In the spirit of Lydia, PEER Servants sponsors the Annual Lydia Award. It recognizes those micro-entrepreneurs having the greatest impact in their families and communities. Read the stories of this year’s four finalists below. Through the voting of our Lydia Award Committee, those who voted online, and those who attended our House/Virtual Banquets, Dionnie Juan was selected as the recipient of the 2020 Lydia Award. Congratulations, Dionnie, and our Filipino partner, CCT, for the service you provided that enabled him to receive this global recognition!
Join us in thanking God for the transformation in the lives of these hardworking micro-entrepreneurs and, through them, the lives of many others.
Emily Ederu was a very successful businesswoman in South Sudan. Then tragedy struck with the return of the civil war. Her husband was killed. The fighting was fierce and near. No goodbyes. No burial. She fled with her three children to Uganda and was welcomed by the refugee agencies at the border.
Now a widow, a refugee, and solely responsible for her three children. Emily was devastated and didn’t know where to turn. She fled with $100 in savings from her successful business. Knowing she had to do something to provide for her children, she started a small home-based grocery store.
Slowly, Emily’s business grew. Eventually she got a kiosk in the market. A friend told her about the economic and spiritual transformation she had experienced through the services of SALT, PEER Servants’ South Sudanese partner. Emily went to the SALT office the next morning and came out smiling. She found a source for the capital she needed to grow her business, and even more importantly, she found sisters in Christ who would walk with her. Starting with a $100 micro-loan and many larger micro-loans to follow, Emily’s business took off. She expanded from retail to wholesale, opened a hair salon, and a mobile money transfer unit. Her $100 eventually became over $2,500 of business assets! She employed four people.
There were still challenges – theft and COVID – but Emily was an overcomer! With great pride, she sent her older son to university while paying private school fees for the two younger ones and a niece. She brought her 80-year old mother to live with her. She gave to her church again and even bought land on which to build a home. Emily is embracing her new life, a good life.
Living in a remote Peruvian mountain village, Eustaquio Lara Aima eked out a living farming, but always was looking for a way to improve his family situation. He decided to try beekeeping. He bought three hives, but he struggled to learn to care for them properly and had some beehives stolen. However he persevered; he studied the trade diligently, even interning with an experienced beekeeper to understand successful techniques.
Gradually Eustaquio’s business grew, but he lacked the funds to expand it. Then he found out about Kallarisunchis, PEER Servants’ partner in Cusco. With an initial $300 micro-loan from Kallarisunchis (and subsequent larger loans – currently $800), Eustaquio was able to purchase additional beeswax, increasing the output of his business. He was able to start selling fruit jams with honey and bee propolis, a resin from beehives with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
Now Eustaquio’s business is thriving. He has been able to put his children through higher education; they are using the skills they have learned, such as Facebook advertising, to improve the business. He is able to buy fruit from his neighbors to combine with his honey, as well as hiring them as temporary workers. And during the pandemic, the government has encouraged him to continue his work since it is considered essential to provide organic products with health benefits.
But Eustaquio sees his work as much more than just a business. His motto is Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the Kingdom…” He encourages everyone to see business as a ministry. He and his family are now generous supporters of and leaders in their church, mentoring others and encouraging them to embrace the abundant life God wants for them.
Dionnie Juan sought justice, but it was extremely elusive. He had been wrongfully accused and convicted of murder and given a multi-year sentence in a Filipino jail. Ten years would pass before a court retried his case and found Dionnie innocent. The taste of freedom was sweet, but the road ahead anything but easy.
Dionnie tried to get his life back in order. While he was innocent of any wrongdoing, few trusted him and would give him the break he needed. Much to his amazement, Dionnie found one organization that was willing to believe in him – The Center for Community Transformation (CCT), PEER Servants’ Filipino partner. As the CCT staff listened to Dionnie, they found out that he had actually learned farming while in the prison. Dionnie’s behavior was so good, the prison allowed him to sell his produce through his wife! Even from prison, Dionnie worked hard to meet the needs of his family.
Dionnie loved to farm and God blessed the work of his hands. He started with a small piece of land and a very small CCT micro-loan, but he worked hard and was faithful. In the years that followed, he would qualify for ten CCT micro-loans – the current one over $2,000 – and purchase water pumps and other equipment he needed to grow his farm. He saved money by designing his own water sprinklers! He even started a fish farm. The growth led him to hire two full-time and ten part-time workers.
Dionnie’s hard work has enabled him to send his children to university – one is an engineer, another a teacher, and another even a policeman! He is a man who celebrates God’s commitment to justice and mercy, and a man who rejoices that he can now join God in extending His goodness to many.
If you have ever grown plants in your garden, you know how hard it is to start them successfully. Victoria Onziru, a seedling farmer in Uganda, knows this well. Victoria saw an opportunity to start a business growing and selling mango tree seedlings, and started it with a little money her husband was able to spare and with the profits from her potato garden.
Victoria’s seedling business grew slowly, and Victoria knew she needed more money to grow the business. So she turned to PEER Servants’ partner in Uganda, CAFECC, for a micro-loan of just under $300. With the additional funds from this micro-loan and subsequent CAFECC micro-loans that have totaled almost $2,000, Victoria was able to purchase water pumps, generators, and other equipment that she could use to expand the variety of seedlings she sold, and expand her customer base.
Soon her business grew extensively – her monthly profits more than tripled! She now sells a wide variety of seedlings across the region and even in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. Her customers have grown from just individuals to include organizations and companies. She employs four full-time employees and up to 20 part-time workers.
What now brings Victoria great joy is the impact she is able to have through her business. She is able to send her six children to school along with two orphans who she supports in secondary school. She supplies seedlings to charitable organizations to keep the community green and combat global warming. Not only this, Victoria is able to provide for the basic needs of her church leaders, and donate seedlings to the church. From CAFECC’s “seedling” loans, Victoria’s business has grown and is a blessing to many!