The Hope Shop

Near Migori there is a roadside store, a bright green-painted shack perched on a steep hillside. It’s called the Hope Shop, and every time I pass it I think, wouldn’t it be nice if it was that easy? Buying a little hope at the same place you get soda and gum?

The holidays are off to a rough start. Three CED loan clients have defaulted on their loan payments and we are now working with the chiefs to recover the loans. This requires some unpleasant conversations with loan guarantors about paying the debts. Ultimately, these cases will help us make changes to improve our loan program, but right now I feel like the anti-Santa. The responsibility of good credit management is two-sided, and our clients’ failure to repay implicates our failure to analyze repayment capacity or to enforce credit training. Of course there were much worse weeks than this, like when the market price of maize plummeted and the ripple effects included higher default on payment of Nuru farm loans. Those were weeks when I would have liked to buy some hope from a bright green roadside kiosk.

Today as I pass the Hope Shop, I think of a conversation I had with one of my Field Managers while we were discussing his career goals. I asked Moses, do you think you will continue to work with Nuru? Regardless if he decided to stay with Nuru, I wanted to make sure he was happy at work and help him make progress towards his goals.

Sometimes instead of answering me directly, Moses tells me a story. That day, he started describing a field near the office – where it was, the size of the field, how to get there from the main road. Just as I was wondering where Moses was going with the story, he looked at me and said, “Ten years ago, two children dug up cassava in that field. They knew they couldn’t eat it raw but they were so hungry they ate it anyway. Those children were my cousins, and they died after eating the cassava. They died because there was not enough food and that is how things were.

But last week, I was by that same field when I met one of our loan clients…his business is now doing well and he said to me, ‘Moses, if only Nuru could have come five years ago. I could be rich by now!’ This man, he likes to exaggerate. But he is right [about] Nuru. I have seen things here change. Nuru is good. So me, I will stay with Nuru.”

Moses’ story is something I hang onto during the tough weeks. It doesn’t make loan default management any easier but it reminds me why my response to failure is important. It also reminds me of the impact we have on each other. Moses’ commitment to the community, the same commitment I see in every member of my team, gives me hope and makes me work harder. Thank you to everyone who donated to Nuru this holiday season, and happy new year from the team at Nuru Kenya.