A Journey with Camfed
In his powerful blog, Kiva fellow Alan Mathers describes his time with Camfed Zimbabwe, visiting young women graduates, now entrepreneurs, and their communities.
Through Camfed’s partnership with Kiva, graduates of Camfed’s programs access interest-free business loans, paying “social interest” as they volunteer at rural schools as Learner Guides, supporting the next generation of vulnerable students through school.
And so, my three months with Camfed have come to an end. Back in January, everyone I met at Kiva HQ in San Francisco told me how fortunate I was to get the opportunity to work with ‘one of Kiva’s most impressive, and most loved, partners’. I now completely understand what they meant…
In my Kiva role, I’ve visited over 30 borrower businesses, including fish drying, takeaway stalls, clothes shops, poultry and cattle farming, tuck shops, flea markets and many more. And each time, I’ve observed the strong community networks, coordinated by Camfed and involving local leaders from education and government.
I’ve attended meetings with Mothers Support Groups, village chiefs, government ministry officials, teachers, principals and students. And I’ve joined workshops and conferences in plush Harare hotels, in rural lodges (with the threat of neighboring lions), in school classrooms and, best of all, out in the bush under the shade of huge, sprawling acacia trees…
I’ve been completely rapt when the Camfed women have broken into their beautiful choruses and harmonies, with ululations and celebration dances; so moving, they regularly sent shivers down my spine and resulted in that shaky video work I keep posting.
But as I look back, there’s one particular constant throughout all of this, that will stick with me more than anything. Everywhere I’ve been, I have witnessed people making the most of minimal resources to build a better future for their community. And all the time, doing this with smiles and laughter….
Whether it’s Elizabeth from the Mother’s Support Group in Buhera building a shelter for children travelling long distances to school. Or Patience in Gokwe pulling herself back into business after her husband stole everything she’d earned. Or Mrs Chikosha singlehandedly raising money for new community education offices to compensate for the lack of central funding. Or the young borrowers themselves, for whom the $500 Kiva loan was about much more than just financial reward: it was about independence, acceptance and recognition in the community, self-esteem, personal identity.
In each case, these resourceful, resilient women refuse to settle for the poor lot life has dealt them, instead rising up and cooperating together in their communities to create something better…
I’m a huge fan of Camfed. I’m a huge fan of Kiva. And, like them, I’m a huge fan of giving people the thing they want most – an opportunity.