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Click on the icons below to jump to inspiring stories and interviews about Five Talents' microsavings, microcredit and business training program in Bolivia.
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We're always delighted when we get to spend time with our amazing partners. In September, Eva, the co-founder of Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings), our partner organization in Bolivia, came to DC for a visit. Here, we talk with her about the program in Bolivia, the importance of training women and her first Major League Baseball game. (Sadly, the Nationals lost – a recurring theme this season.)
Q: Eva, it was really a blessing to spend time with you in September. You told us that the Nationals baseball game we attended with you in DC was your very first Major League Baseball game. What did you enjoy about the experience? And did you get to try a hotdog?
A: Truly, I enjoyed seeing my first baseball game. I felt like I was one of the players – it was interesting to see the different moods of the fans. It's grand to have a team, to be part of one. I saw the team on the field playing and working hard, and then I saw the beautiful team [sitting with me], not forgetting that we have a goal in common – to win our fight against ignorance, poverty, and the many evils that lurk. And, of course, I had the traditional hot dog. Some said that it wasn't very healthy, but it was only one, and I liked it – it had a delicious taste. But the most delicious flavor I still savor is the kindness of my colleagues, their love, and their smiles. I thank the Lord for my friends at Five Talents.
Q: During your visit, when talking about the program in Bolivia, you said, "When you train women, you're winning the whole family." Can you share examples of how you have seen this truth played out in the life of a woman and her family?
A: [When my sister and I were young,] our mom sometimes went out to receive training, because her life was very hard before getting married. At first, we didn't like it when she left the house, but when she returned she always had a snack that they had given her in the training. And she would tell the whole family what she had learned. Gradually, we began to like when she would attend these trainings. And when we grew up, we noticed that we also did the same thing. If we went to a party or a meeting to learn something, we took what we could home to share with the family. This was a complete joy. Now, my younger sisters do the same thing, and many other families in Bolivia also. Maybe this is something cultural.
Our dad told us it is important to teach a mother because then she will share everything with her family. This has been our experience with the groups. One of our clients always took part of her snack to her house to share with her family, and they enjoyed it as well as hearing about what she had learned. The husband, who before didn't want his wife to leave the house to go to the [group] meetings, now says, "It's time to go to the workshop. Be careful to return." Many things change in the house of a woman who receives training, thanks to God. As women, we like to talk and share what we have learned with our family. Matilda is another example. Now, thanks to her, her oldest daughter and her husband have joined a savings group. The transformation not only impacted her life, but also her family members' lives.
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Editor's Note: This article by The Reverend Jeff MacKnight first appeared last week on the official blog of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Father MacKnight, a Five Talents board member, is the Rector at St. Dunstan's Church in Bethesda, MD.
I know we'll never all agree on the hot-topic issues, but I still hope we can act together on basic Christian values, like helping the poorest folks in the world. Five Talents is an Anglican organization that does just that through microfinance services at the grassroots level in the poorest countries of the world.
Five Talents was started at a global meeting of Anglican Church leaders, in response to their deep concern for the poorest of the poor. The founders wanted to guard the dignity of poor people, and assist them by creating jobs and opportunities to rise out of poverty, so in 1998, Five Talents was founded. Its byline says it all: "Fighting Poverty, Creating Jobs, Transforming Lives."
I've been involved with Five Talents for years, and now serve on its Board. St. Dunstan's has supported Five Talents projects in the Dominican Republic and Peru.
One of the things that excites me about Five Talents is the faith-based organization's focus on transforming not only the financial situation of their clients, but also their social and spiritual wellbeing.
A great example of this transformation is the story of Carmen in Bolivia. This 35-year-old woman, a single mother, sells cosmetics and, on weekends, works as a kitchen assistant in a restaurant. Carmen is also the treasurer of a Five Talents savings group that calls themselves the "Saving Bees."
Awhile back, Carmen's son, Luis, became very sick. Under normal circumstances, she would not have had any money to pay for medical treatment. As a result, she would have had to borrow money from her business – or from a loan shark. Either one of these options would have set her family back.
Fortunately, she had been saving money every week through the Five Talents savings group. So when Luis became sick, she was able to use some of that savings to pay for a medical procedure.
"If I had not saved money, I don't know what I would have done to get the money," she told staff from Five Talents' partner organization in Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessing).
But this is only half of the story.
Carmen's spirit was troubled when she first joined the Five Talents program. She rarely smiled and could sometimes act harshly with others.
"She didn't leave her house, and she didn't talk much with her family. The saddest part was that you didn't see her smile – she simply escaped from any activity that could provoke a smile," said Sara, a staff member at Semillas de Bendicion. "But without a doubt she was the best in how she handled numbers, and she was very honest." That's why, last year, her peers elected her to be the group's new treasurer.
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The Fall Gala on October 18 is our biggest fundraising event of the year. If you're on the fence about attending, here are a few reasons why you should register today:
1. You'll get to meet Claudette from Burundi.
You hear us talk a lot about the wonderful people we work with in our programs. Now, you get to meet one and learn, first-hand, how your dollars and advocacy for Five Talents are changing lives. Claudette, a Burundian woman who works with the microsavings program in Burundi, is coming all the way to Washington, DC to join us for the Fall Gala. Help us honor her – and the women and men she has devoted her life to serving – by attending on October 18.
2. You'll have a chance to bid on gorgeous lacquerware from Myanmar.
Our executive director, Sonia Patterson, recently returned from program visits to Indonesia and Myanmar. On full display at the silent auction will be an incredible collection of artifacts from around the world, including wood carvings from Indonesia, and gorgeous lacquerware from Myanmar. There will also be many other items up for bidding – including weekend getaways and jewelry. All proceeds from these silent auction items will help more women and men join savings and loan groups, receive training and develop their micro-enterprises. Register today so you'll have a chance to bid on these one-of-a-kind artifacts!
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Carmen, a single mom in Tarija, Bolivia, sells cosmetics and works as a kitchen helper on weekends. She has been saving money -- a little every week -- for three years, building up an emergency fund for herself and her son, Luis.
Recently, she had to tap into that savings -- to pay for her son's surgery.
"Last year my son got seriously ill, and the doctor said that he should operate on my son to remove his tonsils," said Carmen, who serves as the treasurer of her savings group. "Never in my life had I heard of this type of operation. I was really scared, and the operation was very expensive.
"I didn't want them to operate on my son, but he couldn't eat or drink water, so I took him to the hospital. Now, he is healthy and laughing and talking a lot, as always. He is my only company, and if I had not saved money, I don't know what I would have done to get the money."
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To celebrate our new office space in northern Virginia, we held an "open house" for friends, supporters and neighbors -- new and old -- on Thursday, September 19.
Eva, from our partner organization in Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings), was our very special guest for the evening.
Below, you'll find some photos taken during the informal gathering. To view the full gallery, visit our Facebook Page.
Please note that while Five Talents has moved its offices, our phone numbers, P.O. box and primary mailing address remain the same. Donations made by check can still be sent to P.O. Box 331, Vienna, VA 22183. Or you can give online by clicking here.
Eva (L) talks with Five Talents Program Officer McKenzie Butler and Colleen Dyble (R), a former Five Talents Fellow.
Five Talents friends and supporters Joe Paulini (L) and Frankie Stahlhut are members of the Church of the Holy Comforter, in Vienna, VA, where Five Talents had previously based its US offices.
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This morning we had the pleasure of welcoming Eva (center), one of the co-founders of our partner organization in Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessing), to our new offices in Fairfax, VA. She'll spend this afternoon touring DC with McKenzie (right), our program officer. On Thursday, Eva will be a very special guest at our open house -- we hope you'll drop by to meet her!
During our staff meeting, Eva shared about the microsavings and training program in Bolivia. She and her sister, Sara, reach out to women in and around the city of Tarija and set up savings groups. These groups are hubs not only for saving money from income-generating activities and micro-enterprises, but also for training group members in accounting, marketing, and developing specific types of micro-enterprises.
The great thing about working with women, Eva said, is that the women bring what they learn home to their children and seek to make it part of everyone's lives.
"When you train women, you're winning the whole family," she said, noting the important role women play within the family unit in Bolivia.
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Watch this new video featuring Executive Director Sonia Patterson talking about Five Talents' unique approach to micro-enterprise development.
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Last week, we heard from Matilda, a mother of four in Bolivia who has challenged her family to help her save money both for their children's education and also for the construction of a small shop into which she hopes to expand her cosmetics micro-enterprise.
"I had washed clothes for the last 15 years, and my hands were very battered," she told us. "The doctor told me to stop washing clothes; if I didn't, I would lose my hands. So I was very worried. I didn't know what to do to work because on some occasions my husband's income was not enough. One friend told me that selling cosmetics was a good business, but I needed money for my capital investment. So we used the money that we had collected in the savings group to begin building a shop that I really wanted, and also to start my cosmetics business. Now, I earn money and my hands do not suffer, and with the income we can help our children to study."
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Matilda, a mother of four, was washing clothes for a living when she joined the Five Talents program in Tarija, Bolivia. Since then, her life has begun to change. She's saving for her children's education. She started a new micro-enterprise. And she's participated in workshops designed to equip her with new skills, such as marketing, accounting and goal-setting.
But we'll stop here and let Matilda tell her own compelling story, which has been translated from Spanish by Five Talents Program Officer McKenzie Butler.
On saving money
My husband and I had many problems saving. For years, we saved our money in a ceramic piggy bank that we kept in our house. It took us two years to save this money – the piggy bank was full of money, and we were happy because we had a lot of plans to invest the money.
One day, though, my sister came to visit me at my house, and I asked her if she could stay for a week so that I could go visit my parents in the country. When I returned, she had a lot of new clothes, shoes, and jewelry. I thought that she had bought all of this with her money, but three days after she left I was cleaning my things and I noticed that my piggy bank had a hole in it. Hardly any money remained. I was very angry – it was two years of savings, and I went to my sister to confirm my suspicions. My sister told me everything – she had robbed me. I was very frustrated because she had spent everything. Since then, I've had a hard time trusting anyone.
One day I was invited to be part of a savings group. I took a risk and joined, saving again, little by little. Everything went very well – it's a very serious and transparent group, so in the following years I continued to save a lot more money. And this year, my husband was very excited about all that we had saved in the group.
On developing a new micro-enterprise
I had washed clothes for the last 15 years, and my hands were very battered. The doctor told me to stop washing clothes; if I didn't, I would lose my hands. So I was very worried, I didn't know what to do to work because on some occasions my husband's income was not enough. One friend told me that selling cosmetics was a good business, but I needed money for my capital investment. So we used the money that we had collected in the savings group to begin building a shop that I really wanted, and also to start my cosmetics business. Now I earn money and my hands do not suffer, and with the income we can help our children to study.