Things We Love: 'I Was in Awe of the Entrepreneurial Spirit of the Estancia Townsfolk'
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This photo taken by guest blogger Valerie Malabonga illustrates the perseverance and tenacity that we see time and time again in the lives of the women and men in our programs.
Valerie volunteered to assist with the relief efforts of our partner organization in the Philippines, the Center for Community Transformation, after Typhoon Haiyan in late 2013. We encourage you to read her guest blog posts.
In this photo, snapped just days after the storm in a town called Estancia, a group of micro-entrepreneurs has found a creative way to both provide a service and make a profit.
"The roof of the market was completely torn off, and there was still much debris all around," wrote Valerie. "However, we could see signs of recovery because there were trucks hauling debris. Vendors had set up shop in the roofless market. As I looked around, I was in awe of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Estancia townsfolk. There were several makeshift stands that had signs saying 'Charging Station'. People could fully charge their cell phones or laptops for P20 (or $0.47). I also saw several men piling corrugated iron sheets (roofing material) one on top of the other to sell."
Patience and Attention to Detail Key to Eiber’s Growing Sandal-Making Business
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Earlier this month, we shared the story of Eiber, a savings group member in Tarija, Bolivia.
Both Eiber and his wife, Marcia, take part in Five Talents' micro-savings and training program and have seen some remarkable changes in their lives and marriage.
In our first post, we focused on the couple's participation in training workshops. Here, the 30-year-old Eiber shares in his own words the successes and challenges of growing his sandal-making enterprise:
Regarding my work, before I got married I was an assistant to my uncle. I remember that no one wanted me to help me [with] capital to form my micro-enterprise. But with the help of God, I was eventually able to obtain a loan. Now that I am a member of a savings group, I can help other people to bring together capital that they need. This makes me very happy.
I make 10 dozen flip-flops (leather sandals) a week because there is so much demand. When I [recently] received a group loan of 280 bolivianos ($40), I used all of it to buy some accessories that I needed for the flip-flops.
This week, a woman came to my workshop and asked me to make 30 dozen flip-flops so that she can take them to Oruro (another department in Bolivia). Since then, other people also have placed orders [to be sent to] the interior of the country.
This is a new experience, and I am excited.
I want to hire three more workers to make more flip-flops and store them for my clients. For this, I will join a rotating savings group that loans more money, because I want to travel to Santa Cruz to buy leather in bulk for the flip-flops.
The most difficult part of my job is making the soles of the flip-flops. I am the only one who does this on my work team, because it [requires] a lot of strength and patience to do it well. If I am not patient to measure with care the leather to the iron, I can lose a lot of money.
I believe that the craftsman is an artist.
Want to see more micro-entrepreneurs like Eiber and Marcia make their businesses sustainable? Donate today to the program of your choice!
Save the Date! Register Today for Our Annual Charity Golf Tournament on May 19
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On Monday, May 19, enjoy a relaxing day of golf at the newly renovated and redesigned Westwood Country Club in Vienna, Virginia, and help Five Talents equip thousands of new micro-entrepreneurs with the resources they need to bring themselves and their communities out of extreme poverty.
All proceeds from the X-OUT Extreme Poverty Golf Classic will benefit Five Talents' programs that help survival-business owners in Asia, Africa and Latin America gain access to basic financial services, like saving and lending, as well as training in accounting, marketing and business development.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Words on Poverty Still Ring True
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The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the following in 1967: "The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil. ... The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty."
So much time has passed since Dr. King wrote these words, but they're still just as true today.
We can all do better at serving folks here in the US and overseas who don't know where their next meal will come from, or how they will buy clothes for their kids, or where they will sleep tonight.
A meal, a smile, a kind, encouraging word, some blankets, a warm shelter, a heartfelt prayer, a few dollars -- we'd probably be surprised to learn how much such small things like these can accomplish.
A Call for Support in South Sudan Despite the Ongoing Political Crisis
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When I was in South Sudan, I met a young woman named Rose (R). She had learned how to read and write, and, through a savings group, she had started a micro-enterprise selling vegetables at the local market. She had grown her business, weathered difficult times and improved the quality of her life -- a story that we heard again and again from others we met.
Such stories of transformation are what Five Talents is all about.
We are committed to continuing our work in South Sudan with thousands of people like Rose despite the ongoing political crisis.
These recent developments are quite disheartening, to say the least.
It has only been two-and-a-half years since the nation celebrated its formal independence. In mid-December, a political rivalry between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, turned violent. An estimated 200,000 people have been displaced, and over 10,000 lives have been lost, according to the United Nations.
These recent events make us even more certain of our mission.
When we launched this program, we were aware of the challenges that awaited us. We knew political and tribal conflicts, rooted in the social fabric of the communities, could emerge and slow or temporarily impair our programs.
Were it not for the savings groups our partners have established, many women and men in the affected areas would have nothing with which to buy food and water during this difficult time.
Furthermore, the savings groups themselves are led by facilitators who are part of the local community.
As long as the members are still together in one place, the groups live on. The women and men will continue to support each other, save funds and lend to each other.
'Working Women’s Bible Study' Group Supports Overseas Micro-Entrepreneurs
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When Lee Self, President of Renaissance Executive Forums, and other members of the Working Women's Bible Study group, began looking for causes to support, they didn't have to look very far. Five Talents turned out to be an obvious choice.
After all, April Young, a current member of the Five Talents board and the former chair, had been attending the Bible study group for years.
"We were looking for ways to extend our activities beyond study and into service. Instead of just finding one [cause] that we all could support, [we decided to] look around the room and see what's already being supported by us," Lee recalled.
Very quickly, they turned to April and said, "You're amazing with the work you do at Five Talents! What can we do to support you?"
April was ready with an answer. The Fall Gala was fast approaching, after all.
Within weeks, the Working Women's Bible Study had organized a "Dutch-treat table." On the night of the event, the group members in attendance heard about women just like them doing business in rural Burundi.
Entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs
The Working Women's Bible Study meets weekly at space donated by Teqcorner in McLean, VA. Lee helped to found the group more than seven years ago after being encouraged by members of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast planning committee.
"I certainly did not feel biblically educated enough at that time to lead anything," she said. "But the cool thing is that God sent women who surrounded me and were incredibly strong with their scriptural knowledge, women from the business community and from all different denominations. We also had, over time, individuals come who were really seeking the Lord and were not actively engaged in a faith-based community.
Guest Post: My Journey to the Philippines After Typhoon Haiyan
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Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on Friday, November 8, and decimated entire cities and towns in its path with winds up to 196 mph and tsunami-like waves. Afterwards, my family went ahead with our previously scheduled Philippine vacation from November 15-December 1. I volunteered and was invited by the Center for Community Transformation (CCT), partner of Five Talents in the Philippines, to visit the provinces of Iloilo and Capiz. CCT is a Christian organization that encourages its clients, or community partners, to engage in savings and micro-enterprises to lift themselves out of poverty. Below are selections from the journal I kept while on the road. Permission was granted by CCT and their community partners to share their names, photos and stories here.
Tuesday, November 18, 2013, Iloilo
I arrived at the airport in Iloilo City and met up with Dennis Monong, general manager of CCT's Savings and Credit Cooperative, who had a mountain of boxes. The boxes were filled with solar lamps-cum-cell phone chargers, flashlights and batteries for CCT staff and medicines for CCT's community partners. The lamps and flashlights will help the staff as the government estimates that full power will not be restored until after about four months. [Editor's note: Valerie is pictured standing third from the right.]
In Jaro, Iloilo, site of the CCT regional office, we met up with Anna Mae Labanero, Regional Manager for Western Visayas, and Tammy Wang of endPoverty.org (a Bethesda, MD-based nonprofit). We were on the road by 11:00 am. Our goal was to reach the town of Estancia in the northeast before nightfall and drop the items Dennis brought to the CCT branches along the way.
As we traveled northeast, we noticed the destruction wrought by Haiyan. Anna Mae pointed out a clump of bamboo trees that had twisted around itself due to the force of the winds. She said, thankfully, there were very few casualties in Iloilo and Capiz because, for the most part, people heeded the warnings of the Local Government Units (LGUs) and evacuated as early as Thursday. Electric posts were down but most of the debris was already cleared off the road.
Eiber in Bolivia: ‘The Greatest of My Jobs Is To Be a Husband and Father’
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Eiber, a 30-year-old father of two, loves to play soccer.
He admits, though, at times in the past, he has loved it a little too much.
"All I did was work, and the little free time I had I dedicated to playing soccer with my friends," said Eiber, who designs and manufactures flip-flops with his wife, Marcia.
That was before they joined a savings group with Five Talents' partner organization in Tarija, Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings). While participating in the group savings program and learning core business skills, Eiber was also challenged to become a better father.
"My brothers' and sisters' families all live in the same house with us, and our children always play together. My nieces and nephews are very, very naughty and often have accidents and do poorly in school," he said.
"One day, Marcia made me reflect [that] I wasn't being a very good husband or father. In fact, no one in my family was – we all had married very young."
Participants in Five Talents' Bolivia program, like Eiber and Marcia, have access to additional workshops designed to strengthen communication and relationships within the home. He remembers how, early on, another family member pushed him to attend the sessions on family life.
"Each week, on the day of the meeting, a family member would always come, room by room, shouting, you are going to become psychologists! Prepare yourself! Let's go!" he recalled.
Slowly, the workshop attendance began paying off. Eiber and Marcia saw their marriage grow stronger and their home life become more stable.
An Enterprising 8-Year-Old Sells Loom Band Bracelets to Raise Money for Typhoon Relief Efforts
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When Julius Malabonga arrived in the Philippines in late November, he knew he wasn't in for an ordinary holiday vacation. Parts of the country had just been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, and his family was there to assist Five Talents' partner, the Center for Community Transformation (CCT), with relief work.
What could an 8-year-old, like Julius, do amid such great need?
Well, consider what the boy with five barley loaves and two fishes did in John 6. He gave them to Jesus, and they were used miraculously to feed five thousand people.
Julius and his younger brother JB, 5, didn't have loaves and fishes, but they did have lots of loom band bracelets. They had prepared to sell them to relatives and family friends to raise support for Haiyan victims.
"Since my son Julius likes to make loom band bracelets and necklaces, I [had] broached the idea of selling his 'jewelry' to our relatives and friends in the Philippines, with the proceeds going to the typhoon victims," said his mother, Valerie Malabonga, a Five Talents guest blogger. "He embraced the idea and enthusiastically wove bracelets and necklaces two days before our trip."
What We're Reading: Notes on the South Sudan Crisis
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Daily developments in the ongoing crisis in South Sudan continue to keep the story in the news. But what is the story, precisely?
In mid-December, a political rivalry between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his former deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer, turned violent. An estimated 200,000 people have been displaced, and over 1,000 lives have been lost, according to the United Nations. All this just two-and-a-half years after South Sudan celebrated independence as a nation.
It's important to note that the fighting does not pit the national military against a mere "ragtag" group of rebels. Writes Global Post's Tristan McConnell:
The army is splitting. Some generals defect taking their soldiers with them and others remain loyal, for the time being, meaning that the conflict spreading across South Sudan is between armies, and not bands of ragtag fighters. Both sides have tanks, artillery and heavy weapons and both sides are using them. But even outside of the uniformed ranks South Sudan's long history of violence comes into play. Generations have grown up immersed in war. Even in times and places of peace there is violence: cattle raids and battles over scarce resources. Life is for many a fight and there is no shortage of young men who know how to use the guns that are plentiful after decades of civil war.
What is at the root of the rivalry and violence? A set of competing narratives have surfaced -- one putting the blame squarely on "tribalism" and the other on "politics." In fact, it's probably both.
"The international media has been all too ready to frame the violence that erupted after Dec. 15 entirely in terms of ethnic violence and state collapse — a familiar narrative for conflicts in African countries that glosses over the political roots of the conflict," Nesrine Malik, a Sudanese journalist, wrote in The New York Times.
She goes on:
Reducing conflict to tribalism is particularly hazardous when applied to South Sudan. It is a country where foreign stakeholders have significant influence, and any push toward a tribally defined solution to the conflict — like a Bosnia-style ethnic power sharing deal — would be disastrous, for it would entrench and validate ethnic fissures, rather than give political power sharing a chance to smooth them over.