THE BLOG
03/22/2013 11:15 am ET Updated May 22, 2013

"Overcoming Handicaps," From 'Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories'

Venture is a rich and readable collection of true microfinance stories. It is written for anyone who would like to better understand the realities faced by the the aspiring middle class in the world's least developed countries, the range of factors that affect their prospects for working their way out of poverty, and how microfinance can impact their lives.

The entrepreneurs featured in this book are all members of Zidisha Microfinance, a web-based crowdfunding platform that allows low-income, computer-savvy entrepreneurs in developing countries to share their stories and negotiate microloans directly with individual lenders. As the world's first person-to-person lending service to eliminate intermediaries and connect individual web users and entrepreneurs across the international wealth divide, Zidisha is uniquely positioned to offer an undistorted depiction of the variety of individual stories and circumstances that come to play each time a microfinance loan is disbursed.

Each story paints an unforgettable picture: A 70-year-old goat farmer who relocates his home to better care for his ailing father, carrying the sticks and metal sheeting it was made from across the mountains on his back. A plump, beaming detergent saleslady who lives in a home no larger than an ordinary bathroom but has adopted five orphans. A cancer survivor who supports herself and two children by pounding millet for $1.58 per day. An irrepressible lady who supplies half of her neighborhood with much-needed IVs and other medical supplies by day, and by night checks into the local cybercafe to chat with Facebook friends on the other side of the world. A young man who has no arms but insists on working to support his able-bodied parents out of filial duty. An accounting student who pays for his university tuition by purchasing a taxi and splitting proceeds with a hired driver. A bright young lady who renounces college to care for her orphaned siblings and overcomes gender stereotypes to launch a thriving construction business.

At its heart, "Venture" is a tribute to the remarkable community of Zidisha Microfinance entrepreneurs and countless others like them -- a tribute to their grit, ambition and indomitable spirit in the face of overwhelming obstacles. We hope this book will help translate the statistics about poverty and the opportunities afforded by microfinance into human terms, and inspire readers to reach out and connect with their counterparts on the other side of the international wealth divide.

Story 24: Overcoming Handicaps

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Ahmadi Ahmadi has had a more difficult life than most.  Born without normal hands or legs, Ahmadi's severe physical handicaps had prevented him from working in a mainstream job in his home community of Surabaya, Indonesia. Although being disabled has created obstacles for Ahmadi, he has not let it discourage him.

Ahmadi is part of an organization called Tiara Foundation, which was started to train disabled people and give them a skill to use in society. He holds a high position as Operations Manager in the foundation. As the Manager, he educates other disabled people in sewing skills and other handicrafts, providing an alternative source of self-employment. In addition to the thirty disabled residents of Tiara Foundation, Ahmadi also offers craft production training to members of the Regional Women's Association in Surabaya.

Ahmadi was quite reserved when I first met him, but after we talked a while he became more and more passionate talking about his dream. His ultimate dream is to get married. But there are lots of business ideas that he wishes to put into action someday. In the long term, he wants to buy his own pickup truck so that he can buy vegetables grown in his hometown of Jember and sell them at a profit in the city of Surabaya.

At this time, Ahmadi wants to focus on developing the catfish farm behind his parents' house in Jember. In the harvest season, the fish are sold in the nearby market. While he is away in Surabaya educating other disabled people and making handicrafts, the catfish farm is supervised by his parents. Ahmadi returns home monthly to visit his parents and to take care of the fish farm.

Ahmadi is the second child. Growing up as the only disabled person in his family has made him a little heartbroken - not because he is disabled, but because he can't help his parents very much financially. Unlike his other siblings who have emigrated to other countries and send their wages home, he can't provide much income to his parents.

Ahmadi had never managed to secure a loan from a traditional bank. Using the Zidisha website, he raised $295 in a matter of days. He used the funds to diversify his fish farm to include carp, which is harvested at a different time of year. The additional yearly harvest roughly doubled the income generated by Ahmadi's fish farm, while reducing the volatility of farm's profits by mitigating its dependence on just one type of fish.

Ahmadi has fully repaid his first Zidisha loan, and is encouraging others at the Tiara Foundation to follow his example in taking their businesses to the next level.

Ahmadi's Words:

I was born with a birth defect that made my arms and legs abnormal. The only education I had was in elementary school where I graduated. I am 28 years old. I want to expand my catfish business to include other fish so it can support my family. My ability in craftsmanship is used to educate other disabled fellows that are accommodated in the Tiara Foundation. I like to develop skills so I don't have to depend on other people, and can also help my family. It has always been my siblings who help my parents by becoming foreign workers in another country while I can't help at all, unless with only what I am capable of doing right now. Maybe if I can expand my business my life can be more meaningful, and I can be a devoted son by helping my parents and get married.

(translated from the original Indonesian)

You may view more comments and photos at Ahmadi's Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

From Chapter 24 of Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories by Zidisha Microfinance.

Next time:A Google search provides a bootstrapping Nairobi dweller with the technical information and access to capital he needs to launch a unique niche business...

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