Who are SIA’s partners?

Who are SIA’s partners?

I often toss around the word “partner” when I talk about our work. Who are these partners? How did we come to know them? Canaan Gondwe and the members of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative in Malawi are some of our partners. Moses Chibanda, director of Welfare Concern International in Zambia, is another. Our partners are individuals and grassroots organizations who are implementing the real work of Spirit in Action in their communities. Our partners are dedicated, generous local leaders. They are groups of people who are passionate about making things better in their communities, and they are already putting in the hard work to spark that change.

COMSIP and Small Business Fund members in their meeting hall.

COMSIP and Small Business Fund members in their meeting hall.

Perhaps you know some leaders like this in your own community – the president of the parent teacher association, the rec-league soccer coach, the soup kitchen volunteer, or the passionate leader of the local environmental group.

I first connected with our partner Samuel Leadismo, director of the Pastoralist Child Foundation in Kenya, through email. He had met another SIA partner, Margaret Ikiara of CIFORD Kenya, at a workshop and he reached out to tell me about himself and his work. We emailed back and forth. I asked him about the girls’ empowerment workshops and anti-FGM campaign that he led. I told him about myself, and about SIA’s philosophy and how we operate. Eventually I invited him to submit a grant request application for an upcoming workshop. I also reached out to Margaret to get a recommendation from her, since I was unable to visit Samuel in person. Our first email was in March of 2014 and we still email back and forth to continue to build our relationship, to understand each other better, and to follow up on the grant we gave to his organization.

Certificate of Registration copy

Pastoralist Child Foundation’s Registration Certificate

We don’t just drop money into a community. The grants are part of our on-going relationship with these partners. And the partner organizations are whole, independent groups outside of Spirit in Action. For example, the Pastoralist Child Foundation is an officially registered community based organization (CBO) in Kenya. Their work is funded by a patchwork of supporters, from individual donors in the US, to other grant organizations like SIA, and local volunteers in Samburu, Kenya. We use the word “partner” to recognize that we each bring something to the relationship.

(*Read Canaan Gondwe’s presentation entitled “A partner who has walked with us side by side”)

Partners together. Tanya with the leadership of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative

Partners together. Tanya with the leadership of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative.

Let’s make a difference!

Let’s make a difference!

This Saturday is Make a Difference Day in the U.S. You are encouraged to lend a hand, to improve someone else’s life, to build a positive movement with others in your community. I wrote recently about the importance of giving money internationally to make a big impact, while also noting that volunteering locally is a great way to effectively put your giving spirit into action.

I was impressed that the Make a Difference Day website has 20 projects organized in Santa Cruz! The projects range from cleaning up neighborhood parks and schools, to removing graffiti, to painting picnic tables for public use.

However you put your spirit into action for positive change this weekend, you might take a moment to connect in common purpose with our many SIA partners in towns, villages, and cities across Africa.

  • Canaan Gondwe at the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative for economic justice;
  • Jeremiah Mzee leading Progressive Volunteers to provide education for even the poorest in Nairobi slums;
  • Margaret Ikiara with CIFORD Kenya meeting with girls and widows to talk about their rights;
  • Moses Mukongo with CMAP Kenya for a more sustainable environment;
  • and so many more who are volunteering their time to make a difference in their communities.
Margaret met with 78 women in September to discuss family life and sexuality.

Margaret met with 78 women in September to discuss family life and sexuality.

If you don’t join one of your official community projects, consider how you might be making a difference in your everyday life. Sometimes the pebble is cast even when we don’t know we’ve thrown it: “The biggest differences I’ve made are the ones I don’t even know about. If you’re working for justice and you’re living with compassion and integrity, you are probably making a difference in people’s lives every day. You just might not realize it.” (Barbara Harrell-Bond)

Enjoy your week!

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Grant Update: Brick by brick, building a foundation

Grant Update: Brick by brick, building a foundation

The 90,000 bricks have been made, fired, and transported to the building site, and the foundations are set! The Manyamula Community Savings and Investment Promotion Cooperative (MCC) office and training center is under construction!

MCC members with the bricks they moulded for the construction. The bricks were fired to make them sturdier.

MCC members with the bricks they moulded for the construction. The bricks were fired to make them sturdier.

These guest rooms will be the first accommodations for hire in the village. Now, guests have to travel 22km to get to the nearest hotel.

These guest rooms will be the first accommodations for hire in the village. Now, guests have to travel 22km to get to the nearest hotel.

The MCC now has 180 members (60% women) and they will be celebrating their 5th anniversary next month! The cooperative, which provides low interest loans, a safe place to save locally, and business advice has had a great impact on the members and the community at large. “We are pleased to inform SIA that the Malawian government has brought countless visitors to appreciate the home grown models and systems of the cooperative,” reports Canaan. People outside the community are excited about what they see developing in Manyamula, and they want to learn from Canaan and the skilled MCC leaders.

Plans for the building complex.

Plans for the building complex.

The cooperative mobilized their own resources and time to get the rocks and sand and to make the 90,000 bricks. A SIA Community Grant will help buy the roofing, windows, doors, and pay some of the contractors. It’s so exciting to see the project on its way! I’ll keep you updated as I get more reports from Canaan.

One of the workers building up the office wall.

One of the workers building up the office wall.

More about MCC:

A note on my desk to remember to pray for the building process!

Note on my desk to remember to pray for the building process!

Grant Update! Sustainable Farms in Kenya

Grant Update! Sustainable Farms in Kenya

“We must translate our science into practice.” A simple statement which boils down a Moses Mukongo’s approach to farming in the western part of Kenya. Moses learned about the science of sustainable agriculture at Manor House, and now he and his team at Community Mobilization Against Poverty (CMAP) are passionate about sharing that science with small-scale farmers who can put it into practice. These are farmers who are growing food for their own families and to also sell some at the local markets in the areas surrounding Kitale in western Kenya.

Grant for Workshops

Since receiving a SIA Community Grant last December, CMAP has hosted a series of sustainable farming workshops, benefiting over 165 people. The trainings involve men and women, with women playing a major role in traditional farming in Kenya.

Kapkoi women farmers preparing their spinach nursery for transplanting.

Kapkoi women farmers preparing their spinach nursery for transplanting.

The trainings involve sessions about double-digging (to promote healthy soil and create raised beds), companion planting (maximizes space and pairs plants that will grow well together), composting (healthy soil and nutrients for the plants), and the use of open-pollinated seeds (so that seeds can be saved from season to season). (Read more about these techniques here – you can implement them in your garden/farm too!)

Moses is passionate about promoting these techniques and telling people the many ways their farms can benefit from using them. “The practices are low-cost and non-polluting, they produce maximize agricultural yields, build soil fertility, and minimize inputs of water, energy, and fertilizers!” The practices not only help people grow more food to eat and sell, they also benefit the environment and help mitigate effects of drought or poor soil.

Sharing the Gift

We ask all our community-based organization partners to “share the gift” by helping others in their community. CMAP embraced this call by implementing the “Five-Farmer Challenge.” Every farmer who attends the workshop is challenged to reach out to five other farmers to share what they have learned. They have also reached out to one of the local primary school to start a school garden as part of their “Farmers of the Future” project. This is the ripple effect of SIA grants!

Students during the Farmers of the Future training at the elementary school.

Students during the Farmers of the Future training at the elementary school.

Learning from Nature

“In sustainably producing food we must use nature as our guide,” writes Moses in one of his passionate letters to me, “we must escape from the poverty of affluence which is always striving to accumulate more of things and we must ‘seize the day’ in recognizing the opportunity for finding a new way of living in harmony with nature and humankind in the new millennium.” Well said!

The CMAP Research and Demonstration garden at the beginning of the 2015 cropping season.

The CMAP Research and Demonstration garden at the beginning of the 2015 cropping season.

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