Musings and Gratitude

The end of the year is a good time to pause and reflect on our lives – preparing oursleves for the newness of the coming year.

This week I have taken some time to think about what makes me proud of Spirit in Action? What are we doing that I think is unique and valuable for the world? How do we act that creates more honesty and truth in the world?

Here are the top 6 (I couldn’t keep it to only 5!) things about my work that makes me proud:

  1. We are a small-scale organization, with a focus on small-scale projects, and have a direct impact on others in need.
  2. We work for long-range development rather than respond to crises.
  3. We treat our grant recipients like partners rather than victims.
  4. We maintain a strong spiritual core that is not doctrinal.
  5. Our coordinators volunteer their time because they are passionate about improving their lives and the lives of others.
  6. (For me personally) I get to tell other people about our projects, sharing stories of hope and opportunity.

What about SIA makes you proud? Let us know by posting a comment below!

Keeping the Dream Alive

This year we asked for your financial help and have been so humbled by the response! People have shared both encouraging words and financial donations. We rely on individual donations for 100% of our funding, so your contributions (along with the Board Challenge Fund) are crucial for SIA to be able to continue our passionate work that makes me so proud.

I want specifically to thank those donors who have joined our Dreamer’s Circle by making monthly contributions to SIA. Thank you!

  • Ed and Pilar Ruddell
  • Wendy and Terry Silverthorn
  • Teresa Smith
  • Anonymous (2)

It not too late to support Spirit in Action in 2010! Your contribution will support people and projects like these:

Dennis Kiprop (Kenya) leads a workshop for new small business owners.

Dennis Kiprop (Kenya) leads a workshop for new small business owners.

Teenage boys in DR Congo learn carpentry skills.

Teenage boys in DR Congo learn carpentry skills.

Woman in DR Congo prepares donuts to sell at the market.

Woman in DR Congo prepares donuts to sell at the market.

Christmas Traditions Around the World

From Del’s Journal: Christmas Day 1998

“To love our own soul opens us to receive the Divine. Praying without acting is a spiritual procrastination, a process of waiting for a miracle outside ourselves. This is a denial of our own empowerment, power of choice, and personal responsibility. God can do no more for us than God can do through us.”

*******

I asked some of SIA’s international partners about how they spend Christmas.
Their traditions are perhaps not all that different from your traditions!

Camily Wedende (Eldoret, Kenya): This Christmas season people are preparing to celebrate with families, friends, and relatives. Here people eat ugali (maize flour dish) and meat and some hen and attend the church.

Canaan Gondwe (Mzimba, Malawi): In my family, we attend a church service where we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus and renew our fellowship with Him and friends. We eat special meals local and exotic and dance gospel tunes.

Dennis Kiprop (Ilula Village, Kenya): I think Christmas here in Kenya is interesting. On 25th all the church members meet in the morning. The pastor reminds the congregation the importance of the day, some groups come with lots of Christmas chorals and songs like, Joy to the World and Born in a Manger.

During this day, people will be seen in new clothes and often celebrations are done at homes after church service. In our case, we usually have a fellowship as family where we organize a Christmas party with lots of food and soft drinks like sodas, ice creams etc. and most favorite foods like peas, rice, meat, beans, and (my favorite!) is Chapati (fried bread).

Another important thing that marks this occasion is when family, friends, and well-wishers visit children’s homes and the hospital to share their tribute of love and give out food and Christmas presents to those who are less fortunate in the society. They will also make them feel important and loved. On 26th most of us unravel the gifts and Christmas cards and evaluate how the Christmas was.

*******

In 2003, Del and Lucile included the following note of inspiration in their Christmas letter:

May the Spirit of our Holy days enrich our lives

with a greater fulfillment of the Christ within each one of us

this new year and for eternity.

We pray for each of you a daily feeling, experiencing

and a greater realization of

“Christ in us, the hope of Glory.”

You are important to God and a blessing to us.

God’s love and ours, dear ones,

Del and Lucile

Each year, Del would write a Christmas letter as a way to stay in touch with his many friends around the U.S. and the world. By 1967, Del and Bebe’s letters “reached a ‘circulation’ of 2,000!”  — From George Furniss’s unpublished biography of Del.

You can read more of Del’s writings on our website: http://godsspiritinaction.org/news/del

Bebe and Del holding fans in Japan

Bebe and Del in Japan in 1956-7

“Imagine your life without financial services…”

“Imagine your life without financial services…” This started the dialog about the microfinance crisis in India between Lawrence MacDonald and David Roodman on a recent Center for Global Development podcast.

Sometimes we forget how critical financial services are to our everyday lives. What if you couldn’t use a credit card and had to carry cash around all the time? Where would you store money if you didn’t have a savings account? Could you buy a house or a car if you didn’t have access to loans or financing?

Roodman went on to point out that financial services are even more important for poor people who often have volatile incomes that change from day to day and season to season. This makes it even harder for them to save money in the good times so that they have it when they need to expand their business, pay for medical care for a critically ill family member, or celebrate a marriage. It is therefore essential that micro-credit institutions help people with financial services – not just loans.

This discussion sparked my interest in light of Spirit in Action’s most recent Community Grant to help establish the Manyamula Village Savings and Loans Group (MAVISALO) near Mzimba, Malawi. SIA helped this driven, dedicated group with a small grant to start a poultry farm. MAVISALO will soon be able to make small loans to its members through a centralized pool of money made up of business profits and membership fees. The group has already gathered together 35 members and opened a collectively held bank account at the local bank!

Encouraging safe and small investments by group members, MAVISALO members can add additional savings into the centralized pool, which then allows them to apply for larger loans when they need them. However, the group has a wide, holistic goal beyond simply providing financial benefits or getting a good return on investment. Canaan Gondwe, the first President of MAVISALO and long-time SIA Small Business Fund Coordinator, say that, “The biggest goal of the poultry and MAVISALO micro-loan project is to attain a self sufficient life in the lives of poor households; [focusing] in the areas of economic, physical, decision-making (political), and spiritual dimension.”

The MAVISALO group poses for a photo.

The Manyamula Village Savings and Loans Group near Mzimba, Malawi

Through this project, SIA isn’t only supporting a wonderful, local, grassroots organization in Malawi, we are also showing that we understand the importance of financial services and value the ability to save money as well as borrow it is times of emergency and celebration.

Related posts:

CIFORD Kenya: Compassionate Community Action

The women leaders of CIFORD in front of their office.

In April of this year, I got an email from Margaret Ikiara. She works for Community Initiatives for RuralDevelopment (CIFORD Kenya) in the Meru North district of Kenya, and was writing to begin a partnership between CIFORD and SIA. I receive many emails every year from people asking for assistance but Margaret’s letter caught my eye. I could hear her dedication and passion for her work as she told me about the people that CIFORD had helped over the last year. I want to share that passion with you and tell you about some of the amazing work CIFROD is doing for those most in need.

Since 2002, CIFORD Kenya has focused on community capacity building, sustainable agriculture, HIV/AIDS, and information transfer to work toward their vision of creating “a self-reliant rural community that is able to evolve a sustainable community development.” The organization, which works closely and effectively with individuals and local groups, is a good example of the local indigenous organizations that Jennifer Lentfer of How Matters thinks are particularly poised to “unleash social change” in developing countries.

I was amazed to read about the many different projects that CIFORD is working on and the great range of people they work with directly. Here are some highlights from Margaret’s reports:

HIV/AIDS Support Programme: In 2009, CIFORD trained 37 HIV/AIDS caregivers. “The effect of HIV/AIDS has been unbearable with many children are orphaned at an early age. These children are left with the grandparents who are elderly and can barely feed them.” This program helps orphans pay their school fees and helps grandmothers start income generating activities to support the children. Helping the grandmothers get ahead financially means that they children can remain living with family, rather than being sent off to orphanages in different communities. Margaret writes, “This has made many people who were hopeless to have a smile on their faces.”

Margaret Ikiara (on left) presents the gift of a goat to Agnes Acuri and Susan Nkatha. The goat will help these women, who are living with HIV/AIDS, earn money to care for themselves and their families.

Margaret Ikiara (on left) presents the gift of a goat to Agnes Acuri and Susan Nkatha. The goat will help these women, who are living with HIV/AIDS, earn money to care for themselves and their families.

Sustainable Agriculture Programme: Currently, CIFORD Kenya is working with 10 groups (365 people total) in agriculture activities. These groups are being trained to use techniques that will keep the soil healthy and eliminate the need for expensive farm inputs, including:

  • Compost Making – adds nutrients to the soil
  • Integrated Pest Management – uses good bugs to control pests
  • Double Digging – loosens the soil to help the roots and retain moisture
  • Raised and Sunken Beds – mixes the soil

The farmers have been trained on the compost making for use at their farms.

The farmers have been trained on the compost making for use at their farms.

CIFORD has partnered with Kilili Self Help Project in Mill Valley, CA to train on bio-intensive farming and Amistad International in Palo Alto, CA on women empowerment. So far, SIA has contributed to CIFORD only with a mini grant for them to buy local kale and onion seeds, which were given to people living with HIV/AIDS. I hope also that the letters and good conversation between Margaret and me since her first letter in April helps fan her passion and keeps this great organization going strong.

You can read more about CIFORD on their website or on their Facebook page.

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