Introducing Camille, a bright, young Milaap fellow....Camille, alongwith the Milaap team had been on a gruelling 7 day field trip to West Bengal and Mizoram. She told us her experience in West Bengal, and we’ve put it down for you. In her words.
When a few weeks ago, the opportunity to go on a field trip in West Bengal was offered to me, I didn’t hesitate more than a second. 3 days in West Bengal during and I had the chance to observe the work of DCBS, (one of our field partners) and its loan officers, during which I met exceptional women, and also witness the reality of solar loans on field.
In the frame of its partnership with Milaap, DCBS offers loans in order to acquire solar lanterns or solar home-light systems (able to power 2 bulbs and a fan). In this region, 30% of the households still don’t have access to electricity. Those who are lucky enough to have access to the network suffer from daily power cuts which can last for 6 to 12 hours. Therefore, the goal is to provide them with innovative and eco-friendly solutions in order to overcome the flaws of the current system.
My role as a fellow during this trip was to interview as many borrowers as possible in order to assess the impact of loans on their lives.
2 loan officers, Milaap’s colleague and me during a collection
I was extremely lucky to meet 9 women in 2 days. Even if I could visit them only for half an hour, I feel privileged to have spoken to them. These women are humble, smiling, generous, and work hard for their families and for their children to study as long as possible. They were simply at the opposite of any poverty-related clichés we might have in mind in western countries.
Of course, these lanterns didn’t drastically change their living conditions but definitely improved their comfort level. The lamps are easier to transport and use, even when it’s raining or windy, and providi much brighter light than the traditional kerosene lamp (I tried it!) – Hence, much more comfortable and enjoyable to carry out housework or study. Some women have now the possibility to work at night which enables them to earn a bit more. I was also thrilled by the solar panels. Nevertheless, due to too many technical issues, DCBS decided to stop this type of loans, a decision I regret as the impact could have been utterly impressive.
The only downside to this trip for me was communication. DCBS’s staff could speak rather good English but, once on field, loan officers could not understand English and their Hindi was quite poor too. As a result, nothing would have been possible without the constant help and translation of my colleague. I wasn’t expecting this problem and was really surprised I met such a situation in a company of this size. Also, I had the impression that DCBS’s processes can be improved a bit. Maybe it will be the purpose of a fellow’s mission in a close future.
Overall, it was an amazing trip and I feel grateful to everyone who made it possible; DCBS’s members for their help and their commitment and those incredible borrowers. I discovered an innovative solution to improve the borrower’s comfort which can also result in an increase of their income. I met inspiring people and was able to gain a better insight of the reality of such loans on the field. Definitely, an extremely positive experience as a fellow and as a human being.
Editor’s Note: Camille, here’s a warm hug to you from Milaap for the dedication, contribution and involvement you’ve shown on field. You’ve been put in the most remote areas, yet your enthusiasm to interact and get things done was amazing. Keep going girl!
Camille will soon come up with her field experience in Mizoram; so follow this space.
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