Microfinance: ‘I Heart Africa’

Today was a huge “I Heart Africa” day. Not because things were easy. Definitely not. Sometimes, accomplishing even the most simple tasks here can be confusing, complicated and stretched out. But that is also what makes it fun. Take today for instance. I was riding along in the passenger side of our white pick-up truck listening to BBC Network Africa with the charming young driver trying to figure out where the field agents were. The rest of the events transpired a little like this:

12:23 pm I call Alex, a chauffeur usually based in Bong County but currently in Monrovia, to ask him if he knows how to get to Nya-ta. He doesn’t.

12:25 I try to reach two of our field agents on the phone. They are in the middle of the bush and so don’t get my calls.

heart Africa

Community members in Gboimue in northwest Liberia go through the process of creating an microfinance savings group, they work out a constitution. Here SILC members are voting on a component of their SILC constitution. Bernice Yalley helps set up the programs. Photo by Bernice Yalley/CRS

1:08 pm I call Kenny, an agricultural specialist based in our field office in Bong County to ask her how to get to Nya-ta. The phone cuts.

1:25 pm Kenny calls me back but runs out of phone credit (most phones are prepaid calling plans here) and so I call her back. She gives me directions.

1:30 pm The driver and I take the dirt road leading to the village. We stop and ask villagers where the town of Nya-ta is. They all pronounce it Nya-la with an “l” instead of a “t”. The driver and I think that it’s just a local vernacular that they don’t pronounce it the way it is spelled. They tell us that it’s still a long way off.

1:45 We reach the village but the field agents are not there nor has the community seen them. I am peeved.

1:45 – 2 pm We turn around in circles a few more times asking where this village is and wondering aloud why mankind is so evil as to lie to innocent young international development fellows about their whereabouts.

2:30 pm We arrive at the CRS field office in Phebe and there is the SILC program officer Pa Willie. We call the field agents and I hand over the phone because I am annoyed and don’t understand what is being said. Pa Willie learns from them that they are currently leaving Nya-ta and heading to the village of Gonmenyeayei for tomorrow’s training.

3:00 Me, a new driver and Pa Willie all climb into a pickup truck to head over to this village. The car won’t start so the security guards all push the car to engage the starter.

3:30 pm We are on the road to the village and meet our two field agents, Rosetta and Sao on their motorbike. I get out of the car and swing on the open door Spider Man style to avoid careening down the ditch. Evidently there are two similar sounding villages: Nyala and Nyata. When we were looking around for the village in question, the villagers thought we meant Nyala. The one we were actually looking for was another 5 kilometers beyond. No one knew that for some reason.

3:45 We drive back to the village where the field agents will be sleeping tonight to begin working in the morning. The men in the community were in the process of constructing a thatched shelter out of bamboo expressly for this training. They are really taking it seriously. I need to come out and sleep in one of these villages some night.

Bernice Yalley is a CRS fellow working in Liberia on savings-led microfinance projects. Her posts appear Mondays on Voices.

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One Response to “Microfinance: ‘I Heart Africa’”

  1. Richard Says:


    Hullo brothers and sisters,

    This is Richard from Uganda.The recent landslides in the eastern part of the country were so overwhelming.

    More than 370 people were buried alive including a health center which could have taken care of the victims.

    One of the victims who was buried alive made calls to her relatives but no one could tell where exactly she was till her phone went off.

    The road to the area was completely destroyed that no vehicle could go through.

    Up to now after more than two weeks, less than 120 bodies have been recovered.

    The problem with our country is much as we have a ministry of disaster preparedness,it is never prepared for a disaster.

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