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! 

Gratitude for a Full Life

Gratitude for a Full Life

For this Thanksgiving week, I am reposting this piece about gratitude that I wrote in February, 2014:

“I believe that the whole world about me is full of beauty, joy and power, even as it is full of God, and that I can share it and enjoy it if I attune myself to my Divine Plan and am inwardly open toward God and outwardly helpful toward [others].”  ~ Glenn Clark, The Divine Plan

A moment of personal connection. Meeting a SIA entrepreneur in Kasozi, Uganda in 2014.

A moment of personal connection. Meeting a SIA entrepreneur in Kasozi, Uganda in 2014.

I have a tendency to get caught up in the details of work. I like to organize things and plan next steps, moving from task to task. And sometimes I lose sight of the bigger picture. When I read the quote above by Glenn Clark, I was jolted back into considering how all the work I do for Spirit in Action is part of my fuller life; something that inseparable from all other parts of my life.

The quote captures it perfectly. I have been blessed to see a world of hope, beauty, goodness, and possibility around me. And when I stop to be grateful I am reminded to thank God (“inwardly open toward God”) and share this vision and hope with others (“outwardly helpful toward others”).

Values at work

“How did you get into this work?” a student at Illinois College asked me after I presented about SIA. As in, how does one come to want to work for a non-profit?

When I started working for SIA six years ago [Note: 8 years ago now, in 2015!] I had just left my job at an insurance company. It was after the switch that I realized the importance (for me) of working for an organization that has emotions, learning, and faith built into its very fabric. At SIA, those things I value most – including the desire to spread goodness – won’t be pushed aside.

This alignment of values and work doesn’t only happen in non-profts. I can trace my desire for passionate work to my artist parents and my professor husband. When the sole focus isn’t on profit organizations, universities, and businesses can afford to spend more time focused on people and relationships.

Job+ Through Spirit in Action

I’m not the only one at SIA who feels and knows this job+ concept. Our inward/outward vision is also built into the Small Business Fundprogram.

The families that receive our $150 grants also receive emotional and practical support from the local SBF coordinators. In line with Glenn Clark’s vision for a good life, each is encouraged on their individual spiritual journey (“inwardly open toward God”) and asked to pay-it-forward through Sharing the Gift (“outwardly helpful toward others”).

Working together with so many people to improve ourselves and serve those around us is a blessing that is more than just work. Thank you for joining me in this good, full life.

[Featured picture: Tanya with Dennis Kiprop, apassionate SIA Small Business Fund coordinator in Eldoret, Kenya, and his family.]

From skills training to employment

From skills training to employment

One of the exciting new groups that SIA is partnering with this year is Progressive Volunteers, a Kenyan grassroots organization that coordinates local volunteers to improve the poorest communities in Nairobi. We supported them with a grant to purchase several sewing machines and to rent a training space for dressmaking, tailoring, and sewing machine handling classes.

Onyango, the project coordinator, reports on their great success so far in helping people get trained and employed:

“The training center project runs classes for single mothers and girls, to give them relevant tailoring skills to enable them get skilled employment from Ruaraka industries. The first phase of the project saw 43 women trained on embroidery and sewing skills. The second phase began in mid-August and will run till 19th December with 39 trainees.

“To date, 26 of the trained women and girls have managed to secure employment with Rafiki Clothing Industry as machine operators. Two of the trainees were retained in the training centre to help with the management of the centre. The rest of the trainees have been absorbed in private businesses in Kariobangi North and Mathare North markets. This is our success so far this year.” Congratulations to these women and the trainers!

In 2016, Progressive Volunteers hopes to help five women secure funding – grants or low-interest loans – to purchase sewing machines and start their own small tailoring businesses.

New Businesses in Malawi

New entrepreneurs ready to start their small businesses in Malawi, with the help of a SIA grant.

New entrepreneurs ready to start their small businesses in Malawi, with the help of a SIA grant.

A new round of Small Business Fund (SBF) groups in northern Malawi have submitted their business plans and received their initial $100 grant! The first three listed are being mentored by our newest SBF local Coordinator in Malawi, Hastings Phiri. We welcome and wish the best to these new businesses:

  • Tyezee Bakery
  • Mtenthe Winne Tea Shop
  • Gregory Grocery Shop
  • Monily Welding Shop
  • Tawona Grocery
  • Malonje Crop Sales
  • Wangani Cattle Selling
  • Towera Grocery

Sharing Acts of Kindness

Sharing Acts of Kindness

This Friday is World Kindness Day, a day of coordinated acts of kindness, of gifts from the heart that we can offer each other and that have the power to transform the world.

Last month at my church we were invited to be thoughtful of ways that we could offer simple moments of grace to a stranger. Some people bought a meal for someone or paid for someone’s coffee order. My simple act was pressing the “open” button on the subway turnstile so that someone with a bike could easily exit. This small gesture cost me nothing and yet offered a moment of ease and an opportunity to move more gracefully though life.

Generosity is Global

I like that this is World Kindness Day. It’s not rich people giving to poor people day. It’s an everywhere, everyone acting kindly towards another, or towards themselves. I was moved last week by this story video about Generosity and the Gift Economy. What stood out to me was Nipun Mehta’s awareness that generosity is the answer to the universal problem of inequality. And generosity is present in communities all around the world. (You can watch the full 20-minute here.)

Mbwenu with milk from his cow for us to take home and enjoy. We encountered generocity wherever we went! (Manyamula, Malawi; July 2015)

Mbwenu with milk from his cow for us to take home and enjoy. We encountered generocity wherever we went! (Manyamula, Malawi; July 2015)

Sharing the Gift

Mehta told a story of meeting a poor woman in Japan who experienced a real low point four years before. Her health, relationship, and finances were all presenting challenges. In the video he relays her healing process when she was ready to make a change: “then I remembered that when you feel like you don’t have anything is when you start to really deteriorate your spirit and so she said, what do I have? What are the gifts that I can offer the world; when it seems like I have nothing; when the conditioned mind is saying I am bankrupt? She decided that every day she’d make a rice ball and give it to one stranger. She did it every single day for 4 years.”

Then things began to turn around for her. She experiences a lot of happiness now, she owns a successful restaurant. And she credits the practice of giving the one rice ball as the source of her strength.

That joy in giving is something I know as a donor, and it is something that our Small Business Fund groups know as they Share the Gift with someone else in their community. Their acts of kindness might perfectly reflect this woman’s practice of sharing a rice ball, though in Malawi it might be sharing a donut or tomato.


SIA Small Busienss Fund leaders in Malawi practiced Sharing the Gift by teaching other women how to bake and market donuts and breads.

Go Out and Experiment!

On this World Kindness Day I encourage you to Share the Gift and to give because you have been given to. Mehta concluded his statement in the video with this advice: “Go out and have some part of your life which is no strings attached and just notice how that makes you feel, and just notice the ripple effect of what happens there.

“We tend to think that if you give freely, that I’ll be taken advantage of, that it’s not going to work out. But you might surprise yourself. And what comes out between the two of you – which was previously transactional and now just is trust-based – that possibility is going to be a whole new paradigm.”

Bonus Track!
“Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant

Grant Update: Samro School in Kenya

Grant Update: Samro School in Kenya

Last week I wrote about SIA’s partners – the people who are implementing change in their communities with our support – and I mentioned that we like to create long-lasting relationships with these partners. Del Anderson’s partnership and friendship with Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge began even before Spirit in Action was officially formed in 1996. Talk about a long-lasting relationship!

Over those 20 years, the Teimuges’ Samro School has gone from a dream, to a single student in an informal classroom, to a well-respected elementary school where 214 students (including several refugees from South Sudan) are challenged and encouraged. “We have seen that seed of faith and vision grow, which were powerful gifts from Del and Jim [Thomas],” Rhoda told me when I visited Samro School in Eldoret, Kenya in 2014.

Samuel and Rhoda show Tanya the 6 classrooms that SIA built in 2002.

Samuel and Rhoda show Tanya the 6 classrooms that SIA built in 2002.

Last year, SIA supported 16 Samro students with their school fees. The funds were used primarily for staff salaries, with some also going to school supplies, food for the students, and occasional class trips. Paying the teachers on time and with competitive salaries helps ensure that there is no interruption in the teaching schedule (Kenyan public school teachers were on a month-long strike this fall), and that the students are getting the attention and high-quality education they want and deserve. Over the weekend, the school community held a graduation and Prayer Day for the 8th grade students.

Samro students performing for parents, teachers, and community members at the 8th grade graduation last weekend.

Samro students performing for parents, teachers, and community members at the 8th grade graduation last weekend.

Six of the students supported by the SIA funds are Samro Polytechnic students, in the tailoring and dressmaking program. Over the past two years, they have learned to make skirts, trousers, shirts, lab coats, pajamas, kitenge (east African casual wear), jackets, and children’s clothing. They are preparing now for their final exams in the first week of December.

Boyd is measured for a t-shirt, to be sewn on sewing machines purchased with the SIA grant. The teacher is on the right, wearing a shirt he made. This student is the class leader.

Boyd is measured for a t-shirt, to be sewn on sewing machines purchased with the SIA grant. The teacher is on the right, wearing a shirt he made. This student is the class leader.

Samuel Teimuge reports, “This year has been one of the best years when our teachers, pupils, parents, and the committee members celebrate the students’ performances with great joy. Our teachers were very committed and the pupils did their best both in academics and extra curricula activities. We realized that a lot of talents were brought forth and we are closing the year with very high self esteem!”


One of the Grade 5 students supported by SIA this year.

We look forward to continuing this partnership with the Teimgues and supporting their blossoming vision for Samro School as a supportive environment for Kenya’s youth.

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