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.

More than a job: A full life

“I believe that the whole world about me is full of beauty, joy and power, even as it is full of God, and that I can share it and enjoy it if I attune myself to my Divine Plan and am inwardly open toward God and outwardly helpful toward [others].”   ~ Glenn Clark, The Divine Plan

A moment of personal connection. Meeting a SIA entrepreneur at a Malawian market in 2011.

A moment of personal connection. Meeting a SIA entrepreneur at a Malawian market in 2011.

I have a tendency to get caught up in the details of work. I like to organize things and plan next steps, moving from task to task. And sometimes I lose sight of the bigger picture. When I read the quote above by Glenn Clark, I was jolted back into considering how all the work I do for Spirit in Action is part of my fuller life; something that inseparable from all other parts of my life.

The quote captures it perfectly. I have been blessed to see a world of hope, beauty, goodness, and possibility around me. And when I stop to be grateful I am reminded to thank God (“inwardly open toward God”) and share this vision and hope with others (“outwardly helpful toward others”).

Values at work

“How did you get into this work?” a student at Illinois College asked me after I presented about SIA. As in, how does one come to want to work for a non-profit?

When I started working for SIA six years ago (!) I had just left my job at an insurance company. It was after the switch that I realized the importance (for me) of working for an organization that has emotions, learning, and faith built into its very fabric. At SIA, those things I value most – including the desire to spread goodness – won’t be pushed aside.

This alignment of values and work doesn’t only happen in non-profts. I can trace my desire for passionate work to my artist parents and my professor husband. When the sole focus isn’t on profit organizations, universities, and businesses can afford to spend more time focused on people and relationships.

Local coordinator, Godfrey Matovu, leads a small business training in Uganda.

Local coordinator, Godfrey Matovu, leads a small business training in Uganda.

Job+ throughout SIA

I’m not the only one at SIA who feels and knows this job+ concept. Our inward/outward vision is also built into the Small Business Fund program.

The families that receive our $150 grants also receive emotional and practical support from the local SBF coordinators. In line with Glenn Clark’s vision for a good life, each is encouraged on their individual spiritual journey (“inwardly open toward God”) and asked to pay-it-forward through Sharing the Gift (“outwardly helpful toward others”).

Working together with so many people to improve ourselves and serve those around us is a blessing that is more than just work. Thank you for joining me in this good, full life.

Success stories from Kenya!

As promised, today we have real stories from the new business groups in Kenya. These groups are truly modeling the spirit of SIA. They are eagerly trying new things, realizing the benefits of their hard work, and paying-it-forward to help others in need.

‘We Build Ourselves’

Josephine works with high-quality basket materials.

Josephine works with high-quality basket materials.

Josephine and her two daughters, Martha & Dorcas, started a basket-making business called the Tujijenge group, which means we build ourselves. The small investment from the SIA grant has already begun to positively impact the lives of Josephine and all her family members:

“This project has lifted me and my family members. I am a mother of 8 and have 12 grandchildren who depend on me. Before, we were using the raw basket material, which is cheap and does not fetch a lot in the market because it’s of low quality. After we got our first grant of $100, we were able to change the material and get the latest supplies in the market, which are more fashionable and sell quickly.

“For the first time after 4 years, I could afford to pay bus fare for some of my children to travel to the village to see my mother and ailing father. I made my mother a gift of a beautiful basket using the latest raw materials. Now I get calls from the village to make someone a basket like my mother’s. This was also a way of advertising for our business!

“We also took a sample to Village Market (this is an up-market shopping mall in the city). When we can, we will register with the City Council so we can sell easily.

“We can afford at least two meals in a day now and the children look healthier. I have a lot of peace in me because I can even afford to give someone Ksh 20 ($0.25) and I am able to share with others.”

Members of the new Kenyan businesses meet together. Wambui, the SIA SBF local coordinator, is in the front row in jeans.

Members of the new Kenyan businesses meet together. Wambui, the SIA SBF local coordinator, is in the front row in jeans.

‘God Will Group’

For Judith and her family, the SIA grant made it possible for them to stay and work together. They invested to expand their roadside vegetable market:

“For us things are stable now. The children can now go to school and we can afford to buy books.

“Before the small business fund came in, each morning we could go on different ways to look for casual work to at least have a day’s meal. My husband went to the village to see how he could get a job to support us. He came to visit us and was happy to see our business is picking up. He will now come to live with us.”

What we learn from stories

We know the importance of collecting data and numbers about the success of our Small Business Fund. But these two stories perfectly illustrate the importance of also collecting stories. For these families the impact of the grant is more than just earning more money; its also about families staying together and finally having enough to be able to share with others.

It is from the stories that we get to witness the many ways that our small grants directly impact families around the world. 

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