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:
Those folks now have money in savings that can be used to expand or launch a business, or help a child recover from an illness.
Those folks can now read, write, add and subtract. They have written their own savings association's constitution, determined their own interest rates and penalty fees, and created an emergency fund to serve others in their community.
The women have gained confidence inside their home. The men have begun showing more respect for their wives. And the families have hope for the future – not something to be taken lightly in a country that is still recovering from years of civil war.
Here's what a pastor had to say about the transformation he has seen in his community in Gitega Diocese:
"In our tradition, we're used to seeing women not able to manage money or buy for themselves. Initially, men were afraid of letting women manage their own money, but many husbands are now very grateful for this knowledge and thank us. One man was a drunkard and illiterate and mistreated his family. His wife became a facilitator, and she started [helping] her family, and her husband changed. The husband is now a member of the choir and part of this same association!
"This is a direct result of the literacy and savings program. Husbands are now applauding the work of this program. Many families have turned to God and are living in peace. Husbands keep asking for this program to continue. In our country, it is rare to see women owning a plot of land. Women are now able to buy cattle, pigs, goats, and rabbits. This program has brought unity and harmony in the family. Some people are so poor and lose hope, but those who are part of this association are self-confident and hopeful."
Isn't this testimony incredible? A husband with an alcohol problem is now singing in the choir – and being supportive of his wife, who has become a leader in the community.
On May 9, Five Talents participated in the 1818 Society's NGO Showcase at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. The 1818 Society is a group comprised of World Bank alumni.
The event gave Five Talents Executive Director Sonia Patterson (R) an opportunity to introduce the organization to a lot of new friends, including those in this photo. We set up a table in the main atrium and met World Bank employees from all over the world – Mexico, Uganda, Bangladesh, China. The conversations with these folks gave us an opportunity to highlight some of Five Talents’ distinguishing characteristics.
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.
We want to take a moment to thank each of the companies that have so far agreed to participate. Please support these generous sponsors by giving them your business. Like our individual donors, they are helping to extend the impact of Five Talents' microsavings and microcredit programs into even more under-served communities, like this one in Burundi.
If you know of a company or organization that might be interested in joining this list of sponsors, please
These are the companies that are sponsoring or partnering with Five Talents for the 2013 X-OUT Poverty Golf Classic:
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.
Step into the shoes of a smallholder farmer in rural Burundi who lacks basic literacy and numeracy skills.
On first thought, growing sorghum, maize or sweet potatoes on a small plot of land might not seem to have much to do with reading, writing and arithmetic. You drop some seeds into the ground, cover them, water them and wait for them to turn into food that you can eat or trade or sell.
But if you can't read, how are you to know which seeds to buy for your soil? How are you to know which fertilizer to use on your crops, and how often?
If you can't count, how will you measure out the fertilizer? How will you know that the person buying your maize is not cheating you?
And what if the crop begins to look sickly? If there's no expert within a day's walk of your village, what good would that farming guidebook do that's sitting in the village chief's hut?
Before participants in our Burundi program join a savings and credit group or "association," they must first pass through a Mothers' Union literacy program. Since 2000, Five Talents' partner Mother's Union has accredited more than 66,000 women and men literate across Burundi.
Several years ago, Five Talents began partnering with Mothers' Union to help fund and support the second phase of the Mothers' Union program. The joint Literacy and Financial Education Program (LFEP) helps literate women and men begin to save money and take out small loans. They also receive training in basic business skills, like marketing and accounting.
Pierre, a farmer in Gatabo, outside of the capital Bujumbura, is an example of someone whose business has benefited from the access to literacy training and a savings association.
"Although I was a farmer, I didn't know how to plant my crops. What I got from the literacy [training] really helped me improve my agriculture," he said. "I've learned about seeds, how to protect the environment and the importance of planting trees so we can have a good harvest."
He went on: "The foundation was literacy, and now we know how to get the best harvest and the best food. We can also sell it and make good money. Before coming here, I used to sell doughnuts but was not making any profit. I was sometimes getting cheated, as people did not pay me back. My capital just disappeared. Since becoming literate, I have become more successful and am able to calculate my profit. This profit has really helped me, and my family is now very proud."
This photo taken by Five Talents Program Director Suzanne Schultz Middleton shows many of the Literacy and Financial Education Program (LFEP) members in Burundi's Gitega Diocese.
Five Talents and Mothers' Union recently completed a joint evaluation of the project, which has served 13,584 women and men over the course of three years.
According to baseline surveys conducted in each program community, only 9% of the women and 14% percent of the men had ever accessed a loan. Even fewer had ever held a bank account.
Upon finishing the literacy portion of the program, members graduate to savings groups, where, after accumulating savings and learning basic business skills, they are able to take out small loans to improve or launch a business.
"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.