From the Field

Celebrating Growth: Five Talents' Board Chair Reflects on Latest Kenya Visit

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I recently returned from an incredible trip to Kenya.

The purposes of the trip were to participate in the launch of Five Talents Kenya, to hold our regular Five Talents International Board Meeting, and to see the progress made in our programs (specifically our Kenyan programs) to date. We participated in a number of meetings and celebrations, but the highlight of the trip came when we were able to visit clients on their home ground and see the amazing transformation that has occurred in the lives of the people touched by this ministry.

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Monday, March 7 was our first "official" day, and was taken up by our FTI board meeting, where we reviewed the progress of our programs world-wide, with a particular emphasis on our African programs. Although our programs are strong, we continue to be concerned about our ability to keep functioning in conflict areas, especially in Burundi and South Sudan. That said, it continues to be a source of great inspiration to see how our clients are able to keep operations running in the face of such hardships. As the Bishop of Juba told our Program Director, "Your friends come and visit when you are sick."

On Tuesday, we celebrated the launching of Five Talents Kenya, in a ceremony attended by five Kenyan bishops and an enthusiastic crowd. It was more of a worship service than a business meeting, and reflected our hopes for a bright future for FTK.

The highlight of the day, however, was our visit to "the field" that afternoon. We were able to see the Thungururu Community Bank in operation, and were able to meet Monica, a Five Talents client who used a small (approximately $50) loan to develop a thriving petrol station. We learned that there are now over 40 small businesses operating in the community!

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On Wednesday, we travelled to two separate locations to see possibilities for additional expansion. My team went to Mbeere Diocese, where we learned that they are already starting savings groups in anticipation of Five Talents, and have over 8000 people lined up! Their drive is amazing!

Our group had the easier day, as we only had to drive for two hours over some really bumpy dirt roads to get to our meetings. It is easy to forget how challenging the logistics can be in this part of the world!

A personal highlight for me was the opportunity to meet with a young man by the name of Robert Martin. He introduced himself to me, and reminded me that he attended a seminar that I taught in 2012 on business, which emphasized Christian business principles. He is a teacher, and now has a thriving poultry business as well. In addition, he serves as the chairman of the board for the Community Bank! He credits us with giving him the skills and inspiration to start his business. Although I think he gives us too much credit, it is indeed inspiring to see what he has done with a little training and a lot of ambition!

Once again, I came away in awe of these people, and what they can do with just a little assistance from us, coupled with their own innate dignity and drive. It is a humbling experience to be a small part of this ministry!

Jim Oakes serves as a Board Chair of Five Talents USA.

Photos by Joe Paulini for Five Talents.

Mama Bahati Foundation

Established in 2007, the Mama Bahati Foundation (MBF) now serves over 5,000 women across Iringa and Kilolo regions in the southern highlands of central Tanzania.

MBF was founded by the former Archbishop of Tanzania, Donald Mtetemela, after he met a lady called Mama Bahati who was struggling to make a living selling bananas in Iringa. The high interest rates she was forced to pay to buy the bananas wholesale on credit meant that making ends meet was nearly impossible. The Archbishop lent her a small sum at a much fairer rate of interest so that she was able to increase her profits, feed her family and repay the loan. Soon after this encounter, the Archbishop appealed to Five Talents, asking for support in establishing a microfinance project in Iringa, and MBF was born.

The Mama Bahati Foundation focuses its services on women who are typically even more marginalised in rural society than the men. Since the women typically bear responsibility for feeding, educating and caring for children, supporting women through microfinance means supporting the whole family. Enabling women to become financially literate income-earners can also empower them within the family and community.

Learn more about our programs in Tanzania.