. Her eldest three have all graduated with degrees and now have jobs – one works in a bank, one is an auditor and one is a presenter at a local television station. Mile still supports the two youngest.
Mile is grateful for the opportunities she has been given. Since she is not formally employed, she would not have been eligible for a loan from a commercial bank and would not have been able to start her business. She sums up, “I am really happy because my dreams for my children came true! Thank you SPBD, thank you Kiva!”
Mile is an example of the types of individuals SPBD supports in Samoa. The organisation is looking to expand its impact and recently introduced a new loan product to support higher education. Find more loans from SPBD here.