so today i spent most of the afternoon in the field with our clients for a ‘customer refresher meeting’. these meetings are designed to bring clients together so they can air any grievances with the branch head and field officers, ask questions and be reminded of key loan terms.
it’s a neat concept, especially since the success of microfinance depends on the client’s respect for the repayment process.
anyway, while these meetings are meant to be informative and collaborative, they are also intended to be fun. the group plays games and sings together, and they leave with a box of sweets and other prizes. i figured that this low-key setting was a great opportunity to get some 1-on-1 time with clients.
in doing so i met kalvita – a fifty-something woman who runs a small handicraft group that makes hand-embroidered sarees for trade fairs. kalvita’s husband, biml, owns a pipe fitting business which he has had for the past 35 years. kalvita and her husband have two grown sons – bani and brath – and two grandchildren.
kalvita told me that she took her loan (valued at about US $ 125) to help pay labor and buy stock for her saree business so she could attend more trade fairs and increase her income. since she took the loan last year she said her plan has been pretty successful, and as a result, she has been able to help out her sons.
she said her primary reason for taking the loan was so she could make more money to support her son bani, who became disabled after 2 accidents. kalvita is helping to send his kids to school as well as paying for some of their living expenses.
in her own words (in english!) she said: “i am a friend to my children.”
how poignant, i thought, as i told her that she was a wonderful mother. kalvita was proud to tell me that she could truly help out her sons because of her business – and i think that’s pretty cool. as i have said before – family really matters here.
not only did i get to learn about kalvita today, but i was asked to sing in front of the 40 women (‘mary had a little lamb’ – i panicked, ok?), sign a few autographs, take pictures and shake everyone’s hand. my face still hurts from uncontrollable smiling – it was awesome.
at the end of all the excitement a client called tumpa managed to sneak a kiss on my cheek as she was leaving, saying: “you are a very nice person.”
well i’m not about to argue with her, now am i.