4 photos, 4 stories

4 photos, 4 stories

These are the faces of Spirit in Action. Each photo captures just one moment and represents a much larger story of struggle, success, and joy.

Passionate Volunteer. (Pictured above) Dennis Kiprop with his wife, Nancy, and their son, Timo. Dennis volunteers with SIA as a Small Business Fund Coordinators in Eldoret, Kenya. He has a degree in business administration and is passionate about helping people prepare their business plans and start a successful small business. He assisted me in developing a opportunity and risk assessment for new business groups to use in their planning.

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Bridging Spiritual and Economic Barriers. Madina sells shoes with her sister and mother along the roadside in Nairobi, Kenya. With the profit, her sister was able to go see the eye doctor. They are one of several Muslim families in the Small Business Fund program in Nairobi. Christian and Muslim Small Business Fund groups have formed a savings cooperative together and they meet weekly to contribute savings and give small loans to members. (Read more about the SBF groups in Nairobi.)

DSC04515_1024Building a Dream. Before connecting with SIA, Paul, a shoemaker in rural Malawi, took a loan from micro-lending institutions in Mzuzu, about 15 miles away. With the high interest rate and short loan period, he was unable to repay the loan and he lost his collateral to the lender. Since receiving a Small Business Fund $150 grant in 2006, I have witnessed Paul go from one success to another. When I visited in 2011, Paul showed me his shoe repair stall in the local market. He told me of his dream to build a house and showed me the few iron sheets he had already purchased. In 2014, I visited him at his house! It was complete with cement floors, a tin roof, and sturdy brick walls. In his smile, I see the joy and pride of a dream fulfilled. (Read more about Paul’s journey here.)

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Long-lasting Impact. Steria Lungu, a widow in Manyamula Village, Malawi, used her $150 Small Business Fund grant to start a donut shop. She started her business in 2010 and it is still thriving! In 2011, Steria began saving her profits to buy iron roofing sheets to replace her leaky thatch. Today she has a new roof and when I visited, she was so proud to show me her family’s store of maize, “We now have no problem with food.”

Small Business Success in Kenya!

Small Business Success in Kenya!

Five small family businesses received $100 initial grants from Spirit in Action in March, 2015. These families live in Korogocho*, one of Nairobi’s informal settlements, under very marginal conditions. With their profits they are paying for school fees, rent, and buying more food for their families. 

Wambui Nguyo, the local SIA mentor and Small Business Fund Coordinator, send the following reports from three of these businesses:

Mwangaza (Light) Group – Cooked Maize

Ann, (pictured above) has bought a jiko (portable, charcoal burning stove) since her first grant and increased the amount of food she cooked per day. Currently, she is able to pay schools fees for her daughter who is in High School. Before this grant, she could buy maize floor in packets of 2-3 kilos, and she can now afford to buy dozens of kilos as a time. The only drawback to her business was that her structure was destroyed by some people who they felt she was doing better than them. In her own words, she said she felt ‘uplifted’ from her former status. During this meeting, she was called with news that her daughter-in-law was going into labour and she was needed. This was because her family depended on her financially to help them in every way she could.

photos quote wambuiNeema (Grace) Group – Tailoring Services

The leader of the group, Pheris has already bought a new sewing machine, just like she promised she would after her first grant. She can afford to pay rent and buy food, which was a challenge earlier on.

Ebenezer (Stone of Help) Group – Cooked Food

Pamela had done a survey on the schools around her area that did not offer lunch but where parents gave some money to their children for lunch. This was her target area and she has already got an informal contract with two schools to provide rice and beans during lunch time. She does not borrow anymore and is able to return her kid to school that had been sent away due to lack of fees. She can also provide her two children with some snacks which was a luxury in the past! Her challenge so far was that since she sells from the roadside, her structure that she used to do her business on was taken away during a construction of the road that was being extended. But she said, she can afford to buy another.

*More trivia! According to Wikipedia: Korogocho is one of the largest slum neighborhoods of Nairobi, Kenya. Home to 150,000 to 200,000 people pressed into 1.5 square kilometers.

Top 5 SIA Moments of 2015

Top 5 SIA Moments of 2015

This has been a good year for Spirit in Action and our partners! It is so exciting to look back and see all that we have accomplished, and all that our amazing partners have done to bring more prosperity to families in their communities.

  • fb logo_siaNew logo: The year started off with the unveiling of our new logo! We finally have a logo that really represents us to the world. The ripples in the logo continue to inspire and remind me of our focus to spark change that will naturally multiply and expand within communities. (Read the explanation of our logo.)
  • New Small Business Fund Coordinator: This summer we added a new local coordinator to the Small Business Fund team! Hastings Phiri has already begun mentoring families in rural Malawi to start and run new businesses. Hastings is a dedicated community organizer and passionate about reducing poverty and helping families get ahead. He lives in the same region as SBF Coordinator Canaan Gondwe and they two of them meet to share challenges and develop their mentoring and training skills. (Read more about Hastings.)
Girls from Meru and Samburu together; sharing their experience of the alternative rite of passage.

Girls from Meru and Samburu together; sharing their experience of the alternative rite of passage.

  • Expanding Anti-FGM movement: SIA has supported girls’ empowerment workshops with sexual education and alternatives to the traditional female genital mutilation rite of passage. Just a few weeks ago some of the girls from the Meru workshops were able to attend the Alternative Rite of Passage in Samburu, two hours away. Margaret of CIFORD in Meru reported, “Some girls were excited as they could never have dreamt of going to the Samburu.” Also, CIFORD is gaining national recognition from Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper for their FGM workshops! Read the full article here!
  • Sewing Training Centre: I’m really excited about this grant project which has been able to train 79 women and 2 men and help them get employed in sewing operator jobs in Nairobi. Women who know how to use the industrial machines are paid higher wages and the SIA training center provides them access to these machines and trains them in the necessary skills. The center has been able to receive contracts for sewing projects and they are well on their way to becoming a self-sustaining operation. (Read more about the training centre.)
  • Construction Project: The new Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative conference hall, restaurant, and guest rooms are under construction! I loved visiting Manyamula and seeing the amazing transformation that has happened in the village since the formation of the savings and loans cooperative 6 years ago. This construction project represents a new level of development and I look forward to seeing how it will benefit the community and cooperative members in the years to come. (Read more about the COMSIP Cooperative.)

Bonus: I loved sharing this video made by SIA volunteer and supporter, Carmen Hernandez, about what makes me grateful about SIA.

What story about SIA stuck out to you in 2015?

Grant Update: Community Ownership in Bucece Village

Grant Update: Community Ownership in Bucece Village

Bucece has persevered. Through difficult situations, like poor crop yields and weather conditions, and delays in materials and supplies, the village has remained steadfastly committed to the work.”

Bucece Village in rural Uganda has partnered with Toronto-based Raising the Village (RTV) and Spirit in Action to improve their village and benefit the local farm economy. Two years ago, a SIA grant supported a sustainable agricultural training program and RTV has served as an ongoing on-the-ground partner. Now, the village is committed to continuing the program with their own local leadership and community ownership.

Early on, the the agricultural program suffered from poor weather conditions and after the initial training the crop was lost to rain and floods. However, the 2015 fall harvest season was successful and the village famers are finally being rewarded with benefits from new agricultural techniques and crop diversity. Increased use of compost fertilizer and double digging techniques, which enhance soil health, are having real, positive outcomes!

A Bucece household crop field using a double-dug agricultural row technique.

A Bucece household crop field using a double-dug agricultural row technique.

Community Organizing & Savings

The members of Bucece Village are working both as individual households and as a whole community to increase trade opportunities locally. After the recent bountiful harvest, the villagers are organizing a market in Bucece to draw buyers to the village instead of having to transport their own to the market across the lake. This will have huge material benefit for famers, because transport to market was long and severely impacting profit!

Bucece Village is also coming together each month to contribute to a village savings and loans association. From January through April 2015, collections average 25,000 UGX ($7.50 USD), and from May through December they have increased the savings to 50,000 UGX ($15 USD)! These funds are loaned out to households, in turn, to replenish seeds. They have also invested in new seed varieties, and individual households are re-investing their profits in diversified crops.

A Bucece villager brings back crops harvested from her field.

A Bucece villager brings back crops harvested from her field.

Community Leacership & Ownership

Although Bucece began this work in partnership with SIA and RTV, by January RTV will hand over all of the management of the interventions to the village, with monthly monitoring by RTV representatives. I really like RTV’s method of initial collaboration and ongoing leadership development, which over time leads to full community ownership of their own development. This is true partnership, with each group contributing from their strengths. It results in lasting change that perseveres long after the initial grant investment. 

(Pictured at the top is the view of the lake from Bucece Village.)

5 things making me happy: #GivingTuesday edition

5 things making me happy: #GivingTuesday edition

Thanksgiving is a good kick-off to the giving season. Each year it’s a time when co-workers, the church, the media, and families start talking a bit louder about giving: Giving thanks, giving food to those in need, giving gifts to loved ones, giving light to the world. Thank you to those who have already given to Spirit in Action today for #GivingTuesday!

Here are 5 things making me happy as we enter this giving season:

1. New SIA small businesses in Nairobi!

5 new small business leaders in Nairobi have sent their business plans to the SIA office and received their initial $100 grants! (Click on the picture to see the full photo.) The leaders are pictured above with Wambui Nguyo (front in black coat), who is the SIA local coordinator in the area. Wambui and Josephine (front left) work together as a strong team to train and mentor the new groups. These new businesses will be selling:

  • Used shoes and toys
  • Tools
  • Milk, door to door
  • Cell phone accessories and airtime (pay-as-you-go minutes)
  • Vegetables, tomatoes, onions

2. This reminder that even small acts of kindness can make a difference

kindness quote

3. Celebrating an alternative rite of passage for Samburu Girls in central Kenya

Our partner Margaret Ikiara of CIFORD Kenya will travel 5 hours tomorrow to represent Spirit in Action at the Alternative Rite of Passage for 60 Samburu girls with the Pastoralist Child Foundation. This celebration will be an empowering ceremony of song, dance, and speeches, taking the place of the traditional genital cutting.

Margaret has arranged for several of the girls from Meru (who have celebrated with their own alternative rite) to travel with her so that they can share their experiences with the girls in Samburu. This peer support and collaboration is exactly what SIA is all about!

4. This podcast about why you should give internationally

This great, 13-minute interview highlighted one of the reasons I gave in my blog post on the same topicYour money goes so much further internationally. Even a small amount can really make a huge difference in someone’s life! Listen to the Tiny Spark episode here: http://www.tinyspark.org/podcasts/guide-to-good-giving/

5. A photo of a newly-trained tailor in her shop!

This woman completed the dressmaking training with Progressive Volunteers (which I wrote about here) earlier this year and now she has her own shop! Look at those beautiful dresses! This is a clear example of how SIA small grants translate into actual jobs and new opportunities for women. Now that’s really making me happy!

one of the trained beneficiary in her business

Inspired to give on this #GivingTuesday? You can support Spirit in Action by giving online! 

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