Evening in Good Taste 2016

Thank you!

With everyone in their finest duds, people from Colorado Springs and Denver enjoyed a night of fancy fun! Live music and food and drink tasting from some of Colorado Spring's favorite establishments started off a night of learning about Yobel's unique and effective poverty alleviation method. 

We had such a wonderful night and were humbled to be surrounded by so many amazing people. It is always a joy to see so many new faces and get to share about Yobel with them. It is also so much fun to get to learn about new and awesome food and drink in our community! 

We came in with an audacious goal of raising $40,000, double last year's goal, in order to help with the costs of expanding the curriculum. Because of the incredible generosity of the attendees we raised $27,867 in donations that evening. Over the course of the upcoming year we expect another $5,434 to come from recurring donations initiated at the event. We are blown away by the generosity and are so thankful to be in such an amazing community.

If you would like to help us complete our goal with a monthly recurring or one time donation, please click the button to donate!

Sponsors

Special thanks again to our sponsors. With their help we were able to cover a large amount of the costs of the event and more of your donations were able to go directly to helping Yobel International spread the business training even further. 

GOLD LEVEL SPONSOR

GOLD LEVEL SPONSOR

SILVER LEVEL SPONSORS

Mission Trip Insurance  •  Plexus Worldwide - Grace Willburn  • 100% Chiropractic  •  Broadmoor Bluffs Realty - Janna Mulder

2016 TASTERS

Blue Fish Distillery • Blue Star Bakery • Bristol Brewery • Building 3 Coffee • Colorado Smokehouse BBQ • Dinner with the Chef • Distillery 291 • Gimme-a-Cupcake2 • Garden of the Gods Gourmet Bake Shoppe • Mu Brewery • Nothing Bundt Cakes • Peak Place • The Pinery • Radiantly Raw • Red Rock Relish • Rudy's • Switchback Roasters • Republic National Wine Distributors

Thailand Scholarship Recipients Update

In April 2016, Yobel took an Exposure Trip to Thailand. Two of these Exposure Trip participants were the first two recipients in Yobel’s new Exposure Trip scholarship program! Funded through the 2015 Indy Give! Campaign, these two attendees received the opportunity to join the Thailand trip to lead Yobel’s entrepreneurial business training and have their own lives impacted in remarkable ways.

Todd teaching a lesson on Business Basics with our translator, Mr. Chu.

Todd teaching a lesson on Business Basics with our translator, Mr. Chu.

We followed up with Hunter and Todd a few months after the experience to ask them how they were impacted by the opportunity to experience Thai culture, build relationships with Thai and hill tribes people, and facilitate Yobel’s entrepreneurial business training internationally.

1) How did receiving this scholarship impact your ability to attend a Yobel Exposure Trip?

Hunter: Not only did it enable me to attend, it encouraged me that God was calling me to go!

Todd: The generous support of the Exposure Trip Scholarship Fund was the only way I was able to go on this trip. It was an essential, and welcomed help.

2) How did attending this trip to Thailand impact you most?

Hunter facilitating a lesson on Marketing.

Hunter facilitating a lesson on Marketing.

Hunter: Mostly seeing the work that is being done was a real encouragement to me and an invitation to dream bigger! Also, seeing extreme poverty in a third world context was very enlightening.

Todd: This trip really helped to grow my global awareness about the realities of the developing world (education, business, poverty, social pressures) from vague perceptions into clear, personal, and poignant stories. As someone who is wanting to increasingly look outwardly with compassion, clear thinking, and action, this trip to Thailand was pivotal.

3) What is one or two ways you plan to live in response to what you observed/experienced in Thailand?

Todd conducting End of Course Surveys with Rain and Gai after training.

Todd conducting End of Course Surveys with Rain and Gai after training.

Hunter: I will continue to purchase fair trade and ethically made items that are made by people in marginalized communities. I plan to continue my research on poverty alleviation and act as an advocate. I also plan to be very present in my daily life, acknowledging the vastness of my God, and living in response to His faithfulness and love.

Todd: I love the Thai people. With this trip being my second time in Thailand, it solidified my desire to live in Thailand someday, for an extended period of time. While this was merely a distant idea previous to this trip, it has now become a growing priority for our family. Secondly, I have become compelled to respond to the issue of sex-trafficking in Thailand as well as locally, in practical ways. Through working with another local non-profit as a volunteer, I want to start working on the prevention/awareness side of the issue.

4) Why is this scholarship program an important one?

Hunger conducting a Registration Survey with Kanlaya before training.

Hunger conducting a Registration Survey with Kanlaya before training.

Hunter: The more people who are learning about the injustices of the world, the better. The program allows for more people to be educated and to pursue dreams, free from fear.

Todd: I personally believe that if every person who lives in a first world nation could spend at least a few days in the developing world (i.e. Exposure Trip), that our collective minds and hearts would change for the better, and our world would change in response. These trips are important. Yobel's stance is that if money is an issue in going on one of these trips, it shouldn't be. I have been a grateful recipient of this help, and know that many will benefit from it as well.

We are so thrilled that Hunter and Todd were able to join us on this Thailand Exposure Trip and to know that they are committed to pursuing continued growth now that they have returned and settled back into their lives in the US!

If you are interested in joining a Yobel Exposure Trip, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and check out our currently scheduled upcoming Exposure Trips.

Kenya July 2016 Trip Report


In July 2016, Yobel International had the privilege of partnering with Transformational Ventures, Just One Africa, and Mercy House Global to conduct a business training in Nairobi, Kenya. After a full week of experiential learning through small group discussions, skits, role playing, games, and application activities, we celebrated together as 36 graduates received certificates that signified their successful completion of this 30+ hour foundational business course.These graduates now have the tools needed to establish and sustain successful small businesses to meet local needs. These certificates also increase their employability should they choose to seek a job. Fifteen of these graduates, representing nine different organizations, completed our Train the Trainers program in addition to the Entrepreneurial Training Course. These leaders currently serve in a variety of compassion-based organizations and ministries throughout Kenya and Ethiopia, including pregnancy homes for teenage mothers, women’s empowerment organizations that challenge child marriage and FGM (like Naomi pictured below), land conservation and eco-tourism, water purification, education, and more. These inspiring and talented men and women have incredible vision for their nation and people. They sacrificed much to spend a week with us to be equipped with this business training tool.  Now, they are committed to bringing this knowledge back to those who have been entrusted to their care, each with a hope and vision to challenge cycles of poverty and systems of inequality.

Before, I did business how I knew, but with no plan. Now I have learned about planning and how that will help my business grow. I would participate in an advanced training because where you have projected me today I will rise to. When you come back for the next training I will be in a new place and be ready for more training.
— Elizabeth Seney, 49 year old, widowed caretaker of 8 children, future owner of expanded cow business & bee farm

Aregahegan & Nati

Two incredible future facilitators were Aregahegan and Nati, who travelled all the way from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. These two amazing men work for an organization called Caring for Korah, serving families who formerly made their living off of garbage they could collect and resell from the city dump. They came to this training because recently, the government decided to move the dump outside of the capital, displacing thousands of those whose meager livelihoods were built upon scavenging the waste of others. Nati and Aregahegan came to Yobel's business training to learn to empower those in their community to dream bigger and gain the skills necessary to begin small businesses within their neighborhood. These skills will provide an income that can sustain them in the absence of their former jobs - skills which are represented in the graph below. Over 40% of our attendees said they learned for the first time during this Kenya training!

New Concepts Learned in Training


Onesmus


Onesmus, pictured above with his new friend John, is a young, determined future entrepreneur. Each training day he traveled from his home in a nearby slum wearing freshly pressed shirt and trousers, eager to absorb every idea offered by his fellow facilitators. Onesmus has a very firm plan in mind for his future. His dream is to help his friend's businesses become more successful by becoming an auditor. After completing the training, he told us, “[My future business will] teach people how to earn more and [spend] less and avoid impulse buying.” During the business basics session, Onesmus wrote a very clear mission statement and several SMART objectives. With the graduation certificate he received from Yobel, he plans to get a job in a nearby firm to increase his current earnings of $12 per month. His goal is to save $60 every month for 5 years in order to begin his own auditing firm in 2021. Onesmus is among the 53% of attendees who did not own a business prior to this training, but through the training developed solid plans to begin an enterprise in the near future.

[My future business will] teach people how to earn more and [spend] less and avoid impulse buying.
— Onesmus, future owner of a financial management company

Below are the areas of business our recent graduates plan to pursue. We look forward to interviewing them in the next year to see how they have progressed as well as how they are growing and overcoming challenges and obstacles along the way!

Future Businesses

We are so thankful to everyone who participated in enabling these amazing men and women to engage in such a life changing week together! If you would like to be involved in a future training trip we would love to have you. Please consider joining an upcoming exposure trip, praying for our team of facilitators and entrepreneurs, or making a way for additional men and women to be trained by sponsoring an attendee for $300.

Totonga Bomoi 6-12 Month Impact Report

Totonga Bomoi hosted a Yobel Business training in February 2015, providing entrepreneurs with business knowledge that was previously unavailable in their community of Aru, Democratic Republic of Congo. This curriculum expanded on the vocational training they receive from being a part of Totonga Bomoi's amazing sewing cooperative, which develops the skills necessary to equip these women as strong employees and business owners in their community.

Check out their results and the impact of Yobel's Business Training below!

We are so excited to see what these wonderful entrepreneurs continue to do in their community!

Thailand: Chiang Mai Business Training

Well friends, we are back from a groundbreaking two weeks for Yobel. It was a time of firsts. The trip to Thailand was the first time our curriculum was conducted in Southeast Asia AND the first time we performed a Train the Trainers internationally!

Over the next several weeks we will share more about this adventure: the exposure trip, another Train the Trainers in Bangkok, and entrepreneur highlights. For now, here is the story of Yobel’s business training conducted in Chiang Mai from April 25-29.

The view from our balcony, the sun setting behind the haze. In rainier seasons the sky would be a nice clear blue.

The view from our balcony, the sun setting behind the haze. In rainier seasons the sky would be a nice clear blue.

Despite the incredible heat (above 110°F most of the time) and smoke, many of Chiang Mai’s charms were not lost on us. The people were truly delightful, friendly, pleasant, and, of course, full of smiles. The culture and architecture were amazing. The food was delicious, including the meals we enjoyed almost daily at the Ina House, the guest-house run by AIPP, our hosting organization.

 

 

While it would be easy to spend months just exploring the places and culture of Thailand, we were there for a specific purpose: to bring Yobel’s business curriculum to a group of men and women from outlying hill tribes. 

s-IMG_6108.jpg

Many of the trainees (who we call entrepreneurs through the course of training) already have amazing skills in handicrafts or agriculture and have an incredible support system through AIPP - Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact. We were so grateful and honored that AIPP invited us and hosted us for this business training.

Throughout the week, we were so impressed by the pride these villagers have for their tribes and communities. They also have a beautiful value for organic farming and promoting agriculture that preserves the integrity of the forest they live in. They even recycled throughout the training and had a deep understanding of their impact on the environment! Through AIPP, they have an impressive support structure and advocate as a people group who generally has to operate outside the social supports of their country.

 

Yobel's Business Training

The training was attended by both men and women of a wide age range - including two 15 year olds and two 60-somethings! There was also a wide range of education levels: from those with no schooling at all to those with several master’s degrees. Some entrepreneurs had never used a calculator and some were using their smartphone’s calculators. It was an interesting mix and one that provided for opportunities of peer-to-peer support among the attendees. At the end of training, we celebrated the graduation of 30 of the 33 entrepreneurs. We shared so many laughs with these amazing people during the week!

As always, much of what is taught in this business training is new (even to those with master’s degrees!) and can be a struggle, but the trainees took it all in stride. More than other trainings I have been a part of, people in this course really wanted to be heard and many of them had a lot to say. I think this really shows their respect for each other and their love of community.

We also saw SO MUCH collaboration in this group! By the end of the training there were multiple people figuring out ways to work together and cross-promote businesses. The entire group decided to start a Facebook group to keep in touch, help brainstorm through problems, and continue to network. This was a first in any of our trainings we’ve hosted so far!

Struggles & Surprises

Not everything was perfect and lovely and unicorns, of course. It never is. We had some major struggles the first couple days of training with translation equipment that made the initial lessons more difficult to teach. Because of this, we think a lot of the good stuff from our first few lessons (a lot of encouraging people to dream big, think outside the box, overcoming obstacles; some very empowering lessons) did not come across fully.

These first lessons are some of our favorites, so it was discouraging that they might not be appreciated in full, but we think we were able to instill some of this in conversations later in the training. Partway through Day 2 we were able to get rid of the translation ear pieces and it was a million times better. We also had some difficulty with translation in the entrepreneur workbook. There were times when a topic that is easily summarized in a couple of words in English, did not have a direct translation in Thai. Literally, they need a sentence or a paragraph to get the point across, instead of just one word. Our translator, Mr. Chu, was skilled at expanding on these concepts to explain them more fully and was an incredible asset throughout the business training.

One disconnect that we encountered while working with this particular group is that many were hoping we had come in the role of consultant, rather than trainer. They heard this would be a business training and interpreted that to mean Americans had come to solve their business woes. But, this isn’t what we do. Instead, Yobel teaches people that they are capable of being the answer to their own problems. We do not tell people which kind of business they should start nor what price to charge for a particular product. Instead we instruct them in how to survey their market and determine what will be viable in their communities, then establish a firm foundation of practices that will lead to future success. We KNOW our friends around the world are capable of answering these questions for themselves and that true empowerment only occurs when we give people the opportunity to realize their own capacity. Yobel gives them the tools and the space to think through their ideas, to test budgets for themselves and see if they might be viable, to consider how to give their product or service a comparative advantage over similar products, and so much more. Teaching a man to fish can be challenging, but incredibly rewarding when they realize they have the tools to succeed on their own in the future.

They heard this would be a business training and interpreted that to mean Americans had come to solve their business woes. But, this isn’t what we do. Instead, Yobel teaches people that they are capable of being the answer to their own problems.

An unusual surprise was that people actually appreciated the pricing portion! Normally this is one of the hardest sessions to teach, but many of the responses we received were grateful and communicated that the entrepreneurs now have a better idea how to price to actually make a profit.

With the advanced education levels of many of our trainees (majority of attendees had high school or college level education), we struggled to find a balance between keeping the people with lower education up to speed, and keeping it interesting for those with higher education levels. Even those who already knew the concepts, were asked to put them into practice, a first for many. While our curriculum is aimed at helping people with little-to-no-education start micro-businesses, I am always impressed and surprised with how much is learned by people of ALL education levels.

Ekkachai

“Before I would just spend with no plan, but now, I would like to make a plan”

He is working to start a homestay program in his village with the help of his father.

Jump

“Savings plan - I didn’t think it was important, but now I think it is very important. This meeting made me active to think.”

“A lot of my friends want to start business, but do it in the wrong way and have failed.”

Fluke

“This class was first time to learn about business, how to plan, what to do, how to improve business, how to make customer like it.”

She wants to start a juice business, and has a plan to save 5000 baht (almost $150) a month so she can start it within 2 years.

Kittiya

“After I train, I will go step by step instead of the second step first.”

“What you learn you must go and do it instead of keeping it in the book."

Business Training Impact

Based on end of course surveys, this incredible group said that the business planning, pricing, record keeping, ethics, and savings concepts were most valuable. For many, this was their first opportunity to create a mission statement for their business and to solidify realistic objectives to move from their business from idea to reality. After training, 21 of 30 entrepreneurs plan to begin 24 new businesses. Their business plans include homestays for tourists, tea and coffee plantations, agro-businesses, and dormitory housing for students in Chiang Mai. They will share their new business knowledge with 828 people in their villages, an average of 25 people each! We are so proud of this amazing bunch and can't wait to hear what they've done when we check in next!

Give Well

I recently attended a screening of Poverty, Inc., a documentary film that is asking some very good questions about how we do ‘aid’ within the developing world. At the end of the film there was a question and answer session with one of the filmmakers, Simon Scionika. After a few moments of discussion, one of the audience members spoke up in exasperation, saying something to the effect of, “If we aren’t doing any good in these nations, maybe instead of trying to help, we should all just get out.” 

I am finding that to be a common sentiment these days. With so many critiques of development organizations and methods out there, it can be hard to know where to give anymore. Even larger, trusted organizations have their issues – overhead and overstaffing, to name a few.

Despite this, I believe that generosity is not dead. However, I sometimes fear that it is on the decline.

The average household gives 2% of their income to charitable causes. The average business is offering far less. There are rumors that Uncle Sam is going to make it more difficult for citizens to receive deductions and that churches will be taxed in coming years. There are frequent reports of charities misallocating funds resulting in disillusionment and donor fatigue. 

As a result, Americans are wising up – searching sites such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator before offering their donated dollar. They are giving to vetted organizations through monitoring sites such as Fidelity, Orchard Foundation, Waterstone, and other umbrella foundations. Many discerning philanthropists prefer smaller nonprofits with which they have a personal connection or experience.

And although I believe in the power of story to inspire change and celebrate life, gone are the days when an emotional plea can fund a budget year after year. The new, savvy giver wants statistics, testimonials, and credo in addition to the time-honored narrative.

And rightly so.

This generation is doing the nonprofit world a gigantic favor by requiring us to tell the quantitative story in addition to the qualitative; to measure our work and report on it (and then hire someone else to report on our reporting).

When I first stepped into this line of work, I was a passionate young idealist who wanted to help her friends around the world live better lives. It was enough in the early days to witness transformation for myself and to know we were making a difference.

Thankfully, our organization was able to receive some much needed consultation on how to begin creating measurement and evaluation tools to help us join the 21st century.

At first I chaffed. These surveys take time. So. Much. Time. We dedicate a full hour to surveying entrepreneurs at the beginning and end of our training course and another full hour within the following year.

We train over 250 entrepreneurs annually. That is a minimum of 500 hours just in surveying per year. And it doesn’t come cheap.

BUT what I didn’t realize would be a byproduct of learning to comply with best practices was the joy I would have as a result. You should see me on survey day. I steal them all before my programs staff can touch them and greedily read every single handwritten page – highlighting my favorite quotes along the way. Survey day is the best day. And it gives me cause to celebrate what God is doing in his people’s lives around the world, and what we, foolish though we are, get to be a part of.

While I may have dragged my feet in the beginning, I am now 150% onboard. Not only because I agree that there must be accountability for the sake of the donor, but also because we nonprofits need to know if the work we are doing is really the work we think we are doing. We need to know that the stories we are telling are true and that every dollar we accept is going to fund a worthy cause.

And so we survey. And we survey. And we analyze those surveys. Or rather, Hannah analyzes them.

Initially I thought this would make us more worthy of people’s generosity. But then I realized that no one is worthy of generosity - that would belie the action itself. 

You see, there is often a stark difference between charitable giving and generous giving. Charitable giving, while kind, necessary, and all-in-all a good thing to do, can sometimes be more about giving from a surplus and checking something off a list rather than than giving from our hearts. As a result, its impact is felt differently, primarily by the giver. 

And it is this kind of giving that I fear is leading to a decline in our nation’s philanthropy. People are forgetting what generosity feels like and are missing the benefit that comes as a result. 

I would imagine that if we all took a moment to reflect, we could each remember a time in which we were deeply affected by an extravagant gift we have received from another. Possibly those gifts held great monetary value; more often they were those given sacrificially from a loved one’s heart. 

One such moment that continues to replay in my mind was not even a gift meant for me, but one I witnessed given to another. Nearly 12 years ago I traveled within the crowded capital of Ethiopia. If you haven’t travelled to Addis Ababa, you wouldn’t know that it is a city where religious custom combines with deep poverty to fill a city to the brim with beggars. You cannot walk more than 10 steps in any public place without being swarmed by those desperate for alms. 

Photo Credit: David Stanley, Flickr

Photo Credit: David Stanley, Flickr

I was traveling at the time with two other American women in our twenties and we were overwhelmed to say the least. Our local driver, Sam, was taking us souvenir shopping and, as we parked in front of a craft shop, our vehicle was thronged with a multitude of outstretched hands. We hastily rolled our windows up and fixed our eyes straight ahead as though none of the faces pressed against the glass were there.

While we were busy inspecting the shop’s cinder block wall, Sam opened his door and got out. He walked straight up to a sickly woman whose eyes were matted shut, placed an arm around her shoulders and pulled a tissue from his pocket to gently wipe her face, simultaneously depositing a few coins into her outstretched hand. 

All the while, the three of us sat there, humbled and slightly ashamed by what we had just witnessed. Sam had demonstrated love toward his neighbor in such a beautiful and tangible way while the rest of us chose to disengage and self-protect. Protect ourselves from what? From the needs of others? From the beautiful people just on the other side of the glass? 

That day Sam gave me a gift that would forever change me. His generosity of spirit and person challenged me to live differently in response to those around me. 

Oftentimes we hear of a large sum being given to this organization or that by a wealthy donor. These large monetary contributions are referred to as “generous gifts.” As a result, we have been conditioned to think that generosity is defined quantitatively. 

But I would argue that the true measure of generosity is not the monetary value, but instead the intention with which it is given. For a gift to be truly generous, I believe it must cost the giver. 

When we encounter this form of generosity, it has the power to change us, just as I was changed that chaotic day in Addis Ababa.

Photo Credit:  hnphoto on Flickr.

Photo Credit:  hnphoto on Flickr.

But the receiver is not the only one who is changed. The giver is also transformed by the act of giving. This is why Jesus told the parable of the widow and her mite. He was pleased not by what she gave, but how she gave. Sacrificially. Of herself. And I am sure she too left that temple a different woman. 

In this way, generosity is a two-way street. Making the adage “it is more blessed to give than to receive” one of profound truth. When we give deeply and intentionally, we receive a joy and satisfaction that cannot be attained in any other way. We get to become an integral part of another’s life that binds us in solidarity. 

At the end of the day, I do hope our organizational commitment to reporting makes us a little more worthy of people’s charitable donations, but it cannot make us more worthy of their generosity.

More importantly, I hope it makes us better. I hope it causes us to rethink our lesson plans, change our timelines, and shift our parameters. I also hope it fuels our fire and validates those long days with little pay.

We still have lots to learn in this area and plenty of room to grow, but for now I can say with the clearest of consciences that we are doing the best we can with the resources allotted. And I am ever so grateful for those who choose to see the work we are called to and invest in it, despite the difficulty we all face in choosing where and how to give.

Instead of becoming frustrated by the challenge of finding worthy causes or discouraged by the news reports of misallocated funds, those with generosity stamped on their hearts find a way to give and give abundantly. I am proud of those who have chosen this path because those who sow generously will also reap generously. And so, my friends, I dare you to give. To consider well, dig deep, and give. And not only to give charitably, but to give generously. Because as they say, what goes around comes around, and truly, it is more blessed to give than to receive.

~Sarah Ray

Thankfulness Across the Globe

It’s that time of year when we are surrounded by reminders to be thankful. Here at Yobel we are blessed to train entrepreneurs in developing communities around the world. We are reminded of their thankfulness through the conversations we have with them and the surveys we receive. Here is just a smattering of quotes from those amazing entrepreneurs and what they’re thankful for in 2015.

In expressing their thanks to Yobel, these entrepreneurs are expressing their gratitude to the entire network of people who make it possible for them to receive this training. So please hear their expression of gratitude as thanks to you for supporting the vision and mission of Yobel. Without you, this training and these opportunities would be impossible. Thank you!

Trainees in Kigumba, Uganda.

Trainees in Kigumba, Uganda.

Aru, Democratic Republic of Congo (Trained February 2015)

“I found the training was wonderful. It was wonderful because it taught us how to live in society and how to organize ourselves.” -Ezania Antoinette, 24, mother of 1, employee of a sewing cooperative, plans to open a dress making business

“Thank you very much and when you come back to bring more knowledge and great things.” -Edrako Mawa Celline, 20, employee of a sewing cooperative

Totonga Bomoi's training group in Aru, DRC.

Totonga Bomoi's training group in Aru, DRC.

Kigumba, Uganda (Trained March 2015)

“My family will be happy because my life will be completely different than it was before.” -Khalongo Isaac, 32, father of 4, plans to open a construction business

“Thank you and God bless us!” - Abby David, 27 year old male, caretaker of 4 children, maize farmer and cattle seller

“After the Yobel training, with the knowledge I learned about savings, I was able to save for 1 year, start a 2nd business, build a house, and take in an orphan. Now I have 3 businesses” - Olusa Abel, 33, father of 2, owner of 3 businesses

“I am happy.” - Jane Omaya, 40, mother of 6, owner of a tailoring business

“I thank God for wonderful program. Thank you to facilitators that have been giving us knowledge.” -Okato John Bosco, 40, caretaker of 8 children, plans to open a produce busines

Trainees in Kigumba, Uganda celebrating graduation from the Entrepreneurial Training.

Trainees in Kigumba, Uganda celebrating graduation from the Entrepreneurial Training.

Kyakitanga, Uganda (Trained March 2015)

“Thank you for coming and opening our eyes to the knowledge of business!” -Topiesta Namara, 48, widow, completed 2nd grade, currently sells tea, plans to open a clothing shop

“Thank you. You've helped us really!” -Kigozi Marjorie, 34, raises goats, plans to open a general store

Trainees in Kyakitanga, Uganda playing the human knot game to learn about leadership and teamwork.

Trainees in Kyakitanga, Uganda playing the human knot game to learn about leadership and teamwork.

Byumba, Rwanda (Trained July 2014; 6-12 month surveys collected March 2015)

“I got fearless to start a new business I had [dreamed of] many years ago, to see products [made] on time, to make customers faithful to me.” -Mukamuhire Josephine, 42, Kibali, married

“Life changed because of the experience I got from trainings and I share everything with my family members and plan together” -Kaburame Emmanuel, 56, Byumba, married, father of 5, plans to own a hen breeding business

“Thank you for brethren in Jesus. Be blessed all.” -Mukiza Ferdinand, 23, completed 6th grad

Trainees in Byumba, Rwanda.

Trainees in Byumba, Rwanda.

Musanze, Rwanda (Trained July 2014; 6-12 month surveys collected March 2015)

“I really thank Yobel International as their training has changed my lifestyle.” -Kayites Caritas, 44. mother of 4, tailor, plans to open a hair salon

“I do appreciate the Yobel training as it helped change my life.” -Mugabushaka Calioppe, 41, tailor with plans to expand his current business

Calioppe celebrating his creation at the training Musanze, Rwanda.

Calioppe celebrating his creation at the training Musanze, Rwanda.

Soroti, Uganda (Trained August 2014; 6-12 month surveys collected March 2015)

“My business is growing. I thank God for bringing Yobel to train us on business. My life is doing well now than before the training.” -Atwano Joice, 35, completed 2nd grade, mother of 7 children, owner of a retail shop

“My life is now changed because I know what I have saved. My spirit is filled with joy.” -Atwano Joice, 35, completed 2nd grade, mother of 7 children, owner of a retail shop

“I am thanking God for good work He has given me” -Eyagu Samuel, 24, plans to open a butcher shop

“The training gave me joy and hope. It eliminated my fear.” -Promise, 20, survivor of human trafficking

“My life has changed from sadness to know joy, because of my business.” -Anyodo Selina, 65, completed 2nd grade, single mother, caretaker of 5 orphans, owner of a produce business

Photo courtesy of Beauty for Ashes Uganda.

Photo courtesy of Beauty for Ashes Uganda.

Mwenze, Tanzania (Trained July 2015)

“I would like to thank all who helped make this.” -Lydia Mgarabi, 34, mother of 3, owner of a tailoring business

“I would like to thank the teacher for giving good instruction and answering all questions” -Rebecca Marton, 17 years old, plans to open a dress sho

Celebrating with trainees in Kigumba, Uganda.

Celebrating with trainees in Kigumba, Uganda.

We are thankful to have the opportunity to invest in global entrepreneurs and share in their joy and transformed lives! Thank YOU for your support of them as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Human Trafficking, Right In Front of You

Human Trafficking, Right In Front of You

I recently re-encountered another common, more subtle form of trafficking. It feels common, sometimes annoying, and might be surprising to you: 

IT'S THE TEENS OR YOUNG ADULTS TRYING TO SELL YOU MAGAZINES, BOOKS OR OTHER GOODS. 

It often seems harmless. They knock on your door or approach you in a parking lot. They tell you that they are raising money for sports, a school trip, contest, or for a children's hospital. Sometimes these kids are working for legitimate companies, but sometimes, the real story is hard to believe. 

Does the Developing World Really Need Another Tailor?

Meet Jenifer. Jenifer lives in a rural village in Northern Uganda and is the mother of twins with another baby on the way. She was trained to sew by friends and partners of Canaan Farm and is really quite adept at tailoring school uniforms, aprons, handbags and the like on her foot treadle machine. During half of the year, Jenifer and her husband are subsistence farmers who grow enough maize to feed their family plus a bit extra to sell in nearby markets. They earn around $332 per year during the biannual harvest. Every so often, the tailoring project she is a part of provides enough orders from organizations located in the US and Uganda to supplement Jenifer’s meager income. Other times however, there are no orders to be had and Jenifer’s family must find a way to survive on their less than $1 per day earnings.

When Jenifer was first trained to sew along with a class of 18 other village women living in her area, she had high hopes that this skill would provide the means to support her family and provide a quality education for her children. The buying power of America alone could provide a good wage for the items Jenifer could produce and she imagined that her life was about to change for the better. But Jenifer quickly learned alongside the other women in her class that orders were not consistent, that the American market was always changing and that producing the kind of quality desired was difficult on her machine. If a needle broke or material ran out, the nearest market was several hours walk along dusty roads. She began to understand that her hopes of a new vocation may not be realized.

Jenifer is one of many men and women living in developing communities who was singled out to receive skills training when NGOs began to rethink their method of foreign aid distribution a decade or so ago. Many began to adapt their strategies to what they deemed more “sustainable” approaches to poverty alleviation, including the important piece of encouraging business and trade infrastructure within many impoverished nations. Well-meaning philanthropists and ministries soon caught on and the fair trade industry was launched along with the “business as missions” model. At first, it seemed like we may have found the solution. Instead of giving hand-outs, we were giving hand-ups. We were empowering people to learn a skill and work ethical jobs to support their families. Ideally, aid would no longer be required after a relatively short period of training.

And let me say first of all that many of these initiatives have been incredibly successful at creating industry where there may not have been otherwise. They have offered hope through empowering work opportunities and connected Western consumers with the people behind their products. They have given many under-employed individuals the dignity of vocation and guided the global poor into new export marketplaces. We applaud those who have been able to do this well and to bring good news to the poor in this tangible way!

I have also watched many of these tailoring, jewelry making, and basket weaving startups begin with great expectations only to falter, limp, and eventually fail.

There are many reasons for this, ranging from poor quality and work ethic, to inflated and unrealistic wages paid to artisans, poor design and marketing, lack of infrastructure and communication, unreliable supply chains, corruption, and lack of product diversification.

These are challenges that Yobel Market (the direct trade business I co-founded and currently own) has confronted every day in our 8 years of working with global artisan groups. Yobel currently contributes to the fair wages and market access of over 1,500 tailors, farmers, jewelry makers, leather workers, weavers, and carpenters working around the developing world. We recognize that those living below the global poverty line have typically less than a 2% share of the international export market. We love that we can help connect the beauty of these people and their handiwork with our community here in the United States!

Let me also say that we have had a hand in supplying either tailoring training, quality control, design, and/or color theory courses directly to another 90+ women and men trying to improve their livelihoods and become more profitable in emerging marketplaces since 2008. We did this out of our heart to empower those living in poverty to have a sustainable means of providing for themselves. Sometimes we were successful using this model, other times less so.   

This is why I grit my teeth a little when I hear of yet another passionate ministry or organization supplying tailoring (or jewelry making, etc) training to another group of hopeful women living in India or other far off place. Not because what they are doing is BAD. And not because I have seen particularly limited outcomes result from these trainings.

Largely because of basic principles of supply and demand coupled with the fact that many of these organizations have conducted little research into the needs of the market they are getting ready to flood with hopeful artisans. This is a mistake we have made and had to rectify with a broader version of entrepreneurial training here at Yobel.

This is the mistake that we in the West make so often when we act as the “Planners” identified in William Easterly’s book entitled White Man’s Burden. Planners are agents in charge of distributing an aid organization’s assets to attempt to fix large scale problems (like poverty or trafficking) utilizing an outside-looking-in approach, making recommendations based on what we think a community needs based on our own first world values and experiences.

If we are planners as Easterly describes them, we would utilize our best intentions to locate a group of women needing empowerment and then rightly ask ourselves a series of questions that might sound a little like this:

Question: What is better than giving these women a hand out?
Answer: How about the ability to provide for themselves?

Question: What are relevant jobs women can do in this culture with a relatively low entry level?
Answer: How about tailoring? Or jewelry making. Retail. Perhaps cosmetology or catering?

From this conclusion, planners formulate a solution and create a proposal that will provide the requisite funding to train 50 or so women to become artisans of some kind. Then after a year or so, they determine the women have graduated and give them a sewing machine or loom as a parting gift and expect them to now be able to provide for themselves and vacate poverty or prostitution for a better life. If we elected to teach them make a handicraft then we think we can probably get people in America to buy their products and that these women will have the added benefit of a Western market. Success!

The problem is, it’s hard to get a high quality product with good design using local supply chains while maintaining both a fair wage and an accessible end price point for a US customer. You have to stay ahead of the trends. You have to work with artisans who have never met international standards or deadlines before and maybe have never developed their fine motor skills. You combat transportation issues, strikes, natural disasters, foreign holidays, malaria, deaths in the family and lack of child care. And at the end of the day, if you can’t dream up a quality product that is easy and affordable to create that stays on trend, you can’t market it over and over again and your newly trained tailors are out of a job, or at least lacking consistent wages. This isn’t to discourage you, it is simply reality. There are many successful companies and organizations doing this and some really beautiful products with purpose in the marketplace as a result. It can be done!

“Well, what if I train them to sew for their local marketplace instead of an international one?”

GREAT IDEA!!! Really.

This will be successful in accomplishing your goals of:

  • Empowering women
  • Increasing their confidence and social standing
  • Improving their ability to earn a consistent income
  • Improving their opportunities for employment, self or otherwise

IF the following is also true:

  • The women themselves came up with the idea of wanting to be trained as a tailor/weaver/caterer/cosmetologist in the first place
  • The women have the fine motor skills, health, time and commitment to gain these skills
  • You have conducted local market research and determined there is a need for more tailors/weavers/caterers/cosmetologists in the area
  • You are training the appropriate number of tailors/weavers/caterers/cosmetologists to fill this gap in the local economy, no more
  • You are also equipping these women with necessary entrepreneurial and job acquisition skills to be able to secure employment. Meaning for example, that these women are not only learning how to sew, but they are learning what to sew, and how to determine profit margins, set proper prices, keep accurate records, maintain budgets, acquire and retain customers, forecast budgets and reinvest profits
  • The women trained have the support of their family and spouses to pursue employment in the future
  • The project is properly funded and managed
  • The women have access to some form of start up capital or an initial loan of equipment and materials
  • The women know how to set appropriate goals and move forward post training
  • The women realize from Day 1 that you are not the one providing jobs for them, only training. Acquiring a job or income post training is their responsibility, even though you may help with the process.

But rarely do we take the time to conduct the due diligence necessary to ensure we are doing more than cranking out dozens of women who are trained in the same skill as their neighbor with little understanding of how to turn that skill into a business or reach a marketplace. Trust me, I have learned this the hard way.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thinking about how to address unemployment and gender related issues young women face around the globe. We absolutely should.

Denise Dunning put it this way in her article for the Pulitzer Prize winning Guardian:

Despite the clear benefits of investing in employment opportunities for girls, the global economic crisis has created serious challenges for youth employment. According to the International Labour Organisation's 2012 report, the global youth unemployment rate has risen since 2007 and medium-term projections suggest little improvement in the next few years. Further, macroeconomic conditions create particular challenges for adolescent girls, who experience greater rates of unemployment compared to boys in nearly every region of the world. Given these challenges, vocational training can play a key role in helping girls get jobs. Vocational training typically includes development of technical capacity, entrepreneurship, and business skills. Ideally, vocational training is demand-oriented and builds specific skills tailored to prospective employers' needs.

‘Vocational training for young women: what works and what doesn't.’ By Denise Dunning 

Yobel believes that looking for solutions to poverty and vulnerability in the business sector is definitely the way forward. But we need to stop and think before we plunge blindly forward into funding another under-researched program just because it sounds like a good idea.

We must tread carefully in our development attempts and be the question askers rather than the answer givers.

We must be Easterly’s “Searchers,” seeking out what communities in the developing world truly want for themselves and the best way to achieve those goals, rather than acting as “Planners.” And we must rely on the expertise and knowledge of those whom we are desiring to serve rather than acting as though our education, experience, or access to finance make us the authority in solving their problems.

So don’t let this article stop you from seeking to do good unto another. Don’t be discouraged if you, like me, have trained people in the developing world with the hope they will have a consistently paying job as a result when this is in fact not how things turned out. DO seek to offer the skills and connections that will enable others to seek out a sustainable future utilizing their assets and abilities (we can help).

Reformers are always looking back and criticizing the actions of their predecessors. This is a good thing when it leads to more effective ways of doing things based on what history has taught us. 10 years from now, we will be the ones they are evaluating. I think if we can keep this inevitable future in mind as we initiate programs, it will help us to constantly be measuring and evaluating our success and apologizing and improving when necessary. If we are motivated by the desire to love our neighbors as ourselves and willing to be humble seekers in our approach, I know that lives will be impacted in positive ways. Even if it means we must consider more carefully before training another tailor.

- Sarah Ray

Why Entrepreneurial Development?

Mother Teresa said it very simply, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

When I traveled to India with Yobel a couple years ago, we visited a non-profit called Love Calcutta Arts (LCA). This organization provides work for women in the sex industry by coming alongside them and giving them alternative work. More than just providing a job they offer an opportunity for dignifying work with a sustainable livelihood. LCA gives the women the means to provide for their families outside of prostitution. They develop entrepreneurs that bring longevity and sustainability to the community around them and even to the world in the long run. The women continue to live in their communities so they can build into them. The ripple effect was and is huge, all because of a few stones being cast onto the waters.

If we look into the hearts and minds of people in today’s world, we will see the need for growth and understanding to build truth into the lives of those around us. Speaking into people about who they are called and created to be brings out the best in them. Developing them as entrepreneurs, encourages unique and gifted individuals who have worthwhile desires and goals. Speaking into who they are builds up the individual to see the greater good and need of others around them.

Developing people as entrepreneurs not only transforms individuals, but also their communities. Seeing and looking at the greater good is the means of building up people and community. Entrepreneurship recognizes a need, fulfills that necessity, creates jobs, builds income and even causes people outside of a community to join in. This reaches where there was a chasm of need. Developing entrepreneurs provides answers to large-scale needs while developing individuals within a community.

Individual and community transformation is at the heart of entrepreneurial development. It’s not just about creating jobs or money for people, but also providing the sustainable means to do so for longevity of the greater good. Developing people as entrepreneurs creates ripples within individuals and communities. By each person doing their part to change things we are all creating ripples within the world and the communities we live in. It brings humanity into full view. Entrepreneurial development is not just a means for increasing personal gain, but develops someone that has needs and a family. It provides the trainers with an opportunity to empower someone who is just like them, someone who bleeds red. Personally that is the greatest effect. Entrepreneurial training looks into people and sees them for who they are-- equal.

written by Aaron Jalovec

Every World Changer’s Battle: A conversation on dealing with corruption and cynicism.

If you have ever attempted to do anything good in the world, sought to create change or reform any broken system, then no doubt you have developed a personal relationship with cynicism. While some of us are better at fending her off than others, if we continue in the work, jadedness will inevitably rear her sly little head.

This is the battle of the world changers; a battle of reason vs. love.  Most importantly, it is a battle that we must choose to fight and win should we want to stay in the game.

Abel showing off his graduation certificate.

Yobel International recently returned from a 5 week stint in Eastern Africa. The trip afforded incredible opportunities, primarily the ability to conduct business training for 120 entrepreneurs throughout Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

 Because this was my 8th journey to this region and a bit of a longer trip, I was confronted with questions that although important, began to lead me down the road to cynicism. Some of them may sound familiar to you:

1). Which development efforts in Africa are most effective?
2). What role should western money play within these nations? 
3). Should we continue trying to subsidize change in areas with such corrupt systems that our attempts are often exploited, undermined, or poorly managed?

I choose to share a bit of my process with you here, in case you or someone you know are asking similar questions regarding the import or impact of global development efforts.

It will be helpful if you understand that the word ‘empowerment’ took on new meaning for me this trip. It is no longer a nice sounding nonprofit-y term I often lump into conversations about sustainability along with teaching a man to fish.

Edrako gets some help from translator Bolingo

Empowerment is literally helping people to access the power they currently lack.

When we lack power, we cannot help ourselves or anyone else. Therefore ‘empowerment work’ describes initiatives that enable people to access the ability to satisfy their own needs and pursue life in abundance.

Each of my friends in the developing world lacks power in varying degrees. Some lack access to the finances required to access basic needs. Others lack education and confidence required to creatively solve problems. Some live in such fear of what others can take away from them that they stop before they start, lacking security. Many live beneath deep-seated oppression due to their race, gender, tribe, or marital status and this keeps them from gaining the social standing necessary to advance -- these lack justice.

I’ve observed that many government leaders of developing nations do not seem overly concerned with empowering their people. These governments are often so focused on maintaining personal power and financial status that they overlook and even exploit the needs of those they rule over in favor of their own advancement.

One of Mobutu's many palaces. 

One such example is that of the former ruler of Congo, Mobutu Sese Seko, whose 32-year reign lasted from 1965-1997. This man embezzled between $5-$12 billion of monies intended as aid to develop roads, schools, and medical care. The IMF learned of his corruption and yet continued to lend him money under pressure from Washington because of a perceived Marxist threat from neighboring Angola during the Cold War. Now 18 years later, the nation continues to suffer from a crippling debt resulting in a dearth of quality roads, schools, clean water, electricity and medical care, making it abundantly clear that the greed of one man can impact an entire nation.

When visiting Congo in February, we met Papa Jerome, a native to Congo now in his sixties. Papa Jerome currently serves at a library within the Catholic Mission of Aru, and was willing to share some of his thoughts with us. According to Jerome, the people of Congo have been crying out for freedom for a long time. It was thought that when the Belgians were overthrown and the nation gained its independence in the 1960s, that things would finally get better. However, the Belgians had never bothered to train up the African people in anything other than vocational positions involving menial and physical labor. As a result, there was no knowledge of proper leadership and oversight. According to Papa Jerome: 

When the war was over, the office accountant was promoted to president, the person who knew how to open the safe became the treasurer, and the person answering phones was now the organizational secretary. When the money in the safe ran out, there was no knowledge of how to make more money and so the people turned to extortion. — to stealing or to levying harsh taxes in order to afford their lifestyles and keep the government operating.
— Papa Jerome
 

As a result, people today remain afraid to begin public enterprises and choose instead to operate small businesses from within their homes in hopes of going unnoticed by the local officials who would come and demand taxes that are more than most can earn in 6 months.

I realize that corruption exists in the United States as well – probably at a deeper level than I even want to think about. But to hear of billions of dollars lining the pockets of former African, Indonesian, Cuban, Filipino, and Middle Eastern rulers while I walk amidst hundreds of thousands of villagers and slum dwellers in these nations who are unable to access something as fundamental as clean drinking water, well, it makes you stop and think about our part in it all. These national leaders sit atop vast natural resources and have the privilege of ruling over amazingly tenacious and beautiful people, but instead of stewarding these resources to the benefit of their nations’ GDPs and the well-being of their kinsmen, they plead poverty.

And we in the West buy into it because our bleeding hearts are broken for the poor, who themselves are predominantly innocent casualties of this crime of greed.

If national leaders won’t care for their own, we Americans are willing to step up to the plate and do it for them. Mostly because we have good intentions. But many times because we love the role of savior. 

The result is that North America becomes Africa’s welfare system, providing the schools, jobs, trainings, micro-finance, vaccinations, medical clinics, and boreholes that the people so desperately need which are not available to them via national funding. National funding that is instead diverted into the private palaces and personal airfields and air-conditioned hummers driven by their national leadership.

I have asked a question for years now to my friends living in the developing world:

If you were suddenly president and could do anything to help your countrymen and women, what would you do first?

The answer I get EVERYTIME in EVERY PLACE:

“I would end corruption.”

How would you do that?

“It has to start from the top. How do you think the police, the school headmasters, and the village chiefs (LCs) will ever be motivated to act justly if the president and his cabinet are not? It must be modeled from the top down, like in Rwanda.” – Richard, Uganda
“Money is power. If all of the organizations and NGOs bringing money into our nation would get together and use their combined influence to demand that corruption cease and to audit those in power, our governments would have to listen. But you people don’t like to work together from what I have seen.” – Lois, Uganda

What happens when people challenge those in power?

“They die.” -Katie, working in DRC

Katie then proceeds to tell me the horrific story of her friend’s poisoning by local leaders for taking part in opposition to the current Congolese political group in power.

Tomato fields on Canaan Farm

While these experiences and opinions do not form a blanket truth over every political leader in every developing nation, I cannot help but think of Proverbs 13:23 that says:

“There is abundant food in the fields of the poor, but injustice sweeps it all away.” 

And again, the cynical spirit rises up and causes me to question why I work in these places. Why I am using American dollars given so generously as a means of propping up nations for which their own leaders don’t care to help?

And many times when we do decide to help in spite of this, we are discouraged at the local level as well. To borrow my friend Katie’s words:

“While working in Africa, I often feel like an ATM.”

Being from the West means that I have money. And while I live on a salary that is less than most in my country, it is true that I have a lot comparatively. As a result, my friends around the world see it as my role to support all my travel in their country, to pay for my stay, my meals in their homes, their food, their transport, their cell phone bills, their time, their programs, and get this – they sometimes want ME to pay THEM to come to the FREE business training that we offer because they are missing work opportunities. What a broken system. What limited vision. This is the result of governments and NGOs setting precedence for this in the past and I refuse to feed into it.

Will it surprise you, then, that some of the most meaningful personal happenings on this last trip were when my friend Richard bought us all sodas on a road trip with his own money? Or when a family attending our training gave us a rooster as a gift for visiting their 2-room home? I have to remember these moments of extreme generosity in the midst of how beaten down I feel from constant requests for handouts.

And yet at the end of the day, I know that I have to keep doing this. I must obey my conscience and calling regardless of the actions of others. I am the one who will be held accountable to the life I have lived while on this earth and the way I steward what has been entrusted to me. And because I love Jesus and he first loved me, I also love the poor.

That being said, I truly believe that grassroots initiatives work. This keeps me from giving up. I know that on a micro-level, change IS happening in people’s lives – in spite of the government and all of its potential corruption. I have the privilege of seeing it in every 6-month follow up survey that comes back to our offices from the field. I have the gift of witnessing it firsthand as I visit the successful businesses of those we have trained. I have been invited into the new homes of my friends that have prospered as a result of faithfully applying the knowledge they have received to the benefit of their families.

I have met the children who get to go to school not because they are lucky enough to have a sponsor, but because their mom and dad can now afford to pay their school fees and see the value of educating their sons and daughters.

Sarah at the market with her goods.

Grassroots endeavors fly below the radar and seek out those men and women with integrity who DO want to create change in their nations and see their brothers and sisters lifted up out of poverty. Yobel offers resources and partnership to trustworthy men and women such as these.  

It is true that integrity is often in short supply everywhere. At times we will all be disappointed, probably more than once. Our friends in developing nations have practically every reason to give in to the corruption themselves, and frankly, I have seen many an instance where those with good intentions have been tainted by the poison of “easy” money.

But when I see how desperate people are to pursue a greater hope for their futures, I have to respond in spite of our disappointments. As I read survey result after survey result, I find that empowering the nations to create change for themselves through enterprise and financial management absolutely works.

Abigail

97% of our attendees regardless of education level or business background have increased their income this year.

Nearly all begin or improve existing budgets and savings plans. 40% begin new enterprises, and then go on to build second and third businesses as they continue to see needs within their community that they are capable of meeting.

As a result, their children go to school. Permanent homes are constructed. Nutrition and medical care improve. And best of all, hope is gained. And it is done at such a grassroots level that people’s lives are altered dramatically within the current government systems. And if we keep doing it, I believe that these people, these good-hearted people, will rise up and create schools for themselves, dig their own wells, and fight for social systems that provide for the poor in their midst. And the best part? They will do so without further financial investment from us.

This has led us to the conclusion that if we are going to offer funding to the developing world, it will be in the form of training, equipping and empowerment initiatives alone. If sustainable development is ever to be achieved, we must help people to realize their own power to prosper independent of outside funds.

People will nearly always choose the path of least resistance. If a wealthy parent continues to give their grown child a comfortable living stipend, what is the likelihood of that child ever going out and seeking a job, let alone one that requires hard work? We cannot continue to subsidize initiatives that encourage dependency rather than self-sufficiency.

Ishmael and Hannah during training. 

So we will continue to offer training rather than funding. We will continue to seek out those with hearts for their community. Those who want to stand on their own two feet and not on the backs of the poor nor the pocketbooks of the rich. And we will partner with them to dream dreams, to seek solutions and to mentor future leaders.

“This [Yobel business] training comes at a good time,” says Papa Jerome, “Freedom is coming, and when it does, these people will be ready for it.”

It is because of these precious people, longing for freedom, that we continue to do our work, continue to invite you to join us, and continue to seek the funds necessary to conduct future trainings.

Because our friends around the world don’t have the option to get on a plane at the end of the month. They are there, in it for keeps. And if we don’t choose to come alongside our neighbors as Jesus shows us, who else is coming for them?

So thank you for joining us, for not giving up hope, for investing in the lives of those who are faithful and for helping us to find them. I believe things can and will continue to get better so long as we continue to empower trustworthy men and women of the world to create change for themselves and their communities.

And if you are tempted as I am to give in to a cynical spirit or to just throw in the towel, I would challenge you first to take a step back. Get some distance from the situation and seek out some self-care. Sarita Hartz has written a great blog on recovering from burnout that you can find here.

Next, ask yourself this question: “Where does love lead me? Where does it command my conscience?”  

Love triumphs over cynicism if given enough time.

The world needs reformers like you. So take a break. Get around people who breathe life into you. Change your plan of attack if you must. But whatever you do, don’t give up.

We wouldn’t want to do this without you.

 

Written by Sarah Ray
Photos by Mattea Norman

Evening in Good Taste 2014

Over 100 individuals met together at The Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery to enjoy the revelry and good eats of Yobel International’s third annual Evening in Good Taste. Restaurants, cafes, musicians, and community members gathered to enjoy an evening of fanciness and good eats. Our amazing tasters brought samplings of their finest food and drinks. Many companies and individuals from around the area donated amazing products and services to our silent auction. The night was filled with engaging conversations, passionate awareness, and opportunities to contribute to the work and mission of Yobel International.

But the purpose of all this gathering and merriment was more than just enjoying one another’s company. The Evening in Good Taste serves as the major fundraising and local awareness event for Yobel International. It is a platform for informing others about the work that Yobel does year-round to train entrepreneurs in some of the most impoverished global communities and provides the opportunity for others to be a part of that work.

Sarah Ray, co-founder and Executive Director of Yobel International, shared engaging, inspirational stories about some of the women Yobel trained in Pakistan and Uganda in the past year—women like Masooma, from Gilgit Baltistan.

Masooma graduated from Shining Light International’s tailoring training program and learned vocational skills necessary to sew beautiful garments. Yobel’s business training next provided an opportunity for her to discover how those tailoring skills could be made into a business and increased her ability to provide for her family and contribute to her community. After the training Masooma analyzed the market in her town, deemed it saturated with other clothing providers, moved to her home village of Hunza, and opened a boutique with her cousin. She now provides clothing for her neighbors and has increased her family income to 20,000 Rs per month—much more than what she was making as a servant in a wealthy family’s home before she started her sewing business. She implemented a budget and is saving a quarter of her salary for her children’s education. The poverty that she saw and experienced firsthand inspires her to work hard to achieve her goal of having the best educated children.

Because of the immense amount of poverty I have seen and experienced, I am determined to see a change. I would love to train other Pakistani women to learn business skills so that they can provide for their families.
— Masooma

 Masooma’s story is the experience of 1% of women in Pakistan. Only 1% have the training, social support, and resources necessary to become an entrepreneur. But we see that the positive impacts of those factors are huge! Masooma can provide for her family, contribute to her community, and care for those around her better because of the business she started after a combination of Shining Light’s vocational training and Yobel International’s entrepreneurial training. 

Stories like this and people like Masooma inspire us to train others. We see the potential and need for this kind of knowledge in so many communities around the world. We also see that these experiences aren’t isolated and singular. In fact, training women is one of the most sustainable tactics for development. It decreases poverty and provides for families with 90% of a woman’s earnings being reinvested into the betterment of the next generation. Additionally, training women is one of the top three factors in preventing trafficking into slavery within origin or source countries according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Entrepreneurs in Uganda joyfully celebrate their graduation from Yobel’s training in August.

 Our goal is to expand the availability of our entrepreneurial training within the next year by offering this life changing program to new communities in countries like Tajikistan and Mexico and by offering a licensure program so other organizations can conduct our training in their own communities. We want to empower and enable leaders in impoverished international communities to conduct their own indigenous trainings in the future, using our curriculum as a base.

 We love the opportunity to share stories of transformation that are the result of people having a space to dream, find answers to needs in their communities, and discover the truth of who God has uniquely created them to be! The Evening in Good Taste provided an occasion to share this narrative, Yobel’s work, and our future goals with the Pikes Peak community. We are thankful for the many people who desire to be a part of what we do and what God does through this work.

Even if you didn’t have the opportunity to attend the Evening in Good Taste you can still be an integral part of Yobel International. You can volunteer, give financially, come on a trip, and pray with us for our business trainings, the entrepreneurs and communities that are impacted, and the work that we do daily. You can learn more about Yobel International on our website, donate on our website or through the Indy Give campaign through December 31st, support Yobel International by shopping at Yobel Market, and visit us in downtown Colorado Springs.

Lastly, thank you to everyone who participated and generously contributed to the success of the Evening in Good Taste! Because of your involvement, Yobel International brought in $11,000 toward our future business trainings and curriculum development! Amazing!

Shout out to our tasters:

Grand Vin  ▪ Mona Lisa Fondue  ▪ Pike’s Peak Brewing Company  ▪ Principal’s Office  ▪ Radiantly Raw  ▪ Red Leg Brewing Company  ▪ Seeds Community Café  ▪ Switchback ▪ The Warehouse ▪ Wild Goose

Many thanks to our silent auction donors:

100% Chiropractic ▪ 7000ft Sweets ▪ Air Academy Athletic Corp ▪ Arapahoe Basin ▪ Black Bear Distillery ▪ Blonde Dutch Girl ▪ Briarhurst Manor ▪ Brunswick Zone XL ▪ Camino Massage ▪ Chili’s ▪ Colorado College ▪ Costco ▪ doTERRA ▪ Elevation Spa ▪ Farrell’s Extreme Body Shaping ▪ Fine Arts Center- Colorado Springs ▪ Flatirons American Bar & Grill ▪ The French Kitchen Cooking Classes ▪ Garden of the Gods Gourmet ▪ Inn at Palmer Divide ▪ Jasmine Garden Chinese Restaurant ▪ Lemongrass Spa ▪ Love Roots Photography ▪ Marlene Kort ▪ Mary Kay ▪ Matthew Schniper ▪ The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant ▪ Old School Bakery ▪ Paint the Town ▪ Painting with a Twist ▪ Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours ▪ Red Robin- Powers ▪ Savory Spice Shop ▪ Sky Sox ▪ SoCo Hammocks ▪ Stitch Studio ▪ Sunlight Glassblowing Studio  ▪ TK Nails ▪ The Blonde Dutch Girl ▪ Wisdom Tea House ▪ Young Life

And thank you to all who participated as volunteers or attendees at our event! Without you and your partnership, this work would not be possible! Thanks!

What can I DO?!

How can I help? Should I go back to school? Do I need experience? Should I just volunteer with an NGO? Is a business degree what I need? Should I study policy and bring change from the top? What is my piece? Ahhh! How many of you have felt this way when it comes to the topic of human trafficking? *Are you raising your hand? Cause I am.*

I was chatting with a new friend on Skype this morning, and she was asking these very questions. Filled with crazy, zooming thoughts, she threw her hands in the air asking, "What can I do??" Her deep passion to see people scathed by injustice find freedom is beautiful, wild, and fierce. She gets fire in her eyes as she talks about those whom she encounters everyday who have, themselves, been trafficked. It's incredibly beautiful to meet someone who is choosing to look and see. To acknowledge terrible things happening around her. And yet, still choose to jump in, to offer to be a piece in the great big puzzle that WILL see an end to human trafficking.

But the question remains, "What do I do?"

beautiful and beloved
beautiful and beloved

Just when I felt the absence of an answer to that question, I heard my own voice, challenging my incredible entrepreneurs all over the world. It is one of the very first things we teach them. "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." How simple!! These words that I have been spouting over and over again with each new country I visit, are the very answer I needed for my own reality, today.

We have been given the gift to live today. Only today. So what is our piece to offer, TODAY. That is all that has ever been asked of me. Not offering all the things that I think are necessary to fix a problem, but just my piece. It takes the mantle of "fixing" off my shoulders, and requires something much more simple. My piece. Today.

And when it comes to human trafficking, you will find there are a lot of pieces. Here are some of the main ones...so you can begin thinking about the role you are specifically designed to play. And I'll do you one better. I'll connect you with a few organization who are out there picking up one of these pieces and running like mad toward the puzzle that is human trafficking.

boy in pakistan
boy in pakistan

Demand.

As long as there is demand, there will be a supply to meet it. Is your piece, helping to cut off the demand? Therapist, counselors, ministers, and accountable friends alike are all pieces in the DEMAND portion of the puzzle. Youth with a Mission has their MST Project in Bangkok, Thailand where they minister to men pursuing sex in the red light districts in order to fill a void in their lives. 

Supply.

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undercover

Boys. Girls. Men. Women. They are most often vulnerable because they are impoverished, under-educated, and alone. Who is standing with them? Not their friends. Not their families, government, law enforcement. What would the supply look like if we addressed poverty and education? What if we simply stood along side them, said "No, there is another way" and then helped them to find that way? {Yobel InternationalShininglight InternationalInternational Justice Mission.}

Rescue.

We desperately need appropriate, well thought out, planned, and executed rescue. And not just rescue, but prosecution. Without the prosecution of traffickers, they will just find another victim. {The Exodus Road.}

Safe Houses.

A place for rescued victims to come, find refuge, receive vast amounts of healing, and to recover. To successfully do so, there needs to be licensed professionals, and a well laid out plan to walk people through healing. The end goal of any successful safe house? Reintegration. {Sarah's Home. Restore Innocence. Amy's Home. Kwagala Ministries International. Love 146.}

restore innocence
restore innocence

Reintegration.

In the hopes of creating new opportunity, reintegration is so extremely pivotal for every victim of trafficking. How beautiful to see them filled with restored hope for their futures. And even further, equipped with skills to pursue those hopeful futures. {LCA. Yobel International. Sak Saum. Nightlight International. iSanctuary.}

Market.

What if, instead of a demand for humans, we had a demand for fair and ethically made goods? Let's change the demand that is out there! These markets can look different between local markets and global markets. Locally, there are coffee shops, local businesses, and fair trade boutiques offering great ethically made options. {Yobel Market. Beautiful and Beloved. Camino Massage TherapyRocky Mountain Way Mercantile.} Internationally, it can look a bit different, but all you need to know is what to be looking for. Bakeries and tea shops, ministries, and marketplaces are where you will find ethical markets. {Dton Naam. Freeset. Sasha. Life and Leaf.}

camino massage

camino massage

PR.

What got you so interested and passionate about this topic in the first place? Someone's story. So start telling stories. Your own. Other people's. Not to shock others, but to share what's happening, and more importantly, the hope that is redeeming each story. Host parties, write blogs, post articles. Do you feel like a broken record some days? I'll let you in on a little secret. We have all been that annoying person at dinner that won't stop talking about it. And we will keep being those people. Won't you join us? 

Funding.

We all need this. To keep going. To fight the good fight. We have discovered that some people are extremely good at generating money (asking for it, mostly.) Host a party, set up a fundraiser, give what you can! Every bit helps, and truly moves mountains for the hands and feet on the ground. She's Worth It can help you do this very thing if you need a little inspiration.

So what is your piece? What can you offer today? Is it photography? Is it writing? Is it seeing someone, validating their story? Is it balancing a budget? Do that! Do the thing that is your piece. Do it today. Do it tomorrow. Keep doing it. And before you know it…when you do your piece, and I do mine, the world is changed.

*** All the organizations shared above are not your ONLY options. They are just some of our favorites. Do a little research and see what your area has to offer. Then post a comment and let others know about the great things YOUR friends are doing! You just might be surprised! ***

Photo Credits:
Tanya Katy Photography/Beautiful and Beloved, Shining Light International, Kelli Stephenson/Exodus Road, Love Roots Photography/Abby Mortenson, Camino Massage

Seeing the single story: Soroti, Uganda

Single mothers. Trafficking victims. Vulnerable peoples.

These are a few of the “labels” that could be used to describe the 80 women graduating from Yobel’s Entrepreneurial Training Course in Soroti, Uganda this past August.

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More specifically, our team trained 80 ladies, 66 of whom are single mothers participating in cooperatives formed in 31 villages by Beauty for Ashes Uganda. These women, aged 17-65 support a collective 414 children, on less than $23 a month per household. 40% report that they earn ZERO income.

And I’ll be honest, as someone who has dedicated her life to development work, it is easy to categorize every person in Africa beneath the umbrella of one desperate cause or another. To label them, and in so doing, separate ourselves from the reality of who they are as fellow human beings within a greater narrative.

Upon jumping into a bush plane, flying to Soroti, Uganda and walking into that packed training room filled with so many nameless Ugandan women, I was tempted to do just that. To zoom out and operate in response to the “collective need” rather than choose to invest in the individual story. Because I can only witness so much pain before it becomes too much.

My self-protection kicks in and I step back to remain safely above it all, cruising like a 13 passenger aircraft, all in the name of seeking the bigger picture. I would much rather look at the root of problem rather than individual needs, and address the issue from a position comfortably once removed. In this way, I can affirm and validate myself for “doing something that matters” all the while protecting my heart from carrying the burdens of so many individuals. In a way, conducting business training becomes my therapy. It’s the reason I can sleep at night. Because I know that what we are doing is transforming individual lives who can then transform communities and nations.

However, in working with Beauty for Ashes Uganda, I was not going to get off the hook so easily.

This advocacy based non-profit creates single mother’s cooperatives throughout villages in Uganda as a source of encouragement, strength, practical training, and support.

BFA comes into women’s stories and is able to see and value each one for who she is in the midst of her struggles and triumphs. This organization not only addresses women’s most immediate needs, like access to clean drinking water, school fees and emergency medical attention, but they also address emotional and spiritual wants as well.

Arguably the most important thing that they do is cherish each woman and give her a place to be seen, heard, and loved.

In a land where single mothers and widows have little to no rights, where they can be beaten, threatened, even POISONED to be pushed off their land by greedy family members, these ladies desperately need advocates.

I have been working in Uganda since 2003 and had yet to grasp the full value of caring for the widow and orphan prior to my trip with Brandi-and-crew this past month. What BFA does is so necessary, and it is necessary RIGHT NOW for these women. No one else is coming for these girls. Not their family, not their local community, not their government. And their sense of aloneness is greater than any physical poverty they may feel.

This became evident as we began our training intensive. We encountered women like Sarah, who were quiet at first and seemingly disinterested, but as we came to find out, honestly just scared. On our final day Sarah shared with us that:

"For me, the most challenging thing about the course was how to have a dream. I never had it in mind because I never had any way of starting a business before, but now I know many things. I have learned how to start a business and how to be free with others because I am a fearful person. I have 2 children, am a single mother, and there is no land for me. At times my brothers attack me to chase me away with my children. So it is my desire to work hard so I can get land for my children, especially because they are boys." -Sarah Apolot, 26 year-old mother of 3, plans to open a hair salon

Sarah was one of 26 woman that learned to dream of starting a business for the first time during this training.

Another woman shared the hope that the business training offered her:

"I appreciate the business training program and BFA and Yobel for lifting up single mothers. I was ready to leave my baby with the Father but he wouldn't take care of her. This training has given me hope that I can make it!" - Patricia Apolot, 24 year-old mother of 3, plans to begin a produce business

Patricia will be able to make it because she now knows how to create a business plan, to find start-up capital, to create a budget, to market herself, care well for customers, keep accurate records, determine profits, create a savings plan for her family and reinvest properly. She is one of the women who currently earns no monthly income. Talk about potential for change!

The challenge for me in working with Beauty for Ashes was to be willing to choose to keep on seeing and hearing story after story. It can be difficult to repeatedly step into a person’s deep suffering when we feel truly powerless to do anything about it.

But thankfully, throughout the week I was able to choose the individual in the midst of the bigger picture. Individuals like Hellen, a bright young 32-year-old mother of 4 who wants to open a small cafe, whose son slipped into a coma the second night of training due to a heart condition. As Hellen wept, we prayed with her, stepping into her distress and the futility of knowing her son needed a surgery that cost more than she can earn in 20 years.

And in that moment as I stood grieving with Hellen, the powerlessness of the situation threatened to overwhelm me. I felt not only her suffering but also that of the 79 women in the room each facing their own daunting circumstances.

I was challenged to decide if I believed that Jesus is strong enough to carry their burdens and if the Father is good enough to meet their needs. Because while I can do my part, I surely will not be enough.

And therein lies the challenge for me. To know that we will never be enough. But that we are still meant to do our small part alongside of others who are doing their small part to come alongside beautiful mothers like Hellen and not look away when we sense our own inadequacy.

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And although we cannot fix the situation or solve each problem, we can make sure that each woman there knows that they CAN dream big. That they are CAPABLE of starting a business. That they are ABLE to plan for the future and to save for their needs. And these small things really do result in big change.

As Mary said on graduation day:

"My eyes have opened and I have got the courage and I have learned how I can manage my business and balance it properly and handle my customers with care. I have learned how to widen my dreams and work toward my goals, to plan well so that God will be glorified in whatever I do. I want to have a tailoring school for the community to create 1,000 jobs for the people, to reach all the communities and help educate others about business and savings and to dream bigger than what they have been dreaming of. With God all things are possible." - Mary Ksenga, 40 year-old mother of 8, wants to begin a tailoring school

soroti grads
soroti grads

Thank-you Beauty for Ashes for inviting me to not only care about long-term solutions to poverty and oppression, but to be moved by individual and immediate needs for relief and support. What a gift it is to see the single story.

Photo Credits: Courtney Hoffman & Missie Bonser

Slowly by slowly

The red roads wind lazily through the young forests of eucalyptus. Not a piece of trash can be seen, and all seems quiet, as the early morning buzz hasn’t quite begun. A quick turn off the main road welcomes bumps and tight turns as we wind our way deeper into un-groomed territory. Slowly by slowly, a train of kids gathers to frolic behind our mutatu (bus), reminding us of the Pied Piper. As we pass this sign, a hint of realization dawns. The land we have to come to. It’s different. Something we have never before experienced is happening here.

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DSCN3514

And it has a name. Reconciliation. Little did we know that first morning what we would have to learn from these beloved Rwandans of Kimonyi Village.

We shuffled our way into a tiny, tin roofed schoolroom, took stock of what we had to work with, and set in motion what we thought would be a simple business training. Simple? It’s never simple. Slowly by slowly, bright eyed, unsure, questioning Rwandans made their way into our training room. Who were these mzungu’s (foreigners) in their midst? Would they be kind? What kind of teachings did they bring? Could we really learn to start a business?

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photo 1

Thirty-seven eyes looked back at us as we welcomed them with our warm smiles, and nervous laughter. Who were these people? What were their stories? It was obvious their lives were colored with war, wounds, and much-needed forgiveness. But these stories would not be easily given. We learned quickly, we would have to earn them.

And so, we dove into our registration process and soon discovered that we were working with truly the poorest of the poor. You’ve heard of the 1.2 billion people in the world today who are living on less than $1 USD per day? Well, we were here to train 37 of them. The average income in the room was $16 USD per household per month.

photo 2
photo 2

Collectively, these entrepreneurs were supporting 133 children – on a total of $640 per month.  

Day one? Hard. It became apparent that these thirty-seven beautiful individuals had little in the way of formal education, and the discouragement was evident on their faces. Some of our entrepreneurs doubted if they would even make it through the weeklong course to graduation. And I think some of our facilitators might have wondered that about themselves.

We had basket weavers, farmers, tailors and even brewers of sorghum beer eager to learn (I guess the gluten free craze has reached Rwanda too). One thing they had in common? The desperate hope to gain skills necessary to run a profitable business that would provide a better hope for themselves and their children.

With games, skits, and candy to boot, we hoped that they would return for day two with a fresh outlook. And day two was just that; full of a renewed spirit. Slowly by slowly, we made it through the remaining days full of singing, dancing, laughter, and so much learning.

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You want to have some fun? Blindfold a Rwandan and send her through an obstacle course to demonstrate the difference between real and perceived challenges. Next teach 40 Africans to participate in a relay race for the first time. Or make a fool of yourself instigating the crazy banana dance to wake everyone up after a heavy lunch of rice and beans.

Don’t get the wrong idea - Yobel knows how to get serious about budgets and savings plans and all, but we have learned that humor breaks down barriers and minimizes differences.  And as a result, do you know what else our days were full of? Stories. Small pieces of people’s past came to life as we shared stories of our own.

One of our favorite pieces in our training is a survey we take at the end of our time together. We get to learn what was most significant for our entrepreneurs, what was hard for them to learn, what they are most excited about, and about their future business ideas.

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Over and over we heard things like:

“At first I didn’t understand how to make a business, but now it is easier. At first, when I was making a business, I didn’t check the income. Now I can know if the project is going well or not.”  - Sphora Nyirantibangana, 55 year-old mother of 4, basket weaver

“I learned how to help my business grow in order to help my family life improve. It was helpful to learn that I can start with what I have now, I don’t have to wait to have all the money at once.” – Assinath Mfagukira, 50 year-old mother of 5, basket weaver

“Sowing much will harvest much. I will start saving money to build capital for my new business. I will now be able to save for medical insurance for my family.” – Providence Mukandori, 32 year-old mother of 3, basket weaver

Our surveys revealed that two thirds of our friends were most excited to be walking away with newfound knowledge of business planning, budgeting, record keeping and savings plans. Nearly half were also taking away customer care as one of their most valuable lessons.

Over and over again, we heard from these men and women, how proud of themselves they were that they were graduating! And they shared how excited they were about their future business plans in carpentry, hair salons, retail boutiques and animal husbandry. Their confidence bubbled over. It was beautiful.

However, the real surprise came when we asked what they would definitely share with friends and family. The most popular response: How to love their neighbor. How to treat others as you would want to be treated. How to live in harmony and peace. We shouldn’t have been surprised. When nearly 800,000 of your people are killed in less than 4 months, you understand the value of peace.

"It is good to be in harmony with others and everyone should know that." – Philomene Uwineza, 21 year old mother of 1, tailor

“I have been changed because from now I will begin to respect others and love them as I love myself. This behavior you must have when you are in business.” – Athanasie Mukakagano, 50 year-old mother of 4, brewer

Ah! Talk about humbling. Here we are in a Reconciliation Village. An intentionally formed post-genocidal community designed to bring together former Hutu perpetrators with the families of their victims. And they want to teach one another about love. Well sign us up for that class. These people know more about love and forgiveness than we may ever know. I mean how else are they doing it?

There was a phrase our translators kept using over and over. I asked them about it, and they translated it as, “Slowly by slowly.” How fitting that was. Slowly by slowly we learn about each other, slowly by slowly we feel safety to share our lives, slowly by slowly we learn new skills, slowly by slowly we are reconciled to one another, to this earth, and to our Father in Heaven.

And as a result of what we learned from our Rwandan teachers, slowly by slowly our lives are forever changed.

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10553686_10202555080659385_6641253446773028561_o

YOU(th) can make a difference.

While in Costa Rica this year, we accomplished a Yobel first: leading a youth group from Colorado on an Exposure Trip. A trip of 21 people. Perhaps our largest team to date. How was it? CHAOS. MADNESS. WORTH IT.

Although Yobel is not a typical youth host, nor a typical mission organization, this trip was invaluable for all people involved.

The youth were given two tasks to complete during their 8 days in Costa Rica: Serve the Los Guido community through the use of concrete and paint, and facilitate a design training with 15 women who only speak Spanish. On paper, this may seem a lofty goal, but let me be the first to say that these teens gave their heart and soul (and a lot of sweat) to this community. Not only did we have an amazing opportunity to serve this neighborhood outside of San Jose, we also were able to celebrate with them as the World Cup fans looked on after this underdog, Cinderella team from Costa Rica continued to score goals and win games. It was most definitely a cultural experience.

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During our time we broke into teams. Most of the men (13 in total) spent their mornings remodeling a home for a women recently confined to a wheelchair. They created a ramp between her and her daughter's homes, they began the remodel of the bathroom to fit her new wheels, and used translators to learn how Don Victor used his imagination to make up for what he lacked in material goods. Don Victor taught the group about using what you have, rather than depending on gaining what you don't. Instead of using a level, he fills a clear tube with water and moves the ends up and down until the surface stops the water from moving. Brilliant. While the men were pouring sweat into this home, the other two groups painted the room in which Dona Isabel holds her ministry meetings, and painted canvases to encourage the women Dona Isabel serves. The tangible work that was to be completed gave our team a purpose with an end in sight. It allowed us to feel as though we were adding value and leaving an impact.

In the afternoons we split again, into two groups, one to train 15 women in design and quality control practices, and one to hold a Vacation Bible School for the children of these women. During this time, we laughed a lot, encouragement abounded, and learning was achieved on both sides.

15 women received our design training, created pillows, color wheels, and pattern pallets to aid their hope to enter and succeed in an export market. We collaborated to decide what will sell where, what questions to ask, what details to consider, to best succeed in the globalized marketplace.  IMG_1669

Coloradan's Meet Costa Rica

9 Colorado-living women from the U.S. of A flew south for the summer to train 35 entrepreneurs in a San Jose suburb overwhelmed with single motherhood, drug abuse, and joblessness. Each member of this team brought unique skills and talents to this training, but what they all had in common was a desire to know their new friends, teach meaningful skills, and understand development and care for community. Each member of the team has past international experience, development/mission based or adventure based, and brought preconceived notions of how trips like ours should be done. And, although each woman left with more ideas, opinions, and confusion (at least I did) toward development and global justice issues, I believe each also left transformed as the importance of the friendships they made with these entrepreneurs grew throughout each training session, coffee break, and 'AHA' moment. One of the greatest delights as a trip leader is to watch our teams realize the roles they can play in the lives of people around the world. It's a joy to see relationships form and empowerment happen organically. I witnessed this over and over as Exposure Trip team members taught entrepreneurs how to use a calculator, how to dream beyond survival, and how to save for their futures. Here in the U.S. we often don't realize that even something as taken for granted as our ability to use a calculator is a huge gift. Each of our trip members felt empowered to engage with the women by teaching this simple, but life-changing task:

After 4 days of watching Maricela struggle, "she was creating her own budget and using her calculator. I could clearly see the new-found confidence in her face."- Laurie Eastup

 Share one impactful moment from the trip: "Teaching a woman entrepreneur from my group how a calculator worked and then teaching her how to use it"- Alexis Newton

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Yobel's entrepreneurial training offers tools to people groups who have little access to education, formal or otherwise. This we know from listening to the needs of our friends around the globe. What we often don't take time to realize is the impact our training and Exposure Trips have on the volunteers who travel with us. In Costa Rica, I watched as women from Colorado Springs and Denver were affected by the development work they facilitated:

"It was just so encouraging to see the passion in these women! And it felt so great to feel like I made a tangible impact." While creating a business budget "my women totally got it! And they were excitedly sharing with me. It was like, 'yep, this is it. This is why I came.'"- Amanda Vinton

I valued "seeing the women learn and develop over the week. I love seeing peoples' light bulbs come on, sharing their learning, and the excitement of putting the new learning into practice"- Laurie Eastup

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Beyond the training room, Yobel Exposure Trips seek to mold and shape Westerner's perspectives regarding other parts of the world. This trip to Costa Rica was short and sweet, not leaving room for the cultural experiences typically built into our adventures. Yet, through conversations with entrepreneurs, our partners, and people on buses, in stores, and at our guesthouse we managed to be exposed to Costa Rica.

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"[This trip has given me] some distinct images and personalities to hold onto whenenvisioning what others' lives are like"- Barbara Bennett

"I want to take with me and put more into practice being intentionally relationship-oriented in my life, and, where I can simplify, to do so. The Latin way of living life and appreciating others always inspires me. I think I'll also look more into human trafficking issues and maybe get involved in some way"- Elizabeth Grossmann

One evening, we stumbled across the largest brothel in San Jose, surrounded by Caucasian security guards, Tico pimps, and mini-skirted Tican chicas. Our unintentional run-in with this empire painted another picture of the country for us-- it helped us avoid believing a single story about this place and rounded out our understanding. Although it disturbed our week and shocked our systems, it informed us in a way that could not have been pre-designed. It allowed us to leave with conflicting understandings of this place.

"It made me think: 'how many women are inside of that brothel who have lost all hope of escape and want a different, better life?'"- Elizabeth Grossmann

"I've read a lot and heard a lot, but I had never been aware of standing right outside of a brothel, and a huge one at that. I learned a lot about what to look for and what is being done about it here"- Laurie Eastup

Costa Rica 2014

Yobel's FIRST EVER LATIN AMERICAN entrepreneurial training course commences today in San Jose! We could not be more excited!

Currently, our week 1 team is in Costa Rica with Dona Isabella and her Mujeres Virtuosas.

Dona Isabella
Dona Isabella, showing us her sewing machines that she collected on her own in order to give the women in and around her community new hope. She often gives sewing classes and mentorship out of her very own home.
 
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A photo from this the first day of training in Costa Rica!
Here is the schedule for the rest of Yobel's time in Costa Rica. We always covet your prayers and thoughts!

June 22-27: Entrepreneurial training in Los Guido June 27-29: Relax and play in Jaco! June 29-July 5: Community outreach and service, design training, and spiritual development

Pakistan, Revisited.

Once upon a time, Yobel was invited to join our friends of Shining Light International in an incredible adventure to Pakistan. While we were there, we had the opportunity to meet the most amazingly beautiful women coming from a variety of religious, educational, and economic backgrounds who gathered together in the name of...you guessed it….FASHION.

That’s right. Women will be women no matter where they happen to live in the world.

Asked to help a vocational training center take it’s first steps toward turning sewing and embroidery skills into a business for Christian and Muslim women alike, we came packing basic lessons in design, quality control, customer service, and budgeting. Our first days of training were daunting. Despite our warmest smiles and silliest games, these sweet ladies were afraid to let new people in. Many covered their heads in embarrassment timidity, or lack of confidence.

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By day 3 however, you would barely recognize our training room as the same group of women. Formerly bashful women let their headcovers go free with new life, the joy of being seen, the freedom to dream for themselves. They danced, they laughed, they volunteered, the dared to DREAM.

We did our best to teach them about fashion design and business, with only a hope that they could soak in the flood of information; find a slice of hope themselves and become more than they ever realized they could be!

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Well, we've just heard back from them. Our 6-month follow-up surveys have returned along with Shining Light directors from a recent trip to Gilgit. And the results are….well, rather different than we expected.

As a white American woman, the opportunities available to me are so very different than those offered to my sweet friends across the globe. The region they live in does nothing to promote women as business owners. A female’s value seems to be archaically found in whom they are eligible to marry and how many children they are able to bear. Not that marriage and childbearing lack honor - not at all - we love husbands and babies. But we believe women offer so much more than that on so many different levels - especially when they are living out their innate creativity.

Additionally, Gilgit shuts down during the winter due to bijli nahi (no electricity) and the freezing temperatures that their beautiful Karakorum  mountains hold for them. Work in general slides to an all time low from January through March. With our autumn training completed a few short weeks before religious and national holidays, there was little time for the women to pursue their newfound hopes of burgeoning business.

Upon receiving the ladies’ survey responses, we were able to hear how things are really going. We have discovered just how much the women can't seem to stop thinking about their newly acquired skills with an amazing 84% sharing all the information they learned with family and friends. They are asking for MORE, for practice, for help. While the steps to creating their own products and designs may be numerous, they have not let go of the very thing no one can take from them….their knowledge. 50% of the women interviewed are now contributing to their families with the design and production of new clothes.

Two brand new women-owned businesses have been created, and three established businesses have grown more profitable.

“After this training there is big revolution in my life and I have started my own business (sewing center). I have learnt many things like color schemes and designing. I was really very encouraged after attending this training and I have applied these new ideas to my business. Through this training I came to know how to utilize my abilities and also am now fulfilling my needs by my own.”  - Masooma, 20

All women who were bringing an income to their families have boosted their earnings by an average of 73%, with 14% of that coming from local markets alone. Our favorite discovery of this training? 31% of the women spoke boldly of the CONFIDENCE they have gained through the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills.

“Yes my life changed a lot because before doing this training I was not able to understand the way of business. I become self confident and want to improve my life. I shared all with my family and friends and many others because I also want to change their life.” - Kalsoom, 17

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There is so much hope! Hope of continued relationship, return trips for further training, additional consulting, and the opportunity to walk alongside these people as they begin to take the first steps toward living out empowerment. These women will continue to build a foundation which will elevate the status of Pakistani women, create unity between people of different beliefs, and grow understanding of their true worth and value as those who are deeply and truly loved.