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I 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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Five Talents goes where others don't.
We target high-risk, under-served communities where most people are unable to get traditional loans or other banking services. We work in post-conflict communities in Sudan, South Sudan and Burundi. We work in rural Myanmar, in the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, and in the mountains of Peru, among other countries.
Five Talents helps the whole person.
We give micro-business loans to our participants. They get training in core business skills. Their local group facilitators and trainers serve as mentors. And they learn to save for when crisis hits, such a drought or an illness.
Five Talents works primarily among women, who are often catalysts for change in the home.
Women gain influence in the household when they return home with savings they've accrued or profit from a micro-business. For example, Florence in South Sudan began making more financial decisions in her family after joining a savings and loan group. Her husband told us, "I want to sell a goat to buy some nails for building, but she [my wife] has to agree first." He added, "Now you have to ask your wife even if you want to sell a chicken!" Often, the women pass this knowledge on to others in the home.
Five Talents partners with local organizations.
Our partner organizations and their staff members are better-equipped to carry on their work thanks to Five Talents. Local staff members help us tailor each program to the needs of each individual community. We also partner in each country with the local church.
Five Talents measures impact.
We track the number of loans distributed and repaid, as well as collective savings. We also look at how family life and communities are being transformed.
Download the "Why Five Talents?" infosheet
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Earlier this month, we shared the story of Eiber, a savings group member in Tarija, Bolivia.
Both Eiber and his wife, Marcia, take part in Five Talents' micro-savings and training program and have seen some remarkable changes in their lives and marriage.
In our first post, we focused on the couple's participation in training workshops. Here, the 30-year-old Eiber shares in his own words the successes and challenges of growing his sandal-making enterprise:
Regarding my work, before I got married I was an assistant to my uncle. I remember that no one wanted me to help me [with] capital to form my micro-enterprise. But with the help of God, I was eventually able to obtain a loan. Now that I am a member of a savings group, I can help other people to bring together capital that they need. This makes me very happy.
I make 10 dozen flip-flops (leather sandals) a week because there is so much demand. When I [recently] received a group loan of 280 bolivianos ($40), I used all of it to buy some accessories that I needed for the flip-flops.
This week, a woman came to my workshop and asked me to make 30 dozen flip-flops so that she can take them to Oruro (another department in Bolivia). Since then, other people also have placed orders [to be sent to] the interior of the country.
This is a new experience, and I am excited.
I want to hire three more workers to make more flip-flops and store them for my clients. For this, I will join a rotating savings group that loans more money, because I want to travel to Santa Cruz to buy leather in bulk for the flip-flops.
The most difficult part of my job is making the soles of the flip-flops. I am the only one who does this on my work team, because it [requires] a lot of strength and patience to do it well. If I am not patient to measure with care the leather to the iron, I can lose a lot of money.
I believe that the craftsman is an artist.
Want to see more micro-entrepreneurs like Eiber and Marcia make their businesses sustainable? Donate today to the program of your choice!
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Eiber, a 30-year-old father of two, loves to play soccer.
He admits, though, at times in the past, he has loved it a little too much.
"All I did was work, and the little free time I had I dedicated to playing soccer with my friends," said Eiber, who designs and manufactures flip-flops with his wife, Marcia.
That was before they joined a savings group with Five Talents' partner organization in Tarija, Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings). While participating in the group savings program and learning core business skills, Eiber was also challenged to become a better father.
"My brothers' and sisters' families all live in the same house with us, and our children always play together. My nieces and nephews are very, very naughty and often have accidents and do poorly in school," he said.
"One day, Marcia made me reflect [that] I wasn't being a very good husband or father. In fact, no one in my family was – we all had married very young."
Participants in Five Talents' Bolivia program, like Eiber and Marcia, have access to additional workshops designed to strengthen communication and relationships within the home. He remembers how, early on, another family member pushed him to attend the sessions on family life.
"Each week, on the day of the meeting, a family member would always come, room by room, shouting, you are going to become psychologists! Prepare yourself! Let's go!" he recalled.
Slowly, the workshop attendance began paying off. Eiber and Marcia saw their marriage grow stronger and their home life become more stable.
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We couldn't squeeze photos of all 72,725 women and men who participated in our micro-enterprise development programs during 2013 into this brief slideshow. But we picked about 30 favorites from our Instagram feed, mixed in a clip of Gungor
's "I Am Mountain" (a great song!) and whipped up this musical collage as a thank-you to supporters like you.You'll find photos of women and men whose lives are being transformed thanks to their participation in savings groups, loan groups and business skills training seminars.
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To all of us here at Five Talents, November is an important month. It is around this time that we get to release our latest annual report and share stories, statistics and testimonies about the transformation that is happening across Asia, Africa and Latin America -- because of you.
Your prayers, advocacy and donations helped Five Talents serve 72,725 women and men in 2012-2013. As Dr. April Young, Chair of Five Talents USA's Board of Directors, puts it in her letter on Page 2 of the annual report, that is "72,725 stories" that each of you have played a role in over the last 12 months.
We are so grateful for the support of our friends and donors, and we trust that you will find our 2012-2013 Annual Report as inspiring as we do.
When you hear a woman like Matilda, in Bolivia, explaining how she challenged her family to save for their children's education; when you hear Consolate, in Burundi, attesting to her husband's transformation as a father and as an image-bearer of God; when you hear Nena, in the Philippines, explaining how she uses some of the profit from her micro-enterprises to help her neighbors, we hope you will also hear the voice of the Master saying to his faithful, trustworthy servant, "Well done."
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If you've spent much time on this blog, or if you read our daily tweets, you've likely stumbled across the words "financial inclusion".
Like many other buzzwords in the world of microfinance and international development, "financial inclusion" doesn't exactly define itself. The expression refers to the movement to provide basic financial services -- like formal savings and lending opportunities -- to folks who, for one reason or another, have never been able to set foot in a bank.
Where we live, it sometimes seems like there are more banks than 7-Elevens and Starbucks cafes combined. But in countries like Burundi, South Sudan, Myanmar and Bolivia, banking institutions are often few and far between. Even when women and men living on less than $2 a day are able to walk to a bank, or bike to one, they often cannot afford the fees that are required to open an account. As a result, they lean on family, friends and informal money-lenders for infusions of capital to grow their business, improve their homes or pay for their children's education.
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On October 18, Five Talents held its 2013 Fall Gala, which celebrated the lives of our micro-entrepreneurs around the world. Here are some photos from the evening. You can find even more on our Facebook Page. If you were unable to attend the gala, you can still watch this moving video that was shown during the event.
The view from the ballroom's patio at Congressional Country Club.
Items created by Five Talents' clients in Peru were in high demand at the silent auction.
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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.