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One of the most exciting parts of our microfinance program in Bolivia is its experimental savings group program for school children. These children meet weekly at a local church, participate in a savings group and learn basic money management skills. A few eventually set up a micro-business that can help to cover the cost of their schooling. Our partner in Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings), sent us this first-person essay from Jessica, a sixth-grader who is a part of the children's savings program. We share her essay here because it's an inspirational story, and because it helps to communicate the nature of the challenges that poor families in Bolivia face when they send their children to school.
I am a sixth-grader in public school, and they say that education is free, but the teachers always ask us for something – uniforms, books, notebooks or other materials.
In my house, only my father works, and the money isn't enough because we have to pay for the lights, water, rent, and for food. My parents ...didn't have enough money [for my school supplies], but a friend who works in the market with her mom, told me how she obtained some money by selling plastic bags and matches in the market. She said she would accompany me and teach me the business.
I was happy, but I needed money to buy the bags and matches.
So I joined the Five Talents/Semillas de Bendicion savings group, and it forced me to save money for which I had worked. The Bible lessons helped me to see my value, as God did great things with little people.
At the end of the year, I took back all of the money that I had saved, my prize [for completing the program], and [the trainers'] words of encouragement to use my money wisely.
I told my mom my idea, and she helped me to buy what I needed.
Since then, I have only been selling matches on Saturdays and Sundays. My two younger brothers come with me to help rich women carry their bags. The [rich women] give them good tips, but they use money to buy food – they eat a lot, they are fat. I, on the other hand, save my profits to buy school materials, books and notebooks.
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We're excited to share with you our 2011-2012 Annual Report for the fiscal year running from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. Click here to download the PDF.
In the report, you'll find all of the latest financial figures and program statistics, as well as stories, photos and highlights from every one of Five Talents' programs.
The report also features beautiful illustrations from one of our volunteers, Laura Bauder. So a great big thank-you to Laura, who also took on the task of designing the report.
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The children of micro-entrepreneurs are able to see first-hand how a savings group and a small loan can give a hard-working mom or dad reason for hope and confidence. Tito (R), the 9-year-old son of Yola (who we profiled last week), agreed to talk with our local partner in Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings). The following are excerpts from their translated conversation:
Can you tell us about the time when your mother began to regain her hope and confidence?
When our dad left my mom, I cried and I didn't like it. But one day my mom came very hurriedly to sign us up and take us to church. This was the last time I saw her cry -- after she prayed in the house and took us to church, she was very happy.
How has your mother's participation in a savings group helped you and your brother?
At school, we were told that if we didn't have a sports uniform we couldn't go to school there. Because of this, my mom [worried about] where she was going to get the money, because when my grandmother got sick, she spent all of her money so that she would get better. But the day that she was thinking about this, sister Adriana came to our room and gave money to my mom and told her that this was the money that her group of women (savings group) had loaned to her. She said they had also prayed for her. With this loan, my mom bought us uniforms and ice and juice for her [raspadillas] business, and she went back to work.
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Last week we wrote about Yola, a 27-year-old micro-entrepreneur in Bolivia who is learning to bake empanadas in order to create a winter income for herself and her sons. But in the first post we didn't tell you her back story.
Tragedy struck in her family when her husband left her for another woman.
"I felt very bad and sad, because he humiliated me [by leaving] with the other woman," said Yola.
Heart-broken, she took her two children, Tito and Diego, to her parents' house. But there she received no solace. "My father each day insulted me in many ways and told me I wasn't a good enough woman and that's why my husband had left me," Yola recalled.
Back in her home, she struggled to recover from her broken heart and wounded spirit. Yola returned to selling raspadillos but, being alone, she could not earn enough money to buy her eldest son's school materials. As a result, he performed poorly in class.
"I continued to cry a lot every day and my sons also cried because they saw me crying," said Yola. "Then one night I had a dream and I saw a resplendent Jesus (I wasn't a Christian) and Jesus said to me 'get up daughter'. The next day, I went to the market and a woman was at my side selling towels and she said to me, 'Why are you so sad my sister?'
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Crack the door into Yola's little home in Tarija, Bolivia, and you're likely to find her busy practicing the art of baking delicious stuffed bread, known in her country as empanadas.
Yola's first business involved selling raspadillas – cups of juice with real fruit and lots of shaved ice. Her business mainly served as a supplement to her husband's taxi service income. But then he left her, and, suddenly, selling shaved ice was not enough to keep her children in school and to put food on the table.
The young mother struggled to create enough income for her family until she met Victoria, a Christian micro-entrepreneur who took Yola under her wing and introduced her to Five Talents. The woman also helped to mentor Yola and encouraged her to start a business baking and selling empanadas during the cold winter months in Bolivia – when raspadillas were not in demand.
"I learned in the church workshops that it is important to plan and learn everything that I need to have a good winter business," said Yola.
With a $40 Five Talents loan, Yola purchased an oven, which she is now using to bake her first batches of empanadas. Victoria has also asked Yola to help her with her towel business.
"Victoria is teaching me many things about her business until I learn to make empanadas," said Yola. "She even took me on a business trip."
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In this photo, Five Talents client Máxima sits near her vegetable stall with her son David in Tarija, Bolivia.
Her eldest son, Miguel (not pictured), was recently hospitalized because of malnutrition. Thankfully, Máxima had built up some savings from her business and was able to pay for all of her son's medical bills. He is now doing much better. Read more of their story here.
Click here to make a Mother's Day donation in honor of a special woman in your life. You can even request a set of Mother's Day postcards to send to your mother, aunt or grandmother by send an e-mail to
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This Mother's Day, you can celebrate the special women in your life with more than a bouquet of flowers or a lunch at a fancy restaurant. You can extend love and compassion around the world with a donation to Five Talents in honor of your mother, grandmother, sister, aunt or friend.
Your donation will be loaned to mothers living in poverty to help them start self-sustaining businesses that will strengthen their families and dramatically improve their lives. The business owner then repays the money, which is re-loaned to another mother in need.
Five Talents also organizes savings programs and business training so women can learn to save money and plan for the future.
Even though the mothers we help in Peru, South Sudan and other struggling nations can't give their children most of the material possessions we enjoy here in America, they provide the most important thing of all — love.
And their children will tell you their mom is the most amazing woman in the world.
For example, take Máxima, the 43-year-old mother of David, 7, and Miguel, 17. She works all day and into the evening in a public market in Bolivia, selling carrots, potatoes and other vegetables to earn enough to care for her boys. Her youngest son will often stay with her in the market and then walk home with her using a flashlight to guide them through the dark village streets at night.