Obama Highlights Global Poverty, Myanmar Reforms in SOTU Address
Read more »
During last night's State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama surprised many when he spent a few moments discussing global poverty. The passage came in a section on foreign policy and followed his appeal for Americans to see "not only dangers, but opportunities" when they look overseas. Obama said:
We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world's children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.
U.S. News & World Report blogger Leslie Pitterson noted that the President's remarks on global poverty highlighted some of the Millennium Development Goals, which were formally established at a United Nations summit in 2000.
"President Obama's emphasis on the role the United States should play in the international community on issues such as global poverty is not in and of itself a new view, but one that has faded from State of the Union addresses within the past decade," she wrote. "Shadowed by the talking points on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting terrorism, and strengthening the global economy, the US role in addressing UN initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals has not been a high voltage topic."
In another passage relevant to Five Talents, Obama mentioned the recent democratic reforms enacted in Myanmar, home to our newest program:
Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, "There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that."
Click here for the full text of President Obama's State of the Union address.
The Weekly Window: Walking Through a Market in Lietnhom, South Sudan
Read more »
This photo of a gentleman carrying his savings group's blue "locked box" was featured in our brand new infographic, which we posted to the blog last week. The shot was taken by David Middleton for Five Talents shortly after a savings group wrapped up one of its regular meetings near a market in Lietnhom, South Sudan.
According to a recent survey of our savings group members in the village, 44 percent are involved in trade. Another 30 percent have a farming business. Savings groups like this one enable micro-entrepreneurs to safely build up cash reserves, access microloan capital, and receive training in basic business skills, like marketing and accounting.
This Valentine's Day, Spread the Love with a Five Talents eCard
Read more »
Florists and candy companies make a killing every year around Valentine's Day. But they needn't be the only ones to benefit on this special day.
Why not send your loved one an e-gift that will also empower a micro-entrepreneur who is struggling to provide for her family?
Our brand new e-card series "Love Always Hopes" features our programs in Myanmar, Indonesia, South Sudan, Burundi, Peru and Bolivia. Every e-gift purchase comes with an e-card highlighting the program that will benefit from your gift. You may send this e-card to your loved one on Valentine's Day, or for any other special occasion.
The series title comes from 1 Corinthians 13:7, where Paul writes, "[Love] always protects, always trusts, ALWAYS HOPES, always perseveres."
All e-gift purchases help to ensure that women and men in under-served communities gain access to basic financial services and receive critical business training in accounting and marketing.
Over time, these individuals learn how to build a micro-enterprise upon the resources that God has provided them.
Mark your calendar to send a "Love Always Hopes" eCard on February 14.
Infographic: Micro-Enterprise Development in South Sudan
Read more »
We wish that we could bring each of our friends and supporters to villages, like Lietnhom, South Sudan.
The Weekly Window: Farmland in Burundi's Matana Diocese
Read more »
Five Talents Program Director Suzanne Schultz Middleton is currently in Burundi visiting with savings group members and local staff from Mothers' Union, one of our partners in the country. Last week, she spent a day in the Diocese of Matana, a slice of which can be seen in the above photo, which was taken during an earlier trip.
So far, Suzanne has met with 35 savings groups representing more than 800 members. She plans to spend the next several days in the southern city of Nyanza Lac at a retreat with the Mothers' Union trainers who help to manage the savings groups and train members in basic business skills and financial literacy. Please keep Suzanne and the MU staff in your thoughts and prayers!
Financial Inclusion for Communities Off the Beaten Path
Read more »
One thing that distinguishes Five Talents from other microfinance organizations is our focus on under-served communities. We don't work in places laden with traditional banks and large for-profit microfinance institutions. We focus on the poor who live well off the beaten path and who have little or no access even to basic financial services.
One such community is in Bekasi, Indonesia, a slum area outside of Jakarta. In January, the city and some outlying slums, including Bekasi, suffered devastating flooding.
Our partner on the ground, GERHATI, which Five Talents helped to found in 2005, recently sent us photos of their efforts to aid local Bekasi residents. These pictures offer a glimpse into an under-served community that's desperately in need of basic financial services and training that can empower micro-entrepreneurs and equip them for success.
GERHATI staff put together bags of food and essential goods for people in flooded Bekasi.
GERHATI staff load the bags into trucks.
Bekasi residents wade through the flood waters.
A Call for Prayer After Fire Destroys a Market in Burundi
Read more »
We're living in an era of touch-screens, social media and quick reads. Nonprofit organizations like ours depend on pithy tweets, Facebook "Likes" and photo-sharing platforms like Instagram to reach new supporters and raise awareness and funding for our programs.
But technology – as great as it is – can seem so inadequate on days like yesterday, when we received word that a large market in Bujumbura, Burundi, had burnt down (Photo: GLM News).
The market in Burundi's capital city housed hundreds of businesses, some owned by women and men who were members of savings and credit associations organized by Mothers' Union, our partner in Burundi.
Micro-entrepreneurs work so hard to cobble together businesses that they can use to feed their family. To see so many livelihoods go up in smoke is just heartbreaking.
We tweeted about it yesterday. We're blogging about it now. Tomorrow, some supporters will be moved to donate. But there is a deep discouragement in the hearts of these micro-entrepreneurs that can only begin to be healed by something ancient – by praying to a caring, loving God.
We hope you'll take a moment to offer up a prayer for the women and men who have lost their livelihoods in Bujumbura, Burundi. Not just today, but for the rest of this week, and maybe even beyond, if God so moves you.
The truth is, we at Five Talents – including our partners oversees and the members of our savings and loan groups -- need your prayers more than we need donations, Facebook "Likes" and Twitter "Followers."
In prayer, there is a healing power that no amount of dollars or awareness can match.
For this reason, we have created a campaign page on PlusGrace, a new online platform where believers all over the world are gathering to pray for specific causes and projects. Our page focuses on our program in Indonesia, but we will be sure to post other prayer requests as well, like this story from Burundi.
We hope you will check back often and pray for the needs you see listed on our PlusGrace page, as well as the needs listed on the campaign pages of other organizations and individuals.
We trust God will provide courage, peace and new business opportunities to those who have lost their livelihoods in Bujumbura.
The Weekly Window: All Smiles During a Business Training Seminar in Bolivia
Read more »
Here's a lovely photo taken at a savings group business training seminar in Bolivia, where we partner with the local organization Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings). After operating informally for 2.5 years, Semillas de Bendicion was officially registered in 2012 as an association, the simplest organization under Bolivian law.
Sara (R) and her sister Eva (third from R) lead Semillas de Bendicion and are incredibly gifted at teaching and training our micro-entrepreneurs in the city of Tarija, and in the surrounding rural communities. When commenting on this picture, the sisters said, "We like it when people laugh while learning [because they are more likely] to remember what we taught them."
Indeed, everyone looks like they are having a good time here.
Save the Date: Five Talents' Annual Charity Golf Event
Read more »
Mark your calendar for the 10th Annual X-OUT Poverty Golf Classic!
Building the Kingdom of God, One Cup of Tea at a Time
Read more »
Whether you are slinging coffee at the corner Starbucks or pouring hot tea under a tree in South Sudan, good customer service is crucial to success.
Teresa, a 45-year-old mother of five in Western Bahr el Ghazal State, South Sudan, learned this principle while taking a leadership course with one of our partners in South Sudan, World Concern.
Teresa runs a tea business in the shade of a tree near the Eastern Bank Market. Beyond building a loyal customer base through good service, she's also fulfilling her calling as a Christian by showing love and compassion for the people that God brings to her business.
Teresa first launched her tea shop with the help of a loan of 150 South Sudanese Pounds, or about US $50. Every customer who stops by gets not only a good cup of tea, but also a reminder that they are loved by God.
In one case, Teresa befriended a woman named Akec. Like many relationships, theirs started with some small talk and a few funny stories. Then, one day, Teresa invited Akec to attend a church event with her.
The Rev. Peter Garang, an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church of Sudan and an Economic Development Officer with World Concern, recalled what happened next.
"Mrs. Akec got convicted from a speaker who was preaching on God's love, and, as the result, she accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior," said Peter. "A few weeks later, she got baptized with her four children in Eastern Bank Parish. Five months later, one of her daughters became a Sunday School teacher in the Parish."
Around the same time, Teresa also began reaching out to a woman nicknamed "Anger" who was known in the community to have a struggle with alcoholism. This woman's behavior in the market was becoming a public spectacle. This broke Teresa's heart, so she began to speak with "Anger" about her problems.
Over time, the woman warmed to Teresa's advice and started attending church with her. Now, she and her five children have been baptized, and others in the community are marveling at her transformation.
Of course, besides reaching out to others – and serving tea – Teresa has needs of her own. She hopes to expand her business in 2013, and at the end of her conversation with Peter she offered up this prayer, which we want to share with you so that we can all join together in praying for Teresa and the women she has touched and will continue to touch through her business.
"May the Lord our shepherd who sees people's needs," she prayed, "bless my small business to grow well in the Eastern Bank area so that I can become a living example for my fellow workers and teach them to start their own businesses in our respective counties in Western Bahr el Ghazal State, South Sudan."