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The Wedding Singer

Afghanistan, May 21, 2004

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    Parviz Sharifi's wedding band plays up to seven engagements a week, a good source of income for his family. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps Photo:

Name: Parviz Sharifi
Age: 25 years

Location: District 1, Kabul (Afghanistan)

Sitting on a bench in front of a row of teller windows at the Mercy Corps Ariana Financial Services Group loan disbursement center, Parviz is busy counting his cash. He has just received a micro-loan to help finance his wedding band.

“I am going to use my loan of 7500 Afghani ($140 USD) to buy a bass guitar,” he says with a grin of the cat that ate the canary. “Until now I have had to rent a guitar for all our performances and am losing a lot of money to rental fees.”

In May 2003, Mercy Corps launched a micro-lending program to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs expand and take their business ideas to the next level. By extending small loans of $50 - $500 Mercy Corps has changed the lives of many poor Afghans who are struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis with their small businesses.

As in the case of Parviz, many small business owners have been forced to rent equipment or rely on middlemen for sales, and lose a major share of the profits of their business to these expenses. But without access to any capital or seed funding, Kabul business people have had few alternatives.

“Now that I will own my guitar, I will save up to 400 Afghani ($8 USD) a day that I used to spend renting a guitar,” says Parviz. “I can use this additional money to start to expand our band’s business and maybe even make a CD we can sell in the market.”

Newly married, with his first child on the way, Parviz is excited about his future. “Our band is very popular in Kabul and plays up to seven engagements a week,” he says. “It is a good source of income and I really enjoy it. With my new guitar I think we have a chance to be a real success.”