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!

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.

Being Grateful for What We Do

Being Grateful for What We Do
Tanya shows off a basket and hat woven by one of the Small Business Fund groups. I'm grateful for the generosity of our grant partners!

Tanya shows off a basket and hat woven by one of the Small Business Fund groups. I’m grateful for the generosity of our grant partners!

In the U.S. this is a week to reflect on and say out loud what we are grateful for. Recently, a friend asked me to list the three reasons I’ve chosen this work, and this organization. The three points express well my thankfulness for Spirit in Action: 

1. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with how much need there is in the world, how many people still live in sub-standard conditions without a clear way to improve their lives. Working with SIA, I feel that we are reaching out to people and directly influencing them to make lasting positive change in their lives.

2. SIA is an organization that really empowers people, working together with them as partners, listening to their needs and ideas, and being flexible enough to respond to what we learn and adapt programs to local situations and local knowledge.

3. SIA acknowledges and celebrates the dignity of each person. We never portray people as helpless or without possibility. We see potential in each person. I feel so good about that and I am proud of this approach.

Also check out some Thanksgiving table graces that pray for the world.

Fikire Chime (Malawi) takes her donuts to market 3 days a week. I'm grateful for her dedication to her business!

Fikire Chime (Malawi) takes her donuts to market 3 days a week. I’m grateful for her dedication to her business!

Knowing how much I don’t know

Knowing how much I don’t know

As you may have heard or seen, the SIA website was hacked yesterday. I got a dreaded email from Google warning me that the site would temporarily be marked as hacked until I got it cleared up. Yikes! And so two hours passed in the blink of an eye as I tried to figure out what I needed to do and how to do it…

I’m pretty tech-savvy and there are still moments with the website where I feel like I’m in the deep-end trying to stay above water. I told this to my husband and he reassured me that it’s a common feeling and that this kind of experience pushes us to grow, to expand beyond our comfort zone.

Things I don't know. Prized speakers are transported by motorbike (boda-boda) to play praise music by generator in the evening.

Things I don’t know: Prized speakers are transported by motorbike (boda-boda) to play praise music by generator in the evening.

Of course, I agree. It’s just that I usually prefer to at least have my nose above water as I’m pushing, learning, growing, and experiencing new things. Sometimes with websites I’m not even sure if there is a bottom to the pool. In other words, yesterday I had one of those moments when I realize just how much I really don’t know or understand.

And I’ve learned that the best response to this kind of moment – when the vastness of the world and the limitation of my expertise is broadcast in front of me – is to turn to those who know and be grateful for them.

It’s true with the internet (we paid a nominal fee to get the website cleaned and verified by professionals), with electricians (don’t ask how long we worked at installing a new fixture before surrendering), and also with working in Africa.

SIA Small Business Fund local coordinator Nalu Prossy (Uganda) shares her knowledge with the other coordinators at our conference in Uganda.

SIA Small Business Fund local coordinator Nalu Prossy (Uganda) shares her knowledge with the other coordinators at our conference in Uganda.

Partnering with people in different countries, with different cultures, is a good opportunity to practice surrender and call in the professionals. This, in essence, was the goal of the SIA Small Business Fund Coordinator’s Conference we held in Uganda this summer. Each is implementing the same program while applying their intimate knowledge of the situation and customs in their own community. The conference was a chance for the six coordinators to share what they do to adapt the program to their community and to learn from each other.

It was pretty easy for me to admit when I started this job that I didn’t know the first thing about training someone to run a small business in rural Malawi. The coordinators know though. They know not to distribute the grants right before school fees are due. They know that illiterate parents can ask their children to help them fill out the forms. They know that buying livestock is a way to invest savings. And I know that there’s even more that they know that I don’t know. You know?

Seven years after starting my work with SIA, my nose is beginning to emerge above water – so to speak – especially after two trips to Africa. And, every day, I celebrate with gratitude our local coordinators who really know what they’re doing.

P.S. The website is all clean and safe now! Thanks for your patience!

Godfrey Matovu (Uganda) and Canaan Gondwe (Malawi) share with a women's group in Kasozi Village, Uganda. Each coordinator has different expertise to share with groups, me, and the other coordinators.

Godfrey Matovu (Uganda) and Canaan Gondwe (Malawi) share with a women’s group in Kasozi Village, Uganda. Each coordinator has different expertise to share with groups, me, and the other coordinators.

More than a job: A full life

“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 at a Malawian market in 2011.

A moment of personal connection. Meeting a SIA entrepreneur at a Malawian market in 2011.

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 (!) 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.

Local coordinator, Godfrey Matovu, leads a small business training in Uganda.

Local coordinator, Godfrey Matovu, leads a small business training in Uganda.

Job+ throughout SIA

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 Fund program.

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.

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