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To the children swarming her tiny toy stand in Cileungsi, Indonesia, Melia (R) might as well have been Santa Claus.
The nearby school had let out for lunch, and before parents could corral their kids, some made a beeline Melia's treasure trove of Pokemon cards, Play-Doh packages, Winnie the Pooh books, and toy cars.
One girl settled on some stickers and turned to her mother to ask for money. Moments later, Mom was fishing a couple of bills out of her purse.
Melia is just one of many micro-entrepreneurs I met during my recent visit to our programs in Indonesia and Myanmar (Burma). During the trip, I was reminded of how God is using our micro-enterprise development programs – not only to improve the financial conditions of families, but to strengthen the faith of believers and to extend the work of the local church.
As we celebrate Christmas, the coming of Emmanuel – "God with us," it is my honor to explain how Five Talents is serving as Christ's hands and feet in some of the most downtrodden and impoverished communities in the world.
The slums of Jakarta. The Irrawaddy Delta of Myanmar. The mountains of Peru. The post-conflict regions of South Sudan and Burundi. Five Talents has been called to places like these, and I'm humbled to report that, because of God's blessing, lives are being transformed.
It is easy to consider only the economic impact our beneficiaries feel when they launch a new micro-enterprise, or improve on an existing one. For example, a woman makes crackers out of cassava leaves to put a child through school. A water distribution business provides a community's first regular access to clean water.
Indeed, in each of our programs, parents are creating a steady, sustainable income and learning how to budget their finances. Children are going to school with new uniforms and the required textbooks. Women are making savings deposits and preparing their families for future expenses that might otherwise stall the growth of their micro-enterprise. Communities are growing more united.
But there's more. We've found that women and men, after joining our programs, become more hopeful. Many report that their spiritual lives are maturing, and that their faith is growing.
I remember one such example vividly. I'd just spent the good part of an afternoon running a budgeting workshop for women in the "Phoebe" savings group in Yangon, Myanmar (L).
Near the end of our time together, some of the women shared how their spiritual lives had begun to change since joining a savings group and launching a new micro-enterprise.
"Starting a business has helped me rely more on God," Jean, who sells cosmetics, told me.
Her testimony was echoed by other members in her group.
Investing in a micro-enterprise – or any business, for that matter – can be scary. These women shared how, by taking a risk and seeking to do more with the resources and talents God has given them, they were being blessed far beyond their financial situation. Their spiritual lives were enriched. Their relationship with God was strengthened.
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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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Our Fall Gala is less than a week away, and we're delighted to announce that the evening's silent auction will feature paintings by the artist Winnie Sidharta Ambron, who was born in West Java, Indonesia, and is now a guest lecturer at The Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio.
Two of Winnie's paintings will be on display at the gala. What's more, guests will be able to bid (silently) for a commissioned portrait of a subject of their choice -- a husband or wife, a grandchild, or even a pet.
Winnie's husband, Michael Ambron, also teaches at The Ohio State University, and he has donated two of his paintings for the silent auction. Michael was recently awarded the 2012 Dedalus Foundation M.F.A. Fellowship.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of their paintings will benefit Five Talents' microsavings and microcredit programs in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
We are grateful and honored that Winnie and Michael would share their work with us for the Fall Gala on October 18.
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September 26, 2013
"In recent weeks, Nancy Palmarini has been visiting via motorcycle a small community that sits on the edge of a landfill on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, in the Cipayung Subdistrict. Most of the women there generate income for their families by scavenging for bottles, chunks of plastic and food, selling their finds for a few cents. Nancy, a community development officer with the Jakarta-based Gerhati Foundation, is trying to convince them that other opportunities for income are out there – beyond the waves of rubbish."
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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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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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Several Five Talents staff members recently returned from an Asia trip, during which they visited our microsavings and microcredit projects in Myanmar and Indonesia. As part of the visit, Executive Director Sonia Patterson and company spent time with Five Talents' wonderful local partners, including these folks at The Gerhati Foundation.
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This blog post was first published on our "Notes From the Field" Tumblr. For more snapshots from our program visits to Indonesia and Myanmar, click here.
CILEUNGSI, Indonesia - Around lunchtime on Friday, in a small community near Cileungsi, Bogor, uniformed children are bouncing out the door of a small school building decorated with frescos of a giraffe, owl, deer and frog.
Parents await them on motorcycles that are soon roaring to life.
Near the entrance to the school, which is just off a dirt road, Melia, the leader of a Gerhati loan group, has set up a small toy stand underneath a tree. And she's got her hands full.
Kids are swarming the stand and sifting through her stock – Pokémon cards, Play-Doh packages, Winnie the Pooh books, stickers, cars.
Moms are pulling out their wallets.
Money is changing hands.
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JAKARTA, Indonesia - One of the great joys of visiting the field is spending time with the staff members of our local partner organizations. These folks are full of stories about clients who are accumulating savings, using loan capital to expand a business and building up their skill-sets with workshops on accounting, marketing, and planning.
On Thursday, Billy (R), a GERHATI Community Development Officer, told us about one of the loan groups he works with every week.
"I consider them a strong group, not because their loan repayment rate is high, but because of their perseverance. Their businesses have struggled, but they did not give up. They kept trying to find ways to improve them," he said. "I am very proud of them."
One group member named Tati came to Billy and asked for help in starting a new enterprise. She had been selling coconut-flavored rice but was not able to make ends meet. Billy brainstormed some other business ideas with Tati, but in the end he advised her to continue doing the business she had already begun.
The problem was not the business itself, he explained. Tati's product was unique, and demand for the coconut rice was steady. What was holding her back was the debt she was still repaying to six different loan sharks, whom she had borrowed from before joining the Five Talents-GERHATI program. The woman, a single mom, was taking care of her kids, as well as a brother who lived in her home. She just could not cover all of her expenses.
Over time, Billy was able to advise Tati on her finances. She has since paid off all of her debt, and her business has begun to thrive.
A week ago, Billy went to her house for a visit. Tati told him, "Thank you, I have no debt anymore." She said she used to have a dream that she would have no more debt by 2013. Two months ago, she paid off her last loan.