By Paige Klunk
This past summer, I interned with Zidisha in Dakar, Senegal, as a Senegal Ambassador. Zidisha Inc is an American non-profit microfinance organization, offering small-business loans via the internet in nine countries. Founded by director Julia Kurnia in 2009, Zidisha is based on the key principal of lowering interest rates for borrowers. It offers a unique peer-to-peer platform, allowing clients in developing country to projects on their website and lenders to finance loans in small increments.
The non-profit has two or three paid positions (the director and website designers), and with only online interns and local volunteers, the non-profit is able to cut interest rates to just 5%. Zidisha’s premise is what one could call 21st century microfinance replacing the traditional in-country team for an online team of volunteers. It was what originally attracted me to join the organization’s team because it cut down on the expense in microfinance which was traditionally paid by the borrower!
Even though every working experience has its challenges, Zidisha has really helped shape my future career goals. I have been truly lucky to work so closely with the Zidisha’s volunteer mentor program in Dakar as well as having the chance to meet with many borrowers to see how loans have helped them grow their businesses and some support their families!
Engaging directly several clients and working closely with the volunteers, many friendships emerged that will last for a lifetime. Zidisha has helped shape my career through the realization of the importance to work closely with those who are impacted by the development project. I hope to work someday for a similar grassroots non-profit where I can have a direct impact on people’s lives.