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!

Rock on, Emmanuel!

Rock on, Emmanuel!
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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.

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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:

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.

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.

New Wheels for MAVISALO (Grant Update)

New Wheels for MAVISALO (Grant Update)

Do you know that joy? That moment when, after saving and saving, you finally have enough to make that big purchase?

The Manyamula Village Savings and Loans Cooperative (MAVISALO) felt that joy this month. After six months of diligent saving the Motorcycle Fund reached it goal!

Growing Grassroots

To back-up a second, SIA supported the formation of MAVISALO in 2009. Since then, the cooperative has provided a safe place to save money and access low-interest loans. Loans help people expand their small farms and local businesses. Savings are kept safe until a family can afford to buy a cow or a tin roof to replace their thatched one.

This group of 165 members deals with a lot of cash.

Loan payments and voluntary savings are collected each Tuesday. And so each Tuesday the MAVISALO Treasurer must travel to Mzimba to deposit the collected money to keep it safe and accounted for. Though Mzimba is the nearest town it is still a bumpy, dusty, hour-long bus ride away. Except there isn’t bus service between Manyamula and Mzimba. So people ride standing in the back of trucks to travel the 14 miles.

And packed in the back of a truck isn’t a safe way to carry lots of cash.

In addition, MAVISALO needed a better way to reach their many, distant, rural members – especially to conduct site visits before approving loan applications or to check on loan defaulters.

One of the bumpy, dusty "roads" around Manyamula Village in rural Malawi.

One of the bumpy, dusty “roads” around Manyamula Village in rural Malawi.

A Compromise

So MAVISALO requested funds from SIA to purchase a motorcycle. And SIA, wanting to support this amazing grassroots institution while also encouraging a sense of ownership of the motorcycle, proposed a compromise. A SIA grant would cover half the cost, and MAVISALO would have to save for the other half.

Canaan Gondwe poses on MAVISALO's new motorcycle. A log book will track usage, mileage, and scheduled maintenance.

Canaan Gondwe poses on MAVISALO’s new motorcycle. A log book will track usage, mileage, and scheduled maintenance.

That was last July. And now: the joy!

MAVISALO has saved loan profit and contributions from their maize mill and bought what Canaan Gondwe (MAVISALO Coordinator) calls their “sturdy and strong” motorcycle. Proving again their resourcefulness, MAVISALO enlisted a Malawian organization, COMSIP, which supports cooperatives like MAVISALO, to help them find a good bike and pay for the registration and insurance.

“The Cooperative is grateful to SIA and all members of the cooperative for raising the fund on a cost sharing deal,” announced Canaan in his recent report, “and we pledge to put the motorcycle to its proper care and use.”

Congratulations MAVISALO! Your diligence has paid off! I have no doubt that the bike will be well maintained and used for many years to come, enabling this strong and sturdy Cooperative to better serve their members and work even more efficiently.

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