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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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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 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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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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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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PATHEIN, Myanmar - City dwellers in Yangon, Mandalay and Pathein are feeling the impact of the government's ongoing political and economic reforms. Real estate prices are rising. Traffic is growing. Visitors from all over the world are pouring in. But folks in rural areas of Myanmar still have little to show for all of the historic changes that are making headlines around the world.
On Tuesday, women and men representing three Mothers' Union savings groups in the Irrawaddy Delta area of Myanmar shared about their lives and discussed how taking part in the joint Five Talents-Mothers' Union microsavings program has begun to benefit their families.
All of those present on Tuesday are involved in agriculture, growing either rice or betel plants. Some had seen their crops destroyed by recent flooding. Group members said the microsavings and business training program has given them more skills and capital, and they came on Tuesday eager to develop some ideas for new income generating activities.
After hearing stories about micro-entrepreneurs in other parts of the world, the women and men began to brainstorm ideas for new income-generating activities. Five Talents Executive Director Sonia Patterson, in Myanmar on a program visit, led the informal workshop.
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YANGON, Myanmar - On Thursday, Five Talents Executive Director Sonia Patterson held an informal workshop with a Yangon-based savings group known as the "Phoebe Group." (The name comes from the Bible).
Group members brought along some of the products they have developed, including shampoo, detergent, pain-relief ointment, handbags, beaded jewelry, cards and crafts.
You can find photos featuring some of the group's products after the jump.
A handbag designed by Rachel (front row, fourth from left)