By Holly Sarkissian, KF 19, Togo
During my first week working with WAGES, one of Kiva’s partner organizations in Lome, Togo, I was surprised by how the organization’s head office has the same modern conveniences and equipment as my previous office United States: air-conditioning, computers with internet access, printers, scanners, and copiers. When I glance over at my colleagues’ computer monitors they are hard at work (with the exception of the occasional facebook update.)
However, this is only the case at the head office. Internet access is not available at ten other branches WAGES has in Togo. Sending information between offices is a complicated process and WAGES’ Kiva Coordinator Carine Hoffer relies heavily on the organization’s loan officers for the most current information on Kiva borrowers.
In many cases, the Loan Officer is the only person who maintains direct contact with the Kiva borrower, managing their loan reimbursement and staying abreast on the growth and success of their business, as well as more personal matters such as the health and well being of their children.
After a week of being spoiled with internet access at the main office, I was excited to experience the realities in the field and join WAGES Loan Officer Julie in visiting a Kiva Borrower. The average WAGES loan officer manages 50+ borrowers. WAGES provides each loan officer with the use of a small motorcycle (called a moto) and a helmet to visit their borrowers.
A Visit with Madame Todo
I hopped onto the back of Julie’s moto and we rode down the dusty rode to visit Kiva Borrower Madame Dodzi Ameyovi Todo.
With her loan from Kiva, Madame Todo has grown her business to offer a variety of food products. Her shop ‘Le Vivable’ has become well known in the area and is very popular during lunch hours. With the income from her business Madame Kodo is able to support her mother, two sisters, and three children.
Each day Madame Todo and her two sisters grind corn flour to create Akume, a ball of starch that serves as a staple of the typical Togolese diet.
Even the youngest and oldest members of the family assist the business.
With the growing profits from her business Madame Todo hopes to continue to grow her business and support the needs of her family. This includes sending her daughters to school.
On our way back to the office from our successful visit with Madame Todo, I asked Julie if she likes her job as a loan officer. She explained to me that she enjoys learning about the lives of her clients and seeing the positive impacts of their loans. It was evident from Julie’s interaction with Madame Todo that she is genuinely interested in the well being of her clients. I look forward to my next journey with a loan officer.
Holly is a Kiva Fellow currently working with WAGES and riding motos around Lomé, Togo. Find a borrower in Togo and lend today!