Bolivian Seamstress Weaves Her Way Into Business
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Launching an enterprise -- even a small one -- is often fraught with hiccups and hurdles. Just ask Adriana, a married mother of four whose first micro-enterprise involved selling ice cream and Jell-O. She had no access to a freezer, so she would lose money if she could not sell her products before they turned into mush.
One day, her friend told her that there was demand in the local market for skirts and towels. Adriana, a skilled seamstress, decided to switch her focus. Now, she can't make towels and skirts fast enough – a good problem to have.
Rather than set up shop in one place, she moves around the market in order to create new contact with potential customers. She says this tires her out and forces her to make the products at night, often early into the morning.
Adriana is on her second loan cycle and is currently repaying a loan of $14. She has found support from her savings group – and also, to her surprise, from the local church community.
"It seemed very rare and strange that the church would work with businesses and with families' finances -- I thought this was very personal," she said. "Now I know that God wants to enter into all areas of my life, including my business."
While she is sometimes tempted to skip church in order to make more sales – or to get some much needed rest, she has made it a priority to carve out time for God.
"God is the one who blesses my business, and if I [don't go to church] maybe I can make more money, but I would not be happy. It would be like throwing my money away in vain. Because of this I work, I have enough to pay for my needs, [and enough] also to save for the education of my children."
In Kenya, a Farmer Does His Homework
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Joel Kimani of Thika, Kenya joined the Giachuki Trust Group in January 2009 after he heard the Chairman of the group talk about the savings and loan association in a church service. After saving for a period of six months, Joel qualified to borrow from the group. His first loan of about $134 was used for cabbage farming on his half-acre piece of land.
The cabbages bring in about $1,067 every season and Joel, pictured here with his wife, cleared the first loan within a period of three months. He eventually borrowed $267 more to grow a special breed of tomatoes.
Joel's expertise and love of farming has given him a competitive edge over other farmers in the area. He recalls vividly that when he started growing tomatoes, most of the farmers followed suit but then gave up after the first crop failed to bear fruit. Joel did some research and discovered a breed that would grow well in the area -- and his extra effort paid off.
He has furnished his house using the proceeds from farming and has also expanded his business to include poultry.
Joel now has over 300 birds and is the newly-elected Chairman of Giachuki Trust Group. Joel said the group has enabled him to experience God's love. Among the plans he has for the group is to invest in the dreams of the poor so that they may be released from physical and spiritual poverty.
An Investment in Tomatoes Turns a Profit
Before 63 year-old Filomena, of Tarija, Bolivia, took out her first micro-loan, she lived off the profits of selling two crates of tomatoes she purchased from a wholesaler. "The money only allowed us to eat and pay for home expenses," she said.
This meant that her daughters, Carolina, 15, and Alejandra, 18, were not able to get the education they needed, much less new clothing for their growing bodies.
But then Filomena stumbled upon a savings and loan group meeting at her church. She listened in on how the group was building up savings, and eventually she asked to join. She has since taken out three loans from the group, the last being for $14. She has used the extra capital to buy more tomatoes as well as some peppers – decisions that have increased her profit margin.
Even more impressive is the effect Filomena's stewardship has had on her daughters: In earning enough extra money to pay for their education and buy new sets of clothes, she has also inspired them to become entrepreneurs in their own right.
"[My daughters] have learned to work and they are not ashamed to do so," said Filomena. "My older daughter is also a member of a savings group, and she is one of the people who saves the most in the group. She wants to use the money to start a business and help me with bills."
Ibu in Indonesia
Ibu faced a seemingly impossible situation: She was in need of capital for her pastry business in Jakarta, Indonesia. Without extra capital, she would not be able to grow her business. And without a growing business, she would struggle to pay for schooling for her two boys.
Around the time of this crisis, Ibu faced another challenge: After three years of marriage, her husband converted to Islam, the dominant religion in Indonesia. The couple's two boys converted along with him, leaving Ibu to navigate life in the home as an outsider.
Fortunately, she found the help she needed. She joined a savings group with Five Talents partner GERHATI in Jakarta and was offered a small loan that gave her business the boost it needed. She's now in her second loan cycle with the group and is repaying a loan of about $82. Her business is making a profit, which she is using both to pay off her loan and to create a capital reserve.
More importantly, her group was able to offer her spiritual support. In September of 2010, Ibu shared her story at a Bible study.
"I realize that I need prayer support for my husband and two my children, who I really pray can believe in God and truly [experience] Abba's love," she said at the meeting. "Even though my husband has not opened his heart yet for Christ, I trust God will touch my husband's heart someday."
Leonie in Burundi
Imagine walking five hours to make a deposit at a bank. After about ten minutes into the walk, many of us would turn back. But Leonie, a mother of eight children in the African country of Burundi, kept walking and walking until she finally reached her savings group’s credit co-operative (bank). Those five hours changed her life.
No ordinary bank would have given someone like Leonie a loan to help start a business. After all, she had almost nothing. She could not even afford to pay for her children's education, which cost about $25 per year for books, two uniforms and other materials. But then Leonie heard about the work Five Talents was doing in Matana, and she joined 15 others to form a savings and loan association they called "Nyarumanga", which means, "Let's pray for each other." (Leonie's association is pictured here; she is in the middle row, third from the right.)
None in the group had ever saved or borrowed, so in order to create some capital for their group, they all labored together by carrying construction materials for a builder. With Leonie's first loan of $7, she bought salt, which is used in almost every Burundian dish. Few women in her community work, and so Leonie immediately found a demand for her product.
Eventually, she began making a profit. But the primary beneficiaries of her success have been her children. "I can pay for school fees so my children can go to school," she said. "All will go to school -- I won't keep any at home because I was kept at home and I don't want that."
Nowadays, Leonie spends most of her time outside the home, delivering salt to her customers and, yes, walking five hours to attend her group meetings. That may seem like an impossible distance for us, but for Leonie it is a walk that has paid unfathomable dividends.
Marima from India
Marima had an idea—a good one, but the irregular income from her husband's mutton shop was barely enough to put food on their table. She often dreamed of opening a business alongside her husband's, but every morning, when she awoke to an empty cupboard, her hopes would vanish.
But then, while participating in her Self-Help Group (a savings group with other women in her community), Marima heard about the loan capital that Five Talents offers to qualified individuals in partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Madras in India. It turns out she was a strong candidate for a loan: After all, she was familiar with business since she had helped her husband with his. She knew the local market, and she knew what void her business could fill.
So with a $125 dollar loan, Marima began to live out her dream. The money paid for a few varieties of tea, and some small "tiffin"—food served for light meals—which her first customers quickly bought. After a few months in operation, she began offering breakfast, too. Today, she is making a profit of about $3.25 to $3.75 per day, a part of which goes to repay her loan. Without the Five Talents microloan, she might still be dreaming of a business, rather than running one.
Five Talents began funding the India-Chennai program in early 2005 in response to the devastation caused by the tsunami of 2004. The unprecedented loss of human life and destruction primarily impacted the poor in rural areas like South India, where survival revolves around subsistence industries, such as fishing. Click here to read more about the program.
Rebecca from Sudan
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I was one of the lucky ones. I’m a Dinka and had three older brothers and sisters, and my parents sent all of us to school. But, my hopes of attending university ended with the death of my father when I was just a teenager.
Not too many years later, one of my sisters became pregnant, and I became the proud aunt of twin girls. But when my nieces were only six, not only did their mother – my sister – tragically die, but so did their father.
There was no question in my mind. I was taking in those little girls and raising them as my own.
Sarah from Sudan
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When I was just a little girl, I noticed that other children in my village had a mom and a dad. When I asked my mom why, tears would fill her eyes…
You see, I was the first child, and my father couldn’t wait to have a son. But, when I was born and he saw that I was a girl, he sent my mother away saying, “let me be a gift to my mother.”
My father remarried, again in hopes of having a son. For boys are highly valued in South Sudan. His second wife became pregnant, but she too gave birth to a little girl. My father was so upset that he hung himself.
Bebelyn and John from the Philippines
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Violent winds whipped through Manila’s streets – as torrential rain pounded on John’s fragile tin roof. The flash floods from Typhoon Ondoy engulfed his family’s home forcing 5-year-old John, his baby sister and mom, Bebelyn, to scramble to the rooftop – waiting, hoping to be rescued. This was September 2009.
Sayani from South India
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Thanks to the Self-Help Groups that Five Talents started in South India after the 2004 Tsunami, Sayani has grown from a timid member of a savings group to a leader in her community.