This post is a part of an on-going series from members of the Young Ambassadors for Opportunity. It shares their stories as they travel from the United States to Tanzania and Rwanda.
Today we visited Opportunity Rwanda’s bank branch in Nyamata, about a 45-minute drive from Kigali. When we arrived, we were greeted by three Trust Groups who had been anticipating our visit for two weeks. Many of them had traveled five or more kilometers for their Trust Group meeting and then waited for us afterward. Our host, Daniel Ryumugabe, translated a dialogue between the YAO travelers and group members.
We conversed for about 20 minutes and found out that many of them have moved well beyond their first loan cycle. They shared some of their own stories and how they used their loans. One common thread was that many used their business profits to send their children to private secondary schools.
After thanking the Trust Groups for sharing with us, we took a few pictures with them before we toured the Nyamata branch and visited clients at their businesses. This was fun because we brought Polaroid cameras and the clients had a great time taking photos and then waiting for the pictures to develop. Next, we watched a loan officer collect loan repayments from a Trust Group leader. We also were introduced to Kevin, a client who has a unique loan for an MTN phone that allows him to sell prepaid cell phone minutes. See the video below where Daniel introduces Kevin and his business:
I was extremely impressed by this innovative use of mobile technology and microloans to create Kevin’s business as the MTN representative in the Nyamata community. Off camera, he tells us his customers know where to find him to add more credit to their mobile phones. This is a great business opportunity for Kevin, especially since a large majority of people in the community use mobile phones rather than land lines.
Next, Daniel took us 10 minutes down the road to visit an individual loan client. While I don’t remember the exact details of her loan, I believe she was on her 13th or 14th loan cycle and her last loan was for over $4,000 (yes, in U.S. dollars). She runs a general store and stocks items such as rice, flour, cooking oil, soap, toothpaste and other household goods. I was very impressed by her choice of goods to stock. She seemed to have only common household goods that would be in great demand. I was amazed and inspired by her story. She started off as a street vendor and now is successfully financing her business growth with successive Opportunity loans. She rents a busy store location and employs two men, including her husband. It was incredible to visit her store and watch her proudly stand in front of her counter. Even with six to seven YAO travelers packed into the store, she had customers pushing their way in and out to purchase supplies.
While in her store, I noticed that she sold small tubes of Colgate toothpaste and realized that mine had been confiscated at O’Hare security. Her toothpaste tubes were the perfect size for a carry-on so I decided to buy one! See the video of my purchase here: