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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.
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Over the weekend, the Washington Post ran a story about the growing attention being given to microsavings. Here at Five Talents, we were delighted to see the story because it affirms the work we've been doing for years. It also communicates a powerful truth: that learning to save can transform one's life – even in communities where women and men do not have access to traditional banks.
"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.
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During last night's State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama surprised many when he spent a few moments discussing global poverty. The passage came in a section on foreign policy and followed his appeal for Americans to see "not only dangers, but opportunities" when they look overseas. Obama said:
We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world's children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.
U.S. News & World Report blogger Leslie Pitterson noted that the President's remarks on global poverty highlighted some of the Millennium Development Goals, which were formally established at a United Nations summit in 2000.
"President Obama's emphasis on the role the United States should play in the international community on issues such as global poverty is not in and of itself a new view, but one that has faded from State of the Union addresses within the past decade," she wrote. "Shadowed by the talking points on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting terrorism, and strengthening the global economy, the US role in addressing UN initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals has not been a high voltage topic."
In another passage relevant to Five Talents, Obama mentioned the recent democratic reforms enacted in Myanmar, home to our newest program:
Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, "There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that."
Click here for the full text of President Obama's State of the Union address.
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Last year, we reported on the initial stages of our work in Myanmar, where we are partnering with the Mothers' Union and the local church to organize business training seminars for community members and micro-entrepreneurs.
Local community and church leaders have been trained to present the Five Talents business development curriculum to groups in and around Yangon, Mandalay and other locales.
Some who take part in the training sessions have already launched a micro-enterprise and are looking for ways to make their business more successful. Stan Kriz, who helped to develop the curriculum, told the story of a woman who was selling bean porridge.
"Having heard our marketing session last year, she decided that in order to expand her business she needed to get more customers to recognize that she was doing a good thing," Stan said in an interview we posted last year. "So she started to give out free samples -- I assume during the day, and I assume with the slogan, something to the effect of, 'If you were my customer, you could have had this for breakfast'. ...She had never been clued in that that's something she needed to do."
However, some of the people who attend the business training seminars have only just begun to think about micro-enterprise as a viable way to provide for their family. At the most recent seminars in November, participants took part in sessions on accounting, marketing, entrepreneurship and developing a business plan.
As a capstone project, the "students" broke into three teams and developed a business plan. The teams zeroed in on three potential enterprises – a family-owned food mart, a clinic with cardiac equipment, and a small mushroom farm. The trainers then walked the teams through each plan, highlighting strengths and weaknesses. In the end, the mushroom business was assessed as the most likely to succeed.
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Perhaps you already have 5 books on your must-read list for 2013. Or maybe you have more like 50. Either way, we hope you'll read at least a couple of the following picks over the next 12 months. We're recommending titles that approach poverty from a variety of perspectives. Whether you are a development specialist or someone who simply loves a good story, we have you covered.
The Dragon's Gift
If you're interested in Africa and would like to learn more about the aid and investments that are flowing into the continent, then Deborah Brautigam's The Dragon's Gift is a must-read. The author has spent decades studying China's investment and aid packages to African governments. Besides offering a timely and ground-breaking analysis of China's activity on the continent, Brautigam also provides context so that we can understand how China's approach to aid and investment differs from that of the United States and other Western nations. For a great review of the book, click here.
Where China Meets India
If you'd like to learn more about one of the countries where Five Talents works, we recommend this book about Myanmar (Burma). Last year, the Burmese government made news by launching a series of reforms, including a loosening of media controls and an embrace of democratic elections. What was once one of the most closed societies in the world was suddenly opening its doors to the West and inviting investment to help spur development. Where China Meets India, by Thant Myint-U, is an engrossing travelogue that shows just how fast Myanmar is changing.
A Free Man
If you want to read a profile of an individual who is struggling to escape a world of poverty, look no further than Aman Sethi's A Free Man. The author, a correspondent for The Hindu, focuses his non-fiction narrative on the life of a homeless day-laborer in Delhi, India. The fast-paced story takes the reader into a world that few of us in the West have ever seen. Esther Duflo, co-author of Poor Economics (another great book that we have written about), calls Sethi's book "a beautiful work of journalism," adding: "What starts as classic ethnography becomes a gripping story, and ends as a homage to a lost friend."
Through the Eye of a Needle
If you enjoy history and would like to learn more about the early church and Christians' view of wealth and poverty, read Peter Brown's acclaimed Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD. Brown, a respected historian, excels at evoking the life of the ancients through colorful prose and through profound readings of saints like Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome. As Christianity Today puts it, Brown lets us "hear the heartbeat of late Roman and early Christian civilization."
When Helping Hurts
If you'd like to learn about how the Christian church has helped – and hurt – the cause of the impoverished around the world, then pick up Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert's When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself. The book was re-released in 2012 with a new foreword and two new chapters. Readers interested in learning more about the philosophy that informs Five Talents' approach to micro-enterprise development will find this book particularly helpful.
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The end of the year is fast approaching. But the road out of poverty is long and hard.
In order to continue meeting our commitments to micro-entrepreneurs in places like Bolivia, South Sudan and Myanmar, Five Talents needs your support.
For an example of how your generosity can change a whole community, look no further than this project in Malakal, South Sudan, where over 10,000 participants have been given what is often their first opportunity to become literate and numerate.
For stories of individual lives transformed, look no further than those of Rosma in the Philippines, Narcisa in Peru, and Roda in Sudan.
Here are five ways you can make a tax-deductible donation and help us keep these women – and tens of thousands of others – on the road out of poverty:
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Over the next three weeks, you'll have to decide on gifts for a select group of friends and family members.
Fortunately, we've got a gift idea that we think you'll love: Instead of buying them a Starbucks gift card, or a tree ornament, send your loved ones a Five Talents e-card.
Here's how it works:
- Visit our eGift Catalog and pick from among the 10 e-card options. Prices range from $25 to $50. Every e-card features beautiful photography that captures an aspect of Five Talents' work in a particular country. Your purchase will count as a donation for that particular country and program.
- At the end of your transaction, you will be prompted to enter the e-mail addresses of either 5 individuals (for every $25 e-card) or 10 individuals (for every $50 e-card). Each person will receive an e-card explaining that a gift was made in his or her honor towards Five Talents' work in, for example, savings group formation in South Sudan (see the above e-card image of the "One Nation" savings group in South Sudan).
Your e-card purchases are tax-deductible, and they are a great way to spread holiday cheer and share the joy of giving with your loved ones.
With every e-card purchase, you are contributing to the transformation of lives in some of the most under-served communities in the world.
Click here to send a set of Five Talents e-cards today!
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If you've been waiting for an opportunity to introduce a few friends to Five Talents, December 5 is the day.
Participate in the last matching gift opportunity of 2012 by inviting three friends to join you in donating $5 to Five Talents. Your combined $20 will be matched by a generous donor and become $40.
Your advocacy for Five Talents is critical as we seek to reach even more women and men in places like South Sudan, Myanmar and Indonesia.
Five Talents equips, trains and empowers women and men who find themselves struggling to sustain a micro-enterprise. By telling your friends and loved ones about Five Talents and its mission, you give us increased credibility.
Please consider sharing this blog post on Facebook, or sending the link via e-mail to a few loved ones who share your passion for the global poor.
You may also want to share this video that goes inside our program in Indonesia. It's a great introduction to the work that Five Talents is doing all over the world.
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Five Talents works in Myanmar with several partners, including the local church.
Program Type and Services:
- Savings group formation
- Business skills training
- Spiritual development and support
Five Talents is working with several partners to spark micro-enterprise development in what, until recently, has been one of the most closed societies in the world. Recent reforms offer hope that Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is opening up.
The Five Talents program, launched in 2011, aims to strengthen pre-existing savings groups and help expand their growth outward into other impoverished communities, while also providing business skills training and spiritual development opportunities in partnership with the local church and other community-based organizations.
We'd appreciate your continued prayers for this new and transformative program. You can help us expand our work in Myanmar either by making a one-time donation or by signing up to "Walk with Us" as a recurring donor. A monthly gift of $10 will transform up to five lives.
Are you on Facebook? Become an online advocate for Five Talents! Our online "flash drive" has everything you need to promote the work and mission of Five Talents.
Updated December 2012