Saturday, June 30, 2012

Uganda Makes it Two in Row!

Leslie/Todd:  June brought our Annual Lydia Awards Celebration - our opportunity to celebrate the microentrepreneurs served by our partners who are blessing others while they are being blessed.  It was an unusual year - of the 170,000 clients served by our ten microfinance partners, the three Lydia Award finalists were all men!  We have been doing these Awards almost annually since 2004, and that has never happened before.  Given that 70%+ of the clients served by most of our microfinance partners are women, it's quite a feat for the men this year!

The three finalists are pictured to the left - Nicolae, a custom furniture manufacturer from Moldova; Alex, a construction supplier from Northern Uganda; and George, a chicken breeder/retailer from Northern Sri Lanka.  After a Committee reviewed their applications, almost 400 people voted online, and the final votes came in at the Annual Lydia Awards Celebration, Alex from Northern Uganda was selected as the 2012 Lydia Award winner.  He is very deserving -- starting with a loan of just over $100 for some cement, he built a construction supply business that now has three branches and employs over 10 people.  He and his workers have helped construct and repair roads at no cost when the government was incapable of doing so.  He has used the growing profits from his business to support his church and fund a Christian daycare for 30+ children in a predominantly Muslim area.  We congratulate not only Alex, but CAFECC, our Northern Ugandan partner that has so effectively served Alex.  It is CAFECC's second Lydia Award winner in a row -- they are gearing up for a three-peat in 2013!  Click here to check out a 5-minute video on this impressive organization.

These three Lydia Award finalists may need to learn to smile when their picture is taken, but they have something to teach us about giving to support the extension of God's kingdom.  They, like Lydia of Acts 16, are using what God has given them to bless others.  God used Lydia to start the church in Europe -- just imagine what He may choose to do through these three inspiring men.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hosting the Inaugural CCT KN Annual Forum

Some of the CCT KN Annual Forum Attendees (and family!)
Todd:  May's highlight?  Hosting the inaugural CCT KN Annual Forum.  You probably know by now that CCT is The Center for Community Transformation, our Filipino microfinance partner.   For the past two years, we hosted a forum for them to come and present to their US-based partners.  Last year, these organizations decided to more formalize their collaborative efforts to support CCT, so the CCT Ka-Partner Network (and thus, CCT KN) was formed.  It is the group of North American-based organizations supporting CCT in their great work of extending the kingdom.  Founding members in the CCT KN include, HOPE International, and Five Talents.

Six people came to the CCT KN Annual Forum representing CCT, including three board members and three senior managers.  While most of our time was spent in meetings getting the latest updates from CCT and discussing ways we could partner together as CCT KN members to better serve the implementing partner, we also had some time for fellowship and relationship building.  Perhaps the two highlights were walking the campus of Harvard Business School with CCT Board Member Professor Quintin Tan, a HBS alum of some forty plus years ago, and enjoying a whale watch where a pod of seven humpback whales entertained us for the better part of an hour as we watched them consume lunch.  It was a rich time together -- encouraging CCT in their work, discussing ways we could collaborate better as Christian international development agencies, and enjoying the fellowship that comes from following Jesus together.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Winter/Spring 2012 Travel

Todd:  After a nice time together with family over the Christmas holidays, the significant Fall 2011 travel extended into Winter/Spring 2012, with travel to Haiti, India/Sri Lanka, South Africa/Zambia, and the Philippines.  Fortunately this time it wasn't trying to scrunch 6 countries into 6 weeks!

ACLAM/Haiti Staff with PEER Servants Volunteers
January is a great month to visit Haiti if you're from Boston, although this winter, even Boston didn't have much of a winter.  We had a great team of PEER Servants Team Haiti volunteers -- Elie Lafortune, Barb Crossman, and Marie Williams -- join me to co-host ACLAM/Haiti's Strategic Planning Staff Retreat.  It was our first time ever being with the entire ACLAM staff - all 35+ of them.  We were very impressed with their level of experience, dedication, and vision for empowering the materially poor of Haiti.  This is especially true of Christon Domond, the ACLAM/Haiti Executive Director, who has been leading the organization for well over 20 years.  We gathered a lot of very good information at the Retreat that will allow us to work with ACLAM in the writing of their Five Year Strategic Plan over the coming months.  They would like to become the leading Christian MFI in Haiti and to get there not so much on their own but by working closely with and serving other Christian MFIs so that they can complement more than compete with each other.  It's a great vision, and we look forward to working with them to pursue it.

CSS Clients on the outskirts of Kolkata, India
February included a fantastic trip to India and Sri Lanka with PEER Servants Board Chair, Dave Ryder, his daughter, Patty, Dave Leach, and Team Sri Lanka members Ramesh and Sheba Telore.  It was my first visit to Christian Service Society (CSS) in India after our decision to partner with them in January 2011.  We were so impressed with the work they are doing -- starting with very small loans, often less than $25, in predominantly Hindu and Muslim villages on the outskirts of Kolkata (Calcutta).  It is certainly a challenging area to do this kind of work, but they are doing it faithfully.  CSS serves almost 20,000 clients in the area, and from their microfinance work they are able to generate surplus that can be used to fund a boys home and a girls home for over 75 children.  They do animal husbandry work and much more.  Himadri Munshi, CSS Executive Director, is certainly one of my disciplers.  He lives very simply, all in an effort to channel as many resources as possible to extend more of the kingdom to the materially poor.  He is a great example for many of us in the West.  Dave Leach assisted CSS with some of their MIS work and then we were off to Sri Lanka for a week with YGRO-HEED, our partner for more than 10 years.  We joined them in celebrating their having become operationally sustainable and serving more than 1,000 active clients (over 5,000 since inception) -- pretty amazing accomplishments given the tsunami, civil war, challenging government environment, record floods, and more.  YGRO-HEED has a fantastic staff and they are really establishing an exemplary Christian MFI in Sri Lanka.

The CEMFIN/Zambia staff and local advisory board
The travel in March was to was to Western Zambia, with a quick stopover in South Africa.  The time in Zambia was spent training the CEMFIN staff and local advisory board to be ready to make their first loans in May.  They have a great team and I know the Lord will use them to empower the people of Western Province in Zambia -- one of the materially poorest areas in the country.  Leading the CEMFIN team is pastor Alick Kalonga -- he has been working tirelessly for many years to bring CEMFIN to where it is today, so the fact that they are weeks away from making their first loans is quite the buzz on the main street of Mongu!  Joining me on the trip was PEER Servants Team Zambia member Ken Lloyd.  Ken and his wife, Phyllis, were SIM missionaries in Zambia and exemplary ones at that - very much loved by the Zambian people given their humble and engaging posture.  I really enjoyed traveling with Ken.

Sri Lankans, South Africans, Ugandans, and Americans learning from Filipinos

The last trip of the Spring was back to CCT in the Philippines for a phenomenal training module on establishing and multiplying healthy microfinance branches.  Our partners from Sri Lanka, Uganda and South Africa joined us for this very practical training, and once again, CCT excelled at offering it.  CCT has 140 branches around the Philippines, and these other partners are just starting to establish their branches (none had more than 5 branches).  CCT showed them how to create a branch viability model (determining what it takes in financial and human resources to start a new branch), how to establish appropriate internal controls, how to disciple staff at a distance, and so much more.  We were further blessed when CCT decided to add to our numbers their new branch managers.  Having them as students right along with the others made for a great learning experience.  Three PEER Servants Team Uganda volunteers also joined in on the trip - Richard Kinyua, Canga Kamwambe, and Jake Mahon.  We all left the Philippines eager to return to our different parts of the world and apply what we learned -- not just the nuts and bolts of branch expansion, but such effective ways to proclaim the kingdom in word and deed.

The last day of the Philippines trip was the first day in May -- and no international travel on the horizon until August!  It will be nice to spend much of the summer in Boston and catch up on many PEER Servants and family-related issues.  Speaking of family, we were so blessed by one of our very close friends who made a family vacation to Hawaii (her residence) possible on my way to the Philippines.  It was the best family vacation we have ever had - Les, Ayak, Joshua, Berni (Les's mom), and I had a once-in-a-lifetime vacation together as family in one of the most beautiful places God has created on the planet!  We are so blessed by our many friends and partners in this ministry.