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:
Five Talents and two local partners in South Sudan, World Concern and the Episcopal Church of Sudan, first opened a community-owned bank in Lietnhom in 2009. In just a few weeks, a second community bank, pictured here, will open in Kuajok, the capital of Warrap state, South Sudan.
The bank in Lietnhom is called the "Amat Wuot Community Bank" and means "a union of communities" in Dinka, the local language. It has brought together members from various clans, including two clans that had fought only a year before the bank's formal dedication. In 2012, the bank welcomed its 800th share-holding member.
The Kuajok bank is expected to open within the next 30 days. Bank staff and leadership will be trained by their colleagues at Amat Wuot Community Bank.
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 hope you will also send a quick e-mail to friends, asking them to vote for Five Talents. Here's some language that you can paste into your e-mail:
Hey! The micro-enterprise development organization I suport, Five Talents, has entered a powerful video about its microsavings work into an online competition. I'd love it if you would (1) watch the video -- you'll be blown away, I promise! -- and (2) vote for it by Wednesday at 5pm EST. Thanks so much! I know they'll appreciate your support, too! Now back to regular programming!
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.
Five Talents Program Director Suzanne Schultz Middleton snapped this photo of a cattle camp during her recent visit to Malakal, South Sudan. Malakal is one of several communities in the country that Five Talents is serving, alongside its local partners, which include the local Anglican diocese.
This interactive image links to a recent blog post about the Malakal cattle camp, to a photograph of children who live in the cattle camp, as well as to a video highlighting other aspects of our microfinance programs in South Sudan.
"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.
This photo was taken during Executive Director Sonia Patterson's recent trip to South Sudan, where she met Christina, one of thousands of women who are learning – in some cases re-learning – basic literacy and numeracy skills and participating in savings groups and business training seminars.
"Thanks to my business, I now have savings, and I know how much savings I have because I can read my [accounting] books," said Christina during a meeting with other savings group members.
Here in the US, we can sometimes underestimate the importance of being financially literate. In places like South Sudan, where war has interrupted education, many grown women and men have not been able to develop even basic math skills, like adding and subtracting.
To find out more about Five Talents' work in South Sudan, watch this video featuring interviews with Christina and some of her other fellow group members.
In February, Five Talents Executive Director Sonia Patterson returned from South Sudan and Burundi with a hard-drive full of video footage and interviews featuring women and men in our microfinance programs. We're delighted to share some of these interviews with you in a condensed, three-minute video focused on micro-entrepreneurs who work in a small community outside of Juba, South Sudan.
You'll meet women who grow cassava leaves, brew tea and coffee and sell daily staples at a market stand. And you'll hear how foundational literacy and numeracy training through our partner Mothers' Union enables the micro-entrepreneurs to make better decisions about their businesses and their families going forward.
"Before, we didn't know anything," Rose, a savings group member who lives near Juba, told Sonia. "But now in my business I can add and I can count and I can even make change."
Five Talents believes that women and men running survival businesses need more than a micro-loan. That's why we work with our partners in South Sudan first to ensure these individuals have basic literacy and numeracy skills. We build on this education by organizing savings groups and providing basic business training in areas like marketing and accounting. Over time, savings group members begin taking out small loans.
Together, these literacy, training and financial services ensure that micro-entrepreneurs have a much better chance of developing a sustainable business that can provide for their family and keep their kids in school.