She may not have Willy Wonka's top hat and magnificent factory, but Nena has achieved her own measure of success as a candy-maker in the Philippines. Her candies, made from the fruit of the tamarind tree, have helped her provide for the four kids living under her roof – not only food and a refuge from the outside world, but also money for education.
"Education is the best gift we [parents] can give our kids," Nena said.
The 45-year-old mother had run a variety store as well as her candy-making business before joining a loan group set up by Five Talents' partner, the Center for Community Transformation (CCT).
"There were CCT members in the church I attended, but [for years] I opted not to join their program. Eventually, I joined out of curiosity and with a lingering long-term goal for my small business. There was an increasing demand for my candies in the market, but producing it drained my start-up capital, therefore limiting my supply. A small loan, I believed, would go a mile" in helping to expand the business.
Nena's first loan of 4,000 Philippine Pesos ($97) helped her to better meet the market demand for her Tamarind candies. As in all of Five Talents' programs, Nena also received training that helped her develop her business more strategically. Today, she is on her 20th loan cycle. Her most recent loan was for 20,000 Philippine Pesos ($485).
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:
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!
Click on the icons below to jump to stories and a video about Five Talents' program in and around Jakarta, Indonesia.
Five Talents partners in Indonesia with GERHATI. The organization was founded in 2002 by Five Talents, the Anglican Diocese of Singapore and the expatriate Anglican community of All Saints Church in Jakarta.
GERHATI offers two loan products to its clients. The first is the Trust Bank Loan Program. Loan sizes range from $53 to $214. The second loan product, Small Business Loan Program, is available to existing GERHATI clients who improve their business, are diligent in repayment, and finish the Trust Bank Loan Program. These loans can go as high as $500.
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.
When Tina lost her factory job in Jakarta, Indonesia, her children, Putri and Willy, also lost the funds they needed to cover school fees for books and uniforms.
Tina, 40, needed to act fast. But her options were limited. While her husband continued his work as a driver in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, Tina opened a small salon. Unfortunately, it was one of many in the neighborhood. While she was skilled in cutting and styling hair, her business did not survive, in part due to the cutthroat competition on her street.
So Tina took Putri and Willy with her to Cileungsi, a suburb of Bogor, which is about 60 km south of Jakarta. She once again set up a salon, and once again, it failed to generate any income.
Many people might have despaired if they found themselves in Tina's shoes, but she did not give up. Her children's future depended on her finding a way to make money.
It was around this time that she learned about Five Talents' local partner in Indonesia, GERHATI. The project in Indonesia maintains three core programs that provide financial support, training, and technical assistance to poor entrepreneurs.
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."