Editor's Note: McKenzie Butler, our program officer, is wrapping up a trip in Peru this week. She sent this note while visiting the office of one of our partners in the country.
I am sitting here in the office of ECLOF, one of Five Talents' local partners in Peru. A client with her daughter has come by the office, and I am reminded of what Olga Zapata, ECLOF's Credit Manager, has been saying during our visit -- and to other people when introducing ECLOF Peru.
There is a high concentration of microfinance organizations and regulated banks in Lima especially, who provide loans to people. But what ECLOF and Five Talents do is different.
As Olga says (paraphrased), "Credit is not the goal, it is the means through which our staff help the whole person, by providing them with business advice, spiritual training, and a loan, etc."
That's what differentiates ECLOF and Five Talents from all the other organizations, because we believe in transformation.
I have heard this time and time again over the last week.
The photo you see here is of a vegetable seller in a market in the Peruvian highlands. Five Talents is currently exploring an opportunity to expand the program in Peru to unserved rural mountain communities.
Over the next few days, please share the above video on your Facebook page, on Twitter, on Google+, over e-mail -- via whatever means strikes your fancy. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8jJ1-ytBXE
We also need you to do one more important thing: Register with Giving of Life so that you can receive two additional votes. All it takes is 30 seconds to enter your e-mail address and create a password. To get two more votes (for a grand total of 5), enter your Twitter handle (if you have one) and your Facebook URL.
We're celebrating the 101st International Women's Day by sharing some of our favorite quotations from women who have been touched by our programs in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Five Talents and its partners support micro-entrepreneurs with loan capital, savings group formation, business training, spiritual development, and, in some cases, literacy education, health care opportunities and micro-insurance.
The results speak for themselves: Women begin to recognize their God-given abilities. They gain confidence and start participating more actively in family affairs. They form lasting friendships with other women and draw support from this fellowship. Their earned income can be used towards putting children through school. And over time, what they learn is passed down to the next generation.
Every woman has a unique story, but as you read their words, you will hear a familiar refrain of hope, confidence, faith and joy. Click the link beside each quotation to read the woman's story:
"There were days when I wanted to leave everything and run away, but God who is almighty gave me strength to keep going. Today, I am the mother and the father of my children, and we are doing well." -Gloria in Peru
Sometimes the micro-entrepreneurs that Five Talents assists need more than just a loan to spark their survival business into a sustainable enterprise. They might first need something more basic, like windows and a floor for their home.
This was the case with Gloria, a 35-year-old shop owner in Huancavelica, Peru. The mother of three has to bear alone the burden of providing for her family.
"There were days when I wanted to leave everything and run away, but God who is almighty gave me strength to keep going," she told us. "Today, I am the mother and the father of my children, and we are doing well."
"I had a dirt floor and no windows; a plastic sheet was what we used for a window," she recalled.
Gloria's children often coughed through the night and felt the cold in their bones.
"It is very cold in Huancavelica and the wind entered my house like a snake that crawled through every corner of my home and on every inch of my children's bodies," she said. "They clung to me in the nights seeking warmth."
In our most recent video, we interview Colleen Dyble, a Five Talents Fellow who worked with our partner ECLOF in Peru from 2009 to 2011. Here, Colleen (L) is visiting a children's clothing business run by a woman named Marta and her mother Pasquella (R) in Huancavelica, Peru.
During her time in the country, Colleen managed ECLOF's non-financial services for group members -- including business training, spiritual training and micro-insurance. The loan groups are mostly comprised of women.
"Normally they hear about ECLOF from a neighbor or friend, or someone who has a stall at the market, because we tend to form our groups with people who know one another," said Colleen. "...The clients, particularly the women, are good payers. We find that you give them a small amount of money and they really are able to manage the money and pay it back because they are used to managing the money of the household."
In the following video and slideshow, we interview Colleen Dyble, who returned to the US in late 2011 after working for two years in Peru with ECLOF, a Five Talents partner. During that same time, Colleen also served as a Five Talents Fellow.
The video focuses on the "entrepreneurial culture" of Peru and how women and men set up survival businesses in order to provide for their families.
"Most of our clients already have some sort of business by the time that we meet them," said Colleen. "A lot of people do what they see their neighbors doing. Some are savvy enough to understand that there's a gap in the market that needs to be filled – [like] ice cream in the summer. Others start something because it's what their mother did or their grandmother did. They just have learned the trade over the years."
Why through Facebook? Every time someone makes even a small donation to Five Talents on Facebook, their action is noted on their wall and on their friends' news feeds. When your mom or classmate or neighbor sees that you have just given $5 to Five Talents, he or she might say, "Hmm... what is Five Talents?" and then click over to our Facebook page.
Or this person might say, "Oh, how nice, I think I'll give $5 to their cause, too."
A woman walks through an expo in rural Huancavelica, Peru. Micro-entrepreneurs often rely on such venues to reach new customers and extend their business beyond the boundaries of their immediate community.