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Infographic: Why Does Five Talents Work in Myanmar?

Have you ever wondered why Five Talents works where it does?

Since the organization's founding 15 years ago, Five Talents has focused on serving communities that are off the beaten path. They are often post-conflict, rural and far from the nearest bank.

These communities have under-served populations stuck in poverty. Starting a savings group, offering micro-business loans and organizing training workshops -- these are services that such communities need desperately if fathers and mothers, husbands and wives are going to see real transformation in their lives and in the lives of their children.

For an example of why we go where we go, look no further than our newest program in Myanmar, which was launched in 2011.

This infographic highlights the need for financial inclusion in the country:

Why Five Talents Works in Myanmar

The figures come from a recent report by UNDP, CENFRI and Finmark Trust titled Making Access Possible (MAP) Myanmar.

"Access to an appropriate portfolio of financial services can improve the welfare of the underserved population by helping them conduct their financial lives more efficiently, increase income, manage risks and build up wealth over time," reads the report, which was based on surveys and interviews of people in over 5,000 households.

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Kenya in the Spotlight at Five Talents' Fall Gala on Oct. 17

Jane in Kenya
Five Talents is delighted to announce that Peterson Karanja will be the featured speaker at the 2014 Fall Gala.

Peterson is the Chief Executive of Thika Community Development Trust (TCDT), Five Talents' partner organization in the Anglican Diocese of Thika in Kenya. He is an accomplished technical trainer, specializing in micro and small-enterprise development, with over 20 years' experience in the sector.

Attendees will hear first-hand at the Gala about the impact that donors have made in the lives of Kenyan women, like Jane (pictured here), who runs a clothing micro-enterprise.

Five Talents, with our partner in Kenya, have established 53 village savings and loan groups with over 5,300 members. The groups and their portfolios continue to grow, and this has led to the creation of three new village "banks" – secure buildings where group members can conduct their business daily rather than at lengthy meetings.

In the coming year, with the continued support of donors like you, the banks will begin trials to move away from paper record-keeping in favor of digital solutions and mobile money, a tool that is rapidly being adopted even among the poor and marginalized.

Click here to register for the Fall Gala.

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Letter from the President and CEO: Five Talents' 2013-2014 Annual Report

Annual Report CoverToday, 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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Micro-Savings and Business Skills Training Give Sabina’s Confidence a Boost

Sabina picIf 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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Hand-Crafted Items from Myanmar, Indonesia, Bolivia and Kenya to be Featured at Silent Auction on October 17

Gala items

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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Photo Essay: Inside a Savings Group Meeting in Burundi

This week, a small group of Five Talents advocates and supporters are in Burundi to visit with some of the women and men who have joined savings groups and are receiving training in basic business skills, thanks to Five Talents' local partner in the country, Mothers' Union Burundi.

Here, photographer Ross Oscar Knight captures a few moments before, after and during a savings group meeting that he and others on the trip were able to observe.

Ross Oscar Knight Photography Five Talents Burundi 0003
Many of Five Talents and Mothers' Union's savings groups in Burundi hold their meetings in community churches like this one.

Ross Oscar Knight Photography Five Talents Burundi 0005
At every meeting, group members add to their savings. It is from this collective savings that group members may, in turn, access micro-business loans to support and expand their income-generating activities, such as buying salt in bulk and selling it to members of their community. The size of the microloans and the interest charged on the loans are agreed upon by the individual groups, which adopt a group "constitution."

Ross Oscar Knight Photography Five Talents Burundi 0007
One of the benefits of Five Talents' group savings model is that members have peers who can encourage them, advise them and support them both emotionally and spiritually. Every group memeber also receives training in core business skills, like accounting and marketing. Before joining a savings group, the women and men are given training in literacy and numeracy by Five Talents' partner Mothers' Union.

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Savings Groups Help Low-Income Families ‘Put Their Money to Work’

putting money to work photo
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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Video Q&A: For Every Micro-Entrepreneur Served by Five Talents, 7 People Benefit, on Average

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of blog posts featuring Q&A videos with Five Talents President and CEO Sonia Patterson. Click here to watch the first and second videos in the series, which addresses questions pertaining to Five Talents, our partners, our approach to financial inclusion and microfinance, and our impact in some of the world's most under-served communities. The videos were generously produced for Five Talents by the Giving Library.

Five Talents tracks the impact of its programs by looking at a range of data that we gather from the women and men in our savings and loan groups. This information includes the number of jobs that have been created, the number of loans distributed and repaid, and the amount of money that has been saved.

But there are other metrics that show how our programs are strengthening the fabric of the household and the greater community over the long-term. For example, we survey program participants about the number of people for whom they provide, about their relationship with their spouse and about changes in their community at large.

That's why Five Talents' holistic approach of combining microcredit with savings group formation, business skills training and mentoring is incredibly effective and transformational.

Click here to read our most recent annual report. (The 2013-2014 edition is coming this fall!)

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Generosity's Many Faces: How You Can Get Involved with Five Talents

5 Ways to Get Involved with Five Talents from Five Talents on Vimeo.

As the busy fall season approaches, a million things will grapple for our attention. It is our hope that, amid the noise, you will remember the women and men struggling down poverty's road.

After all, there is no better time to come alongside them, and equip them, than today.

"Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present," Albert Camus once said.

But generosity need not only be writing a check, or making an online donation. When we give out of our wealth of time and energy and intellect, we are also being generous.

We'd love it if you would choose at least one of five ways to get involved with Five Talents. No matter where you are in life -- or in the world -- there is something you can do to help women and men in under-served communities gain access to savings groups, micro-business loans, business skills training and mentoring.

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2014 Fall Gala to Highlight Five Talents' Micro-Savings Programs

Gala promo image sm

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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