As I mentioned previously, I will be working as a Kiva Fellow at Al Majmoua. Today was my first day in the office! I arrived a litter after 9:00 a.m. and after attempting to find the office building myself (Lebanon lacks a proper address system this is in huge part to the Civil War and the country’s constant rebuilding efforts for the past 2-3 decades). I called Alia, the Business Development Manager and HR Manager at Al Majmoua. Alia came and picked me up from the around the corner – I was literally a 100 ft. away from the office, but had no idea.
She walked me into the office and promptly started introducing me to everyone, about 30 people in the office (I’m so happy they didn’t quiz me on names and departments). After the quick office tour, we sat down for a chat in her office. She walked me through Al Majmoua’s history, their current portfolio, the Lebanese micro-finance industry and finally we talked about ME! We talked about the Kiva projects I am going to be working on and how much time I will get to spend in the field meeting borrowers.
Al Majmoua started in 1994 as a Save the Children funded project. Three years later, it became became a locally licensed NGO serving 3000 female clients with group loans. In 2000, Al Majmoua created it’s first Individual Loan product and started serving men. And 6 years later in 2006, Al Majmoua started its non-financial services providing vocational and financial training to both borrowers and non-borrowers.
Al Majmoua’s competition in Lebanon is growing everyday and although they have a healthy market share; they have to stay innovative and client-focused to stay ahead.
Al Majmoua’s office atmosphere is a world away from what I’m used to back at the Google Campus in Mountain View. There is no gym, foosball table or most importantly free food…there’s also a strict internet browsing policy, a schedule and someone who serves everyone tea and coffee, but here there seems to be something else here as well…a family! People like Alia and Nadine have been with Al Majmoua for more than 8 or 9 years. Nadine (Al Majmoua’s Kiva Coordinator) has done everything from being Loan Analyst out on the ground, to internal auditing and now handling Kiva loans in addition to her duties as a R&D Assistant. There’s a sense of community here that is unique; people greet each other every morning and every evening. Instead of emailing or calling one another, people walk over to each other’s desks. Someone told me earlier that “Everyone in Al Majmoua behaves as if it’s their home!”
And I’m happy to hear that their home will also be mine for the next coupe of months.