Come Along On a Journey That Will Transform the Way You See the World

Walk With Us

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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Faith, Action, Coffee and a ‘Quiet Rebellion Against the Powers That Be’

Editor's note: Jeffrey Myers, founder of Abednego Coffee Roasters, is donating 25 percent of his company's July sales to Five Talents. Here, the small business owner shares about his passion for coffee and the global community.

Jeffrey Myers2bOne of the things I love so much about coffee is that it connects people. It is about community. When you share a cup of coffee you are not only connecting with your friends and family you are connecting with coffee growers all over the world. The only product I can think of that comes directly from Mbale, Uganda, or Aceh, Sumatra, or Huehuetenango, Guatemala is coffee. It connects us.

Coffee = Passion
I developed a passion for coffee on Mt. Elgon in Uganda. I was part of a small team from Iowa State that traveled to Uganda to talk with business owners.

One of my discussions was with the manager of the Bugisu Coffee Cooperative in Mbale, Uganda. While sipping some of the world's finest coffee I thought, "I love this – the industry – the people – the coffee."

Faith = Action
But to really know something is to experience it. Put a different way, I can read about the physics of roller-coasters but until I experience one I really have no idea what they are like.

I think faith is similar. I always felt guilty when I read in James that "Faith without works is dead." I think faith is supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be experienced. Faith with action is alive. The greatest experiences of my life have been when I think I hear God's voice call me to action and I respond in faith. James isn't trying to make you feel guilty, he is trying to make you come alive.

Abednego Coffee Roasters
We started roasting coffee in March 2008. I had this idea that I wanted to roast the best coffee I could find and give all our profits away. A bit idealistic...but I left a job in the corporate world and was tired of the status quo. We even called ourselves Abednego Coffee from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as kind of a quiet rebellion against the powers that be – saying we don't care if we survive but I guarantee we are not going to play by your rules. We have survived.

And this brings me to Five Talents. I love business. When I see businesses that are thriving I get excited. Business is one of the most beautiful ways to express our freedom – our freedom to create, innovate, design, and implement.

The wonderful thing about Five Talents is that it works to create an environment of freedom in the realm of business. People with great ideas, great passions, and great desires are now free to express and develop what God has placed on their hearts.
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Video: How a Holistic Approach to Financial Inclusion Works to Fight Global Poverty

How a Holistic Approach to Financial Inclusion Works to Fight Global Poverty from Five Talents on Vimeo.

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring Q&A videos with Five Talents President and CEO Sonia Patterson. Click here to watch the first video in the series. The video series will address 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.

For most women and men struggling to provide for their family, a micro-loan often isn't enough to transform their income-generating activities into a sustainable enterprise. It can certainly help, but other factors can often continue to stall out progress. If the borrower has not learned to save, he or she will not have an emergency fund for sudden expenses. If the borrower has had little or no education, he or she may not be able to add or subtract or properly manage income and costs. The borrower might also need hope, encouragement, training -- all things that a micro-loan simply cannot provide.

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

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The Millennium Development Goals: In Another 15 Years, Where Will We Be?

UN Millennium Development GoalsThe cover of the United Nations' 2014 report on the Millennium Development Goals shows a class of school children sharing a column of benches beneath a tree.

A teacher looks on as one student, a girl, writes on a chalk board. Some in the class have fixed their attention on the lesson. Others have let their gaze wander. One boy can be seen studying the ground, perhaps eyeing a troop of ants on the march.

In 15 years, where will each of these young people be? And what will their world be like?

Experts inside and outside the UN are presently mulling these questions over. They are drawing up a new set of Millennium Development Goals to be released in 2015. The first set of MDGs was outlined in 2000.

The 2014 report released this month provides the most complete analysis yet of the world's progress – or lack thereof – on a range of issues that include hunger and poverty, education, child mortality, maternal health, disease and gender equality.
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This South Sudanese Man's Ox-Plough Is an Investment in His Children’s Education

Editor's note: The following interview offers an in-depth look at the life of a micro-entrepreneur named Deng, in Lietnhom, South Sudan. Five Talents – through its partners – has served tens of thousands of women and men in Sudan and South Sudan, providing access to micro-loans, savings groups and business skills training. Deng's story is just one of many exhibiting the transformation that can take place when under-served communities experience financial inclusion. Special thanks to Josephat Lusuli for conducting this interview.

Deng at his micro-businessThanks for agreeing to share your story with us, Deng. Can you start off by telling us a little about your family and business activities?
"I am married and currently I have five children. I am a member of a savings and credit association [or 'savings group']. I run a retail shop in a Lietnhom market in which I sell foodstuffs and other retail items. Besides this, I also sell dry fish in the same venue. Initially, before joining the savings group, I was running a business that, unfortunately, failed."

Why do you think the business failed?
"I am convinced that, by then, I was very green in business. I had not received much of the small-scale business training that I have now, and also I lacked adequate capital to invest and boost my business. It is no wonder that it finally collapsed. Later, I decided to venture into farming groundnuts and sesame as a business. I must admit that I made some money from it, and it was a good decision."

What was your life like before you joined the savings group?
"There were a myriad of issues and challenges. First of all, as a community man, it is culturally expected that I fully provide for the needs of my family and my extended relatives. At this point in time, all things seemed to be falling apart. My business had collapsed, I had no access to loans, it was proving hard to access adequate food and clothing for my family, school fees and school uniforms for my children were needed, and, to add on these, people from whom I was claiming my cows refused to honor their commitments. Worse still, it was hard to sell some of my cows. [To sell a cow, Deng had to obtain permission from local administration officials, which was not easy.] After joining the savings group, I was able to access a loan, which I used to start my current business. I received a lot of support from my group members, who – among other things – guaranteed me a loan. My current loan is for 2,400 South Sudanese Pounds [about US $600], payable within three months."
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Photo of the Week: A New Pair of Glasses for Simona and Her Husband

Simona glasses
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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Video: How Local Partnerships Make Five Talents' Programs More Effective

Video Q&A: What Makes Five Talents' Microfinance Programs So Effective? from Five Talents on Vimeo.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring Q&A videos with Five Talents President and CEO Sonia Patterson. The video series will answer questions pertaining to Five Talents, our micro-enterprise development programs 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.

Fighting poverty is not about Five Talents. We like to build connections, not structures. Unlike some other poverty-fighting initiatives, Five Talents is distinctly connected to stable, non-governmental organizations in the countries it serves, bolstering existing networks from which continued services can be made available. We prefer not to reinvent the wheel, which keeps program cost down, and program impact up!

Our partners on the ground not only know their communities, but have served them well over the years. With a deep knowledge of each country's history and people, language and customs, these partners have the relationships and capacity to extend Five Talents' unique savings and microcredit programs to their people. They are known, trusted, and respected, and we are grateful for the opportunity to come alongside and support them.

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Financial Inclusion and Training Fuel Growth of Edo's Micro-Enterprises in Indonesia

Edo with dressThe transformation you unlock when you give to Five Talents looks a little different in each community.

For Edo in Indonesia, the transformation involved an expansion of her micro-enterprise and an escape from unhealthy living conditions.

Edo has built a micro-business around selling clothing, small electronics and – most recently – homemade fish crackers.

Business skills training and a series of micro-loans from Five Talents and our partner organization in Jakarta, The Gerhati Foundation, helped Edo to grow her profits, which she and her husband used to construct a humble new home.

Today, they have a roof over their head, a solid brick wall around them, and a safe, dry space full of hope for the future.

"I did not have the courage to own a house before -- even the small one," she said. "With Gerhati and Five Talents, we have built a small house bit by bit from what we earn."

The program, she said, gave her the support and determination she needed to make her dream a reality.

The program has also brought Edo closer to her community: "I got help from neighbors and friends, as well, during the building progress. I believe this help came from God."
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World Cup Challenge: Fundraising Goal For 2013-2014 Within Reach

FYE2014 blog

Our fiscal year ends on Monday, June 30, and we can't wait to share the impact supporters like you have had over the last 12 months!

Delivering micro-business loans, savings opportunities and business skills training requires a team effort -- not unlike what it takes for a national team to carry its flag all the way through to the World Cup final.

There are so many important contributors. Everyone plays a part: our participants, their families, the amazing staff at our partner organizations – and you, our loyal supporter and advocate.

You make it all possible.

With time winding down in our 2013-2014 fiscal year and the goal in sight, we need your help to make one final attack against poverty.

Donate today and send $25, $50 or $100 "between the posts" and into communities in Bolivia, Myanmar, Indonesia and South Sudan.

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Dollar by Dollar: Learning to Budget and Save Helps Group Members in Myanmar Create More Capital

budgeting myanmar

Members of the "Moses" savings group talked among themselves during a budgeting workshop in Pathein, Myanmar in late 2013.

Five Talents President and CEO Sonia Patterson (R) was leading the workshop, and the topic of conversation had turned to income-generating activity. Most of the men and women present that afternoon were farmers, and at first they struggled to brainstorm new ways to generate income.

Eventually, though, the ideas started to flow. Someone suggested selling gasoline in one-liter bottles. Another talked about experimenting with the production of peanut oil for cooking. A man named Andrew wondered if he could actually make the mats and baskets he bought every year and sell them to others in his village for a profit.

Later that night, Cynthia, a Mothers' Union staff member who heads up the Mothers' Union-Five Talents program in Myanmar, listened as the savings group members stayed up late excitedly talking about more viable micro-business ideas.

The lights, she said, were beginning to go on in their heads.

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