I have been interested and involved with Microfinance (MF) for some years now. It all started in 2008 when I attended a lecture at a Wall Street firm that had brought two peers of MF to its offices. Muhammad Yunus, seen as the godfather of MF, from Bangladesh and founder of Grameen Bank and Ingrid Munro, the godmother or ‘Mama’ of Kenyan MF and Founder of Jamii Bora.
It was this talk and their recanting of their personal stories and the start of their respective organizations that sparked an interest for me not only with the concept of MF and its ideology to empower the world’s poor through small loans to further themselves and their families, but also with the stories of success for their borrowers and the power to change people not only financially but also socially.
So since that point, me being me, I have been involved not only through my role in finance but also through photography. I have been trying to make it to Nairobi to visit and photograph the work of Jamii Bora since the talk in 2008. So for me my mission was to visit and hopefully photograph Jamii Bora and its work.
I arrived ill prepared in Nairobi and had not been able to solicit any contact by email so I reached out to my contact in MF and was able to get Ingrid’s email. But still no joy, phone numbers on the website were not working either or were constantly engaged, so I was on the verge of giving up when I tried searching the internet to see if Kenya had a yellow pages or its equivalent, result! It did, it had two numbers one landline and one mobile, I gave the first a try, again no joy, then the second, I got an answer, it was a woman and her voice was familiar, I introduced myself, and then so did she, it was Ingrid Munro!
I am a believer in things happen for a reason, thank you yellow pages! Within 3 hours of that phone call Ingrid had mobilized her Head of Information Gabriel Kidadi to take Steph and I around the Jamii Bora organisation for two days! I did not get a chance to meet with Ingrid which was a shame but she had just come out of hospital and was resting. I have to thank Ingrid and Gabriel for their organization and provision in allowing us to visit Jamii Bora.
Through my photography I have visited many of the world’s poorest countries to witness and document first hand how the poor live and to also work with charities and NGO’s to put together portfolio’s to help them get their messages out there about their work. With Jamii Bora we visited with not just clients but also people who are yet to get on the ladder, in a place where rehabilitation is needed before a loan can be provided. We visited with street kids and mothers with babies, delivering some food with Janet, an ex-street mother and client who is now one of Jamii Bora’s senior, successful and respected managers.
We also visited Mukuru slum which was a visceral experience and eye opening for Steph and emotional as this was the first kind of experience she had visited first hand! The slum provided the good and the bad side, we witnessed some abstract poverty but also some great success stories of Jamii Bora clients improving their and their families lives through MF. We also Visited HQ and met with reformed street children, now young men working for Jamii Bora in apprentice style work experience learning skills or a trade. Jamii Bora’s model is different from the traditional MFI’s out there and as a rapidly growing and successful organisation, and with Ingrid’s background as an Architect and UN housing project representative they have branched out into affordable housing in the form of a whole new town, Kaputei, 60km from Nairobi, we also visited the town, its residents and the women creating the tiles and bricks that are building the town and Gladys one of the first borrowers and most successful business women.
One special mention I want to make is about Dedan Ireri, he is a Jamii Bora beneficiary, this father of three is disabled, he lost one leg, but he is a cyclist and para-athlete for Kenya. He is currently competing around Kenya and aiming for the London Para Olympics in 2012. He needs two international races to make it so fingers crossed he makes it! But be warned if he needs anything to help him on his journey to London you can count on the fact I will be doing all I can to help and hitting you all up for assistance! Be warned ;0)
Take time to visit the work of Jamii Bora on their website and facebook page. More detail behind the work of Jamii Bora and photographs I will publish on my website later on in the year.