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.
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.
There’s a common phrase in Paraguay that talks about putting on the jersey when someone needs you or something needs to be done. It means that you are a team player and that people can count on you to come through. Over the past year, Maria has shown that she not only is a team player, but that she seeks out opportunities to empower the women around her — her teammates — in life.
Maria joined a trust group through Diaconía, Global Aid Network (GAiN)’s partner in Paraguay, three years ago to help her thermos decoration business grow. In 2018, she started attending vocational training courses to learn how to decorate sandals and make bead jewelry. Her instructor, Fabiola, recognized her talent and knew about her thermos decoration business, so she invited Maria to learn more about becoming a course instructor.
At the beginning of 2019, Maria started teaching a new course. With the popularity of a loose leaf tea called “tereré,” her thermos decoration quickly became the course with the most demand in the communities. Maria has grown significantly in her self-confidence and independence, as she now drives herself to other cities to offer courses. Recently, she has expanded the courses she offers to include the skills she had previously learned with Diaconía. Last year, she taught a total of ten courses.
With her payment from teaching, she applied what she has learned during her time with Diaconía and invested wisely in her business. She was able to purchase a new embroidery sewing machine to give her thermos products a more detailed and elegant design. As she continues to grow in ability and capacity, Maria never looked around and saw other women as competition. She is always looking for ways to serve and empower the women around her, helping them to learn new skills and ways to improve their businesses. She has also looked for new ways to serve in her church as she grows in her faith through the constant discipleship she receives through Diaconía.
Everyone that meets Maria falls in love with her. She shows up early and prepared. She knows what it means to go above and beyond — to wear the jersey.
We met Maria earlier this year and were encouraged by her story. Like everyone else, her life was impacted by COVID but because of the continued support, Diaconia is slowly restarting operations. At the moment, there are a total of 4,340 Diaconia clients. Smaller loan groups are meeting where possible, or trust group presidents are meeting one-on-one with members. As things are getting back on track, we look forward to sharing more stories of hope like Maria’s.
When COVID hit Paraguay, the country’s strict lockdown measures meant that many small businesses suffered, resulting in many families struggling to get enough food to eat each day. As a result, GAiN’s local partners Diaconia and Jesus Responde are running soup kitchens to help.
Margarita R. is a chaplain for Diaconia. She meets with trust groups, specifically to share God’s word, encourage women in the trust groups and pray for them. This was needed more than ever, as a lot of these women were desperate to provide for their families. Below is her story about how she was able to walk alongside a woman who had experienced a series of tragic events.
“I contacted the president of a trust group called San Vincente and asked the leader for permission to visit the soup kitchen so I could pray for her and her family. She accepted without hesitation.
One day, I was visiting a woman named Zunilda and she shared her very painful past. She lost her daughter-in-law in a motorcycle accident, and then three months later, her daughter and her husband also got into an accident, which left her husband fighting for his life. Thankfully, after a long treatment, her daughter recovered completely.
I followed up with Zunilda once a week to pray, encourage her and her family, and share the Word of God with them. The last time that I visited, she told me about a recent tragedy with her nephew. He was hit by a car after chasing a soccer ball that went into the street.
Through text messages, I chatted with her and encouraged her to not distance herself from God, but to rest in Him. I explained how we are able to do this, and every week I continue to pray with her and her daughter. I make sure to continue to share encouraging devotionals with them.
The family was filled with anxious worry about the nephew’s recovery. It’s at times like these that they say they are very thankful for the prayers and support they receive from Diaconia.
I was encouraged when Zunilda told me that she is drawing closer to God again. Thanks to Him, she says, her six-year-old nephew is now much better and has returned home from the hospital.”
Your support has helped provide not just physical nourishment, but emotional and spiritual support for women and families that are struggling during this pandemic. Thank you for helping reveal hope and restore life during these uncertain times. Your help is making a huge impact.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the country of Paraguay immediately imposed a strict lockdown and managed to keep their cases low. Unfortunately, this put limitations and restrictions on people’s ability to work, worsening the situation for those already living day-to-day and experiencing food insecurity.
Diaconia, Global Aid Network (GAiN)’s Paraguayan partner, was unable to run trust groups due to a ban on public gatherings. Because of strict curfews and other restrictions, many of their clients’ businesses were impacted.
To help alleviate the stress of food insecurity for their clients’ families and others, Diaconia teamed up with Jesus Responde to run soup kitchens in multiple different communities. There are currently 49 active soup kitchens, reaching over 8,500 people.
Gloria Q., an employee of Diaconia, shared the impact that the soup kitchens are having in the communities, as well as the hearts and sacrifice of the women who are serving.
“I have had the opportunity and great pleasure of being able to spend a morning with several [Diaconia] clients who are running one of the soup kitchens. Having someone visit from the organization brings so much joy to the community and they are always very thankful for the both the material and moral support that they receive from Diaconia.
The women commented happily about their day-to-day experiences cooking for so many people in need. They are in a large squatter village and can’t serve every person but are very thankful to be able to reach so many families.
As they showed me their cooking space, I noticed that they had all of their utensils sanitized and clean and several families had brought firewood so that it would be enough when it came time to cook.
While their cooking space is a bit precarious, the women are not discouraged thanks to their positive attitudes and enthusiasm. They have notebooks where they record the quantity of people that attend every day and a small bank for those who wanted to contribute even the smallest coins to purchase meat for the next day.
Many of them work in recycling and have found themselves out of work temporarily.
Miriam, who is a Diaconía client, and Rosa, who is the owner of the house where they cook, are both Christians and are very grateful for the opportunity to share what God is doing in that place.
Every day, they ask the people attending to form a line where they will retrieve their food and, before serving, they share a Bible verse and pray for the needs that they express at that time.
Now, they don’t even have to ask for prayer requests, the people they serve make sure to remind them that it’s time to pray and most of all they look forward to the time of prayer before the food is served.
Rosa even commented that some people have shown up to leave a small piece of paper that has their prayer requests on the days that the soup kitchen doesn’t serve meals.
These women expressed how God works to not only provide supplies and materials, but also works spiritually and how he can change perspectives and mindsets when families hear His Word. Some, maybe only a few, but not any less important, are conscious that if they have even something small to eat at home, they don’t attend the soup kitchen so that those who need it most are able to eat, despite not having enough for themselves.
Some days, they play games and sing Christian songs with the children that come. If they show up early and the food isn’t ready yet, they take advantage of the time to have some fun with the younger kids. And then, after the meal, they go home even more joyful.
After spending a wonderful morning with the women of this soup kitchen, we had a time of prayer—thanking God for His mercy, asking Him to keep transforming hearts through this activity, and for taking care of each person who is exposed daily to COVID-19.
This was such a beautiful experience for me and filled me with such a feeling of satisfaction and, more importantly, joy. I thank God for each one of the women working in the soup kitchens that each and every day are willing and ready to serve their community without expecting anything in return.”
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Cor. 5:17 (NIV).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, India has been under lockdown, restricting the movement of girls and women at Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission (Mukti). Mukti has been focusing on healing for the community and instilling higher standards of hygiene. They are spending this time in lockdown learning to create, communicate, cooperate and work on new methods toward self-sufficiency.
The flower family girls volunteered to set up kitchen gardens in their family yards, with guidance from the farm staff. Segregation of organic and non-organic waste is done systematically and making their own fertilizer is now a joy and not a burden. The farm staff is committed to the vision of using every patch of land and making it productive.
While the girls are keeping busy, being forced to stay at home has been frustrating for them. Being occupied with gardening, cooking and handcrafts hasn’t been enough. Dr. Lorraine Francis, Mukti’s Mission Director, had something in mind for the girls. She took her love and concern to the Lord in prayer and decided to hold a one week camp, from June 15 to June 19, 2020, for the Mukti girls on campus.
Dr. Ajita Kuberji, Dr. Deepika and Dr. Lorraine Francis, were the resource women for the camp. They spoke on the theme of newness in Christ. The young women experienced a fresh visitation from the Lord. Many girls prayerfully made the decision to walk in the newness of Christ, with reverence and in obedience to God’s Word. Many wanted to put away old thinking patterns and behaviors and have a closer relationship with God. The girls gained a better understanding of involving God in every aspect of their lives. Dr. Lorraine Francis also spoke of the importance of maintaining a journal. The girls made a commitment to record their thoughts and burdens in a private journal.
The 104 girls who attended the camp were divided into teams named after birds: Peacock, Dove, Eagle and Parrot. It was a delightful sight to see all these girls dressed beautifully in colours that imitated the plumage of their team birds. Apart from the spiritual sessions, there were also sessions on painting, art and crafts. The happy campers participated in games, cultural activities and even a cooking competition.
The team that organized the camp was keen that girls struggling with emotionally heavy issues be encouraged. The sound of their singing, dancing and joyous laughter was a rich reward for the team’s hard work.
This verse represents Mukti’s prayer and hope for each precious girl who attended the camp “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)