Top 5 SIA Moments of 2015

Top 5 SIA Moments of 2015

This has been a good year for Spirit in Action and our partners! It is so exciting to look back and see all that we have accomplished, and all that our amazing partners have done to bring more prosperity to families in their communities.

  • fb logo_siaNew logo: The year started off with the unveiling of our new logo! We finally have a logo that really represents us to the world. The ripples in the logo continue to inspire and remind me of our focus to spark change that will naturally multiply and expand within communities. (Read the explanation of our logo.)
  • New Small Business Fund Coordinator: This summer we added a new local coordinator to the Small Business Fund team! Hastings Phiri has already begun mentoring families in rural Malawi to start and run new businesses. Hastings is a dedicated community organizer and passionate about reducing poverty and helping families get ahead. He lives in the same region as SBF Coordinator Canaan Gondwe and they two of them meet to share challenges and develop their mentoring and training skills. (Read more about Hastings.)
Girls from Meru and Samburu together; sharing their experience of the alternative rite of passage.

Girls from Meru and Samburu together; sharing their experience of the alternative rite of passage.

  • Expanding Anti-FGM movement: SIA has supported girls’ empowerment workshops with sexual education and alternatives to the traditional female genital mutilation rite of passage. Just a few weeks ago some of the girls from the Meru workshops were able to attend the Alternative Rite of Passage in Samburu, two hours away. Margaret of CIFORD in Meru reported, “Some girls were excited as they could never have dreamt of going to the Samburu.” Also, CIFORD is gaining national recognition from Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper for their FGM workshops! Read the full article here!
  • Sewing Training Centre: I’m really excited about this grant project which has been able to train 79 women and 2 men and help them get employed in sewing operator jobs in Nairobi. Women who know how to use the industrial machines are paid higher wages and the SIA training center provides them access to these machines and trains them in the necessary skills. The center has been able to receive contracts for sewing projects and they are well on their way to becoming a self-sustaining operation. (Read more about the training centre.)
  • Construction Project: The new Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative conference hall, restaurant, and guest rooms are under construction! I loved visiting Manyamula and seeing the amazing transformation that has happened in the village since the formation of the savings and loans cooperative 6 years ago. This construction project represents a new level of development and I look forward to seeing how it will benefit the community and cooperative members in the years to come. (Read more about the COMSIP Cooperative.)

Bonus: I loved sharing this video made by SIA volunteer and supporter, Carmen Hernandez, about what makes me grateful about SIA.

What story about SIA stuck out to you in 2015?

Christmas Inspiration from Del: Beloved Child of God

Christmas Inspiration from Del: Beloved Child of God

Merry Christmas to all SIA friends, partners, and supporters all around the world! May this be a time of rediscovering hope and joy, and recommitting to peace and justice. I share this writing from Del Anderson to remind you of that power that is within each of you.

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“The Kingdom of God is within you.” This is the Good News Jesus Christ brought us. This is what we must affirm and claim for ourselves ~ over and over again. Otherwise, Jesus came in vain for us.

Jesus is the great overcomer, All-Power, the King of Kings. There is no other power that can withstand Jesus’s Light and Love. He says, “Love your enemies.” We cannot do this in our own strength, but if we ask Jesus’s help and release the condition and persons to Him, He will be glorified, and peace and fulfillment will come into our lives.

January stands in front of the house he build with profits from his family's grocery shop, started with a SIA grant. (Manyamula Village, Malawi)

January stands in front of the house he build with profits from his family’s grocery shop, started with a SIA grant. (Manyamula Village, Malawi)

Remember, “He came, that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” He, Jesus Christ, is within you! Listen, listen to Him, ask His help and obey Him and you will see victory begin to come into your life in peace and abundance. “Only believe and you shall see the glory of God” manifested in your life.

As you read, study, ponder and apply the teachings of Jesus in your daily life, God will bless you beyond your fondest dreams.

In His love, Del

Pictured above: Ruth and her mother Catherine. Catherine used the SIA grant money to buy a pig in 2006. Now she has over 10 pigs. (Kasozi Village, Uganda)

For more inspiration from Del, click here.

Listening to our Coordinators to Improve SIA

Listening to our Coordinators to Improve SIA

How far is it from Lilongwe, Malawi to Nairobi, Kenya? It doesn’t look so far on an ordinary map of Africa. But then, maps of Africa rarely convey just how large the continent is! Officially, Google Maps says it would take only 25 hours to drive the 1,168 miles between the two capitals. There’s no way you’d get off that easily…

true-size-of-africa

The US fits in just one corner of Africa!

The point is, our local Small Business Fund (SBF) coordinators from different countries don’t often get to meet each other. So I was so excited when I learned that Canaan Gondwe SBF Coordinator from Malawi would be in Kenya for another conference. I immediately arranged for him and Wambui, SBF coordinator in Nairobi, to meet and discuss their work with Spirit in Action.

When I read Canaan’s report of their meeting last month my heart was so full of joy! How wonderful for these two passionate SIA leaders to be able to share with each other about their experiences and challenges with SIA. This exchange is exactly what helps SIA grow, improve, and stay responsive to the needs and reality on the ground.

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From Canaan’s report of their meeting:

SUCCESSES

With joy, we shared a number of positive impacts of the SBF Program in our 2 respective countries and these included:

  • Reduced gender-based violence in the SBF group families
  • Better housing
  • Better food
  • SBF Business groups attain better medication in private clinics
  • Increased incomes
  • Peer business support
  • Acquisition of small scale livestock
brick home Malawi

Harriet in front of the house she built with business profits and a low-interest loan and now rents out to a school teacher. (Malawi)

GROWTH AREAS AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

We also looked at areas of growth which needed attention now or later for effective implementation of our work.

Improving mobility: Monitoring of work is a very important tool in order to produce quality work and results. As the number of SIA SBF group businesses increase in our respective countries, there is a need to discuss the possibility of providing better transportation for all coordinators to ease transport challenges that are currently faced. [This challenge is increased when the business groups are spread out within a larger rural village area.]

Security: Wambui highlighted an issue of security as she works in Koch slum areas. She told me about the violence that now and again takes place there. She narrated that she works with all sensitivity as she travels in the slum areas. She explained that she doesn’t use one route to come in and out of the area. We brainstormed on the issue and suggested that every time she comes into the slum area, she should be making pre-calls to groups so that they welcome her at designated places of security and walk to the working area with members of the SBF.

EXPANSION OF SIA’S WORK

Tanya had requested that in our meeting we also look at the expansion of the work in our countries. We discussed the issue and agreed that the following characteristics are important when considering new coordinators:

  • People with some skills of managing community work
  • People with high financial integrity
  • People who can agree to work on volunteer basis
  • People with team spirit and cooperation

We also looked at preparing these pre-coordinators by providing some formal or informal grooming before they are absorbed into the system.

CONCLUSION

It was a paramount meeting and this enabled us to enhance our insights of how best to implement the SBF Program in our respective countries. It was joy to meet Wambui and hear from each other. Thanks to Tanya who thought about taking advantage of my trip to Kenya to meet Wambui who is within the capital city.

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Thank you to Canaan and Wambui for their honest feedback and continued passion in serving SIA and their communities! SIA’s growing impact relies on the expertise of our excellent local coordinators and we welcome more discussion about these opportunities to improve our programs. 

Grant Update: Community Ownership in Bucece Village

Grant Update: Community Ownership in Bucece Village

Bucece has persevered. Through difficult situations, like poor crop yields and weather conditions, and delays in materials and supplies, the village has remained steadfastly committed to the work.”

Bucece Village in rural Uganda has partnered with Toronto-based Raising the Village (RTV) and Spirit in Action to improve their village and benefit the local farm economy. Two years ago, a SIA grant supported a sustainable agricultural training program and RTV has served as an ongoing on-the-ground partner. Now, the village is committed to continuing the program with their own local leadership and community ownership.

Early on, the the agricultural program suffered from poor weather conditions and after the initial training the crop was lost to rain and floods. However, the 2015 fall harvest season was successful and the village famers are finally being rewarded with benefits from new agricultural techniques and crop diversity. Increased use of compost fertilizer and double digging techniques, which enhance soil health, are having real, positive outcomes!

A Bucece household crop field using a double-dug agricultural row technique.

A Bucece household crop field using a double-dug agricultural row technique.

Community Organizing & Savings

The members of Bucece Village are working both as individual households and as a whole community to increase trade opportunities locally. After the recent bountiful harvest, the villagers are organizing a market in Bucece to draw buyers to the village instead of having to transport their own to the market across the lake. This will have huge material benefit for famers, because transport to market was long and severely impacting profit!

Bucece Village is also coming together each month to contribute to a village savings and loans association. From January through April 2015, collections average 25,000 UGX ($7.50 USD), and from May through December they have increased the savings to 50,000 UGX ($15 USD)! These funds are loaned out to households, in turn, to replenish seeds. They have also invested in new seed varieties, and individual households are re-investing their profits in diversified crops.

A Bucece villager brings back crops harvested from her field.

A Bucece villager brings back crops harvested from her field.

Community Leacership & Ownership

Although Bucece began this work in partnership with SIA and RTV, by January RTV will hand over all of the management of the interventions to the village, with monthly monitoring by RTV representatives. I really like RTV’s method of initial collaboration and ongoing leadership development, which over time leads to full community ownership of their own development. This is true partnership, with each group contributing from their strengths. It results in lasting change that perseveres long after the initial grant investment. 

(Pictured at the top is the view of the lake from Bucece Village.)

5 things making me happy: #GivingTuesday edition

5 things making me happy: #GivingTuesday edition

Thanksgiving is a good kick-off to the giving season. Each year it’s a time when co-workers, the church, the media, and families start talking a bit louder about giving: Giving thanks, giving food to those in need, giving gifts to loved ones, giving light to the world. Thank you to those who have already given to Spirit in Action today for #GivingTuesday!

Here are 5 things making me happy as we enter this giving season:

1. New SIA small businesses in Nairobi!

5 new small business leaders in Nairobi have sent their business plans to the SIA office and received their initial $100 grants! (Click on the picture to see the full photo.) The leaders are pictured above with Wambui Nguyo (front in black coat), who is the SIA local coordinator in the area. Wambui and Josephine (front left) work together as a strong team to train and mentor the new groups. These new businesses will be selling:

  • Used shoes and toys
  • Tools
  • Milk, door to door
  • Cell phone accessories and airtime (pay-as-you-go minutes)
  • Vegetables, tomatoes, onions

2. This reminder that even small acts of kindness can make a difference

kindness quote

3. Celebrating an alternative rite of passage for Samburu Girls in central Kenya

Our partner Margaret Ikiara of CIFORD Kenya will travel 5 hours tomorrow to represent Spirit in Action at the Alternative Rite of Passage for 60 Samburu girls with the Pastoralist Child Foundation. This celebration will be an empowering ceremony of song, dance, and speeches, taking the place of the traditional genital cutting.

Margaret has arranged for several of the girls from Meru (who have celebrated with their own alternative rite) to travel with her so that they can share their experiences with the girls in Samburu. This peer support and collaboration is exactly what SIA is all about!

4. This podcast about why you should give internationally

This great, 13-minute interview highlighted one of the reasons I gave in my blog post on the same topicYour money goes so much further internationally. Even a small amount can really make a huge difference in someone’s life! Listen to the Tiny Spark episode here: http://www.tinyspark.org/podcasts/guide-to-good-giving/

5. A photo of a newly-trained tailor in her shop!

This woman completed the dressmaking training with Progressive Volunteers (which I wrote about here) earlier this year and now she has her own shop! Look at those beautiful dresses! This is a clear example of how SIA small grants translate into actual jobs and new opportunities for women. Now that’s really making me happy!

one of the trained beneficiary in her business

Inspired to give on this #GivingTuesday? You can support Spirit in Action by giving online! 

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