All together again!

The SBF Coordinators all together! (L to R) Back Row: Godfrey (Uganda), Dennis (Kenya), Boyd (Board member). Front Row: Canaan (Malawi), Ofonime (Nigeria), Tanya (me), Nalu (Uganda), Wambui (Kenya)

The SBF Coordinators all together! (L to R) Back Row: Godfrey (Uganda), Dennis (Kenya), Boyd (Board member). Front Row: Canaan (Malawi), Ofonime (Nigeria), Tanya (me), Nalu (Uganda), Wambui (Kenya)

We’re all home, safe and sound! A little (ok, a lot) jet-lagged and sifting through the 1,200 photos from three weeks in Africa. There’s so much to process – so many moments of joy, pride, learning, gratitude, and exhaustion – and overall I return with a sense that Spirit in Action is indeed a mighty seed that is planting hope and opportunity for a prosperous future for many, many families in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, and Nigeria.

The SIA Small Business Fund (SBF) is part of this seed. And it depends on and thrives because of our dedicated, passionate, and skilled local coordinators. Last week, in Kasozi Village, Uganda we brought together our six coordinators for three days of training, improving our program, and visiting SBF groups in the area.

The coordinators each benefited from the time together. Wambui Nguyo (Kenya) is our newest coordinator, joining us just one year ago, and for her the conference was a great opportunity to connect with the other coordinators and see how difference aspects of SBF are implemented in each community.

Listening and making notes as we visit a family who invested in a plow for farming.

Listening and making notes as we visit a family who invested in a plow for farming.

Ofonime Nkoko (Nigeria) was the very first SBF coordinator, beginning over 11 years ago. He really knows the grassroots and empowering nature of SIA and was able to share that with the group. Even for Ofonime the conference was a learning experience. “This training was very helpful to me,” write Ofonime. “It opened a great opportunity for me to learn more and expand my knowledge, especially on mindset preparation, the right time to give out the grants, and the importance of reinvestment for sustainability.”

I also benefited greatly from having all the coordinators together. I appreciated the vibrant experience of having all 6 coordinators (plus me and Boyd) together for the SBF site visits. We met over 25 SBF groups in Kasozi and, rather than me asking all the questions about the group’s progress, the other coordinators chimed in with their own questions and comments. Canaan Gondwe (Malawi) gave pig-rearing advice to groups. Dennis Kiprop (Kenya) asked questions about what other businesses farmers did during the off-seasons. Ofonime offered prayers to the groups that gathered together to meet and share with us.

Nalu, Dennis, and Boyd fill their plates and share a laugh at dinner.

Nalu, Dennis, and Boyd fill their plates and share a laugh at dinner.

Tanya learning about how this groups makes their baskets to sell in the local market.

Tanya learning about how this groups makes their baskets to sell in the local market.

These visits felt filled with the spirit of teamwork and of camaraderie. And there was a good dose of friendly advice for each coordinator to be able improve in their role as mentor. I came away so grateful for their dedication – the time they give to serve others – and for their openness to be continually learning and sharing.

I can’t wait to share many more photos of the business groups we visited and share some of their stories of leaving poverty behind and moving towards a brighter future!

Boyd with our conference mascot, Divine Shalom, Nalu's 2.5 month old baby girl!

Boyd with our conference mascot, Divine Shalom, Nalu’s 2.5 month old baby girl!

A morning in Korogocho

We started out at 7:30am. Cruising down the freeway (thankfully against traffic) with Christian Swahili radio blasting and windows closed tight to keep out the overwhelming clouds of black exhaust coming from the packed buses. This is Nairobi, Kenya and my husband, Boyd, and I were on our way to the Korogocho slum with SIA’s newest Small Business Fund Coordinator, Wambui Nguyo. “So I’m the baby coordinator?” she asked, laughing.

Today we met with 14 group members from the 8 small business groups that Wambui has mentored since joining us last year. Slowly, the women arrived, some carrying children, some wrapped in blankets to keep out the air that was cold and damp from yesterday’s rain. We sat in white plastic chairs arranged in a circle in the “courtyard” of Josephine’s Korogocho compound. (Josephine is Wambui’s contact there and the other women refer to her as mama, saying that she also mentors and helps them when they need it.)

One by one the group members told us about their new businesses, which they’ve started with the $100 initial SIA grant. (Most of the groups haven’t yet received the $50 reinvestment grant yet.) Some are selling vegetables on the roadside, others are selling secondhand clothes, others are making beaded bags to sell in the market.

Florence and her mother and sister work together selling groundnuts (peanuts). Before they received the SIA grant they could only buy 2 lbs-worth to sell at a time. Now, they have become groundnut wholesalers, supplying other smaller vendors and also expanding to sell colgate and pampers. (In Kenya both these products take on the brand name as the generic name for the product, like we do with band-aids and kleenex). Last month, Florence had an eye problem and because of their successful business she was able to go to the eye doctor and then buy the glasses she so desperately needed. As someone who wears glasses all the time, I know what a life-changer they can be!

Judith, whose group sells groceries, told another story of change. Her husband works as a day-laborer and the family used to always wait for him to bring home money for food. “Now we don’t have to wait for him to come home. When he gets there we already have food prepared and we have eaten,” she told us proudly.

SIA is helping people reach new, higher levels: having enough to eat, paying school fees so that children don’t just stay at home all day, getting to do jobs they like and excelling at them.

“We are really uplifted,” several said, looking into our eyes and thanking us. We are in awe of what we have seen and heard today.

Madina, Boyd, and Wambui in Korogocho this morning

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Florence (right) gives her testimony wearing her new ‘specs’.
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Madina and Tanya. Tanya is wearing a necklace made by Josephine!
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We’re in Malawi!

Tanya with the Manyamula SIA Support team! They all made us feel so welcome.

Tanya with the Manyamula SIA Support team! They all made us feel so welcome.

I can testify that SIA is sparking real change in Manyamula village in rural Malawi!

Tanya is a dress of Malawian cloth, given to her by one of the Small Business Fund leaders, who has a shop in the Manyamula market.

Tanya is wearing a dress of Malawian cloth, given to her by one of the Small Business Fund leaders, who has a shop in the Manyamula market. I’ve just spent 3 amazing days visiting over 35 Small Business Fund (SBF) partners and Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative (formerly MAVISALO) members. We also took over 1,000 photos and almost an hour of video of song and testimony, which I’ll be sharing with you in the coming months.

I was filled with gratitude for SIA and our small grants as I heard stories of change and a positive view of the future. One community member mentioned that they should be called BIG Business Grants, rather than “Small” Business grants because their businesses are growing and thriving so much! I saw so many more houses that were fortified with iron roofing sheets (rather than thin thatching) compared with three years ago. And so many families proudly showed off their kitchen utensils; they now can serve meals in dishes, rather than pots from the open-fire stoves.

Many shared how valuable it was to have us come and visit – to see and witness their new homes and their shops, farms, and day-care. The sentiment was perfectly captured by Winkly Mahowe who said, “your coming here is an encouragement. When I heard you were coming I told myself, ‘I don’t want to be in the same place as I was before,’ and so I worked hard to improve our lives to be able to show you.”

Thank you to all who supported this trip. It is really amazing to be here. Tomorrow we fly off to Nairobi to meet Wambui and the new SBF groups there.

P.S. – apologies for the formatting issues in this post, I’m in a Malawian Internet cafe…

One of the shops in the Manyamula market. Canaan is just visible in the purple shirt on the right.

One of the shops in the Manyamula market. Canaan is just visible in the purple shirt on the right.

In just 4 days…

In just four days I and SIA Advisory member (aka my husband) Boyd will be on our way to Malawi!!

This will begin three weeks of site visits and sharing with SIA partners in Malawi, Kenya, and Uganda! Packed are the squish able travel clothes. Packed are the extra pens and crayons, ready to be given out along the way.

Kenya Part 1 296

Tanya and Boyd in Kenya in 2011.

Week 1 – Malawi

I’m so excited to see the change that has taken place since we were there in 2011. Back then, Manyamula village didn’t have any electricity – light came through objects with batteries or through solar power. Now, many homes have benefitted from a rural electrification program, which I’m sure has changed life for the better! We’ll get to see MALVISALO’s maize mills and new motorbike!

Week 2 – Kenya

We’ve been receiving such exciting reports from our newest Small Business Fund (SBF) leader in Nairobi and now I’ll get to meet Wambui and her groups in the Korongocho slum. I’m looking forward to praying with this diverse group of Christians and Muslims. AND I’m excited to bring a camera (donated by Diana Halpenny) to Wambui, so that she can easily take and send photos of their work.

We’ll also visit Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge and meet the students at the SIA-supported Samro Polytechnic school in Eldoret.

Week 3 – Uganda

Together with the Kenyan SBF coordinators we will drive to Uganda to attend a SIA SBF Coordinator’s conference. There will be time to share, review and improve the SIA SBF micro-grant program, and hear from each other about how SIA really works in each community. And we will finally get to meet the Small Business groups in Uganda – the many mat weavers, brick makers, and potters who have started to change their lives after receiving their $150 grant!

Doesn’t that sound like an amazing and inspiring three weeks?! I’ll be posting sporadically while I’m away and you can expect MANY photos and stories when I get back!

We welcome your prayers for a comfortable trip and many good experiences.

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