5 Things Making Me Happy This Week

5 Things Making Me Happy This Week

1. One of the reason I’m happy today is that Tuesday is the day of my local farmer’s market! This is the height of the growing season here and so there are tasty strawberries, tomatoes, and squash for sale. Just over a year ago, I took a photo as we drove past the farmer’s market in Eldoret, Kenya. They also had a beautiful array of kale, tomatoes, and potatoes. Good food is making me happy this week!

Eldoret, Kenya Farmer's Market

Farmer’s Market in Eldoret, Kenya

Toronto Farmer's Market

Toronto Farmer’s Market

 

2. Today, Canaan Gondwe of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative, emailed me the plans for the cooperative’s future home. The building will house the savings and loans group’s office, as well as a new restaurant, conference room, and accommodation rooms. Canaan writes, “Preparatory work for the project is almost coming to completion. We are burning our last brick oven next week and once the funds come in, we will procure the rest of the materials for the project. By second or third week of September, we begin construction.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 4.30.23 PM3. Feeling myself beloved:

“And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.”

(Raymond Carver, 1938 – 1988)

4. New Small Business Fund (SBF) groups in Eldoret, Kenya! In the photo at the top of the page, Dennis Kiprop, SIA SBF local coordinator is conducting a training session for the 5 new business groups and helping them to fill out their detailed Business Plans. 

Magrate Kiplagat- Bsn Leader Gp# 59

Margaret, along with her husband and son, is starting a business selling plates, cups, and water jugs door-to-door. 

5. Spirit in Action is now on Instagram! This website and app enables us share the great photos from our trips and from our partners. There’s only a few photos so far and I’ll be posting more regularly. If you are on Instagram, check us out and start following us!

Have a great week!

Can I get some encouragement?

Can I get some encouragement?

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” Hebrews 10:24-25.

It is a special call to provoke one another to love and to do good. And considering how to encourage people is part of Spirit in Action’s legacy. There are some places – camps, retreats, church groups, support groups, etc. – where the barriers we build up in everyday life can be broken down, and we can reach out to each other. We allow ourselves to encourage and be encouraged, recognizing the light that is in each of us.

Del Anderson, the founder of Spirit in Action, was very skilled at encouraging people. He had a way of speaking or writing words of encouragement that took away doubt so that you absolutely believed what he was saying. Reading one of his letters in college could relieve my feelings of inadequacy and fill me with a greater sense of worth and purpose. I sensed that he honestly believed the truth of his words as he told me and others, “within you is the power,” and, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Del wrote many inspirational essays, which are freely available on our website. One of my favorites, which I still send out regularly, is Co-Creators with the Divine. In it, he writes:

“It is our joy, privilege and responsibility to transform God’s dream for us into a working, living reality. You are greater than you know. You are of more value to God than you believe possible.”

tanya and family and chicken; Uganda

Giving some encouragement to a SIA Small Business Fund family in Uganda and receiving a gift of gratitude (in the form of a chicken!)

Encouragement, when given honestly and humbly, can have a tremendous, lasting effect. That’s why I often highlight “encouragement” as the third leg of SIA’s programmatic stool. In addition to the Small Business Fund, and our Community Grants, we also are called to listen to and encourage one another.

And the encouragement doesn’t go unnoticed. “I am happy that you are perfectly playing your role of motivating and inspiring me every time we exchange emails,” responded one partner from Kenya. And from Zambia, “Thank you so much for mail. I really appreciate for endless support to WCI.” I receive so many emails with words like these. And I also received emails and notes from SIA supporters who encourage me.

So let us hear and answer this call to encourage each other and provoke each other to love and do good works for our neighbors and the earth.

I’ll leave you with my latest favorite words of encouragement:

“I have need to be on fire. I have icebergs to melt.” — William Lloyd Garrison

Lord, give us the audacity to live as though we believe our hands and feet are instruments of prayer. Amen. — Common Prayer (via Sojourners)

Steria’s Donuts

Steria’s Donuts

On Sunday morning, I shared donuts with fifteen kids aged 4-12 at my church. We were on a virtual trip to Malawi. Passports were stamped and then we looked at photos from my trip to Malawi last summer. One of the photos was of Steria, a woman who received a SIA grant and now sells donuts in Malawi. At the end of the journey, one child remarked, “I learned that some of the foods in Malawi are the same as in Canada, and some are different!” 

Steria Lungu is a widow in Manyamula Village in rural Malawi. She received a Small Business Fund grant from Spirit in Action in 2010. (Our grants are $150, given in two installments, along with mentoring and training.) Steria bought some baking pans and fresh ingredients and started baking and selling donuts. And she is still doing that today! She attends three markets a week, some days walking as far as eight miles, and leaving at 4:00am, to reach bigger markets.

I got to visit Steria last summer and sit inside her house – the house she built with money saved from her donut business. We sat on the puffy couches with crochet doilies on the arms. We saw a photo of us together during our last visit in 2011. She said “thank you for coming under my roof.” And she told us that she now has “no problem with food”; that she and her family are still eating from last year’s maize harvest. That is a huge accomplishment because it means that they are food secure.

My visit with Steria, inside her comfortable home, she told me her story of transformation.

My visit with Steria, inside her comfortable home. She reassured us, “your support is not going in vain.”

Steria and four other women in the neighborhood came together to do their own bit of helping a neighbor. We call it Sharing the Gift. They each contributed some flour and sugar and took turns helping another woman sell donuts at the markets.

Importantly, Steria told us that she contributed to Sharing the Gift because she saw in our local coordinator, Canaan Gondwe, also modeling generosity. Because Canaan was generous with his time and with sharing his expertise, Steria and the other women were also willing to give.

Steria in 2011. Using the profit from her donut business, she was buying iron roofing sheets one at a time. Her roof was thatched with grass at the time.

Steria in 2011. Using the profit from her donut business, she was buying iron roofing sheets one at a time. Her roof was thatched with grass at the time.

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Stereo’s house in 2014 – with a new roof! She saved enough to replace the thatch with the iron sheets and so no longer experiences leaks!

Not only was it inspiring to see Steria’s house – one with tin roofing sheets, which she was saving when we visited in 2011, and with stronger bricks – and knowing that her daughter can now attend a good high school. It was also good to affirm that when we are caring and generous (like Canaan is) – when we are being spirit in action – other people see that, notice that, and they want to give and serve also.

In a way, we were just helping one person when we gave Steria a grant. In another way we were helping her daughter, her other children, her neighbor, her community (because it is a grant, all the money stays in the community), and all the people who get to eat her yummy donuts!

Donuts for sale in the market in Malawi.

Donuts for sale in the market in Malawi.

New grants!

New grants!

The SIA Board of Directors gathered last month for our semi-annual meeting. If the mention of a meeting makes your eyes glaze over, let me assure you that our gatherings are inspirational and I always leave feeling encouraged!

We collected grant reports from all SIA grants in the past two years, and we also consider new grant proposals. Our meeting was harmonious (we always make decisions by consensus) and we even finished before the official end time!

Please keep all these dedicated, energetic partners in your prayers. They will receive their funding soon and then the new work will be underway.

  • Habiba Sabuno showing off some of the beaded purses that are models for the training workshop.

    Habiba Sabuno showing off some of the beaded items that are models for the training workshop in Nairobi.

    Additional 6-months rent for Progressive Volunteers’ Dressmaking Training Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. Already, 42 woman have been trained in sewing and tailoring skills and classes start again soon for a new group of women.

  • 50 guardians of orphans and vulnerable children will attend a beadworking skills training workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop will extend over two months and the grant covers the cost of the materials.
  • A new building for the very successful Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative in Malawi. The building will be used as a restaurant, guesthouse, office space, and conference room for the local savings and investment cooperative. The Cooperative is contributing the bricks and labor for the project. I can’t wait to stay there during my next visit!
  • 13 new Small Business Fund grants. And a new SBF Coordinator, Hastings Phiri, in Malawi, who will be trained by experienced Coordinator Canaan Gondwe.
Tanya at the site of the future Manyamula COMSIP Training Centre, guest house, and restaurant! (Malawi)

Tanya at the site of the future Manyamula COMSIP Training Centre, guest house, and restaurant! (Malawi)

We believe that these grants will be impactful drops in these communities, which will ripple out to amplify the positive power of the drop:

“Humanity is like an enormous spider web, so that if you touch it anywhere, you set the whole thing trembling… As we move around this world and as we act with kindness, perhaps, or with indifference, or with hostility, toward the people we meet, we too are setting the great spider web a-tremble. The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place and time my touch will be felt. Our lives are linked together. No one is an island.” — Frederick Buechner

Let’s pledge to set the web a-tremble with kindness!

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

Can you believe it was FIVE years ago that I started my weekly Tuesday blog posts? Wow! I started the run on June 29, 2010 with a post titled The Gift of a Pig about Winkly Mahowe in Malawi who had received the gift of a sickly pig. He nursed and cared for the pig and when the pig had piglets, he graciously shared one with someone else in need; perfectly modeling our Sharing the Gift program. Last summer I visited Winkly and his family, celebrating his herd of pigs and the new house he has been able to build with the profit from his thriving piggery business.

Since then I’ve written 238 blog posts with success stories, grant updates, photos from my trips to Africa, inspiration from Del Anderson, and my own reflections on our work and our world.

Thanks for joining me on this journey! If there’s a story you wish I’d tell, let me know and I’ll see how I can make it work.

Muddy feet after a walk to visit some rural Small Business Fund groups in Kenya. (SIA Coordinators Conference, 2011)

Muddy feet after a walk to visit some rural Small Business Fund groups in Kenya. (SIA Coordinators Conference, 2011)

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guardian's group with CIFORD Kenya.

Women in the guardian’s group with CIFORD Kenya.

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