Congrats to Jonathon Stalls on his 3000-mile Kiva Walk!

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to join Jonathon Stalls for the last two days of his cross-country walk to raise awareness and funds for

Crossing the Golden Gate on a perfect morning

On Friday, I and the other taggers-along marched with him from the Golden Gate Bridge to Kiva’s office downtown, and on Saturday, a merry band of about 50 people did the Bay-to-Breakers walk to the Pacific, followed by a lap around the Presidio to reach a celebratory reception.

The Kiva baby at left is really the best looking one here

After just 20 miles total, two-thirds of one percent of Jonathon’s walk, my feet didn’t want to move for about three days. Not sure how Jonathon managed for eight solid months, but there it is, with over $400,000 raised to show for it.

Jonathon and his trusty sidekick finally reach the ocean

Congrats to Jonathon and everyone who supported his walk along the way! It was an honor to be there at the grand finale.

Jonathon, me, and Chelsa from

Jambo (“hello” in Swahili) from Kenya!

I’m writing from Nairobi after an amazing lap around Kenya for The 1st International Bank of Bob, my upcoming book for Bloomsbury about microfinance, my own Kiva lending experience, and my personal encounters with Kiva entrepreneurs and others all over the world.  (So far, my own repayment rate is vanishingly close to 100 percent — after 2029 loans, I’m down all of $31.82.)

Much of my time here was spent visiting with officers and clients of Juhudi Kilimo, a microfinance lender that focuses on Kenya’s rural population. It was a privilege to join them as we drove to small towns and villages in the countryside, meeting farmers and families whose whole lives are transformed — just by buying a cow with Juhudi’s help (and if you’re a Kiva lender investing in Juhudi’s loans, your help as well).

Mr. and Mrs. Mwangi of Murang'a show off their cool new cow

Think of a cow as a dairy farmer’s capital equipment, and you’ll see why this is so powerful: Juhudi has figured out a way for small farmers to finance a top-end hybrid cow that produces more than twice as much milk than a local cow, and for the farmers to pay off the investment in just one year — so the cow produces nothing but income for the rest of its life. In the first year, farmers get milk for the market in the morning and milk for the family in the evening — so they’re feeding the kids as well as ever while paying off the cow — but thereafter they have income to invest in their homes, their farms, and their children’s education.

Mrs. Mwangi's sister and her shy little boy

The kids were always the most fun to meet. They were almost always curious, friendly, and then playful like my own niece and nephew were at the same age.


(The lone exceptions were a few little ones who were frankly petrified at the sight of a human being with my strange skin tone. I didn’t know until this trip that there were still places in the world where this was possible, but oh yes — as one little girl who is probably still cowering under her mother’s skirt made abundantly clear.)

The most inspiring group I’ve met was this group of deaf farmers from Bureti, way out west halfway to Uganda.

The Bureti Self-Help Group for the Deaf, plus Nathan (2nd from left) and Fred (5th from right) from Juhudi, and some dude. Group chairperson Isaiah Arap Chepkulul is 4th from right.

They not only face the predictable challenges of any group of rural poor trying to pull themselves up, but they’re doing it in a society where deaf people suffer far more obstacles than they do in America. But they’ve committed themselves to supporting each other — even putting it in writing in a simple but powerful statement of purpose they’ve all signed.

The grace and welcome that flowed from these people when this total stranger showed up was more moving than I can describe.

Communicating was surprisingly easy. As deaf folks, they’re extremely skilled at making hand signals and understanding those of others, and when words were necessary, I could mumble in English, Fred from Juhudi would translate into Swahili, and one of the members with some hearing would translate this into sign language. And then the answer would come back around the same way.

But words were rarely necessary. Sitting with these sweet folks in a small wooden home, the love and mutual care they are providing each other is something I will be remember for the rest of my life. No exaggeration.

It may not seem like it, just pointing and clicking at, but you are sending more than a loan out into the world. For people like the Bureti group for the deaf, you are sending out love. I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it.

I hope as you read this, you feel it, too.

Maybe you’ll even join my lending team and do some good right now.


And my profound thanks to the good people at the Nairobi, Murang’a, and Litein offices of Juhudi Kilimo. Your kindness will stay with me for as long as I live.

Hanging with the cool kids at Juhudi Kilimo in Litein.

PS — When the Bureti group’s loan comes up on Kiva, I’ll post a heads-up, because I want them to get financed in about twenty seconds. Thirty, tops. I hope you’ll join me in supporting them.

A $25 Kiva loan to a Rwandan I hope to meet

Just lent a few bucks via to Mary Louise Nyiranzabandora here, a mother of four who runs a shoeselling business in Kigali.  She’s planning to increase her profits by expanding her stock.

Marie Louise Nyiranzabandora

Rwanda has made an amazing comeback from one of history’s worst genocides.  I’ll be visiting in a couple of weeks, and I hope to try to understand (at least a little) how people can possibly move on.  And I don’t know any better way to find out than to ask.  I’ve already got appointments set to meet with a number of small entrepreneurs there — ordinary folks just getting on with their lives — whose stories are worth telling.  I’m not sure if I’ll get to meet Ms. Nyiranzabandora herself, but whatever I learn will be in the upcoming book, but I’ll also try to share what I can here, too.  Not sure if I’ll meet

This is my 1932nd loan, by the way, and the repayment rate is still over 99 percent.  If you’d like to help out with a loan of your own, it takes about five minutes.  Join my team!

My 1800th Kiva loan: 50,000 Ugandan shillings (about 25 bucks)

Meet Sharifa, a 19-year-old who sells vegetables and charcoal in Uganda.

Sharifa needs USh 200,000 to grow her business (a little under $100).  Eventually she’d like to open a beauty salon.  She learned her business skills through a program run through the microfinance place managing her loan, BRAC Uganda.

I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I can look at this young lady and not chip in $25 toward her loan via my team at (You almost always get paid back, btw — the repayment rate is close to 100 percent.)

Sharifa’s is the 1800th business I’ve invested in so far via Kiva. So far, out of over $45,000 I’ve sent out, I’ve lost less than 30 bucks. And after visiting entrepreneurs on four continents so far, I’ve seen how much good this can do with my own eyes. (If you like the idea, join my team and get started right now!)

I’m hoping to visit the good folks of BRAC Uganda on the next trip for the book.

More to come!

Next up: The International Bank of Bob, coming spring 2013


Next up: The International Bank of Bob, coming Spring 2013 from Walker/Bloomsbury.

After my round-the-world Forbes Traveler gig in '08, I plowed the cash into more than 4700 microloans in 63 countries, most via Kiva. Then I went traveling the developing world to see the results, meet cool people, and share wild stories.

The book includes trips to Morocco, Peru, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Nepal, Lebanon, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, and across America.  It'll be out in Spring 2013, and I feel truly excited.

I'm already doing a lot of talks about it. A sample is directly above these words, and there's more here. If you want me to come by, call. Thanks!