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by Sonia Patterson ’98
President & CEO
Five Talents http://www.fivetalents.org

The Five Talents team is in the planning stages for another visit to our partners in Juba, South Sudan for the opening of community banks that will give participants a safe place to store money saved as a result of their participation in Five Talents funded savings groups.

I’m filled with anticipation and reminded of the amazing things I saw and heard from participants in our last visit.

We tend to  take so much for granted. We know how to count. We know how to read a street sign. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you could not do these basic things?

During my last trip to South Sudan, I was sitting in on a group meeting and watching as women wrote words like “chicken” in the dirt. The facilitator was drawing pictures, and the women were spelling out words that identified those crude drawings.

This may seem like a small accomplishment, but when a woman learns to count, read, write and save money, something shifts in the foundation of her household: The woman finds her voice, and the entire family benefits.

One man told me of the changes that have taken place in his own home since his wife has begun participating in the financial literacy and savings program we’ve established with our local partners.

“I want to sell a goat to buy some nails for building, but she [my wife] has to agree first,” he said, adding, “Now you have to ask your wife even if you want to sell a chicken!”

When a woman can read, write and count, she can know where she is going on the road. She can write her own name. She can follow directions on medicine packages. She can weigh in on financial decisions.

And she can learn how to save money and run very small businesses.

Ringing in my ear are the words of joy and hope from women with whom I have spoken.

“I can read a sign now, so I know where I am going.”

“I can write my own name.”

“You have brought us love and understanding at the same time.”

As one man told me, “Change has come to the community.” I can’t wait to see more of this transformation in the coming days.