Village visit with Maono

7 Aug

I spent the whole day today with some of my Maono co-workers.

We drove into Kibera (Nairobi’s largest slum) to attend a church service in the morning. I kid you not, the “church” consisted of one room that fit no more than 10-15 people. We arrived 90 minutes late to the service, but it still went on for 2 hours. The service was mostly in Swahili, although there was English translation at points in the service because I, a Muzungu (white person), was present. It was a Christian church – the main differences I noticed were that 1) everything was communicated in a more long-winded fashion and 2) there is no such thing as “silent” prayer – everyone speaks to themselves (some loudly, some softly) during these reflection times.

One of my co-workers, Betty, gave the sermon! She tells a story well and captivated the audience. At the end of the service, the guests (Maono people, including myself) came forward and introduced themselves to the entire congregation – 9 people.

After the service, we traveled to Kiambu, a village north of Nairobi. A church/school in the village had invited Maono to come and introduce its concept of village banking. Here is a picture of the schoolyard.

The meeting was supposed to start at 2pm, but good old “Swahili time” waiting for the church members to mosey on over caused the meeting to begin after 4pm!  Several people got up and spoke, including Betty from Maono, the pastor of the church, and community leaders. The point of the meeting was to convince the community’s poor to take out a loan from Maono. Unlike most MFIs (I’ve mentioned this before), Maono lends at a fixed rate of 10% interest (very low compared to competition from commercial banks, microfinance banks, and informal moneylenders) and at the end of the year, profits go back to the borrowers.

The part of the meeting I found questionable was a man (who doesn’t work directly with Maono) who spoke about teaching his expertise to the potential borrowers. He can teach them how to make cosmetics, cleaning agents, juice, and all other sorts of things. Only problem is, it costs money and these people don’t have any. Maybe the fee charged is reasonable, but this part of the meeting didn’t sit well with me.

The meeting was held in a schoolhouse with no electricity, so it ended at sundown. Here is a picture of the inside of a schoolhouse similar to the one we had the meeting in.

Used the outhouse at the schoolyard and it was literally a hole in the ground! Gotta love simplicity.

I officially start working at Maono’s office in Nairobi tomorrow!

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