Taking a selfie with a cow

Taking a selfie with a cow

“The camera is right here!” I try – successfully! – to get a selfie with a cow at a Megabridge Foundation farm in Kenya. After our visit, Joseph wrote: “We appreciate that you found time to visit our project. Your team was the first “Wazungu” (Swahili for white people) to visit a homestead in the village; a particular honor to the family that hosted the team. The team’s visit to the project has elicited a lot of publicity and interest among the community wishing to learn among others more about the project.”

Lucky Nylenda, his wife, and I try to pose with their uncooperative calf. Lucky is a member of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative. He has used the low-interest loans to expand his flocks of goats, chickens, and guinea fowls.

Finally got a better picture of him! This cute calf was just two days old when we met him. His mother can produce 10-15L per day of milk, which can sell for $3-4! A cow can sell for $275-325.

Chickens for Sale

Chickens outside the Matungu Community Development Charity poultry house in Mumias, Kenya. When I visited in June, the heavy rains were delaying the construction progress. Now it is done and housing 250 hybrid chickens! Chickens sell for $7 each. The profit from the chickens will add to the group’s loan fund.

Evans Okumu, secretary of the Matungu Community Development Charity, shoveling the high-quality chicken feed into bags. Vincent Atitwa, the group’s chairperson, writes: “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must but take the step. I believe we have taken the step together with SIA.”

Piglets for Women

Visiting the Megabridge Foundation piggery in June! A Spirit in Action grant helped the organization buy top quality breeding stock and construct a pig pen to keep the animals healthy and dry. The piggery holds up to 50 pigs. The sows eat a healthy diet of ground oatmeal, corn, and fish. 

Piglets will be distributed to women in the community soon, once the heavy rains die down. Most of the women in the area pick tea leaves as day laborers. A piglet is a significant increase in wealth for a family.

One more for the road….

cows on the road in Malawi

A familiar scene from the trip: sharing the dusty road with cattle. Malawi, 2017.

P.S. If you want to see my selfie with a cow, click over to our Facebook or Instagram page. 🙂 

Generosity is Catching

Sharing the Gift of piglets

These healthy piglets were raised by recent high school graduates, who received SIA grants. They are now ready to be shared to widows in the community.

Last week I heard another story of pay-it-forward generosity. A chain of 457 people each offered to pay for the drink of the person behind them at the Florida Starbucks drive-thru. There’s something about generosity. When we see other people giving we also want to give. My Facebook feed has been flooded (no pun intended) with buckets of ice water showing just how contagious and fun giving can be. When we see people who give, it creates a good kind of peer-pressure: the pressure to do good.

It is just this truth that underlies our “Sharing the Gift” initiative (or “Spread the Blessing” as one partner in Uganda called it). Families who receive SIA’s $150 Small Business Fund grants are receiving a huge act of generosity. I know our local coordinators are met with questions from the grant recipients about why people half-way across the world and from a country so different from their own would want to give them money to start a business.

It’s pretty amazing, really. Imagine getting a (legitimate) email in your inbox from someone – someone you didn’t know – who wanted to give you money. You might have questions, rightly so. Our Small Business Fund coordinators explain that SIA gives because we see potential in them and we feel compelled to help them improve their lives – to lead more stable and prosperous lives. The best grant recipients see and recognize this generosity and our honest intentions.

Winkly and his wife invited us in their home to tell how they both received and gave piglets through Sharing the Gift. They are proud of their brick house.

Winkly and his wife invited us in their home to tell how they both received and gave piglets through Sharing the Gift. They are proud of their brick house.

And so Sharing the Gift is a way for them to respond to that generosity. They have received. One year after receiving the grant, they are asked to also give.

That’s all a big preamble to say that Sharing the Gift – just like other acts of generosity – is contagious. When Small Business Fund families see other people giving, they also want to give.

Culture of Giving in Malawi

Years ago, Winkly Mahowe received a “Sharing the Gift” gift of a piglet from a neighbor. That was the start of Winkly’s SIA journey towards building a new house, expanding his piggery unit, investing in poultry. He has a life now that he is proud of. In July, with a twinkle in his eye and a huge smile on his face, Winkly told us how he has also Shared the Gift of a piglet to another family, who is starting their own piggery. He knows deeply what an honor and opportunity it is to receive a piglet through SIA Sharing the Gift, and he was so pleased to be able to pay-it-forward to another person.

Hi there piggy!

Hi there, piggy!

SIA Small Business Fund (SBF) in Malawi is full of Sharing the Gift moments. Visiting over 50 small businesses in Manyamula Village this summer I saw that there was a real culture of generosity in the community. People were proud to be able to share and give to others. And that pride was contagious. As Fikire Chima told us about sharing the gift of a piglet to a widow who lived nearby, she added solemly, “It is all thanks to Canaan [the SIA SBF Coordinator] who models generosity for us. If he was greedy, I would not have considered Sharing the Gift.” 

So there you go. When we see someone give, we want to give. When we have received a gift, we want to also share gifts. Perhaps this is a call to make your giving show, and to recognize the call to give when you see others giving. Maybe the next viral charity challenge will be to call on friends to live without electricity for 24 hours, or to hand wash your clothes – and then to support a SIA family with a small grant so that they won’t have to do those things anymore.

Read more stories of SIA generosity in Malawi:

Donate to SIA Small Business Fund here.

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!

The gift of a pig

What difference can the gift of one pig make? One of the key components of SIA’s Small Business Fund (SBF) is the concept of “Sharing the Gift”, which encourages groups that receive small business grants from SIA to pay it forward to others in their community.

As Boyd Cothran wrote in the Fall 2009 SIA Newsletter, “We take small amounts and give entrepreneurs in developing countries the opportunity to succeed. We don’t ask that they pay us back but that they use their success to give someone else in their community a chance to get ahead.”

The following story, written by SIA SBF Malawi Coordinator Canaan Gondwe, shows that one small act of generosity can put a new roof over a family’s head.

Winkly Mahowe with a family size of four entered the SIA SBF program in 2007 through the Sharing of the Gift program. The family received one piglet of seven months old in May. It was indeed a small beginning and it was as if there will be small impact. But today, the impact on the family is big and there are celebrations all over for this achievement.

In Malawi, 75% of the households live in houses that are grass-thatched and very small in size. Most people are not well accommodated especially these low-income earners. These houses leak during rainy season. Most of these households can’t afford the iron-roofed house and it really becomes a miracle to attain such a house in this category of people.

After successfully benefiting from the gift, the pig in 2008 gave birth two times in the year and there were 19 piglets (11 female and 8 male). These were sold at three months of age at the cost of MK 5000/each (USD$32). Money realized was MK 95000 (USD$626)! The family bought 38 iron sheets of 12 feet. In the year 2009 the pig farrowed twice again to 16 piglets and they were sold at MK 5000/each and the family realized again MK 80000 (USD$527) and bought 32 iron sheets. Total iron sheets were now 70 and now they have built a house and roofed it.

For a long time, the family was struggling financially to get the iron sheets and through the Sharing of the Gift of SIA they have managed. It is smiles on the family as they no longer stay in a house that does not leak. The family is thankful to the program as they can witness the love of Christ emanating within fellow Malawians.

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