A summary of our Economic Empowerment fundraisers in Alberta and BC
Over the past month, our GAiN team hosted several fundraising events showcasing our Economic Empowerment strategy in both Alberta and BC. Our guest speaker, Adela Braun, came from Paraguay to share at these events and give first-hand insight to the transformative work that is going on in Paraguay through our partner, Diaconia.
Adela and our team presented on the mission of GAiN’s Economic Empowerment in several unique settings, including a charcuterie evening, craft evening, breakfast and dessert fundraiser, and a yacht cruise. The people that attended each event were full of warmth and curiosity and asked many insightful questions.
Every event included an overview of who GAiN is and our mission, an interactive activity to help people better understand the concept of microfinance, an interview with Adela to hear a few stories as well as time for a local guest speaker to share about their experience as an entrepreneur.
One of the attendees shared, “The activity (game with the boards) at the beginning was really good. Most understand microlending but the game made it more visual and the perfect relaxed way to start the night.“
Monique Lieuwen, Program Manager of GAiN’s Water for Life Initiative and one of the coordinators of the events commented, “The events were so encouraging and incredible to be a part of! It was exciting to have new audiences come and hear about the ministry.”
Our team is full of anticipation for the direction that God is leading GAiN. We are hopeful that through the awareness and support raised by these fundraisers, the mission to empower women living in generational poverty will continue to expand and grow.
Two women’s stories of hope in Paraguay –
Through Diaconia, Global Aid Network (GAiN)’s partner in Paraguay, women are being equipped to overcome poverty and make a way for themselves in the world. With the help of microloans, small businesses are strengthened and given the chance to grow, while the formation of trust groups cultivates a sense of support and community amongst other women entrepreneurs.
During our team’s most recent visit to the field, we witnessed how Diaconia experienced challenges during the pandemic, yet found new methods of maintaining solid connection with clients. One way was through increasing the use of mobile technology, which yielded positive results. Gloria, who leads the chaplaincy program, said she was able to have more genuine conversations through WhatsApp because it provided a more personal and private channel to talk through struggles with women in trust groups. Since Paraguayan culture is shy and low profile, WhatsApp served as a natural and comfortable way for these women to share openly and have honest conversations about faith and life. Now that they are back to in-person meetings, chaplains reported that there is a new level of closeness with clients that they haven’t felt before.
During the pandemic, the ministry used video instructions to teach women and encouraged them to send pictures of their end product to qualify for a gift. Although many people tuned in for virtual training, the ministry recognizes that in-person training had higher engagement and are planning on returning to this system as soon as possible. Diaconia also plans to launch a new program that delivers vocational training to prisons, in partnership with Trans World Radio. Women who are incarcerated would learn basic crafting skills and, through another local charity, would sell their work and be able to receive a small income through their products. Through this initiative, the ministry hopes to further extend the opportunity for economic empowerment to those living on the margins of society.
While in Paraguay, our team encountered a young woman named Gilda who had experienced the fruitful benefits of partnering with Diaconia. When Gilda was only 18 years old, she worked with her mom and another woman selling food. Once she heard about the microloans that were available through Diaconía, she knew this could help bridge the gap between her and her mom’s current work life and their dream of having an independent business.
Both Gilda and her mother joined one of the very first Diaconía trust groups, which provided a foundation of support and encouragement for their business journey. Ten years later, their business has expanded and they now sell clothing as well. With her last loan, Gilda purchased a vehicle that allows her to travel and buy clothing in bulk to resell in her neighborhood. Her trust group has also grown, and now her mother, husband, and three of her cousins are all receiving loans from Diaconía for their small businesses.
“With each loan, I invest in my business. And when our loan cycle is over, I use the savings I get back to invest in my house, making it a dignified home for my family,” she said.
Gilda dreams of building a small clothing shop and being able to send her children to college so that they can become professionals and not have to struggle every day to provide for their future families. She is thankful for the help she has received through Diaconía and the economic empowerment that all of the women in her family and community can now experience thanks to the ministry’s ongoing support.
“The culture naturally tells women that they cannot do certain things, they are supposed to have more hardships, they are not supposed to have dreams and they have no hope, and they are useless, but this is not true at all. These programs help women gain confidence, and see their value in Christ … they can celebrate who they are.” -Citialli, local Paraguayan woman
We also met a woman named Ilda and her husband Carlos, who came from a humble community in central Paraguay. In search of a better future for themselves and their family, Ilda and Carlos, along with their two kids, packed up their belongings and settled to the outskirts of the capital city, Asuncion.
With little money and securities, Ilda and Carlos had to be wise with their resources. They used their old truck to drive themselves into the city, and started a business selling general goods which ranged from clothing and plastic buckets to consumables, like soap and snacks. Soon, the hard reality of starting a new business set in, as competition was fierce and they weren’t able to get any traction.
Knowing their livelihoods were at stake, Ilda and Carlos brainstormed what else they could do to support their family. They landed on the idea of selling charcoal because it is commonly used by people to cook and heat up their homes. Though the couple started to buy charcoal from the countryside and resell it in the city for a profit, challenges continued to appear. Their truck began to have frequent breakdowns, forcing them to pay for repairs and lose money with the business.
In the meantime, Ilda heard from one of her friends about Diaconia, where she could access micro-loans. At first, she was a bit skeptical about the organization, but the reality that she would be accessing the loans with other people gave her more confidence. She decided to apply and join a trust group, which allowed her to keep her charcoal business alive and give her family stable income.
After a few loan cycles, Ilda had not only repaid her loans, but her business had expanded to the point where she was able to purchase an additional truck to transfer more products from the countryside to the city. As the business gained momentum, Carlos was able to make agreements to sell their products to 10 gas stations and some smaller independent stores, further stabilizing the revenue of their business.
Raising kids while making sure there was enough money for food and school was a difficult task for Ilda and Carlos. Yet they persevered in order to provide a better life for their children. “What other options do we have? I only have grade 5 education,” Ilda said. “And I want to make sure my children have enough opportunities for the future.”
Their oldest daughter, who turns 15 this year, dreams of becoming either a journalist or a lawyer, while their oldest son, who is 16, has already started training to become an electrical mechanic for cars. “And now, the entire family helps out! Our kids would also help and I would give them some allowance for their work,” Ilda said.
As the business grew, Ilda and Carlos hired two more people to sort and repackage the charcoal, and added more space and equipment to make working more efficient. Ilda also noted that the demand for charcoal dips in the summer months, so they put some of their money toward starting an ice cream cone business! This decision allows them to have consistent income throughout the year.
Ilda loves being a part of the savings group called “Progresso de Jesus-2” (Progressing with Jesus-2). “It’s not just about the money, but people in the group respect each other and look out for one another.” When asked about her faith she said “being Catholic myself, the devotionals by the chaplains really helps me to understand Jesus and how I should love one another.”
By partnering with Diaconia, women like Ilda and Gilda are given the opportunity to watch the seeds of their business grow into something stable and strong. Currently, there are 5,893 Diaconia clients, and we are excited to continue sharing their stories of hope.
Story from Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission
Enthusiastic, hardworking and up with the lark, every single day! That’s Naomi Wetering in a nutshell. The task of preparing the first meal of the day in the kitchen for the residents of Mukti was Naomi’s responsibility, which she did joyfully… until she contracted COVID-19 in the last week of April.
Initially, she was admitted to Mukti’s hospital, but when specialized treatment was required, she was transferred to SDA Hospital in Pune. Naomi was treated for COVID and subsequently, her test report came negative, but she was diagnosed with lung fibrosis and thyroid. From SDA, she had to be transferred to Divekar Hospital in Varvand. There seemed to be no improvement and her health was deteriorating rapidly. Later, she was moved to Sassoon Hospital in Pune.
Doctors in all of the hospitals she was treated in had given up hope and said it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. Naomi was not responding to treatment and the situation appeared very bleak. Naomi herself was weak and looked like she had given up the fight. The BiPap machine started being used for her, right from the time she was hospitalized outside. Afterward, she was brought back to the Mission hospital.
Gradually, Naomi started gaining strength. The hospital used the oxygen concentrator for her, initially putting her on eight litres of oxygen per minute. Within ten days, it came down to two litres per minute. Now, she is able to breathe on her own and oxygen is supplied only when she feels tired. Dr. Ajita Kuberji, Mukti’s medical officer, says, “When I see Naomi walking in the hospital, I see God’s grace and His healing touch.”
Indeed, Naomi’s recovery and progress are no less than a miracle. Her own faith has increased tremendously and she is grateful for her healing and the new life that she has received from Almighty God. She is on a special diet, and does prescribed exercises and physiotherapy. She wants to recover completely and regain her former health and strength.
Naomi can’t wait to get back to the kitchen and resume preparing breakfast. The residents at Mukti already miss the breakfast that she used to make and look forward to her coming back. She is happy, steadily progressing and well looked after in the hospital, but she misses her regular routine, residence and her friends.
We are so grateful to our supporters for partnering with us to help reveal hope and restore life to residents and staff of Mukti Mission. Your generosity and willingness to act urgently has ensured that patients at Mukti, like Naomi, were able to get life-saving care at Mukti’s own hospital.
Mukti is happy to share that on July 21, 2021, Naomi was able to celebrate her 41st birthday in the hospital!
For nearly two decades, Rosa has fought to break stereotypes to run a growing business in Paraguay. What began as a garage start-up project selling wash rags is now a cleaning supply business that employs several people, and contributes to several other businesses in the area.
Through Diaconia, Global Aid Network (GAiN)’s partner in Paraguay, Rosa has been able to receive micro-loans to grow her business. The micro-finance project is part of GAiN’s Economic Empowerment core strategy, which aims to alleviate poverty, unemployment and a lack of economic opportunities.
When Rosa joined her Diaconia trust group, eight years ago, she met several other women entrepreneurs who have supported one another as they dream about growing their businesses and work on making their dreams become a reality. Rosa is thankful for her trust group and has been grateful for the support she received. “It’s not common to trust women and help them build a business, but Diaconía gave me that opportunity,” she said. Rosa formed her own group and continues to invite more women so that they can have more opportunities to improve their quality of life.
Despite the difficult situations that Rosa has confronted along her journey of running a business, she keeps her faith in God and her mindset positive. “I am a warrior. I will get through this,” she said with confidence. Even through the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rosa’s business stood firm and even helped others in her community. When she heard that recyclers were struggling to feed their families due to lack of work, she told them that she would buy all the plastic bottles they could bring her to sell her cleaning products in. Because of Rosa and her business, several people were able to provide for their families and survive the pandemic.
As Rosa gets older, she dreams of one day selling her business and being able to retire with that income. Thanks to the stability of her income through her cleaning supply business, her children were able to study, become professionals, and now all live on their own – opening the door for Rosa to retire and enjoy her family.
Fabiana had to leave her two children at home while she went to work. When she became pregnant with her third, she knew it was time for a change. It was five years ago when she accepted her sister-in-law’s invitation to form part of a trust group and start her own business with the help of Diaconia, Global Aid Network (GAiN)’s partner in Paraguay. Diaconia’s micro-finance project is part of our Economic Empowerment core strategy, which helps empower women entrepreneurs, providing them with resources to start their own businesses and other income generating activities.
Now, Fabiana is selling clothes in her neighborhood, and can stay home with her three children and niece that she adopted. The women in the trust group have provided Fabiana with the support she needed to build and grow her business. It was truly the first time that she learned what it was like to do life in community.
Last year, Fabiana experienced a health scare. She had several expensive tests done on her heart and the medications she needed to take exceeded her financial capabilities. Her group came together to support her and held several fundraisers to pay for Fabiana’s medical expenses and help her make her loan payment. Thanks to the solidarity of her trust group, Fabiana’s health continues to improve and her family never lacked anything.
Her group, called “Women, Goals, and Achievements,” also requested and completed one of Diaconía’s vocational training courses: sandal decoration. Only two weeks after finishing the course, Fabiana sold eight pairs of sandals and was grateful for the additional income generated.
Thanks to the influence of her group’s chaplain, Fabiana also received spiritual and emotional support through her health problems and has started attending a local church with her family. She has learned to value every day while still dreaming for a better future for her family. “I want to remodel and improve my home,” she commented. As Fabiana works to grow her business, she dreams of a safer, nicer home for her family, and of giving her children the best in life.
In 2013, Alice was working at a clothing store when she got pregnant with her third daughter. She quickly realized that working away from home was no longer an option for her, with her husband also working as an electrician.
It was her sister-in-law who introduced Alice to Diaconia, Global Aid Network (GAiN)’s partner in Paraguay. Through Diaconia, Alice’s sister-in-law was able to borrow a microloan to start and grow her own business. It was through the trust group that she was able to get connected to a group of other entrepreneurs and a chaplain – helping them grow, not just as business owners, but also in their faith. When Alice was invited to join a Diaconia trust group, she decided to take the risk and try something new.
With her first loan, Alice started making traditional Paraguayan foods to sell in her community. After several loan cycles, she decided to use her savings to purchase materials for event decoration. She started decorating for birthday parties, baby showers, and quinceñera parties. Alice has now been with Diaconía for seven years and has a small food stand on the main road, a few blocks from her home.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Paraguay enforced strict lockdowns, she stayed positive and reinvented herself. During the quarantine months, she began to make fast foods in her home to sell to her neighbours, along with soft drinks.
“It’s not easy. I even began to offer beauty services like hair treatment and styles, so that we could keep saving,” she said.
The Diaconia trust group that Alice belongs to is called “More than Conquerors” and has 13 women that support each other in their businesses. “When someone is struggling, we all come together and divide up their payment. Then when that person can, she pays us back. But we always converse about it first,” she commented about her group’s solidarity. She says that good communication is the key to her group staying together for so long.
Each trust group has access to a designated chaplain who provides spiritual support, prayer and emotional support. Before each meeting, they share a Biblical devotional and offer to connect women to local churches in their area.
Alice says that their group has learned a lot from their chaplain and that her home never lacks prayer. She and her husband kneel and pray every morning before they go to work. “I thank God for everything I have and everything that he keeps giving me.”
Her greatest wish is for her daughters to keep studying. Alice worked hard to find new sources of income during the pandemic and thanks to her efforts, she was able to pay the registration fee for her daughter to start studying law at a local university in February 2021.
Alice and her husband are thankful that they had the opportunity to learn and practice saving financially, with the help of Diaconia. They are now saving to buy their daughter a laptop for college. They were also able to purchase a family vehicle that allows her husband to go to work safely, and now can take their daughter to and from school.
While Alice has already achieved so many of her dreams for her business and her family, she has one more dream for herself. She would love to finish her studies. Alice dropped out of school after ninth grade, had children and began working to help sustain her family. Now that her daughters are older and her family is stable, her dream is to finish secondary school and go on to study nursing in a local university. Because of the support she received through Diaconía, Alice’s hard work and dedication has improved her family’s quality of life and continues to give them hope for a better future.
Like Alice, many other women have been able to find financial freedom from debt, support their families, grow in their relationship with Jesus, and live out their dreams. The micro-finance project is part of our Economic Empowerment core strategy, which helps to empower women entrepreneurs and provide resources so that they can start their own income generating activities and live life to its fullest (John 10:10). It’s our hope that many more women, like Alice, will be able to grow their own businesses and accomplish more than what they could have ever imagined!
Thank you to everyone who partnered with us to help reveal hope and restore life to the residents and staff of Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission, as India is experiencing a devastating second wave of COVID-19. Thanks to your generosity and willingness to act urgently, we have reached our goal of $80,000. We have informed Mukti to purchase the medical equipment and initiated the wire transfer to send funds over. This will supply Mukti Mission’s hospital with the equipment needed to treat patients in care, and even prepare Mukti to respond to a third wave.
As of Wednesday, May 26, a total of 67 staff and residents have recovered from the virus, 13 are in the hospital and 16 are recovering in isolation at home.
Mukti Mission is mourning the loss of four people who have passed away from COVID. Just this past week, Tara Tai, 83 years old, passed away at Pune Hospital. Mukti is currently arranging a funeral service for her. Another woman who recently went to be with the Lord is Madhuri Khurade, She was brave and cheerful until the end and put up a gutsy fight against COVID. She came to the Mission in 2012 after being deserted by her husband. Madhuri is survived by her two children, who reside in Nasik. She was strong and hard working, with a very helpful nature and never refused any assignment given to her.
Since the outbreak on Mukti campus, Dr. Ajitha Kuberji, the medical officer for Mukti, has been in touch with the local doctor, Dr. Bhandalwalkar, and has been receiving advice. Patients in more serious condition are transferred to Dr. Bhandalwalkar’s hospital. Meanwhile, Dr. Kuberji continues to keep patients’ medications monitored from home. Mukti’s hospital staff have risen to the occasion, diligently ensuring that all PPE kits and protocol are strictly followed.
The children at Mukti are occupying themselves with indoor games, gardening and helping in their flower families. The Home Supervisors take utmost care to ensure their wards maintain social distance, take steam inhalation and drink neem decoction.
Children and women who are recovering were given packets of Bournvita (a drink with nutrients, similar to Ovaltine/Horlicks) and dry fruits. Each family has also been given an oximeter to monitor oxygen level.
Two weeks ago, the gram panchayat (village council) of Boripardhi village sprayed the entire campus with medicine and all the families where children reside, as well as the different Sadans (homes) were sprayed from inside as well.
Mukti continues to stay strong and positive during this time. Although the situation is challenging, they continue to be grateful for God’s care and provision, praying through Psalm 91.
Thank you again for responding urgently and giving so generously. Your help and prayers have been greatly appreciated
Stories and images of mass cremations in India paint a stark picture of the devastation and suffering that the country is experiencing amidst its second wave of COVID-19.
With a population of 1.36 billion, India recently reached an overall total of 23,340,938 COVID cases and tallied 254,197 deaths. The numbers are believed to be much higher, considering the amount of infections and deaths that have gone unreported.
The situation is dire, as hospitals are unable to accommodate patients due to a shortage of beds and medical oxygen supply.
The state of Maharashtra, where Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission’s main campus is located, has been hit the hardest. Unfortunately, despite taking safety measures, Mukti Mission hasn’t been immune to the health crisis. As of May 12, a total of 74 staff and residents (women and children) have contracted the virus – five have been admitted to the hospital, while five are quarantined and recovering at home. A total of 63 have recovered or been discharged from the hospital, but sadly, it’s been confirmed that two people have died.
Mukti Mission is a Christ-centred home that desires to see women and children become salt and light in society. GAiN believes that every person is made in the image of God and has inherent dignity, regardless of their background.
“There is a shortage of important drugs, which is a big challenge for us.” – Anil Francis, Mukti Mission’s Chief of Operations and Deputy Director.
Mukti Mission needs your help. As the Canadian Chapter of Mukti Mission, we are working to respond to this crisis and are asking you to join us in this effort.
While Mukti Mission’s hospital staff are working hard to care for COVID patients and ensure a quick recovery, there is still a shortage of equipment needed to treat patients in care.
Among what is needed are:
- 4 BiPAP machines
- 2 ventilators
- 4 cardiac monitors
- 4 oxygen concentrators
- medicines and testing kits
These machines cost a total of $80,000, and will help
- position Mukti Mission to respond to the third wave
- equip Mukti’s Krishnabai Memorial Hospital to provide help and care to Mukti’s staff, residents, community of Kedgaon village and the surrounding rural communities
By Lata Rajeev
Presenting to you, our young entrepreneurs Mangal Patil and Swati Bakke, who spill the beans on their passion for cooking. They run Manu’s Café, the canteen of the Manorama Memorial High School. The canteen serves wholesome fast foods like bhajis (spicy hot snack that resembles a fritter), vada pav (deep-fried potato dumpling in a bun), udid vadas (donut-shaped fritter) and idlis (rice cake). The new menu is a hit with both staff and students. Swati and Mangal also cater for birthdays and get-togethers. Their mouthwatering cakes and donuts are very popular and receive the highest number of orders.
Mangal recalls the first time she cooked a big meal at Mukti. She was a nervous wreck and sought strength in prayer. The vegetable pulao (rice dish) she made in the Mission kitchen was delicious and Mangal’s cooking was much appreciated. There has been no looking back since. She says, “I have always loved to cook, even as a young child. After coming to Mukti, I have learnt to bake and make new dishes like biryani (mixed rice dish). I really enjoy making Chicken Biryani.”
Mangal is thankful that she found direction and her purpose at Mukti Mission. She is grateful to God for rescuing her from hardships and giving her an education.
When Swati began working in Manu’s Café, she was apprehensive about doing a good job. She worked hard to update her skills and became deft at catering to the requirements of the café. Her specialty is udid dal vadas (a deep-fried snack). She would like to set up her own eatery and help those in need. As a child, she had not imagined having an education or being employed in a fruitful manner. She had many fears and doubts regarding her capabilities. She says, “After coming here to Mukti Mission, I felt that I, too, can do something. I experienced the joy of being cared for and guided onto the right path.”
Mangal was eight and Swati was four when they came to live at Mukti. Today Mangal is 22 and in the process of completing her Third Year Bachelor of Arts. Twenty-one-year-old Swati studied until the 10th and has worked at Manu’s Café for the last five years. Mangal wants to study for a master’s degree in social work. She would like to open a Biryani outlet, employ those in need and help them. Swati is eager to set up her own business and also teach culinary skills. Both feel blessed to use their God given skills and talents for His glory.
Many other young women, like Mangal and Swati, have been able to explore their passions and career ambitions. With our Economic Empowerment core strategy, we help empower women entrepreneurs and provide resources so that they can start their own income generating activities. We hope that many more women will be able to start their own businesses and serve their communities, like Mangal and Swati are at Mukti Mission.
As both a mom and stepmom, Luisa works hard to not only maintain a business, but to see it grow and expand into new areas so that she can better provide for her family. Two years ago, Luisa started selling rotisserie chicken to go, which gradually turned into a small café restaurant.
Luisa is part of the microloan program with Diaconia, Global Aid Network (GAiN)’s partner in Paraguay. GAiN envisions a world with flourishing communities where people are physically, spiritually and emotionally thriving. Through the program, many women who are living in poverty are given the chance to start or grow their own businesses, become financially independent and free from debt. Women in the program are also put into weekly trust groups with other business owners, where they can encourage and hold each other accountable to pay back their loans.
When Paraguay enforced a strict lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people no longer went out to eat in restaurants and many places began to implement delivery services. Luisa noticed this trend and started selling containers and to-go boxes to the other businesses in her community. Now, her neighbouring small enterprises can purchase the supplies they need from her in bulk.
Luisa is thankful for the support she receives from the other women in her trust group and says it’s nice to be surrounded by other small business owners because they can share advice and support each other.
With her current loan, Luisa will restock her products as delivery services continue to grow. However, her long term goal is to expand her rotisserie chicken business into a buffet restaurant. And while she loves cooking and seeing her business thrive, her true motivation is to sustain her family and provide a better future for their four children.