Partnering for Economic Empowerment and Renewal. Transforming Lives.

Awards

Celebrating Some of the Inspiring People Among Us

Inspiring People.

We are surrounded by them in PEER Servants. Micro-entrepreneurs working extremely hard to bless their families, churches, and communities. Trend-setters who carve out new paths in extending more of the kingdom of heaven to earth. Lifetime achievers who have invested so much among others in our PEER Servants network. We couldn’t help but recognize and celebrate them.

The Lydia Award

Lydia was an impressive entrepreneur. Not only was she a very good businesswoman, but she was quick to use the proceeds of her business to support Paul and his missionary companions as they passed through her area. Lydia is credited by Biblical historians as one of the key people in planting the church in Europe.

In the spirit of Lydia, PEER Servants sponsors the Annual Lydia Award. It recognizes those micro-entrepreneurs having the greatest impact in their families, churches, and communities. Read the stories of this year’s three finalists below and vote online for your favorite through 3 pm ET on Saturday, August 11, 2018. Then mark your calendars to join us that evening (Saturday, August 11, 6-8 pm ET in Room 205, Grace Chapel Adult Learning Center, 2 Militia Drive, Lexington, MA) for our Annual Lydia Award Celebration. It’s a free, fun event with cuisine from the countries of the finalists that will give you more reasons to appreciate these inspiring micro-entrepreneurs and their respective countries. The online voting represents 20% of the overall voting to determine our 2018 Lydia Award recipient, who will be announced at the end of the evening. Please vote, and send this link to your friends to encourage them to vote as well! Then join us in thanking God for the transformation in the lives of these hardworking micro-entrepreneurs and, through them, the lives of many others.

Meet Our 2018 Finalists - Vote Online for Your Favorite

Ernest Mateso

Tanner

Burundi

For Ernest Mateso, finding a way to make a living in Burundi was hard; he only had a fourth-grade education, and the average income in his area of Burundi was less than $1 per day. The country’s sociopolitical instability had created a very challenging environment for business growth, making Burundi one of the materially poorest countries in the world. But Ernesto was not discouraged. He opened a small shop buying and selling goods to try to support his young family. Eventually he also started selling animal hides, but he still struggled.

In 2010 Ernest heard about Hope Fund Burundi, PEER Servants’ partner in Burundi, and he applied for his first micro-loan of around $160. He successfully repaid that loan and qualified for larger loans. With access to loan capital and business training from Hope Fund, Ernest was able to grow his animal hide business quickly. He learned to use salt to preserve the hides, and he used his profit to buy a motorcycle, both of which provided him with the ability to deliver his products to his customers in good condition and at the time they requested. Ernest developed an agent network of people throughout his region of Burundi that he would pay to collect the hides he would purchase. He eventually grew the network to include 50 agents. Each agent receives an average of $54 per month for their part-time services, which is a huge blessing to each of their families and helps them provide for their children. Ernest treats the hides and then sells them to one of two wholesalers. Ernest dreams of eventually becoming a wholesaler himself and opening his own tannery. Until then, he has diversified his business to include renting two small homes he has been able to purchase, along with farming and a taxi service. In addition, he has inspired some of his employees to start businesses of their own.

Now Ernest, his wife, and their eight children (with #9 on the way!) are able to live with sufficiency and dignity. He can provide for the children’s school fees and teach them a trade so that they will be able to provide for their families. He is generous to his church and now able to tithe and give to special offerings. Through the growth of his business amidst daunting challenges, Ernest has become a great blessing to many in his family, church, and community.

Minda Esparraguerra

Ice Cream Maker/Seller

Philippines

Have you ever felt stuck in a dead-end job, where you felt you were being mistreated and taken advantage of? Minda Esparraguerra from the Philippines knows that feeling. For years she and her husband worked for a difficult boss, selling ice cream from a pushcart, not making enough to support their family. In addition, Minda was often the victim of sexual harassment and ridicule from people in town and from tourists, since the island where she lives is a very popular tourist destination, and it is rare to see women operating pushcarts. Minda was only able to get a sixth grade education, and her husband only made it to second grade. Their options were very limited. They asked God for a better life.

Minda was convinced she could not only sell ice cream, but make it. So, in 2015, with a loan from a friend, Minda started her own ice cream business. Their friend charged so much interest that they struggled to make ends meet. That’s when Minda turned to the Center for Community Transformation (CCT), PEER Servants’ partner in the Philippines, to apply for a larger loan at a much lower interest rate. CCT provided Minda just the micro-loan she needed and she used it to buy a second ice cream making machine. Minda chose the freshest ingredients for her ice cream, using real fruit instead of powders and coming up with new ice cream flavors that her customers loved. Even though she refused to open her business on Sundays, the business prospered and she received CCT micro-loans for another ice cream machine and four carts to sell them. Now Minda and her husband employ seven members of their extended family to make and sell the ice cream. They sell their ice cream not only on the streets, but to some of the best hotels and restaurants in their city. They hope to open their own ice cream shop, and extend their business to other nearby islands.

Minda thanks God for the better life He has given her family and wants to be a means for others to have a better life as well. They give generously to their church, treat their employees well, provide scholarships for young people to attend camp, and even helped one of their former coworkers start her own ice cream business. Now many people are being blessed by Minda and the business God entrusted to her.

Rasotha Ramesh

Farmer

Sri Lanka

War, poverty, and refugee camps all are hot topics in our world today; Rasotha Ramesh is no stranger to any of them. During Sri Lanka’s civil war, Rasotha, her husband, and her three young children had the misfortune of being caught in the midst of one of the worst battles. A bomb exploded very near her husband and he lost virtually all of his eyesight and his ability to provide for his family. The family managed to escape to a refugee camp. Later they moved in with her husband’s parents, but they could not make ends meet. The government provided them housing due to her husband’s disability, but still the family struggled, as Rasotha was the sole breadwinner, stuck in a job cleaning fishing nets that paid less than two to three dollars per day.

God saw Rasotha and her family and led someone to offer the family some banana plants. Rasotha and her husband happily agreed to take them. Since they had no way to transport them, they carried them on their backs for three days to get them to their home. However, they had no way to irrigate their new plants. Then Rasotha found out about Holistic Empowerment and Enterprise Development (HEED), PEER Servants’ partner in Sri Lanka. HEED gave Rasotha a loan in 2014 to buy a water pumping system, so that they could grow their banana plants more effectively. Later HEED gave the family additional loans to finish a well and to expand their crops to include papaya, coconut, vegetables, and pumpkins.

Now the family farm is thriving. Rasotha is varying her crops to include things like tapioca and watermelons to improve the farm’s production. They have purchased another plot of land to farm. In addition to crops, the family has acquired 13 cows, 3 goats, and 15 chickens, and are using their manure as fertilizer. In Rasotha’s new-found prosperity, others are also being blessed. The family employs a disabled elderly man full time on the farm, as well as two women part-time. They plow their neighbors’ land at no charge, since they remember how hard it is to be poor and just trying to start a farm. The family has donated a sound system and musical instruments to their church. And they donate generously to their church’s efforts to help the needy and widows, so that through the blessings they have received from God, others might be blessed.

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Meet Our Lydia Award Recipients of 2017-2015

2017

Maria, Garbage Recycler

Guatemala

Maria was born a block away from one of the largest dumps in Latin America. Life was never easy. She was widowed in her 30s and lost her son to a violent death, but Maria was a fighter. She started a recycling business that grew with access to capital from Vida Nueva, the microfinance arm of Potter’s House, eventually employing over ten people purchasing recyclable materials from over forty suppliers and selling to forty recycling centers. She was able to purchase a truck to transport her goods. Now Maria provides for her extended family, supports her local church, and is respected by all in her community.

2016

Wickneswary, Seamstress

Sri Lanka

Wickneswary lived in one of the areas most affected by Sri Lanka’s long civil war. Her husband left the country to find work elsewhere, never to be heard from again. Needing to provide for her then infant son, Wickneswary applied for loan capital from HEED. She not only received affordable loan capital, but training and encouragement as well. Now Wickneswary has many sewing machines and two seamtress centers. She has trained over forty women (most of whom could not complete their education due to the war) how to sew, and some of them have opened their own businesses. Her son is getting a good education, and Wickneswary is a model for local women.

2015

Joel and Angel, Tuna Processors

Philippines

Joel and Angel Venus began trading tuna in 2002 with a little over $100 borrowed from a cousin. Eventually their tuna processing business employed twenty individuals and served thirty wholesale buyers. They grew by being able to access affordable capital from The Center for Community Transformation and being innovative in their products and processes. Now they are in a position to educate not only their own children but their distant family members as well. They are close followers of Jesus, helped their pastor start a small business, and made clean water available to their neighborhood. Thanks to Joel and Angel, there is more of the kingdom of heaven in the Philippines.

The Person(s) of the Year Award

Extending the kingdom of heaven to earth is a huge task. Making progress in it requires having creative, innovative trendsetters among us, and our Person(s) of the Year Award honors such people. It can go to anyone in the PEER Servants family – micro-entrepreneurs, students, volunteers, donors, partner staff members, board members, etc. It is selected at the end of December each year and announced at our Annual Meeting the first or second Saturday of January.

Meet Our Recent Person(s) of the Year Award Recipients

2017

Esther Suh

Esther Suh, one of 160+ PEER Servants volunteers, is a prayer warrior and a fantastic encourager. She hosted various PEER Servants 2017 events with her gift of hospitality. But it was, in her own words, Esther’s willingness to “get out of the boat” and embrace her dependence on God that enabled her to be used by Him to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the materially poor. She used her gift of painting and sold her works of art and then donated the proceeds to PEER Servants. She brought PEER Servants brochures with her and shared them with interested friends and family who responded by giving generously. In short, she did what Jesus told all of us to do – go and tell what we have seen and heard. We celebrate Esther Suh and her willingness to be used by God in an extraordinary way in 2017 by making her the very deserving recipient of the 2017 Person of the Year Award.

2016

PEER Teens Uganda Members

In August 2014, six teenagers gathered in Arua, Uganda. They wrestled with two Bible verses – Matthew 6:10, asking themselves what would the kingdom of heaven look like in northern Uganda, and 1 Timothy 4:12, asking how they could set the example for other believers in their speech, conduct, faith, love, and purity. In the months that followed, they went into the prisons living out and proclaiming God’s love, and then into the hospitals, the homes of the elderly, secondary schools, churches, and beyond. When teenagers in other countries in the PEER Servants network heard about it, they wanted in, and they wanted to not only focus on extending the kingdom locally, but explore ways they could partner together globally. By the end of 2016, Teens in five countries were involved, with two more countries planning to join in 2017. The vision, courage, and dedication of the PEER Teens Uganda members led to their being chosen as the very deserving recipients of the inaugural Person(s) of the Year Award.

The Reciprocity Award

The Reciprocity Award is PEER Servants’ most distinguished award. It is given to recognize outstanding lifetime achievement in strengthening the PEER Servants network to more effectively extend the kingdom. It is borne out of PEER Servants’ core value of “The Reign of Reciprocity”, acknowledging that we all have much to receive as well as give to more effectively experience and extend the kingdom. The Reciprocity Award recipients are those from whom we have received very, very much! Only two people have been the recipients of The Reciprocity Award.

Meet Our Reciprocity Award Recipients

“Ate” Ruth Callanta

Philippines

“Ate” Ruth is the CEO and Founder of The Center for Community Transformation in the Philippines. God has used her in that role to establish an organization with 15+ ministries that are allowing the last to become first and leading the first to being willing to become last – a sure sign of the kingdom of heaven among us. She has intentionally and generously invested in training much smaller indigenous microfinance institutions in the PEER Servants network to have much greater kingdom impact in their parts of the world, and many have returned to their homes vowing to become “the CCT in their part of the world.” The PEER Servants network is very indebted to “Ate” Ruth and the amazing CCT team she inspires and leads.

Reverend Panya Baba

Nigeria

As a leader in the evangelical church of Nigeria for many years, Reverend Panya Baba realized he needed to not only encourage church members to be generous, but to equip them to be generous. He founded a Nigerian microfinance institution that ultimately served thousands of clients in the Middle Belt of the country. Reverend Baba had the insight that not only could these micro-entrepreneurs experience more of the kingdom, they could extend it to others as well, and so the microfinance institution started tithing their interest revenue – setting aside 10% of it to support Nigerian missionaries. The micro-entrepreneurs were so excited to be supporting mission work that they actually voted to increase the interest rate so that they could support more missionaries. Soon other PEER microfinance partners followed suit and started tithing from their interest revenue to support outreach beyond their clients. Reverend Baba’s passion for missions was contagious and his impact on the PEER network will be felt for decades to come.