I'm a title. Click here to edit me.
Supporting students by supporting parents
Written by Gloria J. A majority of students in East African countries study in boarding schools. Some schools have day students who commute daily from home, in addition to boarding students who stay for several months at a time. Other schools, especially high schools, are strictly boarding schools. There are breaks within the academic term where students can go home for a week or have parents visit them on assigned visiting days. Schools are closed for the holidays, which are the months of April, August, and December, and students spend time at home. Enrolling in boarding school is mainly for students in the upper primary school (class 6-8) and high school. They are expected to devote more time to their academics since they spend more time in school. Students in the lower grades can join as early as they wish. Boarding schools are seen as a home away from home. Children acquire skills such as responsibility, respect, accountability, and a sense of community and freedom. This further encourages social and emotional stability among the students. Education for Burundian Refugees in Rwanda Founded in October 2018 by Burundian refugees, Forum pour la Memoire Vigilante (FMV) works to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations in Rwanda. The refugees have been living in Rwanda since the year 2015 when Burundi experienced civil war following the third term of the former President of Burundi, the late President Nkurunziza. In a new partnership between Spirit in Action (SIA) and FMV, the organization is meetings one of its core goals of supporting education. In late 2021, SIA offered a grant worth $,1000 to help support education among Burundian refugees living in Rwanda. With this grant, FMV is starting a project that would help monitor the progress of the children they support in boarding schools across the country. The objective of this project is to support the children both financially and emotionally. FMV endorses the children's education and mental and emotional health in the program. The project aims to positively impact both the children and their parents and includes visits each semester. Several activities happened in the previous months that have enabled the success of this project. Positive Parenting In January, Sindayigaya Godefroid organized a parenting seminar with twenty-seven parents in attendance. The purpose of the meeting was positive parenting and its impact on children. The report from FMV showed that some parents could not provide the essential care that their children would need. This would destabilize the child's education. One child said: "I have never heard my parents saying to me 'I love you.'" Parents were encouraged to positively reinforce their kids at home to help shift their outlook. They learned how to praise their children, show acceptance, teach them respect, show empathy, and nurture them. Read more on FMV's website: https://www.memoirevigilante.org/2022/02/15/fmv-road-to-parenting-positive-ways/ Visiting Students In February, Vincent, a member of FMV, visited ten children studying and boarding in the Muhanga District. FMV wants to ensure that these refugee students are settling in well to their boarding schools and that they feel encouraged and cared for, in spite of the new situation. Vincent found that most children did not experience discrimination based on their refugee status and that their grades were good. More school visits were made by Freddy and Magnes, members of FMV in the Butare, Huye, Muhanga, and Kigali Districts. The recommendations for these visits were to make them regular and consistent to encourage the children and know they are not alone; someone cares. By visiting these schools and supporting the parents, FMV, in collaboration with SIA, was able to assess the environments and well-being of the refugee students in boarding schools and their parents. This further gave insight on how best to serve and make sure the children grow up in a conducive environment that fosters education. Parents were enlightened on positive parenting skills that are expected to have a constructive outcome on the development and advancement of the children. Our hope is for children to succeed and be healthy and happy.
Russia-Ukraine War increasing costs in Eastern Africa
One of the far-reaching effects of the war in Ukraine is dramatically rising costs of basic goods across much of the African continent. Eastern Africa imports significant percentages of its wheat, cooking oil, fertilizer, and petrol from Ukraine and Russia. Supply disruptions lead to cost increases in these basic needs, affecting those vulnerable people and small-scale farmers that SIA Partners support. Impact in Kenya From SIA Partner Jennifer Hughes-Bystrom of Springs of Hope: "I'm sure you'll be hearing this from your board in East Africa if you haven't already. The cost of gasoline affects the cost and availability of food and the cost of public transportation. I asked our manager to go to town and stock up as prices are going up daily. Maize, which is normally 3,000/- [Kenyan Shillings] for a 90 kg bag was 4,000/-, and she had to search for the last two remaining bags in the market. Beans, normally 6,000/- for a 90 kg bag, were 7,200/-. Christina Phiri, a SIA Small Business Fund recipient, sells beans in the marketplace in Malawi, 2019 "I don't know what the people who rely on seasonal work in the fields, usually single mothers, are going to do. Plus, it's an election year which may become the perfect storm for violence and looting." The value of the Kenyan Shilling compared to the US dollar has also dropped 10% in the last two years, after being steady for over a decade. SIA Partner Lilian Wanjira of Ubuntu Kenya: "What's worse is that it hasn't rained as usual. So despite everything, Kenyans should first pray for rain." Lush corn fields after the rains in 2019. Eldoret, Kenya. Kenya usually has two rainy seasons each year - starting in March and October. Impact in Rwanda From SIA African Advisory Board Member Fulgence Ndagijimana: "I spoke to Yannick yesterday, who works with Burundian refugees in Rwanda. He told me that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia is an excuse for everything to be almost double in price, especially food items like beans and cornflour, which do not come from Ukraine or Russia but are high in price because of speculation and transportation costs. Cooking gas is probably the most expensive item of all. The concern is that what they have will not carry them through the next weeks. The situation is the same in Burundi, where some women in rural areas are faced with the same problems. A SIA Grant in 2017 helped a group of Burundian refugees open a cafe and community hang-out spot in Rwanda. Resilience In the short term, the SIA Boards (North American and African Advisory Boards) agreed to increase the emergency funds available for immediate hunger relief in our partner communities. In the long-term, this situation highlights the great value of the food security programs that our SIA Grants support. Organic farming can reduce the need for fertilizers and protect the soil. Community-led savings and loans groups can help people diversify their businesses and tide them over until harvest time. We invite you to keep these concerns – for peace, for food security, for the rains – in your prayers in the coming weeks. The Mother's Support Program from the Visionary Women's Center (a SIA Partner) recently gave women five chickens each to assist with household income and financial security. The women are balancing their savings pot on their heads. They will save for one year before using the funds.
What a celebration of community!
Over the weekend, we celebrated 25 years of community partnership through Spirit in Action. 48 people attended from 4 different countries That so many people chose to spend their Sunday afternoon/evening/night on Zoom with us was so heartwarming. $4,096.57 raised for future grants The average SIA grant is $4,000 this year. We raised enough for one more grant next year! Thank you to all who support SIA throughout the year. 5 = God's grace; 25 = Grace upon grace "The number five symbolizes God's grace, goodness, and favor. Grace is a spontaneous gift," said Amber Picou-Broadnax at the event. The invitation was to give in increments of $5! You can donate to this anniversary campaign here. Watch the whole program here: Part of the joy of the event was seeing how much we’ve grown in recent years. 25 partner organizations in 2022 The African Advisory Board has helped us identify and connect with many more grassroots organizations. Five years ago, we supported just a handful of organizations. $114,881 in grants for 2022 programming That's a 175% increase from five years ago! Average grant is $4,000 Communities add our grant funds to the resources already in the community to implement their programs for positive change. See where our grant partners are working: Click here to see the map in Google Maps Thank God for Zoom! 6 Grant Partner workshops in the past 12 months This is part of the on-going work of connecting with and building up the SIA Africa community An average of 18 people attended each workshop On the last call, one participant joined the Zoom call from up on his roof because that’s where he could get the best reception. That dedication to being part of the SIA community is inspiring! 34 participants in our SIA Partners WhatsApp group chat These participants are from 5 countries, including SIA grant recipient organization leaders, SIA African Advisory Board members, and me, the SIA Executive Director. As Wambui Nguyo said in her video at the event, "Long live Spirit in Action. Long live Del Anderson's dream!"
Join us! Meet Spirit in Action Partners
Just ten more days! On March 27th at 2pm PDT (5pm EDT), you are invited to see the impact of Spirit in Action Partners and hear about our 25 years of passionate service. We will have testimonies from Kenya, Burundi, and Uganda telling of the change in their communities. There will also be music from Malawi and Uganda, and a peek at what's in store for SIA in the next few years. Please RSVP here to attend. Del Anderson, the founder of SIA, wrote almost daily about his journey of faith in action. Today I share his thoughts from 2005 when Del was 99 years old. Wisdom from Del: "We can't learn until we unlearn" We accept each challenge, each change. Day by day is growth, change, fresh manna each day. Yesterday's manna is not good enough for today. My focus is coming forth as this new person each day. On this pilgrimage from sense to soul, from self to Christ, from outer to inner, meditation is our blessed tool. Meditation, contemplative meditation, and prayer are three of God's greatest tools. God's Kingdom is within us. We need to let it come forth, step by step, here on earth. It's an ever-changing world and I'm learning so much. I am seeing that every person is an expression of God, no matter where they are in their pilgrimage. We need a time apart daily to prepare our hearts and still our minds. Let us remember that our life is not a life of feeling in reaction to outer conditions. It is our privilege to choose to live in the region of Spirit where the will of God produces God’s eternal operation. If we plan to become proficient as a swimmer, or in any athletic adventure, we need to condition the body and practice, practice. There is, likewise, a period of preparation in attaining spiritual maturity and an effective prayer life. No skill is attained without steady focused interest, some understanding of and response to the Will of God. It does require a real desire to change. We feel secure in the way we are. Changes don't make us feel as secure. So much of what we have to do is unlearn, as well as learn. We can't learn until we unlearn. We have to unlearn the present. Don't miss our big celebration! See what SIA partners are doing in their communities. Register to attend here.
Being on the side of community
by Gloria J. Flaming Chalice International (FCI) is an organization that invests in the future of refugees and communities in Rwanda and Burundi. Spirit in Action (SIA) has been a crucial partner in their community work for the past two years. Last year, SIA provided a grant that allowed FCI to revise and further support its programming. Through SIA support, FCI has been able to cover the salaries of three people who ensure that all work is implemented. It also covered office rent at the Bujumbura and Rutuna offices, administrative costs, water, electricity, and communication charges. “FCI is one of our new multi-year grant partners,” explains Tanya Cothran, Executive Director of Spirit in Action. “SIA has said up-front that we will fund them for three years in a row. These multi-year grants are part of our move to assure more stability for the partner organizations.” FCI has told us that other donors feel confident in entrusting more resources because SIA had already placed trust in them. The local secretary for FCI is Manassé (pictured middle). He connects with the community members and makes sure everyone feels welcome in the community center space. Recording Successes FCI has recorded and felt substantial changes in its advancement. Their accomplishments include: Community Center- FCI built the community center, equipped with solar panels, where the community can gather, charge their phones, and buy small items needed at home. It has become a central place, earning the name Muhira, which means home. Refugee support- People are still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. FCI stepped up and continued to support shelter, food, and education. Education- FCI defied norms by sending a young mother to university. Aline has recently graduated with a degree in economics and raised three children as she studied! Aline’s fee was three times the usual cost, but FCI saw this as an opportunity to show that being a mother does not mean the end of your ambition. Supporting Women- FCI’s work has also encouraged social justice by giving a voice and dignity to the vulnerable population. The women in Rutuna have been able to gain income and, therefore, financial independence through the women’s project. Their defy the norm scholarship has changed the lives of two families by securing access to education. Women gather together at the FCI community centre in Burundi. They gather to talk, share, and learning together. Learning and Dreaming The most significant opportunity for growth and understanding in any situation comes through challenges. While FCI has had great wins, they have grown and learned from some of the challenges faced. One of the hurdles was that they did not have enough resources to cater to the community’s needs. For example, when a household was in desperate need of food or a child suddenly fell ill. They decided to set up an emergency line in their budget to help bridge that gap, beginning with $500 this year. FCI has grasped that communities have their rhythm, and it needs to learn to go at the community’s speed. More importantly, it is to engage with the community because things happen in community that need to be factored into the program design. The community is resilient and resourceful; being on their side is what FCI and SIA are here to do. The year 2021 has seen outstanding accomplishments by FCI in partnership with SIA. This year can only be seen as a year of significant strides and more remarkable growth, benefiting the community. *Flaming Chalice International is one of the organizations that will be featured at our virtual gathering on March 27th. Please register here to join us and see this exciting work in action!* Yannick Horimbere is a refugee from Burundi who lives in Kigali, Rwanda. Flaming Chalice International supported his training as a chef. He was working on a catering project when COVID hit. He is now running a café that employs 6 people. COVID has slowed things down, but he hopes business will improve as soon as people can meet again in bars and restaurants.
Business Success in Malawi
By Gloria J. Since its conception in 2010, Manyamula Community Savings and Investment Promotion (COMSIP), in partnership with Spirit In Action (SIA), has made significant strides in changing the lives of its community members in Malawi. This project has encouraged members to expand and explore crop cultivation practices, making it simpler and more economical for farmers. There have been plenty of positive impacts through farming and business projects supported by SIA. Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative members sing welcome in 2019. Economic Empowerment and Training The introduction of various businesses among members and loan programs have been the steppingstones in ensuring economic empowerment among members. With these loans, low-income earners have been able to get capital to open their businesses. Proceeds have enabled them to build houses, pay school fees and manage medical bills. This has encouraged and sustained financial independence. Members and non-members have been able to profit through educational programs rolled out by COMSIP that have covered financial literacy, poultry management, farming as a business, and business management. The community, through this, has broadened its scope of thinking. By training on nutritional health and practices, the people’s health has also improved. Low-interest loans have been made accessible to the members to help by ensuring they have enough money for food and medical bills. COMSIP Stars We cannot say all this without highlighting the direct impact the cooperative and its efforts have had on its members. One of the stars of COMSIP is Mestina Tembo, who joined the cooperative at its inception. She is the co-breadwinner in her household and got a loan to start her Mandazi (fried dough) business to support her family. Mestina has been able to be food secure and earn a profit that has, in turn, improved her farm input and built a house. She has also been able to pay school fees for her son and improve her living standards. Julius and Mestina in front of the home they constructed with income from their business. Manyamula, Malawi, 2014. Christopher Nkosi is another star and successful graduate of the cooperative. When Christopher joined in 2011, he already had a small business but required a boost to expand. He was able to get loans over time that helped grow and improve his business. Now Christopher is a landlord and a successful businessman. He has been able to build and rent houses and buy a car. Since his establishment has become self-sufficient, he no longer gets loans, but he still holds his shares as savings with the cooperative. Christopher in his shop in the market. He has been a co-op member since 2010. “I run a shop and a souvenir shop; it is the best shop in Manyamula,” Christopher told me in 2017. “I was a beggar; I’ve built a couple of houses now. I am stable now.” Future Projects The Oil Press project for the community by COMSIP and SIA is a highly anticipated development. The cooperative has acquired an oil press machine to produce vegetable oil. The projected impact includes employment opportunities, reduced malnutrition, increased money circulation, improved soil structure, and reduced money-related violence. Social service organizations in the area will also positively impact the genesis of the Oil Press project. The Farmers Association and seed companies will experience a steady market for oil crops, increased customer base, and high-yielding varieties. Retail traders will get a local supply of oil and its by-products which would be much cheaper and reach customers from the cooperative. With the collection of cooking oil, there would be an enriched diet in homes to help improve and bridge the gap in malnutrition. The Electrical Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), which supplies electricity, would get a new customer and profit from providing power. In conclusion, alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. That is the perfect statement to describe what we are currently seeing in Manyamula.
New Grants for 2022!
It’s 2022 and Spirit in Action is embarking on a new year of partnerships with amazing grassroots organizations in Eastern Africa. In December, at a joint meeting of the North American Board and African Advisory Board, we approved over $100,000 in grants. These grants are adding to the efforts of 25 organizations, 17 continuing on from last year, and eight new partnerships. One partner from last year, Pastoralist Child Foundation, “graduated” from SIA grant support after receiving a substantial grant from UNICEF for their anti-FGM work! (Confused about all the acronyms? Read my handy acronym cheat sheet.) We gave out more grants than ever before, which is a testament both to the inspiring work being done by community organizations on the African continent and to the support from our generous donors. Ubuntu Community-Based Organization provides small business loans to women in urban Kenya. The women gain financial independence and build community among other group members. A new SIA grant is contributing to Ubuntu's new computer cafe, where women can learn about computers and youth can use them for school work. More Equity in Grantmaking Four of the new partners are francophone groups in Rwanda and Burundi. (I wrote about Tubunganire Association here.) Pushing our circle wider, to encompass groups that are often ignored by other American foundations, is part of our move toward more equity in grantmaking. In this vein, the African Advisory Board was responsible for evaluating and selecting a majority of our grant partners, moving the grant decisions closer to the communities we are supporting. Five of the grants are part of multi-year grant commitments. Multi-year grants are another part of our equitable grantmaking commitment. Knowing that funding is stable for 3-5 years means that organizations can focus on their impact in the community, rather than spending time fundraising. Supporting Strong Community One of these multi-year partners is Flaming Chalice in Burundi. This year, they are starting a poultry project for youth in their rural community. This is part of a larger effort to provide jobs for youth who want to stay in the rural community, rather than have to leave for the city for jobs. Intergenerational connections and laughter among members of Flaming Chalice International in Burundi. SIA Board Member Johnann Johnson who lives in rural California got really excited about this program, “This proposal lit me up. I love it. We see the repercussions in the US of sending all our farmer’s kids away and now we have no farms being run by families and it’s a huge issue here. How smart that this group sees, that they know, that if the youth don’t stay in the rural areas, their communities will die. I appreciate that they want to find a way for the youth to stay and fight the good fight at home.” Grant funds were sent earlier this month, so we'll be reporting on progress in the coming months! Meet all our grant partners here.
Helping vaccine efforts in Uganda
Post by Gloria J. “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success”. This quote by Henry Ford is what best describes the collaboration of SIA, CAP-AIDS, and Boroboro health facility in the rural parts of Uganda. SIA as a grant partner with CAP-AIDS were able to help kick off this project and make it concrete. COVID-19 has been a persistence that has backpedaled livelihoods, affected homesteads, and the economy in more ways than one. But with the help of SIA and CAP-AIDS, the people in the Northern and Eastern parts of Uganda have been able to access COVID-19 vaccinations and information about the illness. The team at CAP-AIDS Uganda, with SIA African Advisory Board Member Naomi Ayot Oyaro. They are a trusted source of information and support in their rural community. We have heard a number of misconceptions and controversies that have surrounded the COVID-19 vaccine, and the same can be said in these rural parts of Uganda. This has been one of the major challenges faced by the government and health officials in rolling out the vaccine. (Read an article about the complexity of vaccine supply and demand.) Access + Information In October, CAP-AIDS worked with Boroboro Health Center, with two major goals. One of the goals was to extend the COVID-19 vaccination services to the vulnerable populations who couldn’t afford it, and those who were not able to move up to the health facilities such as Persons with Disability (PWDs) and the elderly. The second goal was to create awareness and share information about the importance of getting vaccinated and demystify the negative perceptions being created about COVID 19 vaccination in the rural community. They targeted people in Boroboro East and West and within three parishes of Boke which is located in Tororo District, Eastern region of Uganda. Bororo Health Center is located in Lira district, the Northern region of Uganda. In support of that, CAP-AIDS offered one of their facilities, the Friesen Harvey’s Home of Hope, as one of the vaccination points. CAP-AIDS partnered with the local health clinic to provide both COVID-19 and measles, polio, and DPT vaccines to people in the area. Community + Collaboration In more ways than one, we are reminded of the sense of community and collaboration where together we can do so much. There were major accomplishments to be recognized after the rollout of the program which was carried out from the 19th to the 24th of October. 760 people were vaccinated within 3 days. This was a 375% increase in vaccinations compared to before CAP-AIDS got involved. Furthermore, CAP-AIDS supported in creating awareness and sharing the right information about the vaccine which helped demystify the negative perception about the COVID vaccine. This propelled the number of people coming to get the vaccine, showing a 50% increase, with the numbers building from 40-50 people per day to 100 people a day showing up to the facilities. Bringing vaccine doses right into the community, reducing the burden of travel time and costs. The collaboration was quite a success with more people learning and having a broader sense of safety being aware that they can be protected against one of the deadliest pandemics recorded. SIA’s mission is to fulfill God’s promise for abundant life for all the world by supporting people in following their dreams of building a self-sufficient, sustainable future for themselves, their families, and their communities. It is such a joy to be part of an effort that actualizes that.
Let's add to their efforts
This week's blog post is an excerpt from my sharing at United Methodist Church, Point Richmond last month. If you would like me to speak at your church, congregation, or club, let me know! Martin Luther King, Junior famously said, "no one is free until we are all free." Looking deeper I found essentially the same quote was used by Jewish poet and activist Emma Lazarus, the British philosopher Herbert Spencer, and Fannie Lou Hamer, the women’s rights activist. The people pushing for new social systems realized that the work of such change requires us all to see how our futures and freedoms are tightly woven together. My favorite version of this same sentiment is from Lilla Watson, an Indigenous Australian artist and activist. She said, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” It was a phrase that was co-created by members of an Aboriginal Rights group in Queensland, Australia. Wasting Time There are plenty of non-profit organizations that lean heavily on the first part of Lilla’s quote, “if you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.” At a Spirit in Action gathering in Kenya a few years ago, James from the Democratic Republic of Congo, shared about a missed opportunity. A donor had wanted James to have a hydraform brick machine. The bricks are designed to be interlocking and not require mortar, therefore making them easier to use than traditional clay bricks. So the machine was bought and installed, but it soon languished. The machine was hard to use and it was actually not filling a real need. Bricks are inexpensive in the rural parts of eastern Africa where clay is abundant. And the hydraform machine would’ve taken away the livelihood of many local brickmakers. In fact, when we do fund building projects with Spirit in Action grants, providing bricks is often the contribution that the community is proud to make on their own. (Pictured above, front to back: Tanya, Wambui, Dorcas, James, Dennis (behind), Samuel, Barbara, Naomi; Kenya, 2019) As James was telling us about this, Samuel, from Kenya, interjected that he also had a hydraform brick machine that wasn’t in use! Ha! We all laughed and James summed up the situation by lamenting that, “you can only do so much to convince a westerner to not do a project they think will work.” Just think of what the impact could have been if instead, the donors asked James and Samuel what their communities most wanted as a path to their economic security and development. Also, think of the soul impact of allowing groups the freedom to set their own priorities. As they seize this freedom, I – from afar – am also more free to not have solutions, and to just respond and support where I am asked to help. "Let's add to their efforts" Right now Spirit in Action is in the midst of our grant process for the year. I am working closely with five African Advisory Board members – all from eastern Africa – to review and select the projects to fund. This is our second year using the peer-review grant process, and their knowledge of the local context and of development work is invaluable to Spirit in Action. One of the grant applications that we received this year is from a community-based women’s organization in Burundi, which is just south of Rwanda in eastern Africa, and one of the poorest countries in the world. The group’s name, Tubunganire, means “let’s add to their efforts” in Kirundi, the language of Burundi. I’m thinking of adopting this as Spirit in Action’s new motto. “Let’s add to their efforts.” In just a few words it captures our mindset of being of service to those projects that are already in motion before we arrive on the scene. And not imposing unwanted help. Tubunganire has been around for about four years and its leaders are well-known in the community. The group supports women so that they do not need to depend on men or other families members for their daily needs. It's about increasing financial freedom. Our African Advisory Board member Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana learned about the organization three years ago when his mother was living alone at home. Women from TUBUNGANIRE took turns fetching water for her, giving her medications, preparing food for her, and just coming to sit and talk. The group officially has 45 members, but so many more than that benefit from their work, including Fulgence’s mom, who was not an official member. Let’s add to their efforts! For the last four years, Tubunganire has been running completely on local support. A grant from Spirit in Action would be their first grant from an international organization. The funds would be used to plant a community garden to demonstrate about growing vegetables, and it will also help them develop what they call a “solidarity chain” with pigs. Half of the members will receive pigs right away, and when the pigs give birth, the members will give piglets to their fellow members and other women in the community. Those women will then pass future piglets to more women – adding to the solidarity chain. Let’s add to their efforts. (A pig solidarity project in Uganda, run by Universal Love Alliance, a SIA Grant Partner. They met in March to have women whose pigs had given birth pass on piglets to other women in the group.) "I am because we are" In Kenya, in the urban area of Githurai around the capital of Nairobi, Lilian Wanjira started the organization Ubuntu to lift up the women suffering from domestic abuse in her community. The organization started in 2019 but it was during the lockdowns related to COVID-19 that she was hearing more and more stories about domestic abuse. Lost jobs and nightly curfews created a pressure cooker environment for couples. Ubuntu, which means “I am because we are,” has a low-interest loan program for women wanting to start their own businesses. They are doing things like buying vegetables in downtown markets and bringing them to Githurai to sell along the roadside. Or making doughnuts or samosa to sell to people on their way to or from work. (Lilian, in the red shirt, visits Jane Wangari Wandaka's shop. Jane is a Ubuntu member in Githurai, Kenya.) Built into the Ubuntu loans system is a regular check-in. In the evenings, Lilian goes around to the women to collect their small loan repayments and to ask how they’re doing. She listens to their stories, provides a shoulder for them to cry on, and prays with them. She hears stories of husbands who come home drunk and encourages the women to start their own businesses to have some financial independence. Lilian is adding to the efforts of each woman, and Spirit in Action is adding to Lilian’s efforts by helping her build a small office where women can come for safety and comradery. You can see that these efforts reach deep into the strength of the grassroots movements. In contrast to the hydraform bricks, our Spirit in Action grants respond to the needs by uplifting the solutions and ideas that already exist in the communities, by supporting what is already in motion. And I do believe that as we add to their efforts, rather than going in to help, everyone in the world is a little more free.
"We are all, through SIA, someone's answered prayer"
Thank you to all those who have already supported our GivingTuesday on Facebook or online today! Even after so many months of Zoom calls in all aspects of my life, it still is a thrill to meet with SIA Grant Partners from all over East Africa. This month, we held the SIA Africa Summit on Zoom. Twenty people attended, representing 13 organizations and the African Advisory Board, and the North American Board. Each organization shared what they were most proud of in the past year. And wow- these small but mighty organizations have had some amazing moments in their work this year! Here are a few of the highlights: "We are all, through SIA, someone's answered prayer," said Tiba from Reach Girls in Malawi. Reach Girls led a sewing and tailoring training program for six girls. At the end of the training, one student has established her own shop (see below!) and she can now support her children and give them three meals per day. This is a huge turnaround from her life before Reach Girl's program. Reach Girls has also established a good working relationship with the Area Development Committee in their district, and this is helping to increase their visibility as an organization. "It is through togetherness with the community and working as a team that we have been able to reach far and achieve what we have achieved," said Vincent Atitiwa, Director of Matungu Community Development Charity (MCDC) in Kenya. MCDC used its SIA grant to expand its communal poultry project. Below is a video of Vincent showing off the new chicken coop. They have also installed solar panels which keep the power steady for their egg incubator. With the incubator, they have hatched 1,600 chicks. The other SIA Partners on the Zoom call were inspired to hear about the great potential from this income-generating activity for the organization! "There is more joy in the village because of the community center," said Manasse from Flaming Chalice International in Burundi. Burundi is a country very divided along ethnic and religious lines. The Flaming Chalice community center is a place where everyone - regardless of beliefs or family - can come to gather, share, and learn from one another. SIA supports the staff salaries of Flaming Chalice so that there can be full-time attention on their community programs. Pictured below: a group of women gather at the community center to Share the Gift with each other. More updates from our grant partners to follow! :)
Mani/Pedis in Uganda
People all around the world go to the salon to relieve stress and take care of their hands and feet. Next time you’re in Uganda, I know twenty newly-trained women ready to give you a manicure or pedicure! This year, Midwife-Led Community Transformation (MILCOT) used a SIA Grant to run a mani/pedi training workshop, providing desirable and marketable skills to young women who have dropped out of school. MILCOT has a team of social workers, midwives, and nurses passionate about getting out of the clinics and into the community. They are working in the Wakiso District, near the capital city in Uganda, and they focus on pairing vocational skills with health information and support. For this workshop, MILCOT hired a professional manicurist with two salons in the area to be the trainer. He shared a mix of theory and practical hands-on (no pun intended!) experience. Check out the curriculum: Topics: The strengths and opportunities of opening a manicure and pedicure business: Requires little capital to start, and does not require a lot of space Materials are cheap It’s interesting to look at the beauty of the results of your work, It brings daily income The benefits of doing pedicure: Reducing the risk of infection Getting read of dead skin cells Reducing stress through improving the beauty of your hands and feet Promoting blood circulation Description of manicure and introducing all the tools of the trade Description of how to do a foot treatment: including foot soaking, foot scrubbing, nail clipping, foot massage, and nail polishing Manicure class! Local leaders appreciate the training program from MILCOT which is helping to offset the negative impact of the COVID pandemic on all economic activity in Uganda, particularly in the areas that were already vulnerable. Practical skills: Nail cleaning Filing/shaping Polishing Removing cuticles Top Student Recognized Namayega “Resty” Kwagala was the top student in the manicure/pedicure class, and she won a free nail treatment from the teacher. Resty is grateful for the MILCOT vocational program because it is a place where she feels seen for her potential, not just for her disability. (She doesn’t have the use of her legs.) Resty said that being recognized for her skill and good work was one of the most exciting experiences in her life! MILCOT's program shows how SIA Grant Partners are providing encouragement and practical skills so that young women can forge a path towards financial independence and personal fulfillment. Resty was the top student in the class!
SIA Support for Farmers
The news on the podcast was shocking: “Africa imported about 85% of its food (2016-208) from outside the continent.” With all that land and all those farmers, how could that be true? At the same time, agriculture production in sub-Saharan Africa actually increasing. And it’s growing faster than in other parts of the world. Many African countries even export agricultural products to other countries on the continent. Looking deeper, another report found that four countries – Nigeria, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Somalia – account for most of those imports. Many of SIA’s Grant Partners are part of this increase in agricultural production! Canaan Gondwe, SIA African Advisory Board Member who passed away this month, was a passionate advocate for farmers and rural development in Malawi. This photo is from my trip in 2019 when we tasted cassava straight from the ground. Canaan always had some advice and encouraging words for the Small Business Fund farmers. We continue to pray for all Canaan's loved ones, including the members of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative. "Farming as a Business" It is a big shift to move from growing food for your own family to thinking about agriculture as a business. Rural organizations like Kakuuto Development Initiative (KADI-U) in Uganda and Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative in Malawi help their members access high-quality seeds and buyers for the crop. By selling collectively as a cooperative, farmers can get a better price. New technologies in bags for storing harvested crops also make a big difference in the quality of the crop. The SIA Partners WhatsApp chat group is a lively platform for sharing photos of farms, for sharing potential prices for crops, and for celebrating when the rains arrive. Since the rainy seasons are different in Malawi, Uganda, and different parts of Kenya, there is always something growing with SIA! How it started and how it's going! KADI helps families expand their farms to grow soybeans. They will sell the crop collectively. Last weekend, Samuel Teimuge and African Advisory Board member Dennis Kurgat held a training for 100 farmers on how to plant and care for pixie oranges in the rich soil of the Rift Valley in Kenya. They provided seedlings that they had grown from seed. A family returns home with their empty ox cart after a day at the market. Manyamula Village, 2019. Photo by Kathleen King *Farmers: I recommend ECHO Community for information about all types of crops and planting techniques.*