First meeting with Maono!

4 Aug

Second full day complete! This post will be more readable than the first two – I’m still getting this whole “blogging” thing down.

Today, I met some of my co-workers from the MFI I will be working with, Maono Initiative. We visited a weekly meeting of clients in a slum. The way this organization works is simple – clients (mostly women & single moms) receive a small loan (less than $10) and pay back the loan plus interest at the next weekly meeting. The interest is 10% per anum – 0.83% per month.  The wonderful thing about Maono is that the 10% doesn’t go to company profits at the end of the year – it stays with the group of clients, distributed back to them. Week by week, more and more money is earned and saved by the women!

I am excited about working and learning together with my co-workers. They seem intelligent and truly want to make a difference in the life of Kenya’s poor. Plus, they have great senses of humor.

Here is a picture of some of Maono’s staff, inside the shack where the weekly meeting was held –

The Kenyan people I have met so far are friendly and genuinely interested in getting to know visitors. The Kenyan culture is laid back, relational, and welcoming. There is no sense of urgency as lingering to continue socializing is common place. I fit in with the culture in this particular respect – I love to sit around and chat for undefined amounts of time.

I haven’t been to downtown Nairobi yet, but here is a picture of the outskirts of the city.

Next, we visited the home of one of Scott’s assistants, Robert. He is a Kenyan who looks 16 years old but is 27. I can identify with this (seeing as I look young for my age), but not the he-is-married-and-has-a-child part! He lives in a small shack in a good neighborhood. He and his wife welcomed us into their home quite humbly. Even though they have little money, the wife had prepared us delicious food – a kind of corn tortilla and a potato dish. In Kenyan culture, being hospitable hosts in this way gives great joy to the owners of the home. Robert and his wife are a fun-loving couple that light up the room with their two smiles!

Here is a picture of me holding their cute-as-can-be 3-month-old daughter, Hayley (a name picked by Scott!) –

The final activity of the day was a coffee break with David Kitusa, the Executive Director of the AMPK (Association of Microfinance Professionals of Kenya). This is the organization that I have mentioned to family friends back home because it sounds unreal – by unreal I mean, made up! I am happy to confirm it is very real and David is a smart, well-spoken man who knows a ton about microfinance in Kenya. He calls Kenya the “Silicon Valley of Africa,” due to the M-PESA mobile banking system I have mentioned before.  I will probably earn a microfinance certification through training offered by this organization. Also, I will be working with David on projects if I get a position through USAID for a microfinance think tank that I am in the running for.

The visiting businessmen and Scott leave for a weekend trip to Mombasa (a coastal city) tomorrow. I won’t see the visitors again, so we said our goodbyes. It was a pleasure to cross paths with them and learn about microfinance together over the past two days! I am very thankful to have gotten a lot of tips to stay safe and healthy in Kenya from Martha.

Housing update – I will most likely be living with a family of the church that Maono Initiative works closely with. The guest house will do for a temporary solution, and I will go to the church service next Sunday (this weekend Scott is out of town) to meet potential families. If I was a betting man (which I am if $2 scratch-offs count), I’d say I’ll have a permanent home in 3 weeks, tops.


One Response to “First meeting with Maono!”

  1. Cody A. August 8, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    Have fun Ben! I’ll be praying for you periodically while you’re there.

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