A place to indulge an affliction

Nionyesheni fedha ya (Show Me the Money)


M-Pesa=money transfer from phone to phone

M-Pesa=money transfer from phone to phone

For this assignment, I chose a small segment of This American Life’s August 2013 episode titled I Was Just Trying to Help. Specifically, I analyzed Act One: Money for Nothing and Your Cows for Free (tracks 10:51-36:54):

In this episode, Planet Money reporter Jacob Goldstein narrates a visit to Kenya to see the work being done by GiveDirectly. Jacob Goldstein compares GiveDirectlhy’s work to another charity, Heifer International. GiveDirectly is a charity that gives money directly to poor people (determined by whether or not they have a grass roof). GiveDirectlyl lets the recipients decide how to spend the money. Through the “M-Pesa”, which allows money transfer via phone, GiveDirectly has been able to give out thousands of dollars to poor people in rural Kenya.

An M-Pesa storefront

An M-Pesa storefront

Money transfer confirmation is texted

Money transfer confirmation is texted

A young man outside an M-Pesa store

A young man outside an M-Pesa store

Audio elements were effectively used to tell the story of Jacob Goldstein’s visit to rural Kenya to meet with GiveDirectly recipients. These audio elements include animal sounds (insects buzzing, dogs barking, cow mooing), mechanical sounds (engine revving, hammering, motorcycle), and human sounds (voice inflections, laughter, language, accents, male/female). I’ve charted my analyses below:

Audio Element Description provided by Narrator Illustrates:
Various voices speaking in the background Visit to an “M-Pesa” store located in an old VW van, which reminds Jacob Goldstein of the van he used to go camping in as a child. The van is also described as being “like a snack shop” Cafeteria environment
Male voice with West African accent reading text message Introduces this segment that he tested the “empesa” system by sending the money to the only person he knew whose number he had in his phone, his interpreter Allen Kenyan interpreter receiving money on his cell phone
Female voice with American accent Jacob Goldstein narrates that in Kenya, they met Piali Mukhodpadhyay, who is Chief Operating Officer (COO) for GiveDirectly GiveDirectly staff reading names of charity recipients from a spreadsheet
Female voice with American accent, change in inflection GiveDirectly staff amused when she confirms she has not met any of the charity recipients but that she “…knows these people in a sense that I send them money each month.”
Car engine starting Jacob Goldstein describes wanting to meet some of the GiveDirectly recipients so he gets in the car with Piali
Motor running on unpaved road To meet recipients of GiveDirectly, narrator had to drive down an increasingly rough dirt road off the main road and past a the Equator sign with no street signs. While giving thousands of dollars away to people in rural Kenya throught he “empesa” has gotten easier, going to visit them is still very hard Motor running on unpaved road
Dog barking Walking down a path on the way to meeting a GiveDirectly recipient, Jacob Goldstein describes how surroundings are very green , there are farm plots where people are growing corn Pastoral environment of rural Kenya
Ring tone Jacob Goldstein states that by the side of the path, they find one of the guys who received money on his cell phone Presence of cell phone
Male voice with West African accent states, “Nokia” Type of phone used by the GiveDirectly recipient
Male voice in non-English language speaking in the background Jacob Goldstein describes how Bernard Omondi came to receive money from GiveDirectly Mr. Omondi telling his story to Jacob Goldstein, via Allen, the interpreter
Male voice in Kenyan language followed by male voice with West African accent narrating in English Jacob Goldstein describes Mr. Omondi’s initial suspicions regarding receiving money Allen translates Mr. Omondi’s story in English, and how Mr. Omondi’s initial reaction about receiving free money may be very similar to someone from another part of the world
Different male voice in Kenyan language Mr. Omondi’s neighbor, Daniel, describes when he received the text that he got money from GiveDirectly Multiple people in the same rural Kenyan village receiving money through their cell phone
Motorcycle engine revving up Jacob Goldstein describes what Mr. Omondi bought with his GiveDirectly money Motorcycle
Male voice with West African accent narrating in English Through Allen the interpreter, Mr. Omondi shares the type of motorcycle he bought and that it will not require as much fuel as a regular car Justifies buying the motorcycle for a livelihood
Background conversation of male voices in non-English language followed by laughter Through Allen, Daniel describes how he felt “like a human being” after buying a new mattress with the GiveDirectly funds he received Emotions felt by recipients illustrating impact of the funds
Hammering against metal Daniel shows Jacob Goldstein the new metal roof he also bought with the GiveDirectly funds, to replace the grass roof he used to have New metal roof
Female voice with West African accent Jacob Goldstein narrates the story of Caroline Adiyambo, who also bought a metal roof and a cow like many of her fellow villagers Most everyone in the rural Kenyan village bought a new metal roof and a cow with their GiveDirectly funds
Insect buzzing Jacob Goldstein asks the villager on what their neighbors used the GiveDireclty funds Conversation occurring outdoors
Background percussion music N/A Transition to discussing the tension among neighbors resulting from those who received money from GiveDirectly and those who did not
Cow mooing N/A Transition to discussing Heifer International, a charity that gives cows for free, along with training and visits from charity staff, comparing to the work of GiveDirectly

Listening to this recording helped me envision being in a rural village in Kenya, while giving me a lot of food for thought regarding the work of various charities intended to improve the lives of people in developing worlds.

Note: The blog post title is based on the Jerry Maguire quote “Show me the money!” translated to Swahili using Webtranslations and IM Translator.


6 thoughts on “Nionyesheni fedha ya (Show Me the Money)

  1. Interesting choice and a feel good story for sure. You mentioned that listening to the audio made you feel like you are in a rural Kenyan village, but I wonder which audio element in particular made you feel that way. In your table above, you noted audio elements such as a car’s engine starting, a dog barking, or percussion playing. These are all audio that we are accustomed to hearing, so which audio element really made you feel like you were in Kenya? Maybe the different language heard in the background, the insects buzzing, or possibly the combination of everything?

  2. Pingback: Week 2 Summary | chronicwnderlst

  3. What a creative title! Your post caught my attention because mobile-to-mobile financing/money has gained such success in developing countries, such as Kenya and Afghanistan. Amazing how technology is changing the world. I really enjoyed your breakdown of the layers included in this story. Excellent! On a non-related note, I am inspired and admittedly a little jealous at how amazing your site looks! Mine is a work in progress… Any tips for a novice is appreciated!

  4. I have to say your chart for outlining the elements is inspired to say the least, the way to connects the sound you heard to the thing it was intended to illustrate; almost as if you are saying the sounds help form pictures of Kenya.

    I understand what is said above; but not every sounds alone needs to suggest Kenya, but the entire sandwich and sequence of sounds does that job.

    Good job on finding the bridging music to connect segments or to suggest a mood. In the world of radio it is often called a “bed” when it is what is playing softy while the narrator speaks. This is something you will be trying out in week 5 who you do your own audio editing. I hope you also got a sense to the complexity of the audio mix, it is more than one person talking into a microphone.

  5. Oh yeah, you get me very happy seeing the way you came up with a title! I was held curious until the end of your post,

  6. Interesting! I really liked the way you charted your audio analysis. Calling out the accents and pieces for the story allowed me to get a good sense of what you were hearing. You said that audio was used effectively – what techniques did you think were the most effective? The photos were a great addition as well.

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