Making a difference 5,838 miles away in Fiji

Fiji. I’ve always wanted to go to Fiji. It’s on my bucket list. I imagine swimming in crystal-clear, warm ocean water, walking along white sand beaches, and hiking through lush tropical forests. Maybe swimming with sharks, maybe not. But definitely enjoying the juicy sweet tropical fruits, trying fresh seafood dishes, and getting to know the friendly local people of this country in the South Pacific.

So, imagine how excited I was when I took over the Kiva loans program management for our company, Yesler Inc., and discovered business owners in Fiji seeking loans to better their lives and communities. Kiva is an international nonprofit, founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, with a mission to connect people through lending to help alleviate poverty. While Fiji represents a tropical getaway for me, removed from work and responsibilities, Kiva was a good reminder that it’s also home to local people who work hard to make a living every day.

Yesler Inc. provides funds on a monthly basis and a dedicated person (that would be me) to seek out candidates in the Kiva program and lend up to $250 a month to help them realize their goals and dreams. How cool is that? That’s when I spotted Sulameci from Northland Korovou, Fiji.

Sulameci is a 65-year-old business woman who sells vegetables harvested from her backyard. Lacking the proper equipment to achieve self-sufficiency on her small farm, she sought a loan to buy chemicals, seed supplies, watering cans, and manure to improve her yield and revenue. Sulameci’s story appealed to me because she has worked hard her whole life, and still she is finding ways to build her business to improve the quality of life for herself and her family. Plus, she only needed an additional $225 to fulfill her funding request. Next thing you know, SUBMIT! I signed up and together, Yesler Inc. and 30 other lenders helped Sulameci to get her new business plan underway.

Even though I haven’t been to Fiji yet, through my company’s philanthropic culture, I could help make a positive impact on Sulameci’s life and her community. That felt right. I could use a little more of that in my life, how about you?

Renee Gallant-McKay is a marketing communications expert and is passionate about helping her clients successfully attain their goals.  She has traveled the world and you can now find her in Kirkland, WA. Outside of work she enjoys spending time with her three kids, staying involved, and volunteering in all their activities. Originally from Hawaii, anytime Renee can get to the beach, she’s there.