Planning a ribbon cutting ceremony in Malawi

Planning a ribbon cutting ceremony in Malawi

Three years ago, August 2014, I helped the Manyamula Community Savings and Investment Cooperative (COMSIP) in Malawi break ground for their new training centre and office building. This summer – in just seven weeks, to be exact – I’ll be there to commemorate the official opening of the building. And I’ll be staying a few nights in their guest rooms!

“We are planning that as you come to the community, there will be an official opening of the building facility,” shares Canaan Gondwe, leader of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative. “You and the other SIA team members will lead the procession and be the Guest of Honour. Traditional leaders, COMSIP Union staff, as well as Government representatives, and all cooperative members will be there to celebrate.”

Tanya at the site of the future Manyamula COMSIP Training Centre, guest house, and office building! (Malawi, 2014)

This ribbon cutting ceremony will kick-off my three-week trip to visit SIA partners in Kenya and Malawi. The days will be filled with visiting Small Business Fund group shops, and homes that have been renovated as a result of business profits. I will be greeting, celebrating successes, and listening to their thoughts on how we can improve our work to have a greater impact.

Trip highlights:

Visit SIA projects in Malawi (3 days)

    1. Manyamula Savings and Loans Group Cooperative
    2. Small Business Fund groups
    3. Youth entrepreneurs in Blantyre

Conference for SIA Small Business Fund Coordinators (4 days)

  1. Program evaluation and peer-to-peer learning
  2. Training for new and potential coordinators

SBF Coordinators canaan Gondwe (Malawi) and Dennis Kiprop (Kenya) at our conference in Uganda in 2014.

Visit SIA projects in Kenya (7 days)

    1. Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge’s Samro School
    2. Small Business Fund groups in Nairobi and Eldoret
    3. CIFORD Kenya (girl’s empowerment)
    4. Megabridge Foundation (piggery)
    5. Dressmaking and beadworking training in informal settlements around Nairobi

Training to Expand 

Over the last two years we have been expanding our SIA Small Business Fund program. We have added new local coordinators in Malawi, Uganda, and two more in Kenya. Families are able to best use these $150 business grants when they are also mentored by our wonderful local coordinators. This means that we are only able to expand the Small Business Fund program as fast as we can find dedicated, reliable coordinators. During my last trip to Africa I realized the need for a more robust training program for recent and incoming coordinators. This time, we will take two days to train new coordinators so that we can ensure our coordinators are ready and prepared to lead and mentor the new business groups.

Tanya and Mike Hegeman leading a song.

Traveling with me will be my wonderful husband, Boyd, and also two very dear friends, Dana Belmonte and Mike Hegeman. Boyd, Dana, and Mike are all SIA Advisory Board members and passionate about our work. Traveling with a group will give me more space for true listening and connection, while leaving the documentation and logistics to our capable team.

If you would like to contribute to the travel fund for the Small Business Fund Coordinators to attend our conference in Malawi, please click here!

 

Five years in the making…

Five years in the making…

Reposted from my co-editor, Jennifer Lentfer’s How Matters blog. “Co-editor?” you ask. Read on…

This is how it began…

From: JENNIFER LENTFER
Date: Wed, Oct 5, 2011 at 5:29 PM
Subject: invitation to join “Small is Big” Writing Collaborative
To: Tanya Cothran

Dear Tanya,

As people making small grants internationally, you are part of a growing number of people that specialize in offering direct funding to local initiatives and community leaders.

You have vital expertise to share with the aid and philanthropic sectors as many are wondering  what more can be done to enable grassroots movements to emerge and gain strength.

Therefore I am inviting you to share your experience via the “Small is Big” Writing Collaborative, which aims to gather varied grantmakers’ approaches and experiences as a collective source of knowledge to share widely via an online or printed publication. In the collaborative, you and/or your staff will be engaged in a reflective learning process with my support and that of participants from other organizations…

***

5 years, 22 contributors 

And five years, 22 contributors (and many other supporters and friends along the way), here is where we ended up…

smart risks book cover

Coming April 2017

from Practical Action Publishing!

In a rapidly changing world and after decades of failed international aid, it’s high time to build the dialogue about how international actors can build their own skills and institutional processes to accompany and support community-level leadership and systems, rather than overpower or co-opt them.

Luckily there is a growing number of small NGOs and foundations that specialize in offering direct, responsive funding to grassroots leaders and small, often “informal” initiatives, groups, and movements. And over twenty of them have come together to write this book!

Compared to the old-school, donor-controlled, large-scale, project-based international aid funding, the authors use the concept of “smart risks” to build upon existing human and social capital to unleash people power and social innovation. International grassroots grantmakers are adept at keeping their minds (and perhaps more importantly their hearts) open to the possibility of results when the common good is tapped in unimagined and unanticipated ways.

People in poor countries or communities who want to make change should no longer tolerate an charity-modeled system that makes them struggle and wait endlessly for funding to trickle down to them, marred by burdensome requirements and restrictions from donors. Pushing the sector forward needs smart risk-taking, and the authors’ experience is an untapped resource for the international aid and philanthropic sectors as a whole.

Smart Risks contributors came together because they each have a professional – and perhaps more importantly a personal – resolve to build solidarity with people not as passive recipients of aid, but as whole people and active leaders of their own lives. We know that radical shifts in thinking, attitude, and practice are required and we hope that this book can contribute to shifting the power and charting new paths ahead!

Tanya’s note: It has been my honor to contribute to this process and co-edit these inspiring essays. I also wrote three essays about Spirit in Action that are included in the book! I’ll keep you update on our progress in the next few months!

Fall Newsletter Preview! See what’s new with SIA!

Fall Newsletter Preview! See what’s new with SIA!

The new Spirit in Action newsletter is hot off the presses! You can view a PDF version here and the hard copies were in the mail last week!

In this newsletter we feature:

  • Megabridge Foundation in Kenya is a new grant partner. Their pig pens are already looking great! “Community members and men whose families will benefit from the program volunteered their time and talent to complete the construction project. The eight sows and two boars are settled in the new shelter.”
Cutting boards for the raised-floor pig pens.

Cutting boards for the raised-floor pig pens.

Adding the roof to keep the pigs dry and healthy!

Adding the roof to keep the pigs dry and healthy.

  • The new building for the Manyamula Community Savings and Investment Promotion Cooperative in Malawi is complete! (And it’s already getting a lot of use!)
  • Reflections and memories of Del and his founding of SIA.
  • Descriptions of our six on-going grant projects.
  • A timeline of 20 years of Spirit in Action activities!

Del and Bebe Anderson in a Japanese advertisement.

Read the full newsletter and donate now to support the work of Spirit in Action. Your support helps empower more families and communities in Africa!

Spring Newsletter Bonus Time!

Spring Newsletter Bonus Time!

The new Spirit in Action newsletter is hot off the (virtual) presses! You can view a PDF version here and the hard copies are in the mail this week!

In this newsletter we feature:

  • Christians and Muslims are encouraging each other in their businesses and praying together in Spirit in Action’s Small Business Fund in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • SIA’s pay-it-forward initiative passes piglets.
  • The new building for the Manyamula Community Savings and Investment Promotion Cooperative is almost complete! (And it looks fantastic!)
  • Read a description of each of SIA’s seven on-going grant projects.

There are always too many great photos to include them all in the newsletter, but luckily there is endless space online! Here are some bonus photos of Spirit in Action’s work:

MAL_CAN_113-117_training1_2-16

Business leaders receive training in record keeping and pricing before receiving the $150 grant from SIA. This group, in Manyamula Village, Malawi, is filling out their business plans.

MAL_CAN_113-117_money_2-16

Hope for a new start! Each of the business leaders receive an initial grant of $100, to be followed up for an additional $50 in three months, if the business is doing well.

ciford girls dance for PCF_12-15

Girls who completed the Alternative Rite of Passage with CIFORD in Meru, Kenya sing and dance to encourage the girls in Samburu who are celebrating an empowering transition to adulthood.

wci_joyce_knitting_12-15

Joyce received a small loan from WCI, one of SIA’s partner organizations in Zambia. She used her loan to buy this awesome knitting machine!

Read the full newsletter and donate now to support the work of Spirit in Action.

20 years of Spirit in Action, 1996-2016

20 years of Spirit in Action, 1996-2016

(Del Anderson in the SIA Office in 2004.)

Save the date! You’re invited to join us for Spirit in Action’s 20th Anniversary Celebration!

Saturday, June 25th, at 2-4pm at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland, CA.

We decided against the traditional china, rejected the modern platinum, and chose instead to host a great party! We will be celebrating past, present, and future, with special guests Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge, from Eldoret, Kenya. (More details and invitations to come soon.)

Past

Did you know that Del was 90 years old when he founded Spirit in Action? SIA was part of his vision and passion for serving the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. Serving the spirit without acknowledging the needs of the mind and body was incomplete to Del.

In his 1997 Christmas letter, Del introduced his friends to Spirit in Action, “My intent to continue to assist some of the wonderful, dedicated persons in developing countries who are effectively helping people to help themselves as they serve the hungry and the poor has encouraged me to share this news with you.

“I have put in motion a non-profit corporation to continue to carry this work on after I have made the transition to a new life. Incorporated in California, “SPIRIT IN ACTION” is alive and serving, with board members committed to assist in helping people to help themselves.

“I am excited with the real probability of the continuation of this ministry to effectively help our world, through assisting people to become serving, productive, responsible, growing persons. I feel very privileged to be participating with our Creator and with persons desirous of bringing forth a world of the people, by the people and for the people, where caring and acting for the common good is the way of life.” (Read more about Del.)

Del and Tanya at Del's desk in 2006

Del and Tanya at Del’s desk in 2006. Del was 100 years old and still sending letters to friends in the US and abraod.

Present

Since 1996, and the early days of figuring out how we were going to operate, SIA has grown into a strong network. We have granted over 650 Small Business Fund grants in Kenya, Malawi, India, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, and the DR Congo. We have supported over 35 community-based organizations across Africa and in Sri Lanka, India, Peru, and Philippines. And these programs are on-going and growing!

Samuel and Rhoda and their Samro School were some of the first SIA grant partners and they continue to inspire us with their passion for educating and encouraging the next generation of Kenyans. It will be wonderful to be hear from the Teimuges about their partnership with Del and their experiences of building a successful school and agricultural development training centre in Kenya.

Samro Students performing at the 8th grade graduation in October, 2015.

Samro Students performing at the 8th grade graduation in October, 2015.

Future

I am excited about Spirit in Action’s future! We are poised to enter a new stage of our organization and we are moving forward with a broad base of support. As we grow and expand our programs, we rejoice in the strength that already exists in African communities, and we serve as a catalyst for local solutions to help communities thrive.

I celebrate that the SIA network is strong with passionate donors and dedicated partners – and I hope you will be in Oakland on June 25th to celebrate with me!

Local organizations like the Manyamula COMSIP savings and loans cooperative is a SIA partner that is serving the mind, body, and spirit of its members.

Local organizations like the Manyamula COMSIP savings and loans cooperative is a SIA partner that is serving the mind, body, and spirit of its members.

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