Social Capital:

It is rare that earth-shattering news is actually delivered with earth shattering. Late last night, in those wee hours that are technically morning, we awoke to the sound of crashing, booming, and something like an explosion. These were the kind of sounds that aren’t accidental. Terror was the first thing that wrestled me from my slumber. Was the compound being attacked? Were we being robbed? Was there a riot or had civil war started? All of these are very logical assumptions when one is awoken by these sounds in our area.

I am from Southern California. Earthquakes are a part of life. As kids, we used to find the small ones amusing, and we’d laugh at my grandmother as she ran around the house in a panic (she is not a Californian). Now as an adult, earthquakes are greeted with a bit more reverence. I think every Californian is a part-time water cooler seismologist. I, also, think people probably rush to update their Facebook status quicker than going to seek cover under a doorway; get under their desk; stop, drop, and roll; or whatever you are supposed to do in an earthquake.

Last night we had what from all accounts was an earthquake, but I have seen no news or reports on it. Let me tell you, as a Californian, the earthquake last night was a pretty scary one. I have been through my fair share, but it is something else entirely when you are in a building in an area where there are no building codes. A brick building with metal doors is not where you want to be in an earthquake. From what we have heard today from our friends and neighbors, everyone is still pretty stunned. Luckily, I haven’t heard of any injuries.

Financial Capital:

So, I started by saying that “it is rare that earth shattering news is actually delivered with earth shattering”, now that I have explained the earth shattering part, allow me to explain the news. It is actually quite personal, but I think that it is relevant to mention. Laura and I are finishing up our tour in Kenya. We will soon be moving back to California. We have been trying to buy a house, which is no easy task in this economy, in Orange County, and based on our income, and due to the fact that Laura has not been a resident of the USA for a full year yet; but it has been our goal for quite some time. We found the house that we wanted; we were in escrow; and we thought that we had everything for our mortgage squared away, but immediately after the earthquake, we got news that we won’t be able to get a mortgage for at least several months, meaning that we will loose the house that we have been in the process of buying.

I know this isn’t exactly earth shattering news in the context of extreme poverty, but it is pretty horrible news for us in the context of our lives, goals, and dreams. Combined with last night’s earthquake, it made for a pretty bad night last night. This experience has led me to reflect a bit on walking in the shoes of our members who are applying for Nuru loans everyday. I have forgotten how crushing denial of one’s aspirations can be. I deny loan applications everyday because I do not deem them to be viable. I think that the rejection of my mortgage will be instructional for me in my work.

Does this mean that I am going to start approving loans with my heart rather than my head? Absolutely not. The most frustrating part of the mortgage process for Laura and I was not the rejection (yes, that was ultimately the most frustrating part), but the lack of knowledge and the inability to understand the process and language being used. I work in microfinance, but I still had no idea what more than half of the terms meant in the real estate process. I think if we could have been better informed throughout the process, we could have managed our expectations better.

I am using this experience to improve our process for applying for loans. I can do a better job to keep our loan products and qualifications clear and in language that everyone can understand. While Nuru can’t approve every loan application that crosses our desk, we can make our process clear, quick, and easy to understand so that our members can manage their expectations throughout the whole process. If our members don’t qualify, I would like to provide guidance for them, so that they can qualify in the future.

Live and learn.