During this holiday season, our team is thankful to our network of microfinance institutions, the implementing partners who administer the microloans Whole Planet Foundation funds. These partners employ staff members who serve microcredit clients, sometimes traveling miles by foot or motorbike to reach some of the least-served entrepreneurs around the globe. Every quarter, we honor these staff members, or Field Officers, by asking our partner institutions to nominate exemplary candidates for the WPF Field Officer Award.
This year the Africa and Middle East Field Officer contest asked candidates for the first time to tell us a personal story that best reflects the challenges of their work with borrowers in the field. Many of these anecdotes reflected the deeply supportive relationships between the best field officers and their clients and gave further insight into the reason why their organizations nominated them.
Our grand prize winner in the contest, Elizabeth, from our partner Thrive Microfinance in Zimbabwe, recounted her recent experience trying to bring Thrive to a new community located in a rural, mountainous area of the country. In July she first sought the permission of local chiefs to be allowed to offer business loans to women and at first was not welcomed, instead facing accusations of a political agenda and hearing intense objections to the idea of women as business owners. She persisted and ultimately gained the permission to directly address about 100 women who gathered in the community and then to counsel those interested to access business capital through Thrive. Sadly, she reported a number of women were still prevented from pursuing business capital from Thrive which was heartbreaking for her.
This drive and courage to bring Thrive into new communities comes from Elizabeth’s special history as a former borrower at Thrive and chairperson of her loan group before she was offered employment as a Field Officer. Her colleagues champion her hard work, determination, commitment and achievement in traveling to new isolated communities and also in driving the development of better non-financial services such as improved training methods to engage and empower borrowers. To read more about the cash shortages in Zimbabwe, check out this recent blog from WPF’s Zoe So.
Second-tier winner Samuel from our partner ID Ghana recounted that he recently had a client who was having difficulty with her business loan and learned that it stemmed from an unexpected shock at home when her landlord demanded a large advance payment as part of a rent renewal agreement. Samuel chose to work closely with this client to create a comprehensive financial schedule to handle both her business’ expenses and the higher rent payment using a combination of loan capital, savings and business revenues the client had access to. This not only ensured ID Ghana was repaid but also ensured this client wasn’t evicted from her home and exposed to a higher level of economic insecurity.
It is no surprise that a field worker like Samuel is also described by his colleagues as a very dedicated individual who works for his clients while maintaining a very high standard of loan management. They also shared that he has overcome the limitations of a speech impediment to excel at ID Ghana. The photo featured at the top of this post shows ID Ghana clients with Field Officers at a repayment meeting.
Elizabeth and Samuel’s stories are just two of many. View a list of all the Field Officer Award winners from Africa and the Middle East. Our team is thankful for their passion and ingenuity, and are proud to award them recognition for a job well done.
You can fund a loan in the Sub-Saharan Africa region for $10/month through our Explore+Invest recurring donation program. Learn more about how your annual gift can make a difference.