We post to this blog three times a week, on average, but even regular visitors to our website are unable to catch every single article.
Below, you'll find a list of our most popular blog posts from the last month. If you've been away for a while, these program updates will get you caught up in no time.
If you're unfamiliar with Five Talents' microfinance programs, then this is a great place to start learning more about the nature of our work. As you'll soon find, every program is unique. Some are savings-led; others are credit-led. Some have a literacy and financial education component. Some target communities in urban slums. Others work in extremely rural, un-banked communities.
All of our programs are empowering women. All are helping parents to develop a sustainable micro-enterprise that can improve their quality of life and help their children to stay in school. All are bringing folks living in impoverished communities a chance to save money, take out a small loan, and learn basic business skills, like accounting and marketing. And all program participants are reminded of their God-given dignity and encouraged to use the unique gifts their creator has placed in their care.
Please check out any of these program updates you have missed, and share your favorites with folks on Facebook and Twitter:
Mother's Day is almost here, but it's not too late to express your thanks and love to the special women in your life, while also empowering mothers in Five Talents' microsavings and microcredit programs.
Here are a couple of ways that you can make Mother's Day extra-special this year:
Submit a photograph of your mom, grandmother or aunt to be published on Five Talents' "Talented Moms" Pinterest board. Every photo is a $5 donation to Five Talents! Once we post the photo, you can share the Pinterest board with your loved one. She'll be delighted to see herself among the ranks of the world's most "Talented Moms"! To submit a photo, e-mail it to
or tweet it to @FiveTalents along with the hash tag "#TalentedMoms".
Send your mom, grandmother, aunt or wife a Five Talents "Love Always Hopes" eCard that will empower a woman in the country of your choice -- Peru, Bolivia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Burundi or South Sudan.
This short Five Talents USA video ad is featured in Episode 70 of Anglican.tv's current affairs Web show "Anglican Unscripted." A generous donor covered the cost of the 15-second spot, which features footage from our work in Indonesia, South Sudan, Burundi and Bolivia.
As Mother's Day approaches each year, we look forward to sharing a story about an incredible woman who is participating in one of our programs.
This woman may live half a world away, speak a different language, and know nothing about your line of work. But I can promise that, as you read her story, you'll be able to relate. Her story – and the challenges that she has had to overcome – are not unlike those faced by any mother, wife or aunt you might know.
Besides juggling family life and a business in Tarija, Bolivia, Tomasa, 62, was trying desperately to help her daughter, Karina, free herself from a serious struggle with depression.
Tomasa had grown up a Christian, but her family's distance from a church meant that they were not getting the spiritual support she felt they needed.
"My family was getting farther away from the path of God, especially my youngest daughter. I didn't know how to help her," she said.
Like any of us would, Tomasa tried to spend more time with her daughter, hoping that her encouragement and love would drive away her daughter's feelings of melancholy.
"I opened a restaurant in my house so that my daughter could help with it, and so she would feel useful," Tomasa said. "But it was a bad idea because she began to drink with the clients and became more aggressive."
Tomasa eventually took the drastic step of closing her business. Simply put, her daughter's wellbeing was more important than making money. But then, how would she put food on the table?
"There's a common, misguided, knee-jerk reaction that if you're poor, you have no assets to save," Dean Karlan, a Yale economist, told the Post. "People who are poor obviously save less, but they still save."
We've seen this for years in our Burundi program, which by June 30 will have helped more than 10,000 women and men join savings groups and build wealth where, previously, they had none. Other Five Talents programs – including ones in South Sudan, Myanmar and Bolivia – also feature the group-led savings model.
In the case of Five Talents, however, these savings "circles," as the Post calls them, are far more than glorified piggy banks. They are microcosms of self-government and hubs for compassionate community outreach.
I saw this first-hand during my recent trip to Burundi.
Each group has a constitution (a list of rules) that is created and agreed upon by the members themselves. The rules cover everything from the number of women and men who may participate in a single group, to conditions regarding savings deposits and loan disbursement. Group members also determine their own interest rates and penalty fees.
This self-determination does wonders for members' self-esteem, and it encourages discipline and order that members can then model in their individual homes.
Even more amazing, though, is what these groups are able to accomplish for others in their community. Most savings groups in Burundi create an emergency fund, which they will only tap when the group collectively identifies a needy individual in their community – often someone who is not even a part of their circle.
Our partner in Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings), recently shared this interview with Justina, a woman who runs a cleaning materials business at a market in Tarija and is a member of a savings group. Justina, 59, has a 19-year-old daughter named Esther and two small grandchildren.
Q: How has the experience of being in a savings group affected your life? A: Before, I was a very lonely person. I only spoke in quechua (an oral language) with some people. I love my sisters in Christ very much, but I am very shy and I can't speak easily with other people. Neither could I lead praise [in church] or pray out loud. And I always argued with my daughter and her husband. Now, I can talk well with other people. I am less shy, and I also can lead during a praise service.
Q: Can you explain how this change happened? A: The teachings I received in the savings group [included] many activities, and we smiled a lot. [As a member], I had to participate, and so, little by little, I [began] losing my fear. My daughter said that I shine... and smile more than before.
Q: Has your ability to provide for your family changed because of your participation in the group? A: Yes, because before we had to go to the public hospital for my daughter and grandchildren's health [needs]. The medical care there is almost free, but it isn't very good, so with the income from my business I can now take my granddaughters and daughter to a better clinic where they help them very well when they are sick.
Here's a lovely photo taken at a savings group business training seminar in Bolivia, where we partner with the local organization Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings). After operating informally for 2.5 years, Semillas de Bendicion was officially registered in 2012 as an association, the simplest organization under Bolivian law.
Sara (R) and her sister Eva (third from R) lead Semillas de Bendicion and are incredibly gifted at teaching and training our micro-entrepreneurs in the city of Tarija, and in the surrounding rural communities. When commenting on this picture, the sisters said, "We like it when people laugh while learning [because they are more likely] to remember what we taught them."
Indeed, everyone looks like they are having a good time here.
The end of the year is fast approaching. But the road out of poverty is long and hard.
In order to continue meeting our commitments to micro-entrepreneurs in places like Bolivia, South Sudan and Myanmar, Five Talents needs your support.
For an example of how your generosity can change a whole community, look no further than this project in Malakal, South Sudan, where over 10,000 participants have been given what is often their first opportunity to become literate and numerate.
Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings), Tarija, Bolivia
Anglican Diocese of Bolivia
Association of Evangelical Churches of Tarija
Program Type and Services:
Christian Microfinance Institution: “Savings-Led” with Group Savings and Guarantee
This project currently uses the simple savings and Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCA) models, but plans are in place to develop these into Accumulated Savings and Credit Associations (ASCAs) in order to provide group members with the ability to save and borrow more flexibly.
Budgeting and saving in the household
Business ideas, planning, marketing, price setting
Christian discipleship and values in business
Preventative health, appropriate technology where there are no basic services, nutrition classes
The Department of Tarija is located in the Southeastern part of Bolivia and borders Argentina to the south and Paraguay to the east. The Department is divided into six provinces, and home to 20 different indigenous tribes with Spanish being the shared language. The city of Tarija is located in a high and dry mountain valley at an altitude of 1850 meters. About 60% of the people in Bolivia live in poverty, 25% of the population is malnourished, and 16% of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day (World Bank).
Women in these communities are primarily engaged in work on family farms, with limited access to financial, health or education services. The average number of years of schooling for rural women is only 2.5 years, while it is 4.7 years for men. Seasonal migration among the men is very high in some regions of the country, which leaves women, in many of the cases, as heads of the household.
Empowering the citizens of Tarija with business and personal finance skills are essential aspects of stimulating economic growth and improving unemployment. This partnership focuses on women’s groups in the city of Tarija as well as groups in rural communities, including El Puente, Entre Rios, Calamuchita and Valle Concepción. These groups target those populations unable to access services from the limited microfinance industry in Tarija due to geographic or economic barriers.
Through this program, Five Talents expects clients to gain business skills as well as the habits of saving and borrowing, which will enable them to participate in enterprise development.
After operating informally for 2.5 years, Semillas de Bendicion was officially registered in 2012 as an association, the simplest organization under Bolivian law.
The project leaders need training in the establishment of ASCAs, improvement of their English-language abilities and training on the legal process of establishing a small business as well as price fixing. Five Talents has already reached its goal to expand total outreach in Bolivia to 170 group members by the end of 2012.
In the photo, salon owner Delina talks with trainers Sara and Eva in Bermejo, Bolivia. The amazingly talented Sara and Eva lead Five Talents' partner organization in Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings).