client stories

Creativity rules.

You might think rural Kenya is an unlikely place for innovation. Think again. 

We want to introduce you to a few entrepreneurs we met last month. Their creativity and willingness to think "outside the box" is transforming their lives and their communities. Each of these clients took a TOLI loan of less than $300. That, paired with their resourcefulness, their courageous thinking, and the encouragement of a TOLI social worker, has meant a brand new start.

THANK YOU for helping these amazing entrepreneurs find their purpose and use their God-given talents. 

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REGINA, Tea Sales. Regina's business idea is so simple, but so clever. With just a plastic bag and a candle, Regina has created a tea packaging business that's providing steady income and security for her and her children. She buys high-grade tea in bulk (we tasted it — it's delicious!) and then repackages it into smaller portions. She seals the individual plastic bags with a candle flame so the tea stays fresh, then sells the small portions to clients in her area, including schools and churches. (Click the video above to see how Regina works!) 

 
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LENA, Veterinary Services and Supplies. Lena has loved animals her whole life. And even though it's rare for women here, she has long dreamed of operating a veterinary supplies business. But this spring, with the help of business training and a $300 loan through TOLI, she launched a veterinary services and supplies shop. Her business provides medicine, supplements and vet services for area livestock farmers.  

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LLOYD, Banana Sales. Banana farming is nothing new. But Lloyd's business model is innovative, connecting local small-scale farmers with the larger banana market in Nairobi. Lloyd (shown above on the right) scouts for banana crops from independent subsistence farmers in remote areas, collects them himself, then transports them in bulk to the city every week, where he sells at a premium. Not only has his income sharply increased, his community has benefitted from the market expansion. 

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LUCY, Butcher. When Lucy's husband, a life-long butcher, died a year and a half ago, she was left without an income. Then this spring, her community group introduced her to the TOLI program. Lucy courageously decided to take a microloan and continue her husband's business. Last month, Lucy reopened the butchery, and she now provides fresh meat as well as some of her own special recipes to her community. "Being a butcher is unusual for women here," she told us. "But business is good, and is picking up." 


“ Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”

— 1 Kings 3:12


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When Annie met Rose (top picture), a TOLI client with a dress-making business, she decided she wanted to buy a dress of her own. Rose measured Annie, helped her choose fabrics, and custom-made the dress by the very next day. Annie proudly wore it to worship that Sunday (above)!

When Annie met Rose (top picture), a TOLI client with a dress-making business, she decided she wanted to buy a dress of her own. Rose measured Annie, helped her choose fabrics, and custom-made the dress by the very next day. Annie proudly wore it to worship that Sunday (above)!

Q&A with a TOLI Traveler

Almost 30 years ago, Annie Moore’s father began a ministry serving abandoned boys in the slums of Nairobi. Years later, it was his passion and legacy that sparked Annie's desire to go on a TOLI trip to Kenya. As a former social worker herself, Annie was intrigued by the “transformative shift” microloans can play in breaking the cycle of poverty. We asked her to share a few thoughts about this life-changing journey to Kenya with TOLI last month.

TOLI: Describe an encounter with a TOLI client that impacted you deeply: 

ANNIE: We met a woman whose business involved traveling from Kenya to Uganda to buy fabrics and selling them for a profit to dressmakers and other people through word of mouth. She seemed to be doing quite well and had plans of expanding her business, but what really struck me about her is the daughter she "adopted" (whom she saw had no parents) who now lives with her. The daughter is also taking a microloan to make and sell soaps. This daughter sends some of her money back to a brother suffering from some ailment for medication. Seeing generosity giving way to generosity was inspiring.

TOLI: How did you see God at work through TOLI? 

ANNIE: God was at work in the TOLI social workers as they were facilitating groups, working alongside of individuals, giving their very lives away with loads of joy and passion in the work they were doing. Observers, Teachers, Encouragers, Listeners, Supporters, Advisors, Travelers, God is using so many facets of these social workers!

TOLI: What would you like others to know about TOLI? 

ANNIE: The TOLI staff does an exquisite job of carrying out the business of getting microloans to people and pursuing growth, while simultaneously reassuring individuals that TOLI exists not primarily for the repayment of money, but most importantly, for the worth and value God sees in each and every person.


Inspired? Jump in. 

> Be like Annie. Travel with us! Check out our trips coming in 2020. 
> Come to our next #TOLITuesday Prayer Gathering on July 9 from 12-1pm at the TOLI office, 5785 N.Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918.

> Help more entrepreneurs find their purpose, gifts, and ability to care for the families and communities by giving today. A simple $300 microloan can truly transform a life — and a family — forever.  

Sister power.

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Silhan and Shirley are sisters — but they're also business partners. 

In fact, these two are now the backbone of a family business that stretches three generations. Silhan, 22, took a TOLI microloan last year to buy inventory for their small shop in rural Nicaragua. When our team visited earlier this month, it became clear this is a family affair.

Shirley, 23, is Silhan's gregarious partner. Her dad takes turns manning the counter. Her mom makes fresh nacatamales to sell in the shop. And her 105-year-old grandfather welcomes customers from the porch. 

"The purpose of our family is to be united always," Shirley told us. "It is a very unique opportunity for all of us."

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GENERATIONS:    Above, Shirley sits with her grandfather (center) and her father in front of their family store in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. Below, Silhan and her son welcome Executive Director, Abigail McConnell, into her shop, built with the help of a TOLI microloan.

GENERATIONS: Above, Shirley sits with her grandfather (center) and her father in front of their family store in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. Below, Silhan and her son welcome Executive Director, Abigail McConnell, into her shop, built with the help of a TOLI microloan.

And it was a good reminder that while TOLI microloans are granted to individuals, the whole household is impacted. In the sisters' case, that's 10 people under one roof — all living in the family home attached to the back of the shop.

The average household size for our clients in Nicaragua is 5.6 people (compared with 2.6 in the U.S.). That means that a $300 microloan doesn't just benefit one person but many more, and builds over time. Silhan and Shirley's children and younger siblings will have better nutrition as they grow because of the steadier income. Their parents and grandfather will have better medical care as they age. And Silhan and Shirley will build confidence, experience, and faith, as they make their household even stronger.

And strong households make strong communities. 

"I want to thank God for the opportunity he has given us to start this business," she told us before we said goodbye. "It's an achievement that is difficult but not impossible. Thank you so much for supporting us."


Snapshots from our recent visit

A team of eight traveled this month to visit our partner site in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. We left inspired, humbled, encouraged, and better able to pray for and serve our local partner ministry, Verbo Church. Ready to travel with us? Check out trip opportunities here.


How you can pray: 


> For Nicaragua: The country has been in turmoil since anti-government rallies erupted last spring. Please pray for reconciliation and peace, and for our clients to be able to overcome the economic challenges that come with this period of instability.
> For physical healing: We visited many clients and their families in Nicaragua this month, and almost everywhere we went we were led to pray for physical healing... for a client's son with cerebral palsy, a client paralyzed after a stray bullet hit his spine, for a client with heart problems. We continue to pray for healing and for improved access to medical care.
> For Verbo Church, our partner ministry in Puerto Cabezas. 
> For our social workers in Egypt, Kenya, and Nicaragua, as they serve, disciple, and encourage our entrepreneurs. You can meet them here.
> Praise God for our growing programs! Many new groups are being trained in Kenya and new sites are being formed in Egypt. 


Ready to take the next step?


> Travel with us. Meet inspiring clients like Silhan and Shirley in person. Details here.
> Become a monthly giver! Start here.
> Discover other ways to get involved here.
> Come 
to our next #TOLITuesday Prayer Gathering: April 9 from 12-1pm (at TOLI, 5785 N.Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918)

What our clients want you to know

We love to tell stories about TOLI families. But it's really their own words that matter most.

You already know that TOLI grants microloans so families in poor communities can start their own small businesses. But did you know that our social workers meet with these entrepreneurs at least once a month? That means that throughout the whole term of the loan — 12 to 18 months — clients are listened to, encouraged, coached, supported, trained, and prayed for regularly by our faithful field staff.

The words our clients share with us show the impact of the TOLI program on real lives, on real families, in real time. We thought you'd like to hear from them yourself. 

"I have learnt to never underestimate myself. I am now believing in myself more, and the ability to achieve my dreams. I have been able to provide for my family comfortably."  —  REGINA , shop owner in Kenya

"I have learnt to never underestimate myself. I am now believing in myself more, and the ability to achieve my dreams. I have been able to provide for my family comfortably." REGINA, shop owner in Kenya

"I have been learning that business can be a great tool for the extension of the Kingdom of God. We are very happy. ... now we can dream more. Dreaming is sweet."  —  JOHN , goat breeder in India

"I have been learning that business can be a great tool for the extension of the Kingdom of God. We are very happy. ... now we can dream more. Dreaming is sweet." JOHN, goat breeder in India

"I stand by my mother to learn hairdressing from her. I love to work hard and know that I am helping. We work side by side."  —  MARIA , hairdresser's daughter in Egypt

"I stand by my mother to learn hairdressing from her. I love to work hard and know that I am helping. We work side by side." MARIA, hairdresser's daughter in Egypt

"I am now able to convince my family about having a big vision. My family is very focused nowadays. My thinking has changed, and I am very focused on my good project. I am now able to see far."  —  NANCY , dairy farmer in Kenya

"I am now able to convince my family about having a big vision. My family is very focused nowadays. My thinking has changed, and I am very focused on my good project. I am now able to see far." NANCY, dairy farmer in Kenya



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A delicious way to support TOLI

Acclaimed food truck GOLD STAR PIES and TOLI are partnering up in a sweet fundraising event! 

Come pay whatever you wish for a piece of pie and 100% of the money will fund TOLI microloans to our partners around the world. Our goal for the day is to raise $2,500, enough to fund 10 loans. And we're getting a little competitive too...

YOU COULD WIN A PRIVATE PIE TRUCK PARTY FOR 25... The person who pays the most for a slice of pie during the event wins a private pie truck party for 25 people! There will be swag, coffee, competition, pie, and tons of love. 

Get Pie. Give Hope. // Downtown COS Food Truck event
WHEN:
Sunday Nov. 11, 10-2pm
WHERE: 302 E. Platte Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80903 (corner of Platte and Weber, in front of The Cupcake Girls)

Many thanks to our fabulous sponsor, Gold Star Pies, which serves up award-winning sweet pies all over Colorado Springs and is owned by baker-entrepreneur Heather Briggs. We are honored to partner with you! 


Come meet, greet, and pray with one of our Kenyan partners

We're thrilled to host Humphrey Kanga, founder and director of KCK Ministries in Kenya and a key TOLI program partner. Come meet him and pray with us at the next #TOLITuesday Prayer Gathering. You'll hear from Humphrey, as well as stories and specific prayer requests from our field staff for individual clients and their families. And then together we'll pray for them, by name. Please join us!

#TOLITuesday Prayer Gathering // 2nd Tuesday of each month
When:
Nov. 13, 12pm-1pm
Where: 5785 N. Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918

If you have questions, or would prefer to join us by phone to pray, please email Linda Hood, our TOLI Prayer Coordinator. 

Humphrey Kanga (right) with TOLI Founder Emad Yassa (left) and Executive Director Abigail McConnell (center) visiting a client's business in Kenya.

Humphrey Kanga (right) with TOLI Founder Emad Yassa (left) and Executive Director Abigail McConnell (center) visiting a client's business in Kenya.


This is someone you're going to want to root for

From our Executive Director


Let me introduce you to a friend. I first met Esther last fall at her home—two small rooms divided by hanging sheets. There she lives with her children, her siblings and her siblings' children—eight of them all together. That day, Esther proudly showed me pictures of her kids, talked about her dreams, and prayed with our team as we stood shoulder to shoulder in that dimly lit room.

This month, Esther became a TOLI client—and a small business owner.

And she has been preparing. She's spent months taking part in a women's savings group, attending TOLI business training, and working with our social worker to create a business plan. 

Esther (left) sorts her new clothing inventory with TOLI staffer Lucy (right).

Esther (left) sorts her new clothing inventory with TOLI staffer Lucy (right).

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“I hope to have my own home with my family, educate my kids and raise our standard of living.” — Esther, 29

 

Now, Esther is a saleswoman of women's undergarments and clothes. She bought her inventory with a TOLI microloan of about $200, which she'll pay back in monthly installments over one year. Even though Esther only has a fourth grade education, she knows how to work hard, and how to serve. Esther volunteers her time to help clean her local church.

It may seem like the odds are against a 29-year-old single mother of eight in rural Kenya. And it's true Esther has a long road ahead. But she won't be alone. Our TOLI staffer Lucy, who's from Esther's very same community, will support her as she builds this brand new life, cheering her on, helping her stay brave, and pointing her to Jesus every step of the way. I feel so honored to know them both. 

I'll let you in on a little secret, if you can't already tell: Esther is one of my favorite clients. For some reason I find myself rooting for her extra hard.

Will you root for her too? Will you pray for her?

After all, isn't that what praying for each other really is—brothers and sisters rooting for each other before God? You and Esther and I, we're bound together as God's family. So we pull for each other and we root for each other—and in doing so we discover hope and dignity when we realize that God himself is rooting for us too.  

With gratitude and joy, 

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Abigail McConnell
Executive Director

PS: Scroll down to see how you can LITERALLY JOIN US in prayer next month...



Come pray with us — in our new office space

Big things happen when people pray. That's why we're inviting you to come pray with us—in person—for our clients, just like Esther, and for what God is doing through TOLI. Here's the best part: we have a new office space where we can gather together to pray! We're so excited to share it with you.

With specific and up-to-the-minute prayer requests submitted directly from our field staff, we will lift up clients by name, social workers, our ministry partners in different countries, and the entire TOLI family of supporters. Please join us!

#TOLITuesday Prayer Gathering // 2nd Tuesday of each month
When:
August 14, 12pm-1pm
Where: 5785 N. Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918

We want this to be a tangible way for you to engage with TOLI. No gift is more powerful or more vital than the gift of prayer. 

If you have questions, or would prefer to join us by phone to pray, please email Linda Hood, our TOLI Prayer Coordinator. 
 

How one father changed his family's future — forever.

When we first met Mohammed over a decade ago, he was struggling to put food on the table for himself and for his five kids.

He was struggling — but he was also dreaming. He dreamed of creating a business that would provide for his family's daily needs as well as for their future. So he applied for a TOLI microloan. With that loan of about $150, he bought the ingredients and equipment needed to make and sell felafel. He mixed it by hand, cooked it with a propane stove and sold it to his neighbors. 

And Mohammed's felafel was good. 

Mohammed and his kids show us his original felafel mixer, purchased with a TOLI microloan over a decade ago.

Mohammed and his kids show us his original felafel mixer, purchased with a TOLI microloan over a decade ago.

Soon his business was earning good income, his family's life improved, and he quickly paid off the loan. But Mohammed kept dreaming. He took another TOLI loan to expand his business with an industrial mixer, increasing production and sales of his famous felafel. He quickly paid off that loan too.

Because of Mohammed's hard work and creativity, matched with TOLI's simple but powerful program, all five of his children are cared for, well fed, and in school. Now he's even sent one daughter to college. His family's future is forever changed.

Mohammed used a second loan to buy an industrial mixer to expand his business.

Mohammed used a second loan to buy an industrial mixer to expand his business.


Mohammed's story answers a few of the most common questions we get about our program: How long does TOLI stay involved in the lives of clients? And, are clients allowed to take more than one loan? 

We've known Mohammed for over 12 years. His was one of the very first loans we granted in the town of Nazzlet Hanna, Egypt. In all of our sites, staffers visit clients regularly throughout their loan term, building relationships and getting to know their families. And because our model is to serve clients who are connected to each other — through either geographic proximity or because they're part of a savings group — we can see the big-picture impact of our program over time. Our partners in Nazzlet Hanna have been walking with clients and ministering to the community for years — building trust, praying for restoration and sharing the hope of the Gospel.

And do we allow multiple loans? YES!  After a client pays back their first loan, we encourage them to apply for additional loans to further expand their small businesses — until they've moved up the economic ladder and out of our target demographic of the 'poorest of the poor.' 

So what's next for Mohammed? Well, he keeps dreaming — now it's a dream of a full-service restaurant. And from what we've learned about Mohammed, that dream is bound to come true. We'll keep you posted. 


Inspired? Here are 3 ways you can get involved:

1. PRAY. Mohammed is just one example of thousands God has touched through TOLI — and it all starts with prayer. Pray for our clients, partner ministries and about how you can be a part of this ministry. 

2. GIVE. You can help propel another success story like Mohammed's. When you donate to TOLI, you equip someone with a life-changing microloan and the life-saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. AMPLIFY. Do you have a small group, Bible Study, missions committee or business group that would be interested in hearing more about the power of microloans? We love to sharing stories like these in person! CONTACT US to request a speaker and help us spread the word.


TRAVEL WITH US IN 2019 

Want to meet clients like Mohammed yourself? There's no better way to understand how TOLI changes lives than by joining us on a Vision Trip. We're leading vision trips to Kenya and Nicaragua in 2019. Interested? Visit our TRIPS section for details. 


Updates from our other sites

NICARAGUA

— Program progress and political strife. We are grateful that our new program in Puerto Cabezas is off to a strong start — five poor single moms here have started small businesses with TOLI microloans in the last month. At the same time, the country has been reeling from demonstrations, police violence, and political upheaval. Please pray for peace in the country and safety for our partners.

INDIA

— Community small business training. In partnership with First Presbyterian Church (Colorado Springs) we trained nearly 40 people in small business principles and practices in Kalimpong, India in April. TOLI Field Staffer Ashish Subba and ministry partner Pastor Mathias Subba played key roles in facilitating this successful week-long training for members of this community. Pray for the training to be shared and implemented by TOLI clients and friends.

ALBANIA

— Praise God for small beginnings. This month, our first client in Albania began a business raising pigs. This 'pilot' loan is an important first step in helping our partners here establish the TOLI program. Please pray for Ilir's new pig business, as well as for field staffer, Nico, and our volunteer leaders. 

KENYA

— Farmers' small business training. In the village of Magumoni, near Mount Kenya, we're working with a community savings group of small scale farmers. This month we launched a small business training course with this group, laying the foundation for granting our first loans later this summer. 
— Pray for relief from extreme rains and flooding that's plagued much of Kenya this spring. Our clients' businesses have been negatively impacted, so pray for their perseverance, as well as improved weather patterns!