Video: Gratitude for what we do

Video: Gratitude for what we do

First, I’m grateful for our amazing volunteers. People like Carmen Hernandez who share their skills with SIA. Carmen put together this video of me telling her why I choose this work and this organization, and mixed it with photos of me during my visit to SIA partners last summer. Just watching it brings back such heart-warming memories of shaking the hands of Small Business Fund leaders, hearing testimonies, drinking tea, and dancing along to their songs.

To find what else I’m grateful for, watch the video!

Tanya – SIA from Carmen H on Vimeo.

I’d highly recommend hiring Carmen for any filming or video editing needs! Contact her here.

Isn’t our new logo great too? I’d also recommend Ballyhoo Design for graphic design projects!

Fostering dignity in myself and others

Brown Ngoma is expanding his family's store, building a home, and now "when his family is sick he can pay for a private hospital." (Manyamula, Malawi)

Brown Ngoma is expanding his family’s store, building a home, and now “when his family is sick he can pay for a private hospital.” (Manyamula, Malawi)

“If I fail to treat someone with dignity, it is me, not them, who is undignified.” In other words, to keep my own dignity – that sense of self-respect and pride in oneself – I must honor everyone else’s dignity. Just because someone is poor it doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t have self-respect. In fact, as an article in the Guardian about international aid and dignity pointed out, “some of the poorest people are the most dignified. And some of the richest lack dignity.”

Luckily, Spirit in Action is a good place to work to practice honoring the dignity in each person. Our work is not just about numbers and outcomes, it’s about seeing the world and our fellow human beings as inherently filled with potential and self-respect.

Founded with Dignity

Even before Del Anderson founded Spirit in Action, he was enthusiastic about affirming the dignity of each person he wrote to. In the stuffed envelopes he sent out Del included simple self-help projects and encouraging messages.

Messages like: “Within you is the power. Within you is the power to face life and all that lies before you with unshakable assurance that the Lord your God is in the midst of you.”

And, “[The glory of God] is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Does this enhance our dignity and that of others?

The Yuba family shows us that they have enough food - good bread and chicken - from their pottery and kiosk business successes. (Kasozi, Uganda)

The Yuba family shows us that they have enough food – good bread and chicken – from their pottery and kiosk business successes. (Kasozi, Uganda)

Imagine, the Guardian article mused, if before we implemented a program we asked, “is this dignified? Does this enhance our dignity and that of others?” In fact, this is something that the SIA Board already does!

Small Business Fund groups and community grant projects are led by capable and empowered local leaders. They are taking charge of their own success – and that’s dignity. We’re used to seeing that dignity. And so we’re wary when grant applicants seem to play on our emotions by presenting themselves as inherently lacking or desperate.

Dignity is not about SIA buying and sending cooking pots to Africa. It’s about helping a family build steady income through their own business. Then it’s their own hard work that foster their hope in the future.

Last summer, I saw the bright glow of self-respect in the faces of the Small Business Fund members. They were all so proud of how far they’d come – the pots they could buy on their own, the medical care they could afford. They wanted to show me that they were the means of their success. To prove that they were able to tap into and channel that power within that Del talked about. And with dignity I affirmed their success. I drank the tea they offered to me and admired the new chairs. In these exchanges we were each letting our own light shine, and giving the other person space to shine too!

4 Quick Grant Updates!

4 Quick Grant Updates!

1. 35 Women Trained in Zambia

One of the women who received a small low-interest loan to establish her hair braiding business.

One of the women who received a small low-interest loan from Welfare Concern International to establish her hair braiding business.

(SIA funded Welfare Concern International, a grassroots organization, to coordinate a capacity-building workshop and small micro-loans for women in Livingstone in 2014.)

From Moses Chibanda, Director: In the last six months, we have trained 35 community women and we have empowered 18 of them with small loans.

Our biggest success has been to see the trained women being able to at least have two meals per day for their families and send their children to school, a thing that never used to happen in the past. Secondly, the women whom we have so far trained this year have been able to run their businesses successfully. This has been attributed to the training which we provided for them. Many have been able to also open their own savings accounts with the banks.

Community members, through the provision of capacity building training and micro-loans empowerment, are slowly drifting away from hand outs to using their hands to do something for themselves.”

2. A Safety Net for Widows in Kenya

Two of the three large fish ponds run collectively by the Tsindomdale Women's group in Kenya.

Two of the three large fish ponds run collectively by the Tsindombela Women’s group in Kenya.

(The Tsindombela Women’s Group in Kakamega, Kenya received a SIA grant last year to dig 3 large fish ponds and start a collective business.)

From Grace Makungu, President: We have over 500 fish in our three ponds. And 28 widows and their families have benefited from this project so far.

Birds were taking some of our fishes in great numbers because we didn’t have the net to cover the top and give protection. It is with our profit from the first sale of fish that we were able to purchase a fishing net ($380) and also save some profit ($200) with our treasurer. 

We are in the process of bringing the District Fisheries Department to see if they can provide future support to bring out project to a higher level. We are also planning to extend the project by utilizing swampy places at our member’s farms that lie dormant. If well utilized, the group can come up with giant results in the next few years, and that is our true dream.”

3. New SIA Partner to Empower Girls

(SIA just sent funds this week for Pastoralist Child Foundation to host an empowerment workshop and Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony for 60 girls in Samburu, Kenya. Here is more about their past successes.)

In the last 2 years PCF has provided workshops for 132 girls and seminars for 70 adults. They have also sponsored 6 students to attend high school.

“With your support we’ll increase the number of workshops in 2015, educating more girls and preparing them for their very first celebratory Alternative Rite of Passage. This will be history-in-the-making!” [Tanya’s note: The girls are eager for this alternative to the traditional Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).] 

The girl’s workshops provide them with the “vital information needed to resist FGM and forced early marriages, and to adopt safe and peaceful Alternative Rites of Passage to Womanhood.

The curriculum also includes the importance of knowing about the female sexual reproductive system, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, rape, resisting gender-based violence, as well as the importance of getting a formal education.

4. Empowering Students at Samro School

A poster in the computer room at Samro School encourages students to ask questions to learn more.

A poster in the computer room at Samro School encourages students to ask questions to learn more.

(SIA funded a water tank at Samro School in 2014 and will help with school fees in 2015. Some of the students come from South Sudan, where there is still much unrest.)

Report from Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge, Directors: “We thank God for the wonderful year though full of financial challenges. Most parents were not able to complete their school fees on time and that became a setback for us to meet the teachers’ salaries. We thank you for standing with us. Our teachers do their best to teach critical thinking and the students are developing in academics, spiritual development, and character development. We believe we are causing an impact in our society as we hear good reports of what our graduates are doing in high school. The first Samro graduates are joining university this year.”

**For a list of all recent grants, visit our Grants List page.

Opening a Savings Account in Uganda

Opening a Savings Account in Uganda
Rehema us tells about how the savings group keeps their funds secure, and their records accurate.

Rehema us tells about how the savings group keeps their funds secure, and their records accurate.

We sat on very small wooden stools and faced a group of about Ugandan 25 women sitting on woven leaf mats. In between us sat a green metal box with three locks. I listened with growing excitement as Rehema Mutesi told me and the other Small Business Coordinators about the Kasozi Village Savings Group.

If the women kept the profit from their business endeavors in their houses, the money would be quickly spent, with none of it going to savings. So, about two years ago they started talking to the local Spirit in Action Small Business Fund Coordinator, Godfrey Matovu, who helped them form their own micro-savings group. The 30 members meet once a week and commit their savings to the secure green box, in increments as small as the equivalent of 5 cents.

DSC05615Each transaction – how much each person has saved and how much they have borrowed – is recorded in a green ledger book. Then the money is placed in the green box, which is secured with three locks. Three different women have keys, and “the ones with the keys are not neighbors. They are all from a different place,” Rehema told us, assuring us of the safety of the saved funds. Then she added, above the loudly mooing cow, “and the person with the box also is not one with a key.” All these safety measures are important because at the end of last year’s saving cycle the box held over 3.8 million Ugandan Shillings (about $1,800)!

Each member can borrow a portion of their savings for a one-month period. They are charged a small interest rate, which is included back in the savings fund and disbursed to members at the end of the annual cycle. One of the group members took a loan this year to pay for a certification course in hair braiding. Now she is braiding hair in the village and in the nearby town, as well as mentoring and training some girls who have dropped out of school.

Canaan gives advice to the Kasozi savings group and encourages them. "You need to be organized and have strong leadership."

Canaan gives advice to the Kasozi savings group and encourages them. “You need to be organized and have strong leadership.”

I was impressed to see how these women were working together to encourage each other to save for those bigger expenses. Things like re-thatching their homes, paying for school fees, and medical expenses. I saw that the women supported each other emotionally too. They did a skit for us, showing how to care for a child with fever. They clapped for each other and laughed together. One of the members is a district counselor, but within the group she is on equal footing with all the others.

Before we ended our visit, Canaan Gondwe, the SIA Small Business Fund Coordinator from Malawi who also leads a savings group, stood up to give the women a few words of encouragement. Speaking from his own experience, he assured them,  “This is a journey towards economic empowerment. In five year’s time, you will never be the same.”

4 new grants. 4 thank you letters.

4 new grants. 4 thank you letters.

christmas honor ask_2014One of the best parts of my job is when I get to email grant partners and let them know that the Spirit in Action Board of Directors has approved their requests for funds. I work closely with each grassroots organization to understand, prepare, and refine their proposal, so it’s always a joy to tell them that they have SIA’s support to implement their community programs!

In the beginning of December, the Board approved four new Community Grants and I received four very enthusiastic and grateful responses to the good news. It felt only right to share their joy, so that we can all celebrate and pray for this good work!

1. Community Mobilization Against Poverty – Kitale, Kenya

Sustainable agriculture training. Model bio-intensive, organic farm. Seeds. For 200 farmers. ($3,000)

From Moses Mukongo, CMAP director:

On behalf of CMAP I want to thank you and the SIA Board for taking the time to review our grant proposal for the farmer training and education support in sustainable agriculture. We will be helping small farm-holder communities grow plentiful and nutritious food, without depleting natural resources and with sophisticated yet low-technology approaches to farming and marketing.

2. Progressive Volunteers – Nairobi, Kenya

Sewing machines and instructors for a dressmaking and tailoring training center for women living in Ruaraka slum. ($3,731)

Boyd, Tanya, and the PV team meet to discuss the potential of local volunteers to improve Nairobi's schools and environment. (July 2014)

Boyd, Tanya, and the PV team meet to discuss the potential of local volunteers to improve Nairobi’s schools and environment. (July 2014)

From Jeremiah Mzee, PV director:

Wish you could be around to see how happy our team feel after the grant’s award. Receive a word of thank you from my team and volunteers.

On behalf of everyone at Progressive Volunteers I would like to offer my sincerest thanks for the grant from Spirit in Action. Progressive Volunteers is only a small community based organization but it does know its local communities well. In much of the work we do, it is clear that often what local people need most are the skills and economic opportunities to better support themselves. We very much hope that the dressmaking and tailoring training centre funded with the grant goes some way to offering those opportunities for local people.

3. Pastoralist Child Foundation – Samburu, Kenya

Girls Empowerment Workshop for 60 girls. With an alternative rite of passage. Campaign to end female genital mutilation. Education = Empowerment = Equality. ($3,506)

From Sayydah Garrett, PCF Founder and President:

We are so pleased with this exciting news from Spirit in Action!  On behalf of the staff, board, mentors, volunteers, and especially the communities we serve, a most heartfelt thank you! God bless you! We will certainly fill out all the required information in a timely manner and return everything to you. May we take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season.

4. Samro School and Samro Polytechnic School – Eldoret, Kenya

Tuition for 10 elementary students (including boarding for 4 students). Tuition and boarding for 6 tailoring students.($5,660)

One of the Samro Polytechnic students in the tailoring classroom. With clothing made by students hanging on the wall.

One of the Samro Polytechnic students in the tailoring classroom. With clothing made by students hanging on the wall.

From Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge, Samro Founders:

WAW!!!!!! This is indeed great, great news. Praise God indeed. God bless and keep you.

Merry Christmas!
The SIA blog is taking a break next week.

**For a list of past Community Grants, visit our Grants List.

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