We're expanding to Nicaragua. Here's why.

The jail in Puerto Cabezas is filled with women who got caught selling drugs to feed their families. But we believe that doesn't have to be the end of their story.

Touch of Love International is expanding to Nicaragua, and here is where we begin: In a town decimated by a hurricane that swept all the jobs away, forcing moms to run drugs to feed their kids. Here is where we begin: with women who've learned about freedom and who are now hungry for hope. Hope is where we begin.

EMILY HOWARD, a missionary and TOLI leader, is spearheading our Nicaragua program. Here she shares the story of two women, an unlikely friendship, and the hope of a brand new life.

Women in the Puerto Cabezas jail, gathering for a bible study with Emily.

Women in the Puerto Cabezas jail, gathering for a bible study with Emily.

"Like most of the women living in this Nicaraguan jail, Diana and Chickymaria* were incarcerated for dealing illegal drugs. I spent several months here in Puerto Cabezas in 2014, ministering to these women, meeting with them weekly, getting to know them as more than "inmates." I learned their stories and prayed for them to be set free — both physically and spiritually.

Diana shared with me her grief in being away from her baby son. Like the other mothers in jail, she’d felt the pressure of providing for her child in a community where jobs are scarce and drugs-to-sell are easily accessible. She had to choose between breaking the law and feeding her child. It broke my heart.

A year later I returned to Puerto Cabezas and was elated to discover Diana and Chickymaria had been released from jail. Even with the new challenge of a criminal history added to their record, their hearts remained free and excited for change. However, I witnessed firsthand the obstacles that kept them from moving forward.

My prayer for the ladies in the jail was growing into something bigger than before: What happens next? How do these women take tangible steps to live transformed lives if no tangible tools are available? I realized these women are already skilled in business; all they need is a gentle nudge to redirect these talents into something meaningful.

Diana, Chickymaria and I began meeting regularly to brainstorm. Diana enthusiastically showed me page after page of designs she’d come up with for her future business. She eagerly showed me pictures of her little son with whom she was working to reestablish a relationship. We spent hours walking through the market, pricing supplies to create an inventory for her future business. I couldn’t ignore the radiance in Diana’s eyes as hope began replacing the earlier shadows of shame. However, as I prepared to leave for a brief furlough to the States, I had no idea Diana’s life would take a turn for the worse before things would get better.

Diana and Chickymaria with Emily (right) at their first business meeting, brainstorming ideas.

Diana and Chickymaria with Emily (right) at their first business meeting, brainstorming ideas.

When I returned in August of 2016, I tried for weeks to find Diana and Chickymaria. I tried calling and messaging. Nothing. That's why I was shocked five months later to find Chickymaria at a graduation. Her surprise to see me was quickly replaced by sadness, as her face told the story I was about to hear. Diana, our friend, had been sent to a prison in Managua, where they send prisoners to serve long-term sentences. My heart broke. Not Diana. Diana was never made to be a “prisoner.” None of these women were. Diana represents so many women who are longing to live a brand new life, but lack the connections and resources to take the first step.

For all these reasons and more, I am immensely grateful for Touch of Love International, and everyone who partners with this organization. I am equally thankful for the people willing to meet these women in their moment of readiness — to offer a hand up and out, proving that beauty can rise from ashes, future can be completely different from the past, and Jesus makes all things new!

I thank God that the ladies with whom I work can be one more group of lives touched by the tangible love that TOLI offers."


help build a brand new life. 

Sponsoring a microloan means women like Chickymaria and Diana can have a second chance. Make your easy, secure online donation here:


 *Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Celebrating 1000 loans — in a single village

The village of El Kom El Akhdar is celebrating a huge victory this month. They recently granted their 1000th loan since TOLI began there over a decade ago.

One thousand loans. 1036 to be exact.

That's more than 1000 new beginnings.
More than 1000 ideas made reality.
More than 1000 answered prayers.

And that's meant a world of difference for this Egyptian village of 20,000. Men and women now work to provide for their family. Marriages are stronger. Kids are fed and attend school. More and more people understand their God-given value, maybe for the first time.

Even better?
There are now more than 1000 new services this village did not have before.
More than 1000 innovations.
More than 1000 conveniences that help people thrive.

A farmer can buy medicine for his livestock right in his own village. A woman can have her hair professionally done just down the street. Teenagers safely play games in the “arcade” after school.  A laborer can buy gas right in town, instead of using a half tank to buy more in the next village.

And 1000 families have learned to dream and plan for the future.  They feel the satisfaction of taking responsibility for themselves and the motivation to pay off their loan so their neighbor can get one, too. This builds strong bonds ofsupport in a community like El Kom.
 

The village's first gas station.

The village's first gas station.

In 1000 ways and more, TOLI has been a tool for the Lord to change this village's culture from the inside out.

How did we get here?

El Kom is actually the birthplace of TOLI's microloan story. In 2001, founder Dr. Emad "Eddie" Yassa took a group from his church in the US to his native country to work with Habitat for Humanity Egypt. Here in El Kom they were confronted with crushing poverty, but also understood that hand-outs would not solve the problem. The concept of revolving microloans took root — and bloomed.

One of the first projects was launched by an unlikely businesswoman. When Dr. Yassa first met her, she was hopeless — elderly and unable to walk, living in unbearable circumstances. His heart was broken, and simply giving money wasn't the solution. So an idea was hatched: she would use a bench outside her home where she could sit with a cell phone and allow people to pay by the minute to make phone calls. The idea worked. Soon, she was not only selling phone minutes, but selling items to her customers at this little 'bench business.'

Today, one person out of every 20 in this town has used a TOLI microloan. When Dr. Yassa and leaders visited last March, the mayor and other local leaders came out to greet "Dr Emad," to welcome him and the team to honor the profound transformation the program has brought to their community. The presence of TOLI’s founder was big news in the village! 

As we celebrate El Kom's 1000 loans, we give thanks for the very first. And we praise God that he uses small beginnings to create beauty, joy and hope in unexpected places.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. — Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

A new salon owner.

A new salon owner.

Raising a goat for milk, meat and cheese.

Raising a goat for milk, meat and cheese.

Dr. Emad and the TOLI team visiting loan recipients in El Kom El Akhdar.

Dr. Emad and the TOLI team visiting loan recipients in El Kom El Akhdar.

 

PS. Here's the icing on the cake: El Kom's program has been self-sufficient for years. Because TOLI loans are revolving, when a recipient pays back a loan, it is then reinvested in the same community.  So El Kom El Akhdar has been building itself, thanks to the faithful loan repayment of our clients.


Let's go for another 1000!

Your gift will provide more loans to help more villages thrive. Make an easy, secure online donation here:


Help us celebrate this milestone: Spread the word. We want to include you and your circle in what God is doing through TOLI.  Tell your friends, forward this story, share us on social media, and, as always, pray.

Thank you for your continued support! Together, we can bring restoration and God's hope to countless lives.
 

This is the start of something big.

Join our first-ever Launch Team!

You've already seen the power and blessing of TOLI's loan program in Egypt and India. Well, we're excited to share that we're preparing to expand to Kenya this fall. In October, a team of TOLI leaders will travel to Kenya to initiate the program with local ministries.

To start the program we're building our first-ever Launch Team. We're looking for folks who are passionate about TOLI's Christ-centered and entrepreneurial approach to poverty alleviation, interested in seeing it grow in Kenya, and committed to praying for God to expand it. We also need to equip at least 10 entrepreneurs with a new loan (10 X $300). 

By sponsoring a loan for $300 (or a share of a loan), you will help one new entrepreneur start a self-sustaining business that will provide for herself, her family and her community.

We provide the loan, small business education, mentoring, and spiritual support. The entrepreneurs provide the creativity, conviction, determination, and hard work.

Here's the best part: when the loan is paid back, it's reissued to another entrepreneur in the same village. So your one-time gift will continue to give hope again and again!

Will you consider joining our Kenya Launch Team? Click here for more details:

Can't join but still want to help? Easy — just spread the word. Share us on social media, forward our newsletter to friends, and keep in touch. And, as always, pray.

Together, we can bring restoration and God's hope to countless lives. Thank you for your continued support!

 

TOLI expands in North India

Poverty in the Midst of Scenic Beauty

The tea plantations are beautiful from a distance, but when a visitor draws close, the region's grinding poverty becomes clear. In the midst of such poverty, a different kind of beauty is emerging in the hopeful smiles of TOLI loan recipients...and even in such sights as pigs!  

A year ago, TOLI opened a new microloan project in the Duars region, in the foothills of the Himalayas of northeast India. TOLI started slowly, with just ten initial loans, to learn what kinds of businesses will succeed, to allow Ashish, the new project administrator, to learn his position, and to establish strong relationships.

With the support of Ashish, the original businesses are improving the owners' financial stability, recipients are repaying their loans, and the proceeds have been successfully rolling over into new loans for others.  We have identified three main business models as successful and, with an additional infusion of funding from TOLI, new recipients are now replicating those in three other nearby villages.  
 
One of the first recipients, Ajit, bought a female pig with his loan. She bore ten piglets, and though six of them died, four of them lived.  He sold two of them to repay the loan and to construct a small enclosure for his "pig farm."  Seven of the new loans are for pigs, and TOLI has increased the loan amount to cover a medical allowance.  Another four of the new loans - for goats - will follow the same model.

Mamta and her new sewing machine.

Mamta and her new sewing machine.

Another loan recipient, Mamta, invested in a sewing machine and now has a small shop where she sews and sells clothes to neighbors.  The loan was for 8500 Rupees (about $125), and she now makes about 1000 Rupees/week, a nice income that allows her to support her household.  Five of the new businesswomen are following this extremely successful model in their villages.  

Following a more complex business model, Daniel is running a shop where other villagers can now buy what they need. In the photo, his mother is shopkeeper.

We thank the Lord for TOLI's expansion in India...
 
We are grateful for the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who are eager to provide a good living for their families!

We are especially grateful for our one-man staff, Ashish Subba.  He reports that the project is booming - and so is the paperwork!  Therefore, TOLI has equipped him with a laptop and printer so he can better organize the "office." In addition to training, managing and supporting the microloan projects, Ashish really serves as a pastor and evangelist through his work with the families. TOLI's holistic ministry is bringing the blessing of God to every aspect of life in these villages.
 

Please Join Us in Prayer

  •  Pray God’s blessing on the new loan recipients and their families.

  • Pray for Ashish and his ministry and outreach, especially as TOLI grows.

  • Pray for provision of funds needed to expand projects to other villages in the tea plantation area.

  • Thank God that TOLI has been able to wire funds into India and Egypt, and pray that this will continue, even though government restrictions are making the process more complicated.

  • Pray for wisdom for the TOLI board, as they consider various new opportunities in Egypt as well as Albania.

Year-end report: 2016

With joy and thanks to the Lord for your support and partnership in this ministry, the Board of Directors of Touch of Love International (TOLI) invites you to celebrate with us the fruit of the ministry in 2016:

INDIA

The new TOLI project in Duars, an area of extreme poverty in northern India, is now well-established and the loans are rotating to new recipients. We thank God for the vital and truly holistic ministry of our TOLI Loan Project Administrator, Ashish, as he supports and guides current and potential loan recipients and shares with them also the good news of Jesus.

EGYPT
 
With partner Habitat for Humanity Egypt: The original projects in two villages of Upper Egypt (Nazlet Hanna and El Kom El Akhdar) continue to thrive and bring hope during very difficult economic times. Watch for news of five new villages opening!

With partner Heliopolis Evangelical Church: The new micro-loan project for widows and other women in Manshiet Nasser (often referred to as a "Garbage Village") opened with ten pilot loans in late 2015. The loans have already begun to rotate and bless more in that community.

PLEASE JOIN IN PRAYER


*  Pray for a fruitful visit of a team from First Presbyterian Church
   Colorado Springs that will visit some of the projects in Egypt early
   in January.
*  Pray for provision of resources to respond to requests for TOLI    
   projects in more villages of India and Egypt...and in other
   countries!
*  Pray for God's leading regarding a potential open door in Albania.

From Dependence to Dignity in Cairo's Garbage Village

In this best known of Cairo's "Garbage Villages," Manshiyat Nasser, the economy revolves around collecting and recycling the city's garbage.  With our partners and other Christian ministries, TOLI is working to transform the community in this desperately poor area.  We prefer to call it the "Garbage Recyclers' Village," both to make it clear that those who live here are not garbage themselves, and to highlight the significance of the work of these residents who make Cairo's percentage of recycling among the highest in the world.
 
Egypt's economy is struggling, and the greatest burden has fallen on those at the bottom of the social order.  Many fathers have found themselves unable to provide for their families; crushed by the shame, they have abandoned their wives and children and sought to dull their own pain.  Manshiyat Nasser has among the highest drug and alcohol addiction rates in the country.  Relief agencies and churches can provide only a fraction of what the abandoned families need; but relief is not the answer.  The mothers need a way to earn an income by which they can support their families while staying at home with the children.  They need hope and a future.
 
Receiving a micro-loan and business training provides just such hope.  Mothers like Rania*, signing for her loan in the photo above, are receiving this gift of empowerment through Touch of Love International's new project.  Rania's sister also took a TOLI loan, and together they rented an open-air space and bought large bags of garbage.  They sort and then re-sell all that can be recycled.  It is hard and nasty work, and when our TOLI team visited them, they did not want their picture taken.  But they are working, together and with their children; they have the dignity of supporting themselves; and they are progressing daily toward their dream to be able to rent an apartment where they can be safe and clean and dry, together with their five young children. 


Sponsor a loan today!

Meet a few TOLI entrepreneurs in Recyclers' Village...

Dina* bought scrap fabric and a weaving loom; she and partners produce rugs and many quilted products.  

Dina* bought scrap fabric and a weaving loom; she and partners produce rugs and many quilted products.

 

Mariam* bought discarded brooms and invested in a bristle-removing machine which her son is demonstrating. She then trims up the hard plastic base pieces which are valuable for recycling.

Mariam* bought discarded brooms and invested in a bristle-removing machine which her son is demonstrating. She then trims up the hard plastic base pieces which are valuable for recycling.

Samia* bought an industrial sewing machine and sews new garbage bags from the torn pieces of old ones.  When she sewed them by hand, she could only make 10 in a day. Now she can produce 50!

Samia* bought an industrial sewing machine and sews new garbage bags from the torn pieces of old ones.  When she sewed them by hand, she could only make 10 in a day. Now she can produce 50!

Heba* had an open room below her apartment; with her TOLI loan, she built display cases, bought a refrigerator, and stocked her small shop. She serves cold drinks and provides daily needs for her neighbors.

Heba* had an open room below her apartment; with her TOLI loan, she built display cases, bought a refrigerator, and stocked her small shop. She serves cold drinks and provides daily needs for her neighbors.

*not their real names


 God Provides Great Partners!

Nadia Henry, a Christian member of parliament and member of Masr el Gedida, a key evangelical church in Cairo, has formed a team to address various needs around Egypt.  Through Nadia's group, TOLI has partnered with a small but nationally recognized NGO called Talat Christina, whose leaders are all from the Manshiyat Nasser community. The photo shows their meeting room and key leaders, with Founder and Board President Emad Yassa and others. Together, we are building this new rotating micro-loan project for aspiring women.


The first round of applications, business plans and interviews in the fall of 2015 resulted in an initial group of ten loan recipients who signed their contracts and started their business initiatives in January.  Four more women have started businesses since that time.  By starting small, we strengthen our processes, and build a strong foundation for a long-term, self-sustaining micro-loan project that will bless the community in a multitude of ways.  
 
To date, all recipients are paying faithfully on their loans, and the revolving fund is just beginning to grow.  Our partners tell us that they have 750 families who are ready and in need of loans now!  Though the average loan is just $255, this would be an audacious goal, but we are on our way to transforming this community.  It is the Lord's work to take what is the "refuse of the world" and use us to do his work in the world he loves!  We serve the Original Recycler!


Please Join Us in Prayer...

• Give thanks for TOLI's wonderful partners and for the initial success of each business so far. Hold up especially Nadia and Hani from the church, and Ismat, Tamar, Nabil and others with the NGO.
 
• Ask God to provide the needed funds for the project to grow to provide more loans for other women and families.
 
• Scroll again through the pictures and pray God's blessing on each woman, her business, family and neighbors.
 
• Ask the Lord to draw all who are involved closer to himself through the ministry.
 
• Pray for stability in Egypt and that the economy would gain strength. And pray that the Recycler of all the world would receive the glory. 

Help TOLI honor mothers ...

 ... A GREAT WAY TO THANK YOUR OWN!
 

And what better way could there be to honor a mother than to empower her to build her own dignity, to model hard work for her children, and to provide for her family by starting a micro-business? 
 
Too often the burden of poverty falls on single mothers or women whose husbands are unable to work.  TOLI loans enable the women to earn an income and provide food, school supplies and medical care for their children, working at home where they are also caring for the children.
 
These brave and beautiful mothers are our heroes! We will tell you more about them and their businesses in future issues of the TOLI Newsletter.
 
For now, please join in prayer that the Lord will bless these mothers in Cairo, Egypt and in northern India.  And join in thanksgiving for the generosity of donors who have supported TOLI and made these loans possible.

Please consider honoring your own mother ~ or another great mother you know ~ and ALL mothers ~ with the gift of human dignity through TOLI micro-loans!

GIVE IN HONOR OF MOM

Daniel's new shop is buzzing

Doars, India — Daniel Ekka’s shop business is running well. His family members help him diligently in his work. His shop is set up in one of the best spots in the neighbourhood, hence many customers are easily attracted. His shop is growing and as the result of that his family’s financial stability has also been improved. Daniel’s entire family express thankfulness towards God and Touch Of Love for this project.

(submitted by India staffer Ashish)

Mamta gives thanks for her growing business

Duars, India — Mamta Xalxo’s project was a sewing machine. Initially she started her tailoring business at her house. And when the customers started to grow she took a room by the shop of her brother, Daniel Ekka. She has a lot of customers coming to her tailoring shop. God has blessed her so much that sometimes it’s hard for her to handle the work alone. Recently her husband passed away due to sickness. Now she has a son and a daughter to take care of and this project is her only source of income. She’s blessed to have this project.

(submitted by India staffer Ashish)