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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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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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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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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.
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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.