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!

Updates from Ghana and Kenya

Updates from Ghana and Kenya

Who’s that lady?

Reader question! “I love the SIA newsletter. What is the story behind the pic of the beautiful woman with the lovely smile on page 6? Looks like she has a big tray of maize or something and I’m wondering if you can tell me her story.”

Tanya’s Response: I’m sorry that I neglected to add a caption to her photo. This woman is one of the 50 women who attended a sustainable agriculture training at Shape Lives Foundation in Ghana, sponsored by Spirit in Action. The woman in front is holding a tray of brown rice and the trees surrounding her are Moringa trees. Moringa is a highly nutritious plant and the leaves can be ground up and added to food as a vitamin supplement. (Read more about Moringa here and here.) Shape Lives has been integrating Moringa in with the rice at their demonstration farm to help improve the nutrition in their community. The plants grew well together and they are planning to train more women to add Moringa to their home gardens. The women who attend the training and help with the harvest get to take home some of the rice!

New Businesses in Nairobi, Kenya

Five new groups in Nairobi, Kenya received their initial $100 Small Business Fund grants in February.

The new business leaders: Back row - Wilkister, Pheris, Ann & Pamela. Front row-Tina & Josephine

The new business leaders: Back row – Wilkister, Pheris, Ann & Pamela. Front row – Tina & Josephine (Josephine is one of the local business mentors.

  • Ann Ayuma and her husband George Mungai and their daughter Phyllis Ayuma are the members. They chose the group Mwangaza which means light and they will sell cooked food.
  • A family group of mother Wilkister Akumu, father Ronald Omondi Okumu, and their child Juliet Ochieng. They chose the name Hekima – Wisdom for their kiosk.
  • Pheris Amati has an existing business of making bags with her husband Kennedy Adai. Their daughter Sela Obanda will join them.
  • Pamela Anyango is the group leader. She has a small shop and sells by the roadside items like tissues and diapers, and also cooks and sells githeri (beans and corn). Their groups name is Ebenezer.
  • Mama Tony Boutique is the name of their business. The leader’s name is Tina Violet Amati and she does hair but doesn’t have a place – she is a free lancer.

And a New Sewing Machine!

Caroline with her new sewing machine, working on a school uniform.

Carolyne with her new sewing machine, working on a school uniform.

Carolyne joined up with other two friends to start the God’s Favor Tailoring Group with a Spirit in Action Small Business Fund grant a year ago and their business is going strong. With the second grant installment of $50, in addition to reinvesting their profit, they bought a new machine and added to their stock. They are now able to pay school fees, eat better, and pay rent from their profits. Judy, who had taken her kids to stay with her mother in the village, said she would bring them back to live with her because life had improved. Alfayo, a high school student, is able to pay his fees and meet his other basic needs. The only down side so far is that because they specialize on school uniforms, the business went down once school started. However, they did get some new orders for other types of clothes around Christmas and Easter.

I want a Kenyan cell phone!

I want a Kenyan cell phone!

When you think Africa you might not think cell phones. You should though! In Kenya especially they are doing some really cool, innovative things with cell phones. In fact, there are a few ways I wish my North American cell phone service could be more like the Kenyan system…

Maureen Kasadi in Nairobi texts with a friend before our Small Business Fund meeting starts.

Maureen Kasadi in Nairobi texts with a friend before our Small Business Fund meeting starts.

1. Cheaper service

Have you noticed how expensive cell phone plans are in the US? Of course you have! Even the “pay as you go” plans can have $10/month minimums. In 2013, 70% of Kenyans had cell phones. Once you purchase the phone in Kenya, you can buy of “air time” to “top up” your account balance. Unlike the US, these airtime minutes are sold in increments of about 50 cents to $20.

The Kenyan system is truly pay as you go. If you can only afford 50 cents of airtime you can buy just the amount needed for that one important call. In the US it seems that monthly minimums keeps rising, giving me much more than I need each month.

2. Sending money

A banking revolution is happening in Kenya – and it’s happening because of cell phones. About 70% of Kenyans do not have access to a bank. They DO have cell phones though. Enter M-Pesa! M-Pesa allows people to transfer money through their cell phones.

The sender brings money directly to an M-Pesa dealer (which operate out of city grocery stores and the tiniest rural kiosks) and gives the dealer the cell phone number of the receiver. Then the receiver gets a text saying the money is available. They go to their local M-Pesa dealer and pick up the cash! Whereas before a daughter working in the city might’ve had to travel hours by bus to bring cash to her parents in the country, now she can transfer it instantly to them.

We are even using M-Pesa for SIA! We can make one bank transfer to Kenya and then have the Small Business Fund coordinators M-Pesa the money to each other. Each bank transfer costs us $10. Each M-Pesa transfer costs just $2-3.

Grace's shop in the Manyamula Market is connected to the new electricity lines in town and so she provides phone charging services for a small fee.

Grace’s shop in the Manyamula Market is connected to the new electricity lines in town and she provides phone charging services for a small fee.

3. Shopping around

Most Kenyans have non-smart phones – phones for texting and calling, rather than easy internet use – and most have space for two different SIM cards. This means they can switch between cell phone carriers as suits their needs. Airtel, Orange, and Safaricom are the three most popular carriers and each have different deals and rates for different times. When you have both an Airtel and a Safaricom SIM card, you can shift to use whichever has cheaper evening calls or cheaper calls within the carrier network. This flexibility seems like a dream for those of us locked into one carrier based on the phone or a 2-year contract!

Bonus: Sharing opportunities

As I blogged about last week, people are excited about electricity coming to Manyamula, Malawi. So far, just a few shops have access to the electrical wires, and others are using solar power. Both are highly valued because electricity is necessary to charge all these cell phones! When we visited Winkly Mahowe he showed us his solar panel connected to a power strip, where he allows neighbors to charge their cell phones for free. Charging is also a viable SBF business- we saw this crowded power source in one of the Manyamula market shops.

“Life has improved”: Updates from Kenya Small Business Fund

“Life has improved”: Updates from Kenya Small Business Fund

Wambui is the local coordinator in Nairobi, Kenya. We spent a week together in July 2014 evaluating and improving our Small Business Fund program.

Exciting updates! Just yesterday I received a whole packet of business reports and new business plans from the latest 10 Small Business Fund grant recipients in the Korogocho area of Nairobi, Kenya. It’s thrilling to see our investment (in the form of small grants) making a positive impact in so many families!

Below are 3 updates from Wambui Nguyo, our Nairobi local coordinator, about groups that received their initial grants in September, and 2 profiles about groups that are just beginning this month:


God’s Favour Group – Tailoring Services

These are a group of friends and are still keeping the business strong. They bought a new sewing machine and added to their stock. Carolyne said they are able to pay school fees, eat better, and pay rent from their profits. Judy, who had taken her kids to stay with her mother in the village, said she will bring them back because life has improved. Alfayo, who is in high school can pay his school fees and meet his other needs.

Playstation Group – Video Game Cafe

Wako, age 17, the leader is so hard working. He bought a new game terminal for the Playstation. The other Small Business Fund women in the area (who would be Wako’s mum’s age) are so pleased with him. He is not engaged in drugs or alcohol like most of his peers. They are orphaned and Wako does care for his 6 siblings and takes care of them. Josephine [a leader in the community and a mentor/trainer in the SBF groups] adds that he was able to pay the exam fees for his siblings who are at Josephine’s school in the slum.

Imarisha Maisha Group – Grain Shop

Sarah the group leader could afford a smile. She no longer goes to Josephine to beg for some food for her and family. She is able to pay her rent and has not been locked out [because of non-payment] so far. She bought cereals [rice, beans, barley] with her grant and still sells by the roadside and at times takes them around to people to buy. She has the plan of adding plastic stuff like buckets and soap to add to her stock. [Tanya’s note: I wrote 2 weeks ago about how SIA Small Business Fund is specifically designed to get people out of cycles of begging. It’s so good to hear these stories of the grants doing just that!]


Josephine shows Tanya and Wambui the pot of beans cooking for the lunch meal for students at her school.

Josephine shows Tanya and Wambui the pot of beans cooking for the lunch meal for students at her school.

New Business Grants in Korogocho, Kenya

Wambui and Josephine met with five new groups on the February 26th, explaining about SIA and what is expected of them as they received their initial $100 grants. Here are profiles of two of the new groups:

Ebenezer Shop and Cafe

Pamela Anyango, the group leader, has a small shop and sells items like tissues, diapers and also cooks githeri (a dish of beans and corn) by the roadside. Her husband, Misael, is unemployed and looks for casual work. If in any particular day he does not succeed, he comes to help Pamela. Most of the time they rely on this small shop for the family income. With the grant, they will start cooking rice and sell it to school children over the lunch hour. She has done her research and feels this will be successful.

Mwangaza (Light) Shop and Cafe

Ann Ayuma is already in an existing business of cooking food from her house and taking it to the neighbouring town by motorcycle. She targets the construction workers over lunch hour. Her husband, George Mungai doesn’t have a permanent job – he works with a handcart to carry people’s luggage. With this grant Ann hope to get a place close to where she supplies food and add more foodstuffs. They have 5 children and 2 grandchildren in their care.


For more updates from Kenya:

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.

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