Sharing the Gift in Malawi (x2)

Sometimes giving the perfect gift is more fun than receiving and unwrapping a gift, right? Do you know that feeling of knowing just the right gift for someone, and being in the position to get it for them? It’s exciting!

This excitement of giving is right at the center of our Small Business Fund (SBF) program. Spirit in Action gives grants of $150 to families to start a small business and then this family is called to “pay-it-forward” to another family. They get a chance to be the givers in their community and share their success with someone else in need. This passes on the prosperity and the excitement!

Lackson caring for the 6 new piglets.

Lackson caring for the 6 new piglets.

Lackson Lungu, one of the youth business leaders in Manyamula Village, Malawi, recently got to experience this joyful moment of Sharing the Gift. In January 2013 he and his family used their SBF grant to buy two piglets. Lackson, age 20, took charge in caring for them, building them a pen, and giving them necessary medications. And this year his diligence was rewarded with the birth of six piglets!

Knowing about the Sharing the Gift initiative and being grateful for the six healthy piglets, Lackson decided to give one of the piglets to Tionenji Mumba, a widow in the community. This is just one example of how a gift can ripple out to help many more than the original gift recipient! Thank you for passing it on, Lackson!

Lackson generously shared one of the piglets with Tiwonenji.

Lackson generously shared one of the piglets with Tiwonenji.

Another ripple is happening in Manyamula. Last month I sent a book from the SIA office, The Small Scale Pork Producer, to Canaan Gondwe, the SBF Coordinator in Malawi. Canaan has long been an advocate for pig farming in rural Malawi and so I knew that he could put the book to good use. I had the joy of sending him a present I knew would help others.

True to Canaan’s spirit of Sharing the Gift in all aspects of his life, he is taking the information from the book to share it with many more people. “The [Manyamula Savings and Loans] cooperative management will arrange for training sessions for pork producers and tackle relevant topics so that we maximize the productivity of swine. At the moment, the leadership will take time to read the booklet and mark all relevant topics for training. Thank you for the book.”

It’s good to see the spirit of giving alive and thriving in Spirit in Action!

A man of passion, joy, and love: Interview with Dennis Kiprop

 *As I prepare for my trip to Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda this summer, I’m reviewing what I learned on the last trip in 2011. I was pleased to find this gem of an interview with one of our Kenyan Small Business Fund Coordinators, Dennis Kiprop. The interview was originally posted on Oct 9, 2012. I’ll be meeting with Dennis and the rest of the SBF Coordinators in July in Uganda!


At the heart of Spirit in Action is a deep respect for people dedicated to changing their own communities. One of these people that puts truly puts God’s Spirit into action is Dennis Kiprop, a SIA Small Business Fund Coordinator in Eldoret, Kenya. I had the pleasure of meeting Dennis face-to-face during my trip to Kenya last summer and I snuck time into our very busy conference schedule to interview him about his work with SIA. Below is a transcript of our interview, edited for length.


Kiprop and Mary with Chipati

Coordinator Dennis Kiprop and Mary Koima at her bakery shop. We had chipati from her store one day for lunch.

Dennis Kiprop [DK]: First I want to say thank you. I’m so thankful to God for this opportunity to talk together, to share, and be praying. SIA shares a lot of love – God’s love – and through sharing love I just feel connected with what SIA does and so I really enjoy it.

Tanya Cothra [TC]: What do you like most about your work with SIA?

DK: I like being with people. I like that every time I write a report I take time saying to God, “thank you for this work; that you have trusted me with your work.” When I write I feel some joy coming out from the computer and it is very nice. I also have been trying new ways of reporting; like the way we can report to better capture the areas that we are impacting people not just outside but also inside. But the challenge is that I don’t have a camera.
[Tanya’s Note: Dennis didn’t know at the time of the interview that I had a digital camera to give him from a SIA donor! We’re received some wonderful photos from Dennis in the last year.]

TC: You’ve been a SIA local coordinator now for 3 years. What long-term benefits do you see in your community?

DK: First let me share the way I do the [SIA Small Business Fund] group training. They will come together as a group – as different people, different tribes. And when they go back to their communities they always share what they have gotten here.

I see lives not just changed but lives improved in terms of how [people] take care of their families. As it is captured in one of the questions in the [3-Month Report form], they feel better about the future and medical care and all that. I have also seen a long-term impact for people getting motivated and feeling better about themselves.

TC: How do you follow-up with the small business groups after the initial training?

DK: When I am following up sometimes [the distance] is far, so over the weekends I take a matatu [bus] to see various groups. I call them and some call me to come and check.
[Tanya’s Note: The next day of the conference we went as a group to visit some of the SIA small business in the area.]

TC: You said you would like to start a savings and loans group in your area. Do people use something like that now?

DK: They do – but mostly women. It is the practice of the women that they choose their own leaders and they make contributions every month, maybe to buy utensils for one person. The next month they do something else for a different person. I have seen that.

TC: Do people use micro-finance institutions?

DK: They do but the standards of lending are a bit high. You have to have cash flow and you must have an account with [the bank]. So I wish they would come together so that they could save in a cooperative – they would be able to lend money at a very affordable interest rate. So that has also been my dream for these groups to come together to share these resources to do something good that can benefit everyone.

Kiprop and Tanya in Kenya, August 2011

Dennis Kiprop encourages people to think positively and see the good in their lives. Pictured here with Tanya.

TC: Any last thoughts to share?

DK: We want to share the stories where we see empowerment [in our area]. We like to see people who are powerful and determined. I really like the message encouraging people to think positively in life whatever the problem you are going through – that God has a lesson for you, so try to understand what the lesson is for you. And through that positive thinking realize people get motivated and soon through time they become a success. In all matters in life, I like to think positively. I like encouraging myself and saying you can do it, you can do it.

**Feel free to share your words of encouragement with Dennis in the comments section below!**

For those who are seeking

Tanya in northern Scotland.

Tanya in northern Scotland.

I spent last week at the Findhorn Foundation, a spiritual community in northern Scotland. I went not knowing what to expect and welcoming it as part of my journey as a seeker to better understand myself, to deepen my relationship with God, and to contribute positively to the world. Since these principles are also central to the core of Spirit in Action, I want to share 3 tips I gleaned to aid those who are seeking:

1. Working with love makes the work light.

Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to practice “love in action” as we helped the community with the daily tasks. My department was Homecare, which is their term for housekeeping. Rather than think of it as a glorified name for a maid, they think of the service as the Department of Transformation. This is because cleaning a space leaves it totally transformed. Every part of the big house (which was originally a hotel) was cleaned regularly so no dirt had a chance to pile up. While deep cleaning I practiced feeling love (it was love in action, after all) for each space I was cleaning, and sharing good energy with all who would use the space throughout the week, and remembering all those thousands of people who had used it over so many years. I found myself really enjoying the work and finding it meditative and relaxing – something I never thought I’d say about housework.

2. Spend time in “thin places.”

Have you heard these? Thin places are “where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine.” (Read more about them here: Findhorn had many thin places – many places where I felt connected and close to God and the many thousands of people who had prayed in the same places over many years. The gardens, the hills, the beach, the river all had a tangible sense of the power of the Universal Pulse. For me, these were places where the connection and the prayer came easily and effortlessly. And sometimes this clear, easy connection gives the seeker courage to go on.

3. Learn from diversity.

I joined 15 others (including 2 facilitators) in a small group experience. The 16 of us represented 14 different countries – many of us living in different countries than we were born in. Italy, Spain, England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Argentina, Brazil, Netherlands, Tasmania, Denmark, and me from the US.

From this very global group there were many different backgrounds, different languages, and different cultures. I revelled in how unique we each were and yet also how much we had in common. We were all seeking, we had all felt like outsiders at times in our lives, and we all wanted to contribute to a better world. I’ve written before about the importance of diversity, and this was a great experience to accept differences and instead focus deeper on the Light and goodness in each person.

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