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Today, I'm excited to announce the release of our 2013-2014 Annual Report
Think of it as a family scrapbook containing photos, news and stories from some of the 79,000 women and men who benefitted from your support, advocacy and prayers over the last 12 months.
"Because of this program, I can feed and send my children to school," Supiati, a woman I met in Indonesia, told me. "When my husband became sick, my fellow group members came and helped us financially to pay for his medical treatment. It was like help from above."
"Help from above." I love those words from Supiati.
In our programs, God uses members of savings and loan groups to help one another. He also uses our staff members, our local partners – and people just like yourself.
This is just one example of how "community transformation" spans borders, oceans, cultures and languages. You, me, Supiati, our other clients and partners around the world – we are truly all part of one community, one family.
This Annual Report captures one year in the life of our joint mission to fight poverty, create jobs and transform lives. Click here to download the PDF
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If you ask Sabina to describe how her life has changed since joining a savings group, you had better listen up and have a pen handy. The Bolivian woman barely pauses to think before the stories start flowing out of her.
Before joining a savings group, Sabina had knitted clothes for sale in Argentina. But when demand fell and prices dropped, her micro-enterprise no longer made financial sense. She had a strong skill, but where could she focus it? A thought hit her when she learned of a need for a knitting teacher.
"I could never have imagined being a teacher, but I encouraged myself to apply as a knitting teacher in a school, and they accepted me," Sabina said. "Now, I am helping many poor children to knit sweaters and scarves for themselves. I have always spoken like a teacher to other people, and now when people call me 'teacher,' I feel very good and special, and I have even more desire to teach."
Before joining a savings group, Sabina was reluctant to leave her home and talk to others. She lacked confidence. And she had little say in financial affairs at home, where she and her husband have raised seven children.
"I was very quiet and suspicious of people. I was also very timid," Sabina recalled. "I eventually joined a group because of my friend. She always told me that it is important to save for emergencies and to have capital for a business. At first, I didn't want to join the group, but she insisted that I try it, so I joined and began to save small amounts."
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Five Talents' 2014 Fall Gala is just around the corner, and we have collected some gorgeous items for a special silent auction featuring hand-made goods from our program countries.
The above photos provide just a taste of what will be up for bidding: lacquerware platters and bowls from Myanmar, hand-knit pillow cases from Bolivia, intricate silver jewelry from Indonesia, lovely handbags and purses from Kenya... the list goes on and on.
For photo previews of the hand-crafted silent auction items, visit the Fall Gala Facebook Page and be sure to RSVP so you will be notified of subsequent updates.
Click here to reserve seats for the Fall Gala, which will be held at a private country club in Bethesda, MD and include dinner, live entertainment and a special guest from Five Talents' program in Kenya.
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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 loan 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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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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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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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.