What’s new with SIA these days?

So much is going on this month for Spirit in Action partners! I’m excited to share some of these exciting updates with you:

  • Last Tuesday, experienced local coordinators Canaan Gondwe (Malawi) and Dennis Kiprop (Eldoret, Kenya) met with our newest Small Business Fund (SBF) Coordinator-in-training! We are so excited to welcome Ms. Wambui Nguyo of Nairobi to our SIA team. She will be working with families in the Korongocho slum in Nairobi to start small businesses and reach a new level of security. The training time reviewed SIA’s approach of starting small, communication skills as essential for success, and affirming and encouraging the groups at every step along the way. We’re so exited about this expansion of our small-grants program!

Dennis, Wambui, & Canaan training and sharing about how to manage the Small Business Fund program in your community.

  • New Trainings in Village Savings and Loans in Zambia. We’ve seen such inspiring success from the Manyamula Village Savings and Loans (MAVISALO) group in Malawi and now, partnering with Africa Hope Fund and Rotary International, two leaders from MAVISALO are traveling to Zambia at the end of June to host a workshop to help the Mfuwe Rotary club establish their own village bank. Village banks not only offer reasonable interest rates and a safe place to save, they also provide crucial access to small loans for businesses, emergency medical care, and school fees.
Singing in Malawi

Singing in community. MAVISALO in Malawi.

  • New volunteer program with women in Kenya. The growing grassroots organization CIFORD Kenya, which supports women and girls and people with HIV/AIDS, is introducing a new volunteer program! CIFORD director, Margaret Ikiara, writes, “We are in the process of establishing a volunteer program for the people from outside Kenya, both students and people who wish to go for holiday but do some charity work. We are sure when these people come in the organization bring a lot of experiences and skills as they learn from the local people their culture, lifestyle and day to day activities.” Boyd and I had the opportunity to visit CIFORD when we were in Kenya and it was inspiring to see all the projects and gardens that these women are managing there.
  • New ideas! The Best and Simplest Way to Fight Global Poverty, an article in Slate Magazine, reports on a study in Uganda that found that “Money with no strings attached not only directly raises the living standards of those who receive it, but it also increases hours worked and labor productivity, seemingly laying the groundwork for growth to come.” It’s an interesting short article and confirms some of the things we already see happening through our Small Business Fund grants.

We are so grateful for all these new opportunities, new learnings, and for our experienced, generous, capable partners in Kenya and Malawi! Thank you also to our donors who keep these programs growing!

“Walk joyfully on the earth and respond to that of God in every human being.” –George Fox

The Parable of the Big Idea

A Parable by Tanya Cothran

Once day a young woman had a great idea. She looked out over the lawn that filled the communal space in her apartment complex and realized that the space was being wasted. “No one even uses the lawn, but if we were to use the space to grow vegetables instead of grass many people would benefit,” she thought to herself.

A well-managed farm in Malawi.

A well-managed farm in Malawi.

Her idea excited her so much that she couldn’t help but tell everyone about her vision. She told neighbors and old friends, inviting them to come along and join the movement regardless of their gardening skills.

Excitement was high as a big crowd of volunteers gathered at the first meeting. Groups of people began ripping up grass, turning the soil, and planting seedlings.

The next day people assembled expectantly, looking to the young woman for guidance about what to do next. But the woman, the unassuming leader that she was, admitted she didn’t know anything about farming. “We are all learning together,” she said.

A very small tomato garden in Kenya.

A very small tomato garden in Kenya.

“But who does know about farming?” the crowd asked, turning to look at each other, searching for where to turn next.

Finally, one man in the group came forward saying, “I know about planting and caring for a garden.” He told the people to wait while he assessed the work already done.

The evaluation took a long time. “These plants are took close together and these seedlings are placed in the middle of a creek bed,” said the man. “The ground is too wet.” “These seedlings need to be taken out but that will lead to erosion and flooding now that the grass is all gone.”

Discouraged, the woman slowly worked out a plan with the man who knew. During this time, though, the crowd began to see that the project was disorganized and they were angry and felt misled by the promise of big things to come.

By the time the woman returned, everyone except three people had left. Then slowly the small group, humbled by their experience, began the hard work of removing seedlings, replanting grass, and learning about farming. Together, they decided to start with just a small plot of land for their farm and to wait until they saw the success on the small scale before they invited more people.

Parables are an invitation to see differently. How can this story help you see things in your life and work differently? What is the value of a plan? What are the benefits of an enthusiastic crowd versus a small group of committed people? What is the role of expertise and learning? Is it necessary to start small? What else?

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