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The power of giving is truly remarkable.
I recently returned from a trip to Burundi, where donations from folks like you have been put to work, forming savings groups, providing loan capital for micro-businesses and training micro-entrepreneurs in core business skills.
To be sure, the need in the communities I visited was palpable. But the power of your generosity – and God's blessing on your donations – is far, far greater.
Without supporters like you, many of the huts I visited would not have roofs or windows. Fewer meals would be served. Fewer children would be learning to read and write. Hope would be virtually non-existent.
I think of Lea, who had hardly a penny to her name when she joined a savings group. After attending regular meetings, receiving training, and taking out a small loan, she launched a tiny enterprise selling tomatoes.
"Now, we eat two times a day while we were eating once or less a day before," she told us. "We are able to provide school materials to our children. While I had no income, now I am financially autonomous. And with my profits, I can even provide some gifts."
Isn't that amazing? Lea, who was directly touched by the support of Five Talents donors, is now giving out of her own profits, small though they may be.
Indeed, the needs of folks who join our programs are great. But the power of your gift is greater.
Without you, micro-businesses would not be turning a profit and helping to fund the education of children.
Without you, women would not feel – often for the first time in their lives – that they have value, that God loves them, that they have skills and gifts and something to offer their families.
Denise's story, if you heard her tell it, might just bring you to tears. Ostracized in her community, she literally had no clothes or home when she first joined the program.
But other women in her savings group saw her need and surrounded her, encouraged her and helped her to get back on her feet. She learned from them and slowly began to re-build her life.
"Being in a savings and credit association has contributed to my changing social status," she said. "I feel empowered and confident. Now, I am the one to provide food and take care of my children, to build a dwelling, and to buy clothes for myself and my children. I've also gained new relationships through the group."
These are just two of the scores of stories I heard when I was in Burundi, where we estimate 40,000 women and men are still waiting to join our program.
That's not a typo: 40,000 people in Burundi – one of the world's most impoverished countries – are in great need of financial services, training and support.
Tens of thousands more wait to join our programs in communities across South Sudan, Myanmar, Bolivia and Indonesia.
We simply cannot meet this challenge without your support.
Although the need is great, the collective generosity of people like you is far greater.
A donation made today will change the life-course of a savings group member and their dependents.
Your gift will provide business skills training workshops, micro-business loans, and savings group formation – all before the end of our current fiscal year.
As we celebrate the birth of the greatest Gift the world has ever seen, Christ Our Lord, let us each prayerfully consider how we can give out of our own great wealth.
No matter where you find yourself this holiday season – whether at home in front of a familiar tree strung with lights and ornaments, or enjoying a well-deserved vacation – please know that your generosity has the power to lift up women like Lea and Denise, along with their families, from the pit of poverty and despair.
Realistically, what can each of us do to help end extreme poverty?
A lot more than we sometimes realize.
Recently, a Barna Group survey found that 84% of Americans – roughly eight out of every ten – are unaware that global poverty has been on the decline. In fact, over the last 30 years, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has decreased from 52% to 21%.
Various factors have contributed to this decline, such as economic development and international aid and investment. Donations from people like yourself to organizations like Five Talents have also been critical to this decline.
The simple truth is that ending global poverty, and transforming lives, starts with you and with me.
A donation, a conversation in which you advocate for the poor in an under-served community, even a Facebook "Share" that compels a friend to learn more about the issue – such actions make a real contribution to the fight against global poverty.
Each year, around 75,000 people participate in Five Talents' programs.
What exactly do your donations, advocacy and prayers accomplish? It varies, of course, from community to community, but in Indonesia, for example, the typical person who joins a loan group organized by Five Talents partner The Gerhati Foundation will:
- Receive a micro-business loan;
- Be trained in the effective use of the loan;
- Receive budget skills and business training;
- Be part of a compulsory savings program;
- Increase her household income over several loan and training cycles;
- Have access to a free medical clinic for her entire family.
The hope, the empowerment and, ultimately, the transformation resulting from these financial and training services begins not in the slums of Jakarta, or on the streets of Tarija, Bolivia, or in the mountains of Burundi, but with folks like you -- in Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, PA, Littleton, Colorado, or wherever you are.
Make a donation today and join with us in helping to end extreme poverty.