Grey Maggiano, a student at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA, vowed never to return to Africa after his first visit to the continent on a Five Talents-sponsored Business-As-Mission (BAM) trip to Uganda and Rwanda.
"I was there for a three-week trip and then I came home and I said I would never go back. The food was terrible, and it was hot and muggy and gross." After a pause, he added, "and so the next summer I was back there, conducting research for my mater's thesis [at Georgetown]."
Maggiano told his story at a forum on Five Talents and its partnerships held on the VTS campus on September 13. Five Talents CEO Craig Cole and Director of Philanthropy Mary Beth Campbell (pictured here) were invited to speak at the event, before taking questions from students in attendance.
Maggiano shared his story in order to attest to the good work that Five Talents is doing on the continent. That first trip to Uganda was every bit as tough as he described, but it also inspired him to think more deeply about the benefits of Five Talents' approach to microfinance – one that couples small loans of $60-$100 with savings groups, business training, and spiritual development.
Five Talents is able to offer this range of support to savings and loan clients thanks to partnerships with local NGOs and Anglican dioceses, which are often the most influential body in their respective communities.
Maggiano, who has also worked for the US State Department, recalled his first experience teaching a Five Talents seminar on marketing to men and women running survival businesses in Uganda.
"It was really [an] amazing experience to sit in this room with 300 or 400 people who were just craving any knowledge you could give them about improving their business," he said. "I have taught classes to all different ranges of people in the US, and I have never had anyone pay as much attention to me as they did in that session."
Maggiano also told the story of a BAM trip he took to Honduras, in which one woman went out the day after his seminar and put up a sign to advertise her shop.
"They are really hungry to improve their business," he said. "Part of that motivation was, 'Well, I have a loan and I have to pay it back.' But the other more significant part of it was that these people suddenly felt empowered and felt like they could do something. And they really wanted to do as much as they could for this business because it was going to pay for their families. It was going to pay for their children to go to schools, and it was going to help lift up their whole community."
If Maggiano still needed more proof about the effectiveness of the Five Talents model after that first trip, he got it when he returned to Uganda to study the impact of the program in the community.
"What was interesting to me was that the biggest impact we found ...was in terms of people's religious development and their community development," he said. "These programs are really bringing people together and creating a community that is going to support each other. This is a way people come together – not only to better themselves but also to better each other. I can't speak highly enough of the work they [Five Talents] do there in Uganda."