Dreaming of Spring

Dreaming of Spring

“What are those crazy things hanging in the tree?” I asked the SIA Small Business Fund Coordinators when we saw them on the site of our conference in Uganda last summer. Most of us didn’t know what it was since Uganda is much more tropical than where the rest of us live. We did get to try the jackfruit before the end of the week and it was a nice mellow melon flavor. I was at a restaurant in Toronto recently that served jackfruit and it brought back good memories of being together with all our wonderful Small Business Fund leaders.

Much of the country is buried in snow this week and it has me dreaming of spring – of warm earth, budding leaves, and seeds sprouting. I also heard from a new friend in Malawi that most farmers there planted their crops last month, so things should be growing already!

With those thoughts in mind, here are some seed-related inspiration and photos from my trip last summer!

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” — Mexican Proverb

“Who would put a seed in the ground and then plant a stalk in the ground above the seed? For the stalk grows out of the seed – from within it, never from without; So the answer grows out of the question, the fulfillment out of the need, and the Love out of the yearning.” — Glenn Clark, “The Soul’s Sincere Desire”

“A seed never has any doubts as to what it is going to grow into, therefore you must have no doubts whatsoever about the seed which I have planted into your consciousness. Simply know it will grow and flourish and will be perfect.” — Eileen Caddy

Kubadwa's stand of winter maize in Malawi. The winter crop (July, in the southern hemisphere) is very profitable, since it is out of the normal growing season. Canaan Gondwe, the local coordinator, told us that "it is hot cake," selling quickly in the markets - and fetching a good price! The Small Business Fund program and the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative loans help farmers invest in winter crops.

We visited Kubadwa’s stand of winter maize in Malawi. The winter crop (July, in the southern hemisphere) is very profitable, since it is out of the normal growing season. Canaan Gondwe, the local coordinator, told us that “it is hot cake,” selling quickly in the markets – and fetching a good price! The Small Business Fund program and the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative loans help farmers invest in winter crops.

Kubadwa (left) has shared the gift with Kamanya Zuru. He gave him two plates of bean seed and showed him about how to plant  the seeds, use compost manure and double dig the beds to prep them for planing.

Kubadwa (left) has shared the gift with Kamanya Zuru. He gave him two plates of bean seed and showed him about how to plant the seeds, use compost manure and double dig the beds to prep them for planing.

Success Story: Fikani Bicycle Transporting Service

People hire bicycle ferries to ride across town (sitting on the back of the bikes) or carry goods like fertilizer and crops to/from market. The rough roads are hard on the tires.

People hire bicycle ferries to ride across town (sitting on the back of the bikes) or carry goods like fertilizer and crops to/from market. The rough roads are hard on the tires.

Business Members: Stanly Kumwenda (23), Janet Banda (20), Harry Kumwenda (child)
Product: Bicycle Transportation Services
Area served: Manyamula, Malawi
Received SIA grant: $100 on October 9, 2014
Profit after 3 months: $105

Stanly and Janet married young. His parents never had money for enough food or clothing for everyone. The newlyweds were eager to start a good life together and yet they faced many challenges. They came to Canaan Gondwe, Spirit in Action Small Business Fund (SBF) coordinator and mentor, for advice on building a more successful future for their family.

I kept on explaining about the God-given potential within us,” writes Canaan in his report on their progress. “I had series of talks, even citing some people in the village who had changed their situation for the better.” Stanly was an enthusiastic learner, eager to move forward and put what he was learning into action. Canaan talked to him about dreaming and visioning for the future, business research, getting focused, working hard, and also about “getting disciplined with any money that comes his way.”

Stanly, Janet, and other new grant recipients completing their business plans with the guidance of Canaan Gondwe (standing).

Stanly, Janet, and other new grant recipients completing their business plans with the guidance of Canaan Gondwe (standing).

Stanly likes bicycling and so Canaan told him about the Small Business Fund program and suggested that he start a transportation business to carry people and goods around the village on a bicycle. Stanly and Janet attended the official SBF Training sessions with Canaan and prepared a business plan together. When they received the first grant of $100, they went straight to buy their first bicycle.

Within three months of hard working, Stanly bought another “fairly used” bicycle to expand the business. He has recruited a friend to work for him – job creation! – and now two bicycles are on the road every day for the Fikani Bicycle Transporting Service.

Stanly happily reports an income of about $7.50-$12.50 each day! Canaan continues to mentor him about expanding the business and saving for the future. He is pleased with the family’s progress reporting that, “Stanly and the family are now food secure and are progressing well in life. They plan to buy iron roofing sheets and build a better house of their own soon.”

A step up with a small grant, dedication and hard work, and mentoring support all have helped Stanly and Janet build the life and business they had only dreamed was possible. A grateful Stanly writes that “God is gracious and faithful; I never expected such a turn around on my family.”

We have a new logo!

We have a new logo!

I am so excited to share Spirit in Action’s new logo! Wait, new logo? Did SIA have an old logo? Short answer, not really. Long answer, we only had a stylized font version of our name and so not really.

This new logo is our opportunity to capture the spirit of our work in an image and continue with our best foot forward. And so we started the logo design process (led by the talented folks at Ballyhoo Design) by defining the core of our work:

  • Spirit In Action is supportive and relationship-focused.
  • Spirit In Action is compassionate, encouraging, empowering.
  • Spirit In Action is community-oriented.

We wanted the logo to represent both our approach to grantmaking AND the actual SIA programs. And I think the new logo blends those perfectly!

  • The hands show the relationship focus, and they also represent the leadership by our partners in Africa.
  • The leaf expresses our passion for sustainable agriculture, and represents our grants that support training and farmers.
  • The water droplet is about drinking and irrigation water and also represents that our grants are drops that fall into a greater ocean. Our drops ripple out and multiply – spreading through Sharing the Gift, cooperation, and empowered communities –reaching many more people than were touched by the first drop.

And so, without further delay, Ta-da!

SIA_Logo_RGB_SCREEN-RDD.01

What does this logo inspire in you? Would you sport a water bottle or tote bag with our logo? I’ll be adding the logo to our website and social media soon!

P.S. Did you notice that we moved to a new website address? Our whole website is now at the most natural URL: www.spiritinaction.org. Feel free to bookmark us for quick access!

Fostering dignity in myself and others

Brown Ngoma is expanding his family's store, building a home, and now "when his family is sick he can pay for a private hospital." (Manyamula, Malawi)

Brown Ngoma is expanding his family’s store, building a home, and now “when his family is sick he can pay for a private hospital.” (Manyamula, Malawi)

“If I fail to treat someone with dignity, it is me, not them, who is undignified.” In other words, to keep my own dignity – that sense of self-respect and pride in oneself – I must honor everyone else’s dignity. Just because someone is poor it doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t have self-respect. In fact, as an article in the Guardian about international aid and dignity pointed out, “some of the poorest people are the most dignified. And some of the richest lack dignity.”

Luckily, Spirit in Action is a good place to work to practice honoring the dignity in each person. Our work is not just about numbers and outcomes, it’s about seeing the world and our fellow human beings as inherently filled with potential and self-respect.

Founded with Dignity

Even before Del Anderson founded Spirit in Action, he was enthusiastic about affirming the dignity of each person he wrote to. In the stuffed envelopes he sent out Del included simple self-help projects and encouraging messages.

Messages like: “Within you is the power. Within you is the power to face life and all that lies before you with unshakable assurance that the Lord your God is in the midst of you.”

And, “[The glory of God] is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Does this enhance our dignity and that of others?

The Yuba family shows us that they have enough food - good bread and chicken - from their pottery and kiosk business successes. (Kasozi, Uganda)

The Yuba family shows us that they have enough food – good bread and chicken – from their pottery and kiosk business successes. (Kasozi, Uganda)

Imagine, the Guardian article mused, if before we implemented a program we asked, “is this dignified? Does this enhance our dignity and that of others?” In fact, this is something that the SIA Board already does!

Small Business Fund groups and community grant projects are led by capable and empowered local leaders. They are taking charge of their own success – and that’s dignity. We’re used to seeing that dignity. And so we’re wary when grant applicants seem to play on our emotions by presenting themselves as inherently lacking or desperate.

Dignity is not about SIA buying and sending cooking pots to Africa. It’s about helping a family build steady income through their own business. Then it’s their own hard work that foster their hope in the future.

Last summer, I saw the bright glow of self-respect in the faces of the Small Business Fund members. They were all so proud of how far they’d come – the pots they could buy on their own, the medical care they could afford. They wanted to show me that they were the means of their success. To prove that they were able to tap into and channel that power within that Del talked about. And with dignity I affirmed their success. I drank the tea they offered to me and admired the new chairs. In these exchanges we were each letting our own light shine, and giving the other person space to shine too!

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