Not a corporate board…

Not a corporate board…

The Spirit in Action Board of Directors met over the weekend to approve new grants, receive reports and review our program, and also pray for our partners and donors. We also joyfully welcomed Wendy and Terry Silverthorn of Camino, CA to the board! They are longtime supporters of SIA and are happy to get more involved with our work.

I bet it won’t surprise you to learn that the SIA board does not operate like your average corporate board! After reviewing each grant proposal, we take a few moments of silence to reflect and listen in prayer. Then, we each share our thoughts about the proposal and any guidance that came to us in the silence. This listening prayer and consensus model really does help the meetings flow more smoothly.

New Grants!

Over the course of the day the board approved some very exciting new grants! We funded 23 new Small Business Fund grants, and also grants for a LGBT workshop in Uganda, a savings and loans cooperative in Kenya, a bead work and carpet-making workshop for women in Nairobi, and more! Some of these grassroots organizations are for long-time partners, and others are new to SIA. In all cases we remember Del Anderson’s commitment to building relationships, and his openness to sharing knowledge with each other, and learning what we can about poverty reduction and local needs from our partners.

At the end of the day, and before meeting up for dinner, several of us took a walk in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. After the intensity of the meeting, I reveled in the stillness of those ancient trees and the lush greenness of the resilient undergrowth.

Me next to a giant redwood tree!

During the meeting, board member Barbara Deal shared about her experience of meeting Mother Theresa many years ago. Mother Theresa remarked that the reason she served others, including the most destitute, was that it was an opportunity to “serve Jesus in all his most distressing and glorious disguises.” At Spirit in Action, as we serve alongside our wonderful partners, we also have this opportunity to co-create with Jesus.

Making friends around the world

Making friends around the world

Last week, twelve Girl Scouts (ages 10-12) took the first step toward making new friends. The girls from Santa Barbara, CA wrote letters to their new pen pals: students at Samro School in Eldoret, Kenya. They sent the letters and now they wait to hear back from their new friends!

The idea for the cross-cultural sharing came from one of the girls. Last spring, her 6th grade class had the opportunity to Skype with students in Rwanda. This sparked an interest to continue this international communication. As an avid pen pal myself, I was really happy to make the connection between her and the students I know in Kenya.

Girl Scout Troop in Santa Barbara having fun together.

I was probably about her age when I got connected with my first pen pal from Russia. It was set up through my elementary school and I remember how exciting it was to hear about this girl’s life and to see what commonalities we could find. This pen pal relationship didn’t last long. However, it does represent a milestone along my path towards work with Spirit in Action. This fascination and curiosity about how other people do things contributed to my interest in international issues. I envision that this new California – Eldoret pen pal connection will also stir curiosity and foster connection outside of all the girls’ everyday environment.

Samro Students performing at the 8th grade graduation in October, 2015.

Del, Scout Leader

I am also happy about this connection because SIA Founder, Del Anderson, was a dedicated Boy Scout troop leader. In 1949, he started leading Troop 123 in Oakland. He liked the way that this scouts brought together boys from both the poor and rich areas of the city.

When Del and his first wife Bebe (who died in 1972) traveled around the world in 1956, they visited representatives of the International Boy Scouts in many different countries. As an avid letter writer, and a supporter of the scout program, I’m sure Del would be very happy to hear about this new international pen pal connection!

Del with boy scouts

Del and Bebe greet Scouts in Japan in 1956.

Five years in the making…

Five years in the making…

Reposted from my co-editor, Jennifer Lentfer’s How Matters blog. “Co-editor?” you ask. Read on…

This is how it began…

From: JENNIFER LENTFER
Date: Wed, Oct 5, 2011 at 5:29 PM
Subject: invitation to join “Small is Big” Writing Collaborative
To: Tanya Cothran

Dear Tanya,

As people making small grants internationally, you are part of a growing number of people that specialize in offering direct funding to local initiatives and community leaders.

You have vital expertise to share with the aid and philanthropic sectors as many are wondering  what more can be done to enable grassroots movements to emerge and gain strength.

Therefore I am inviting you to share your experience via the “Small is Big” Writing Collaborative, which aims to gather varied grantmakers’ approaches and experiences as a collective source of knowledge to share widely via an online or printed publication. In the collaborative, you and/or your staff will be engaged in a reflective learning process with my support and that of participants from other organizations…

***

5 years, 22 contributors 

And five years, 22 contributors (and many other supporters and friends along the way), here is where we ended up…

smart risks book cover

Coming April 2017

from Practical Action Publishing!

In a rapidly changing world and after decades of failed international aid, it’s high time to build the dialogue about how international actors can build their own skills and institutional processes to accompany and support community-level leadership and systems, rather than overpower or co-opt them.

Luckily there is a growing number of small NGOs and foundations that specialize in offering direct, responsive funding to grassroots leaders and small, often “informal” initiatives, groups, and movements. And over twenty of them have come together to write this book!

Compared to the old-school, donor-controlled, large-scale, project-based international aid funding, the authors use the concept of “smart risks” to build upon existing human and social capital to unleash people power and social innovation. International grassroots grantmakers are adept at keeping their minds (and perhaps more importantly their hearts) open to the possibility of results when the common good is tapped in unimagined and unanticipated ways.

People in poor countries or communities who want to make change should no longer tolerate an charity-modeled system that makes them struggle and wait endlessly for funding to trickle down to them, marred by burdensome requirements and restrictions from donors. Pushing the sector forward needs smart risk-taking, and the authors’ experience is an untapped resource for the international aid and philanthropic sectors as a whole.

Smart Risks contributors came together because they each have a professional – and perhaps more importantly a personal – resolve to build solidarity with people not as passive recipients of aid, but as whole people and active leaders of their own lives. We know that radical shifts in thinking, attitude, and practice are required and we hope that this book can contribute to shifting the power and charting new paths ahead!

Tanya’s note: It has been my honor to contribute to this process and co-edit these inspiring essays. I also wrote three essays about Spirit in Action that are included in the book! I’ll keep you update on our progress in the next few months!

Planning and connecting

Planning and connecting

Over the weekend the Spirit in Action Board of Directors met in Washougal, Washington. We had one and a half days of planning, singing, praying, and approving new grants and a new Small Business Fund coordinator! One of the themes of the weekend was TRUST. Even when there was initial disagreement, we were each able to express our opinions and work towards consensus.

Thank you to our dedicated Board of Directors!


We approved $15,453 in Community Grants and $5,040 for 28 new business grants and training through the Small Business Fund. I’ll share more details in the coming weeks! It’s so exciting to be able to help dedicated community organizations. And it is wonderful to support the local solutions that are building the foundations for long-term change in Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi.

Barbara Farley, SIA Board member and Bebe Andersons niece, brought some old photos of Del and Bebe from their trip to Japan in  the 1960s.

Barbara Farley, SIA Board member and Bebe Anderson’s niece, brought some old photos of Del and Bebe from their trip to Japan in the 1960s. 

Our Inter-Connectedness

“I believe that this beautiful Divine Plan for me is a perfect part of the larger Pattern for the good of all, not something separate unto me alone. I believe that it has ramifications and interweavings that reach out through all the persons I meet and all the events that come to me, and that the best way to put myself in harmony with the Divine plan that is within myself is to accept with radiant acquiescence all the individuals and events that are drawn to me, seeing in them perfect instruments for the perfect unfoldment of my perfect Plan.” — Glenn Clark, The Divine Plan

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you to all who attended our 20th Anniversary party on Saturday! It was a wonderful gathering with both people who have been part of Spirit in Action from the beginning and new members of the SIA community!

My dream is that in our next 20 years we approach our work recognizing the power, knowledge, and vision that already exists in the people we serve. My dream is that Spirit in Action, with our wide international network, dedicated Board members, passionate volunteers, and amazing donors, will serve as a catalyst for people reaching their dreams of sustainable, fulfilling, comfortable lives. And that we each always interact with others in a way – like Del did with me 12 years ago – that lets them know that they are valued and have something to contribute to the world.

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We gathered at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, which is also part of SIA’s history! This was where Marsha Johnson, our Administrative Coordinator for SIA’s first 12 years, first met Del Anderson. She was impressed with his joy, and the prayer he put into his work.

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Rhoda Teimuge, SIA partner from Kenya, told stories of two successful students who have graduated from Samro School. Rhoda is director of the school. Samro focuses on encouraging, empowering, and loving each student to help them succeed. (Stories to come in a future blog post!)

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A timeline of SIA’s history crossed the hall of the meeting hall. I read through 20 years of SIA Board meeting minutes and was humbled by all that we’ve accomplished and the amazing people who have led and contributed to SIA! (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

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Samuel Teimuge, of Kenya, and Rob Hanford, son of Lucile Anderson, chatting. In the early days of SIA, Samuel and Rob wrote to each other about improving Kenyan agriculture with compost and worms.

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“If you hear My voice and obey Me, I will use this very small organism called SPIRIT IN ACTION as leaven, as a mustard seed, as Light.” ~ From “God Calling…” by Del Anderson

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The ripple effect of SIA represented on pretty metal water bottles!

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