August 24, 2011

A Brush For Dusty Shoes

A Brush For Dusty Shoes

As we all know, FINCA differs immensely from a commercial bank. A bank would look at FINCA’s borrowers and immediately focus on the risky nature of lending to clients without collateral. FINCA, on the other hand, focuses on the entrepreneurial potential of prospective borrowers, giving them the chance to build assets, savings, a credit rating and much more. But this is not the only thing that sets FINCA apart from other financial institutions.

I was deeply impressed by the patient, dedicated and hard-working FINCA loan officers whom I have had the privilege of working with. Ignitius Tembo, a loan officer I accompanied several times on visits with clients, is responsible for over 400 clients, yet he makes it his business to form a relationship with each of them.

Ignitius explained to me the importance of establishing a “support group” environment within each FINCA Village Banking group, so that people do not think of meetings simply as the time to repay their loans, but rather as a gathering of fellow entrepreneurs, who may offer meaningful advice and assistance.

“The clients have to know we support them and believe in them,” Ignitius explains. “That way, we can work together as a team to fix any problems that may come up. They are not alone.”

I see the result of this later, when a client welcomes Ignitius and says, “He is like my father, my husband, my son…when I see him, I am very happy. That’s why I say we are a FINCA family.”

FINCA’s extraordinarily hard workers, like Ignitius (who has not taken a week off in two years), manage to maintain a balance between compassion and professionalism that truly amazes me. I believe that their devotion, supportive nature and admirable commitment highlights yet another reason why FINCA is such a special organization, providing such a remarkable service.

“I forgot my brush!” Ignitius exclaimed as we walked from one house to another, looking down at his dusty black leather shoes. “I always carry a brush with me to clean off these shoes before going into the clients’ houses, because I know that my job requires many long days of walking through the dust under the sun.”
By the end of the day, I realized that the work of loan officers, as well as others who dedicate themselves to the FINCA mission, can often be just as inspiring as the clients who work with FINCA to turn their lives around.