Gardens and pigs in Uganda

Gardens and pigs in Uganda
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Small Business Fund leaders in Amukugungu Village in northern Uganda welcome SIA to their village.

“I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates

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“If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.” – Deuteronomy 15:7-8

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The five business groups pooled their grants together to invest in a pig rearing project and planting soybeans.

“On some positions, cowardice askes the question “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but we must do it because conscience tells us it is right.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The groups are excited with their success and they regularly visit each others’ gardens and piggery projects to check in on progress and encourage one another.

Lord, give us the audacity to live as though we believe our hands and feet are instruments of prayer. Amen. – Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals

4 things making me happy this week!

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Malawian Coffee at Starbucks

What a fun surprise to see coffee from Malawi at my neighborhood Starbucks shop! I sent a WhatsApp message to Canaan, our partner in Malawi, to tell him about it and let him know it was good. “What?? Malawi coffee in Toronto!!! Very exciting. We are really a global village,” was Canaan’s joyful response.

Poem calling for unity in Kenya

“Stand up. Get up. Show up.
And say no to violence, no to terrorism, no to instability, and live as one.”

I first read the full poem, written by Shanize Njeri Wanjiku (age 10), who lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Nairobi, Kenya, in this blog post from the New York Times. Later I watched the video of her reciting it. An inspiring and hopeful message, indeed. Join me in praying now for peace during Kenya’s election season next year.

New Businesses in Nairobi

In the same Nairobi neighborhood, Mathare, Spirit in Action has supported three new family businesses with $150 start-up grants. One of them is named “Mama Laban Veggies” and they will sell vegetables along the roadside.

The mother of the family – and the business leader – is named Violet. She is called Mama Laban as a sign of respect. In Kenya, parents are called Mama and Baba followed by the name of their first child. Violet’s son is named Laban, and so she is called Mama Laban. The family is planning to use their profits for school fees for Laban, who is six years old.

flower bouquet

Poem about how we are a beautiful bouquet

We come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.
Some of us grow in bunches.
Some of us grow alone.

Some of us are cupped inward,
And some of us spread ourselves out wide.

Some of us are old and dried and tougher than we appear.
Some of us are still in bud.

Some of us grow low to the ground,
And some of us stretch toward the sun.

Some of us feel like weeds, sometimes.
Some of us carry seeds, sometimes.
Some of us are prickly, sometimes.
Some of us smell.

And all of us are beautiful.
What a bouquet of people we are!

by Thomas Rhodes

Thank you for being a part of the bouquet of Spirit in Action!

All the best of Spirit in Action in one report!

All the best of Spirit in Action in one report!

Paying-it-forward, positive change in a high-poverty neighborhood, knowledge sharing, local leadership, and savings group formation – this update from our local coordinator in Nairobi, Kenya highlights so many of the best part of Spirit in Action.

Here is the exciting report directly from Wambui Nguyo:

Spirit in Action still continues to be a beacon of hope for the Korogocho people. With SIA’s help of the Small Business Fund many families continue to experience a different positive lifestyle. Many lives have been transformed, children can go to school, and they can eat better and even dress better.

Korogocho (called Koch for short) has been in the spotlight in the past for many negative aspects. Crime and unemployment rates are high. Basic services and sanitation are scarce. But the beneficiaries of the Small Business Fund have a lot to be thankful for.

There are 27 groups/families in Koch that have been funded by SIA. The first one was in 2013.

Ann, one of the SBF group leaders, prepares food and sells it to workers along the roadside.

Ann, one of the SBF group leaders, prepares food and sells it to workers along the roadside.

Among the 27 groups, two of them are Muslims. Amid the tensions within the faith divisions, the people have found time and place to spend together in prayer.  As Josephine [who is a local leader and who works with Wambui] puts it, “we all understand we come from different backgrounds, that we come from different religions, and from different lifestyle and upbringing. What brings us together is the enormous poverty that we encounter. That brings us together. Poverty bites really hard. We all know we worship the same God. Some call him Allah while we call him God. We usually say the same prayer because we were created by him.”

A plan is underway for Sharing the Gift. The beneficiaries of the Small Business Fund have each contributed and they are hoping to support another group to set up a business of their choice with $150. This will empower another family and also give them a chance to give back to the community.

Unlike in the rural village, where families live in their own piece of land regardless of the poverty level, Koch is different.  Here, families have to rent out houses. Because of rising standard of living, the rent can go up and then families are forced to move to a cheaper house. Luckily, only one group has left Korogocho area because of rising costs.

Chairs arranged for a meeting of the Small Business Fund groups in Koch. The meet at least once a month all together.

Chairs arranged for a meeting of the Small Business Fund groups in Koch. The meet at least once a month all together.

Plans to start a village savings project are underway! A concept note written by Josephine says, “We intend to initiate the Korogocho Women Economic Fund where women from the community can access flexible loan and flexible repayment model to start or expand their businesses. This initiative will be registered with the government and we shall use a model known as the village banking model.”

Canaan Gondwe from Malawi [Small Business Fund local coordinator and leader of his community’s savings and investment cooperative] has that experience and he can be very useful in helping to start it up. He wrote to inspire the team in Koch and said, “now, when people form a village savings team, it acts like a buffer. It cushions the members in times of eventualities. So I encourage you to unite and have one purpose which is economic empowerment.”

Will you be able to attend our 20th Anniversary Celebration on June 25th in Oakland? Click here for more information and RSVP to me at tanya@spiritinaction.org. See you there!

Spring Newsletter Bonus Time!

Spring Newsletter Bonus Time!

The new Spirit in Action newsletter is hot off the (virtual) presses! You can view a PDF version here and the hard copies are in the mail this week!

In this newsletter we feature:

  • Christians and Muslims are encouraging each other in their businesses and praying together in Spirit in Action’s Small Business Fund in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • SIA’s pay-it-forward initiative passes piglets.
  • The new building for the Manyamula Community Savings and Investment Promotion Cooperative is almost complete! (And it looks fantastic!)
  • Read a description of each of SIA’s seven on-going grant projects.

There are always too many great photos to include them all in the newsletter, but luckily there is endless space online! Here are some bonus photos of Spirit in Action’s work:

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Business leaders receive training in record keeping and pricing before receiving the $150 grant from SIA. This group, in Manyamula Village, Malawi, is filling out their business plans.

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Hope for a new start! Each of the business leaders receive an initial grant of $100, to be followed up for an additional $50 in three months, if the business is doing well.

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Girls who completed the Alternative Rite of Passage with CIFORD in Meru, Kenya sing and dance to encourage the girls in Samburu who are celebrating an empowering transition to adulthood.

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Joyce received a small loan from WCI, one of SIA’s partner organizations in Zambia. She used her loan to buy this awesome knitting machine!

Read the full newsletter and donate now to support the work of Spirit in Action.

SIA’s pay-it-forward model in the news

SIA’s pay-it-forward model in the news

In January 2013, Lackson Lungu bought two piglets with a Spirit in Action Small Business Fund grant. We gave the $150 as a grant, without the high interest rates and short repayment schedule that so often come with microfinance loans.

However, there was a string attached. We asked Lackson to pay-it-forward to help someone else in need, once his business was successful. Lackson was happy to comply and in May 2014 he gave one of the piglets from his successful piggery to Tiwonenji, one of the widows in his village of Manyamula, Malawi. (Read more of his story here.)

This pay-it-forward aspect of the Small Business Fund means that each grant sets off a ripple of change. Sharing the Gift can take the form of sharing piglets, teaching other women to bake and sell donuts in the market, teaching sustainable agriculture skills, and sharing seeds or food with more vulnerable members of the community.

Yesterday, Humanosphere, a news agency that focuses on stories of the fight against poverty, gave a shout-out to Spirit in Action for our pay-it-forward model. In her article, “Pay-it-forward model shows potential for microfinance in developing nations,” Lisa Nikolau notes that we are part of a movement that is looking at new ways to help people thrive, without getting them trapped in cycles of debt.

Nikolau quotes Muhammad Yunus, the man who helped develop and popularize micro-credit around the world, who said“Poverty should be eradicated, not seen as a money-making opportunity.” And we whole-heartedly agree!

I encourage you to read the full Humanosphere article here.

The ripple of change continues with Tionenji paying-it-forward to Msumba.

The ripple of change continues with Tionenji paying-it-forward to Msumba.

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