Sunday, August 14, 2011

Welcoming Kiva’s newest field partner, Maya, our first field partner in Turkey

Please join me in welcoming Kiva’s newest field partner, Maya, our first field partner in Turkey! Maya was by its parent organization, the Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work, a Turkish NGO whose mission is to improve womens’ economic well-being and quality of life, in 2002 in the wake of the disastrous Marmara earthquake. Now an officially registered economic enterprise under the auspices of KEDV, Maya operates 5 branch offices located throughout Northwestern Turkey.

True to the vision of its founders, Maya serves an all-female clientele with group and individual loan products. Maya’s loan officers are active members of the communities they serve, and provide customized, personal assistance and support to their clients.

I had the opportunity to talk to Aysel Uran, one of Maya’s loan officers at some length as we drove back to the branch office from one of our borrower visits. A woman with many years of professional experience as an accountant and an entrepreneur, she articulately expressed not only why she personally loves to work for Maya, but what makes Maya such a unique microfinance institution. Personally, she loves working for Maya because it is exciting to help women solve their problems and learn about their rights and the services available to them. She and Neslin Gumus, her fellow loan officer, will go as far as to wait in line on a client’s behalf to secure a necessary permit, and they set up a small room in the branch office where clients leave cast-off clothing and other items for other clients to take and use and no cost. Aysel told me that by being generous and supportive toward their clients, she and her colleagues foster a culture of generosity and solidarity among the clients themselves.

Loan officers like Aysel and Neslin (second and fifth from the right, along with the rest of the team that participated in Kiva training at Maya) are very unique people. Their positions as leaders in their communities make it possible for them to provide this type of client service, client service so time-consuming, personalized and difficult to quantify that it isn’t really en vogue in microfinance today. When considering an institution’s social performance, analysts focus on things that can be measured and benchmarked: How many clients received financial literacy training? How many clients make more per month today than they did in 2008?

But of course, clients don’t know about these metrics. For the client who finally gets her permit to start her first business thanks to help from Maya, what could matter more?

The Maya client we visited in the countryside outside of Sakarya was named Ayşe (pronounced Ayshé). She moved to a small village with her husband and 2 children when her husband retired. He wanted a quiet life outside the city where Ayşe and he had lived for most of their lives. Shortly after their move, Ayşe’s husband died, leaving her destitute. After a period of illness and taking loans from many different family members, Ayşe fixed up a building that had once been a chicken coop and started selling used clothes, hair accessories and underwear. She’d had a lot of trouble acquiring stock for her store due to a lack of capital, and her first loan from Maya allowed her to finally do so.

When we asked Ayşe about whether she was willing to share her story with Kiva, she said, something so eloquent our translator needed to pause in order to do it justice: “It’s really nice to leave a legacy behind, to share your name and your story with other people.” Someday, Ayşe wants to write a book about her struggle. Until she has time to start that project, we are glad to share her story with the Kiva community.

To get to Ayşe’s store, Ayşel hitches rides with passersby, even riding on the back of a tractor from time to time. All for this one client. For Ayşel, and for Maya, every client is special. So, let’s welcome Ayşe, Ayşel and all of Maya to Kiva: please visit Maya’s first Kiva loans, or to learn more about Maya, visit their Kiva partner page.