Sala Kahle: Saying Goodbye to KwaZulu-Natal

By Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

Trying on a traditional Zulu skirt and necklace

Like most Fellows from Kiva’s 14th class, I am busily tying up the loose ends of my Fellowship. As much as I enjoyed my trips to the rural areas surrounding Richards Bay (although I wasn’t a huge fan of Richards Bay itself), I can’t say that I mind my current locale: the beach at Kommetjie, about an hour south of Cape Town. My Fellowship required a sustained burst of manic energy and proved to be an extraordinary mixed bag that was both incredibly challenging and rewarding. While I’m ready for a little R&R, I wouldn’t take back any part of the past three months, except perhaps for the multitude of yappy dogs that started barking at 5:30am each morning and harassed me on all of my walks. I definitely could have done without them!

I’ll leave you with the note I wrote for Kiva’s lenders to clients of Women’s Development Businesses (WDB) and a few final pictures from my time in the field. It’s been a pleasure posting here and I hope you’ll continue to follow the new batch of Fellows when they start blogging in the next week or two. In the meantime, Sala Kahle! (Stay well!)

Kiva Field Update – Message from Kiva Fellow in South Africa:

My name is Alexis Ditkowsky and I am writing to you today to thank you for your generous support of microfinance clients served by Women’s Development Businesses (WDB) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa. I served in the 14th class of Kiva Fellows and was the second Fellow placed in South Africa.

Over the past three months, I have seen for myself the impact that small loans have had on the lives and businesses of rural Zulu women. While each woman’s situation was different, most were supporting multiple family members with their earnings, most were eligible (and enthusiastically used) government child support grants to send the children in their care to school, many had lost multiple family members to premature death (I never asked why but KZN has the highest HIV infection rate in South Africa, estimated at 40% for women aged 15-49), and all of the women I met just wanted to see their family well fed, living in a sturdy home, educated for as long as they wanted to be in school, and taking advantage of the opportunities they did not have for themselves.

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to explore the posts about South Africa on the Kiva Fellows blog, I encourage you to take a moment to read more about specific borrowers, life in KZN, and what WDB has been working on during their pilot partnership with Kiva. Here’s a list of posts from my time in the field:

Spazas + Tuck Shops: Corner Stores in South Africa
Photos from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Database Detective: South Africa Edition
The Meaning of “Now” in South Africa
Next Steps for Kiva’s Partner in South Africa
First Borrower Visit (Take 350+)
A Hand-Delivered Kiva Fellow
Drawings from Training and Greetings from Boston

I’ll leave you with a short video that provides a snapshot of the gratitude WDB’s clients express at the start of their group meetings. The hymn translates to:

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful grace
We raise our hands
With our knees we bow
With our mouth we sing
For this wonderful grace

From all of the borrowers who have benefited from your support, Siyabonga! (We thank you!)

Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

And now for a few final pictures:

First borrower visit, far into the hills of KZN

Having fun at one of the many Kiva trainings

Leaving a borrower meeting

Gugu, one of my favorite borrowers, at her home

St. Lucia Wetland - one of the many beautiful destinations in KZN

About the author

Alexis Ditkowsky