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Savings Groups Help Low-Income Families ‘Put Their Money to Work’

putting money to work photo
When a financial advisor says, "Put your money to work for you," stocks, index funds, high-yield CDs and other investments probably come to mind.

But what if you had no access to E-Trade, Charles Schwab, or even a neighborhood bank? What if the closest financial institution wouldn't even accept your deposit? Or what if the fees for setting up an account and making deposits outweighed the benefits of using such services?

How, then, would you "put your money to work"?

The answer for many women and men in rural, under-served communities across the developing world is "by participating in savings groups."

Last week, Julie Zollmann, an associate at Bankable Frontier Associates, gave a talk at CGAP headquarters in Washington D.C. about a financial diaries research project that she headed up in Kenya. Julie and her colleagues recorded detailed financial transactions and tracked the habits of 300 low-income families in both urban and rural communities in Kenya.

Their meticulous research showed that these individuals – many of whom are micro-entrepreneurs – are quite active money managers. They are always looking for ways to put their money to work, and savings groups are among their favorite tools.

"Most...saving was quite intentionally pushed into financial assets—like savings groups—where it could not be immediately withdrawn," Zollmann writes in a blog post for CGAP's website.

"These kinds of devices are playing an important role in the portfolio, helping money build up into useful, investible sums. And, most of the time, they are also playing an auxiliary function. This money, our respondents told us, is not just sitting there – it is working. While the respondents have a future claim on those funds, they serve another purpose in the immediate, such as enabling a loans or enabling a friend or neighbor to invest today. Money that just sits around idle under the mattress—even in a bank account—is seen as wasted."

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2014 Fall Gala to Highlight Five Talents' Micro-Savings Programs

Gala promo image sm

On October 17, friends and supporters of Five Talents will have an opportunity to learn -- first-hand -- about the organization's programs in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The 2014 Fall Gala, titled "Portraits of Empowerment", will feature a special guest and speaker from Five Talents' program in Kenya.

Guests will also enjoy a delicious meal and a silent auction featuring beautiful hand-crafted products from Myanmar, Indonesia, Kenya, Bolivia and other countries where Five Talents works.

Attendees will also get an inside look at how their participation in the event and support of Five Talents directly benefits the lives of women and men struggling along the road out of poverty, through access to micro-business loans, savings group formation, business skills training, and mentoring.

Click here to find out more about the special event and purchase tickets.

Our annual Fall Gala provides a great opportunity to introduce friends and family to the work of Five Talents. Click here to invite people in your network via the Fall Gala Facebook Event page.

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'Your Donations and Prayers Are the Bricks That Build the House of Transformation'

Celestina blog
If you were to ask 56-year-old Celestina about her life during a visit to the marketplace in Tarija, Bolivia, you would not have to wait long to hear about her children.

She'd probably tell you about her daughter Romina's continuing education.

With a twinkle in her eye, she'd no doubt brag about her grandchildren.

Celestina would also be sure to mention the house she has been building, brick by brick, with the profit from her micro-business. "One day," she says, "I will finish building my house."

Celestina's house is a great picture of what happens when a woman or man joins one of Five Talents' programs. When they learn to save money, invest loan capital in a micro-business, and participate in training workshops, their whole household is transformed.

Children are able to attend school. Extended family and friends benefit, as the group member's new knowledge trickles down into the community. Often, the household's living conditions improve as well – there's more food and better shelter.

Over time, an entire family's life begins to change – little by little, brick by brick.

Your donations, prayers and advocacy are the bricks that build the house of transformation.

When Celestina found Five Talents and our partner organization in Bolivia, Seeds of Blessing, she had already launched several micro-enterprises.

Celestina had first sold bread before moving on to corn. For a while, she was earning a decent profit from the micro-enterprise and began using some of that profit to build a house. But then unexpected costs began stealing from her profits. She'd not yet learned to save, and so her work on the house stalled. Worse yet, she no longer had money to invest in her business.

"I was worried because I needed to increase my capital in order to have more profit," Celestina said.

In desperate need of a loan, she turned to Five Talents and Seeds of Blessing.

When someone like Celestina joins a savings group, your donations help to provide loan capital, a safe place to save, and training in core business skills. In Celestina's case, an initial loan of $40 helped her to get the business back on track.

"The group gave me a loan, and with it I bought things that I needed," she said. "Now, I am selling more items, including corn, chilies and peanuts, and with what I earn I can finish building my house."

The impact of your support, however, extends far beyond the direct beneficiary, and this is part of what makes Five Talents unique.

Women like Celestina are not just getting a one-time loan, paying it back and going on with life. They are joining a community whose support and training inevitably trickles down into the lives of family and friends.
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Come Along On a Journey That Will Transform the Way You See the World

Walk With Us

Have you ever jogged a trail, walked a dog, or meandered through a park and come home totally and utterly transformed?

Perhaps you burned a few calories, learned something you never knew, or recharged thanks to a few moments of solitude, but were you changed? Did you return home with a new perspective about your place in the world?

Likely not. Upon coming through the door, you probably threw your keys on the table, kicked off your shoes, and moved on to some other activity. After all, there's always another task to tick off our lists.

Every once in a while, however, we are given an opportunity to participate in something special, something good, something with eternal ramifications. The two fellows that Jesus spoke with on the road to Emmaus certainly had a story to tell -- and re-tell a million times -- when they returned home from their walk.

"Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road?" they asked, shortly after "their eyes were opened" and they recognized Jesus.

Today, we're inviting you to participate in a journey that will transform the way you see the world. We want to introduce you to the women and men who are participating in savings groups, investing in micro-businesses, taking part in training workshops and striving to lead their families out of poverty.

We want to introduce you to folks like Deng in South Sudan, Edo in Indonesia and Simona in Bolivia. We want you to walk with them, participate in their lives, and -- at the same time -- transform your own.

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Photo of the Week: A New Pair of Glasses for Simona and Her Husband

Simona glasses
When you partner with Five Talents to equip and empower micro-entrepreneurs, you are helping to transform the lives of both program participants and their family members.

A great example of this "trickle-down transformation" can be seen in the lives of Simona and her husband, pictured here, in Bolivia. Simona's husband had a stroke that forced him to stop working. Initially, this made him bitter about life. But Simona and her fellow savings group members began praying, and some remarkable things began to happen in her family:

Something that I really like [about participating in a savings group] is that ...I learned to pray and to pray for my spouse. He has started to heal more and more. Now, my husband walks better, he moves his right arm a little more, he is friendly, and he helps me cook and sell the food.

Last week, we went to our plot of land in the field, and he told me that he was going to stay a week longer to continue working a little more. Recently, he also received some glasses that he really needed. He felt very happy because no one had ever given him something so valuable.

I continue to pray for my husband and my family, and I give thanks for the help we've received in our businesses.

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In Her Own Words: Simona on Participating in a Savings Group in Bolivia

In Her Own Words: Simona on Participating in a Savings Group in Bolivia

April 21, 2014
Month of Microfinance "Autobiographies" Blog

"When it was my turn to receive a loan ($15), I was happy. I bought a crate of oil, and I felt very relieved. My business made a lot of profit. Something that I really like [about participating in a savings group] is that we learn each week something good for our family and business."

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World Mission Sunday: Connecting the Global Body of Christ

McKenzie ButlerI remember sitting in a tiny Anglican Church in Tarija, Bolivia, like it was yesterday. During those beautiful moments, I felt so connected to the global body of Christ as I listened to the Spanish-language sermon and took Communion.

As a Program Officer at Five Talents, I work directly with our local partners – the people who help to implement our programs -- to support them and help them track accomplishments over time. I always tell people that I have the best job at Five Talents because I get to interact with our partners on a daily basis and encourage them in their work.

Five Talents is based out of Fairfax, VA, and our mission is to fight poverty, create jobs, and transform lives through microenterprise development and business skills training. We partner with local, grassroots organizations and the Anglican Communion in Bolivia, Peru, South Sudan, Sudan, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Myanmar, Indonesia, and the Philippines. We seek to build the capacity of local people so they can help empower and transform their own communities. We are here because we believe in individual, family, and community transformation.

In the last four and a half years that I have worked at Five Talents, I have had the opportunity to travel to several countries to visit our partners and to see first-hand the work that they do.

If there is anything I have learned through being a part of church communities and Five Talents, it's that we need each other. We were created to be in relationship with one another. Some of the people who have most challenged me in my faith are our program partners. I wish I could introduce you to all of them! Their stories and their faith have inspired me in unimaginable ways.

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