Infographic: Micro-Enterprise Development in South Sudan
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We wish that we could bring each of our friends and supporters to villages, like Lietnhom, South Sudan.
The Weekly Window: Farmland in Burundi's Matana Diocese
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Five Talents Program Director Suzanne Schultz Middleton is currently in Burundi visiting with savings group members and local staff from Mothers' Union, one of our partners in the country. Last week, she spent a day in the Diocese of Matana, a slice of which can be seen in the above photo, which was taken during an earlier trip.
So far, Suzanne has met with 35 savings groups representing more than 800 members. She plans to spend the next several days in the southern city of Nyanza Lac at a retreat with the Mothers' Union trainers who help to manage the savings groups and train members in basic business skills and financial literacy. Please keep Suzanne and the MU staff in your thoughts and prayers!
Financial Inclusion for Communities Off the Beaten Path
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One thing that distinguishes Five Talents from other microfinance organizations is our focus on under-served communities. We don't work in places laden with traditional banks and large for-profit microfinance institutions. We focus on the poor who live well off the beaten path and who have little or no access even to basic financial services.
One such community is in Bekasi, Indonesia, a slum area outside of Jakarta. In January, the city and some outlying slums, including Bekasi, suffered devastating flooding.
Our partner on the ground, GERHATI, which Five Talents helped to found in 2005, recently sent us photos of their efforts to aid local Bekasi residents. These pictures offer a glimpse into an under-served community that's desperately in need of basic financial services and training that can empower micro-entrepreneurs and equip them for success.
GERHATI staff put together bags of food and essential goods for people in flooded Bekasi.
GERHATI staff load the bags into trucks.
Bekasi residents wade through the flood waters.
A Call for Prayer After Fire Destroys a Market in Burundi
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We're living in an era of touch-screens, social media and quick reads. Nonprofit organizations like ours depend on pithy tweets, Facebook "Likes" and photo-sharing platforms like Instagram to reach new supporters and raise awareness and funding for our programs.
But technology – as great as it is – can seem so inadequate on days like yesterday, when we received word that a large market in Bujumbura, Burundi, had burnt down (Photo: GLM News).
The market in Burundi's capital city housed hundreds of businesses, some owned by women and men who were members of savings and credit associations organized by Mothers' Union, our partner in Burundi.
Micro-entrepreneurs work so hard to cobble together businesses that they can use to feed their family. To see so many livelihoods go up in smoke is just heartbreaking.
We tweeted about it yesterday. We're blogging about it now. Tomorrow, some supporters will be moved to donate. But there is a deep discouragement in the hearts of these micro-entrepreneurs that can only begin to be healed by something ancient – by praying to a caring, loving God.
We hope you'll take a moment to offer up a prayer for the women and men who have lost their livelihoods in Bujumbura, Burundi. Not just today, but for the rest of this week, and maybe even beyond, if God so moves you.
The truth is, we at Five Talents – including our partners oversees and the members of our savings and loan groups -- need your prayers more than we need donations, Facebook "Likes" and Twitter "Followers."
In prayer, there is a healing power that no amount of dollars or awareness can match.
For this reason, we have created a campaign page on PlusGrace, a new online platform where believers all over the world are gathering to pray for specific causes and projects. Our page focuses on our program in Indonesia, but we will be sure to post other prayer requests as well, like this story from Burundi.
We hope you will check back often and pray for the needs you see listed on our PlusGrace page, as well as the needs listed on the campaign pages of other organizations and individuals.
We trust God will provide courage, peace and new business opportunities to those who have lost their livelihoods in Bujumbura.
The Weekly Window: All Smiles During a Business Training Seminar in Bolivia
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Here's a lovely photo taken at a savings group business training seminar in Bolivia, where we partner with the local organization Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings). After operating informally for 2.5 years, Semillas de Bendicion was officially registered in 2012 as an association, the simplest organization under Bolivian law.
Sara (R) and her sister Eva (third from R) lead Semillas de Bendicion and are incredibly gifted at teaching and training our micro-entrepreneurs in the city of Tarija, and in the surrounding rural communities. When commenting on this picture, the sisters said, "We like it when people laugh while learning [because they are more likely] to remember what we taught them."
Indeed, everyone looks like they are having a good time here.
Save the Date: Five Talents' Annual Charity Golf Event
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Mark your calendar for the 10th Annual X-OUT Poverty Golf Classic!
Building the Kingdom of God, One Cup of Tea at a Time
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Whether you are slinging coffee at the corner Starbucks or pouring hot tea under a tree in South Sudan, good customer service is crucial to success.
Teresa, a 45-year-old mother of five in Western Bahr el Ghazal State, South Sudan, learned this principle while taking a leadership course with one of our partners in South Sudan, World Concern.
Teresa runs a tea business in the shade of a tree near the Eastern Bank Market. Beyond building a loyal customer base through good service, she's also fulfilling her calling as a Christian by showing love and compassion for the people that God brings to her business.
Teresa first launched her tea shop with the help of a loan of 150 South Sudanese Pounds, or about US $50. Every customer who stops by gets not only a good cup of tea, but also a reminder that they are loved by God.
In one case, Teresa befriended a woman named Akec. Like many relationships, theirs started with some small talk and a few funny stories. Then, one day, Teresa invited Akec to attend a church event with her.
The Rev. Peter Garang, an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church of Sudan and an Economic Development Officer with World Concern, recalled what happened next.
"Mrs. Akec got convicted from a speaker who was preaching on God's love, and, as the result, she accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior," said Peter. "A few weeks later, she got baptized with her four children in Eastern Bank Parish. Five months later, one of her daughters became a Sunday School teacher in the Parish."
Around the same time, Teresa also began reaching out to a woman nicknamed "Anger" who was known in the community to have a struggle with alcoholism. This woman's behavior in the market was becoming a public spectacle. This broke Teresa's heart, so she began to speak with "Anger" about her problems.
Over time, the woman warmed to Teresa's advice and started attending church with her. Now, she and her five children have been baptized, and others in the community are marveling at her transformation.
Of course, besides reaching out to others – and serving tea – Teresa has needs of her own. She hopes to expand her business in 2013, and at the end of her conversation with Peter she offered up this prayer, which we want to share with you so that we can all join together in praying for Teresa and the women she has touched and will continue to touch through her business.
"May the Lord our shepherd who sees people's needs," she prayed, "bless my small business to grow well in the Eastern Bank area so that I can become a living example for my fellow workers and teach them to start their own businesses in our respective counties in Western Bahr el Ghazal State, South Sudan."
The Weekly Window: How Savings Group Members Are Empowered in Burundi
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We write often on this blog about "savings groups", but what are they and how does group participation "empower" a micro-entrepreneur?
Let's use, as an example, a group from our program in Burundi, where we partner with Mothers' Union. Pictured here is the "Gistinda" group.
Five Talents' group formation model helps to create a support network for women and men who are becoming financially literate, learning to manage their money and planning or growing a micro-enterprise.
The groups operate according to the following principles:
- 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. The process of drawing up their own constitution helps members to take ownership of their group.
- Every decision is made democratically, and all operations, such as depositing money into savings or disbursing loan capital, are conducted in front of the group. Such transparency helps to guard against distrust and corruption.
- Group members see themselves as a family. Before graduating to "savings groups," members have already become familiar with each other through the literacy program that they must complete as a prerequisite. This familiarity usually becomes "solidarity," meaning that group members become so close that they will often come alongside one another during difficult times. For example, if a group member is unable to cultivate a plot of land, all of the other group members will pitch in to complete the project. One group described their "solidarity" in this way: "What keeps us together is love. Money will finish, but love will remain."
Five Talents in Myanmar: Giving Micro-Entrepreneurs a Crash Course in Business 101
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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.
Help Five Talents Find a New Home!
We've begun the hunt for new office space, and we'd love to have your help over the next few months.
Please spread the word among your friends about our need for shared, discounted or donated office space in northern Virginia. Here's what we are looking for:
- 1,300 sq. ft. (minimum)
- At least 1 private office + 10 workstations
- Access to bathroom, kitchen, and conference room
- Metro or bus access desired
Please contact Kimberly at (703) 242-6016 or
for more information.