Rock on, Emmanuel!

Rock on, Emmanuel!

Emmanuel’s band bought their instruments with a Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative low-interest loan. They have since paid it back, after playing gigs around the village.

“Feel welcome, feel welcome!” The band – with keyboard, a drum kit, and a whole line of singers – sang us into the full meeting hall.  The music, the dancing, the warm smiles certainly made us feel very welcome. Boyd and I settled in to meet and share with the members of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative (formerly called the Manyamula Savings and Loans Group – MAVISALO) in rural Malawi.

“I  want to give a testimony of what this group has done for me.” The band leader, Emmanuel Cachari, declared.


Notice the “local looking” cymbal in the upper left corner of the photo.

“If you look closely at my musical instruments you will see that some look local and some look exotic. The ones that look local, that is my beginning.” Indeed, one of the cymbals on the drum kit was clearly a piece of pounded metal, with drilled holes to make the right kind of ringing sound.  The room filled with applause, celebrating just how far the group had come.

They band had been playing gigs at weddings and other celebrations, earning about $10 US Dollars per show. But their “local looking” instruments left something to be desired.

Then, Canaan Gondwe, the leader of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative (which has received several SIA Community Grants) invited them to join the Cooperative. The band used the Cooperative as a place to save their earnings. Soon, they were able to receive a low-interest loan of about $280 to buy the “exotic” keyboard and drums. The change in quality of their instruments helped them secure even more gigs and now they have saved over $1,000 in earnings, even after paying back the loan.

The key to business is “hard work and focus,” Emmanuel confirmed to us. And the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative is a way for people to be able to expand their businesses and succeed through their hard work  – just as he did. “I hope many of us will change for the better,” he said of his 165 fellow Cooperative members.

Emmanuel finished his testimony by sharing a big dream with us: “I hope, in time, we will be visiting you in the U.S.” he said, as the room erupted with cheers and whistles of support. We look forward to rocking out with this band again soon!

More stories about the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative:

A book, a poem, and more about why I like grants

A book, a poem, and more about why I like grants

The grant reports from the latest cohort of SIA Community Grants and Small Business Fund groups are set to come in later this week! Until I have those stories (of a women’s loan group in Ghana, a technical school in Kenya, and a motorcycle in Malawi) to share with you, I hope you’ll enjoy these SIA-related tidbits to brighten your week:

More about grants vs loans 

Following up on my presentation about grants vs loans last week and a conversation I had with some friends earlier this fall, I wrote down five points to consider when thinking about micro-grants and micro-loans.

Those five points are featured today in a guest blog post “Combating Poverty with Micro-Financing: Small Business Loans vs. Grants” on the Spoonfuls of Spice blog. Spoonfuls of Spice is an online spice store, which donates 5% of its profits to support programs that empower women world-wide.

Children’s Stories of Africa

Bright, colorful photos. Heartwarming lessons. Stories about Africa. Yes! I think I know what my nieces are getting for Christmas…

Last week The New York Times chose some of their favorite children’s books about Africa:

Speaking of gifts…did you see the new SIA gift cards? Now when you donate to SIA in honor of a friend or family member you can print out a card to let them know of the gift and to share a taste of SIA with them. (For more details, click here.)

Stressed? Just read this poem.

In the midst of the whirling day,
In the hectic rush to be doing,
In the frantic pace of life,
Pause here for a moment.

Catch your breath;
Relax your body;
Loosen your grip on life.

Consider that our lives are always unfinished business;
Imagine that the picture of our being is never complete;
Allow your life to be a work in progress.

By Richard S. Gilbert, Life Is Always Unfinished Business

Dancing to music from Senegal

All the songs on the the “The African Music Playlist” from Firelight Foundation’s blog were making me happy today! Listen, watch, and dance along to this one that I particularly liked:

Top 7 Moments (& Photos) from CFOI Peru

Here are the top seven moments and photos from my recent trip to the Camps Farthest Out International (CFOI) Camp in Peru. For more about CFOI, please visit their website. Our founder, Del Anderson, was a past President of CFOI and many of our grantees have come through this connection.

Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony

1. Meeting of Cultures

This 5-day camp held in Lima, Peru was an international meeting of over 200 CFOI campers! There were representatives from 20 different countries! As someone who is very interested in culture, I loved meeting people from all over the world; people from places I had visited before (Kenya, Malawi, Australia) and people from places I hope to visit some time in the future (Fiji, Kashmir, Papua New Guinea). We all came with our cultural expectations and cultural norms and together we had to navigate and celebrate our differences (personal space issues, how coffee is prepared) and marvel in our similarities (love of music, shared faith).

Camper from rural Peru

Camper from rural Peru

2. Opening our Eyes

About 1/3 of the campers were from all parts of Peru – many of them from the rural farming communities in the highlands and jungle areas of Peru. Some of my most memorable exchanges were sharing with them about life in the United States and then hearing about their potato farms. (Did you know that Peru has thousands of varieties of potatoes?!?) As in Africa, the folks from rural Panao use cell phones as their primary means of communication! They don’t have email addresses or even mailing addresses because they are so far out, but they do have cell phones. What an amazing world!


Music from Peru

3. World Music

From the moment I signed up for the international camp I’d been looking forward to the music – and I was not disappointed! Pictured here is a woman from Peru who sang a beautiful ballad, accompanied by her accordion and the Afro-Peruvian drum.

We also sang meditative songs from Taize France, silly songs from the Philipines, loud Nigerian songs in their local language, praise songs in Spanish, and soaring hymns led by Nelly from Taiwan.


4. Praying Together

After we sang together we also prayed together. My prayer group was a wonderfully multilingual group! I felt blessed to be able to use my Spanish skills to interpret for the 4 Peruvians in the group; and I was so grateful for Christina from Germany who shared her German-English skills to interpret for the other German member.

We prayed in many different ways, each praying in our own language. And sometimes we just took time to talk and share with each other about where we came from and what brought us there.

Even members in Prayer Groups that did not have a Spanish-English interpreter, and who had to communicate with few words and many gestures, shared that with such a busy camp schedule this time in a small group was precious time for connecting on a deeper level.

Tanya and Adelina Meza (Peru)

Tanya and Adelina Meza (Peru)

5. Re-Connecting with Friends

This camp was full of friends – new and old! I met Grace Paljor from Kashmir for the first time. We’ve written emails and been Facebook friends for over a year and in Peru we got to greet each other with a hug. I also got to sing and share with our Small Business Fund Coordinator from Nigeria, Ofonime Nkoko. I met new friends from Australia and Peru who are also working on projects of community development.

And many times people I didn’t know came up to tell me how Del had influenced their lives and sent them letters and copies of Seed Thoughts. One of those people was Adelina Meza from Peru who met Del at the CFOI International camp in the 1990s and whose story I’ll write up and share soon.

Playing foosball in Peru!

Is foosball and Olympic sport yet?

6. Games & Laughter

One of the best way to connect with people is to play games, especially games that don’t require an interpreter! There was so much laughter as people from all over took one of the foosball handles and learned the game together. Even when people pushed the ball toward the wrong goal there was encouragement and friendly cheers. Plus, it was during the Olympic games and we had a good time all singing the Olympic theme song together.



Tile floor in the Lima Cathedral

“Peace” – Tile floor, Cathedral of Lima

7. Peace

“And I prophesy that not until Catholics, Christian Scientists, Methodists and Unitarians, Fundamentalists and Modernists, can forget the differences underlying the science of their creeds and unite in common cause of living their religion […] – may we hope to see the […] victory achieved that will bring peace on earth and good will to men.” — Glenn Clark, The Soul’s Sincere Desire, pg. 48

The experience of a CFOI camp is the practice of living our faith of serving others, forgiving others, and getting to know and love more of God’s creation. I pray that all us will return home acting like and believing that we are on our way to bringing peace on earth.

Dancing with Joy

Watch this video and be instantly transported to Manyamula Village, Malawi. Boyd and I were greeted with singing, dancing, and testimonies of SIA’s impact in their community. We welcome you to join in on the celebration!

*See the transcript below.

I am Linly Nkhata, Vice-Treasurer [of the Manyamula Savings and Loans Group]. I come from Sacara Village. I am also thankful for the [Spirit in Action] Small Business Fund and it has assisted me.

I started a small grocery. Inside of that grocery I made a profit and I bought a cow.

Now as I’m talking, the cow has multiplied! I drink the milk. I sell the milk and the cow is producing manure for my farm. [Everyone applauds.] Out of the money from the milk, I am also able to feed the dairy cows [good food].

Before I say anything else I want to sing a song! [Sings.]

The Power of Music

My new house is right across the Yale Divinity School and today I joined the community for their daily worship service. The moment the music started I began to get teary-eyed and I remained that way for the whole 30-minute prayer and praise service. I felt so surrounded by power and goodness and I realized how often those feelings come along with music for me.

Mark Miller and the Marquand Gospel Choir sang an amazing service filled with joy, gratitude, relinquishment, and even laughter! The reading for the day, the “parable of the prodigal” (Luke 15:11-24), was adapted to be a sort of musical with pop songs. What joy and merriment this brought into the chapel. And yet, there were also moments of pure heaven as the voices sang, “Justice! Kindness! Walk humbly with you God!”

Glenn Clark recognized the potential for song to being harmony and unity to a group and music is now an integral part of CFOI camps. Marsha Johnson recently recalled to me being at the CFO International camp in Nairobi, Kenya listening to the amazing music from people of the African CFO camps. She described being surrounded by the beautiful sound and I could hear that the power of that music was still a tangible experience for her, even five years later. Also, many of our Spirit in Action coordinators use song as a way to bring people together at the beginning of SIA Small Business Training workshops.

Pygmy (indigenous) man in the Buziralo Jungle of DR Congo plays the drum as a call to worship.

Pygmy (indigenous) man in the Buziralo Jungle of DR Congo plays the drum as a call to worship. Photo by Jacob Lipandasi

Indeed this harmony in music, uniting people of many cultures, is one of the central principles of Taizé, an international, ecumenical community in France. I visited with my family in the summer of 2006, along with 4,500 youth and 500 adults from all over the world. Three times each day, the whole group came together for services, which included simple chant-like songs and periods of silence for individual meditation, reflection and communion with God. The peace created by 5,000 people from countless different backgrounds singing and praying in many languages was so real for me. The amazing energy from such a group makes peace of earth feel within reach. That possibility for goodness was the same feeling I felt this morning and which stays with me now.

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