Author Archive

20 Years in 2012: A Celebration of Serving the Filipino Poor

The new year is already in full swing and resolutions are being met or failed as we speak. This New Year’s celebrations, for me, was a little different as I got to spend a full week with Center for Community Transformation staff as they celebrated 20 years of growth and successful service to the poor in the Philippines. President Ruth Callanta spent time reflecting on the past but also casting vision for the future as CCT hopes to transform more communities in the Philippines and reach more marginalized people groups.

Continue Reading 22 January 2012 at 04:51 2 comments

And the Winner Is…………

By Jill Hall, KF16, Philippines

“And the winner is……..ppprrrrrmmmmmmm” (drum roll). Now, if you are anything like me, the image in your head is of some famous actress or actor fumbling with a large envelope, complaining about how is it hard to open. Luckily, for this post, we are going skip the envelope and talk about a winner who is a little closer to home for this Kiva Fellow. The winner I am talking about is CCT’s very own, Andresa Javines, who is Citi Bank’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” (MOTY) for Mindanao, Philippines.

Continue Reading 14 December 2011 at 07:00 3 comments

Study Now, Pay Now: Funding Higher Education in the Philippines

by: Jill Hall, KF16, Philippines

The higher education loan was an exciting idea because it had the potential to provide access to financial backing to those who wanted to pursue further education but were often limited by the lack of availability of funding in their country. The higher education loans hold much potential but it also introduces a whole other set of potentially troubling issues.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Maricar Santiago, CCT with the Visions of Hope division, to discuss the the details of the “Study Now, Pay Now” education loan product.

Continue Reading 12 November 2011 at 18:08 5 comments

Girlie’s Peanut Butter: Borrower Verification in the Philippines

By: Jill Hall, Manila,Philippines

As I stepped out in the oppressive humidity of a Manila morning, my spirit was excited and ready to leave the protection of CCT head office’s wonderful air conditioning because this was the day I got to do another borrower verification.This day’s journey is particularly exciting because the reward at the end of the two-hour bus side in Metro Manila traffic, is Caloocan City, a place where nature begins to meet houses and instead of high rises and smog you plunge in to lush green hills and palm trees. It is there that I will find the lady that makes peanut butter.

Continue Reading 23 October 2011 at 21:54 6 comments

Work is cancelled: Typhoon Day

“To Luzon (Head office, NCR, C.Luzon, Rizal, Laguna-Cavite, Batangas) staff: Due to heavy rains and strong winds brought by Storm Pedring, management advised to stay at home. Work is suspended today. Kindly monitor our communities if help is needed. Ingat mga kapatid. God’s protection be upon us all!”

The view from my window. Manila Bay is typically completely stagnant water which is why the waves crashing over the break wall were alarming.

This was the text message I received at 6:24 am on Tuesday, September27th, 2011. I had already been up about an hour due to the sleepy realization that my room was distinctly more humid than my wonderful air conditioner allows for during my hours of sleep.  Puzzled, I got out of bed to turn on my lights and identify the problem but the lights did not turn on. This information, in combination with a few other factors, helped me put the pieces of the puzzle together.  There was heavy rain as I fell asleep, there were screaming winds outside my window and small puddles on the floor of my apartment.  Monday’s rumors were true, Typhoon Pedring (international name Nesat) had come to visit Manila and the island of Luzon.

I had already seen what a few hours of rain in Manila could do to the streets and traffic here, so needless to say I was relieved when I got the text message cancelling work. Just the day before, a colleague had been telling me how his normal two hour commute (due to traffic and not physical distance) had become four hours due a minor rain shower, Monday morning. Knowing this, I could only imagine what havoc a typhoon could bring to the arteries and veins that feed into the heart of Manila and it’s surrounding areas.

So what does one do with a “Typhoon Day” from work? Having had snow days growing up with cold and snowy winters in Wisconsin (USA), I reviewed the activities I did then. Sledding? No, there were floods outside. Drink hot chocolate? No, I had no heat or power. Watch movies or work on Kiva tasks? No, my computer was dead and the Internet lab has no power.  Obviously, I was new at this typhoon thing and the day unfolded  with the following activities: sleeping, sopping up flooding in my 34th story apartment, releasing the foot of water on my balcony over the edge, walking the 34 flights of stairs twice to retrieve non-refrigerated food from the candlelit 7 11, and reading an entire 100 page book.  At one point I did leave the building to attempt an escape to Starbucks two blocks away but quickly realized that between the thigh high flooding and massive winds, that  a.Starbucks was probably closed, like all other establishments for blocks and b. this escape plan had some major flaws like the road being covered in water up to my hips.

The shallow end of the flooding on my street

The exciting conclusion to my story with the typhoon happened late on Tuesday night. Not only had the strong winds and rain subsided, but the power came back on. I had also managed to drain most of the water out of my apartment and I was reconnected to the world via the Internet.  The only problem is that with all natural disasters, the story does not end there for a large portion of the people of Luzon. I came to the office on Wednesday to discover much of the city was still without power, much of the large street dwelling population here had been displaced to aid centers and that 400 of CCT’s borrowers had suffered great damage or loss to their homes and businesses. (For more information on the typhoon, you can check out this article from BBC News.)

So with this, or any natural disaster, what is the role of microfinance or our local NGO’s or MFI’s?  My first hand experience that I can share with you is through the benefits that I have seen through my placement at CCT.  Microfinance institutions have a unique relationship as they have access to borrowers in low income and remote areas. As the Philippines is a highly developed microfinance market, many of the MFI’s have begun to offer comprehensive services to their borrowers that can include aid and relief during natural disasters.  Also CCT’s portfolio includes borrowers with small businesses and agricultural business, which could be severely affected by the typhoon if their inventory was washed away, or crops destroyed. Already, two days later, I just received a report on the status of CCT’s partners and the ways in which those affected received aid.  CCT staff was ready and on call to assist their region of borrowers.  The following quote was from a 2010 report given by CCT President, Ruth Callanta about their response and plan for other disasters.

D. Responding to Disasters.During Typhoon Ondoy, CCT set in motion a disaster response effort that included relief, medical missions, and rehabilitation of the shelter and businesses of affected community partners and staff. This response, begun within 24 hours of the flood’s arrival, was possible because of a ready infrastructure of staff and volunteers at the community, barangay, municipal, provincial, regional, andnational levels.”

The small business owners in the area that I like have appeared to bounce back fairly quickly as the small pedi-cab (bicycle cabs) are transporting people through puddles and the street food cellars were out as soon as the flooding had diminished.  Others, though, will need to take more time to recover as homes and business were lost. Luckily CCT is there to help them identify their losses and get reconnected to the services to help them recover.

Pedi-cab driver offering his services during the typhoon. The street was so flooded he had to walk the cab through the flooding.

This week Kiva started sharing the stories of lenders worldwide who talk about “Why I Kiva”. As I have listened to the stories of Kiva borrowers in the field and now heard from numerous Kiva lenders about why they are involved with Kiva. I have also been reflecting on the same question and in light of the events of this week, I just realized how much I like being a part of the movement to level the playing field. When a tornado, snowstorm, or flood hits us in the developed world, we do not worry if our money is safe in our savings or if our bank will provide us access to the capital to work on restoring our business or livelihoods.  We also assume that we have the right to services that will come for us, if the community is destroyed and we are not safe.  It is inspiring to be on the ground working with an organization that is providing capital and resources to the local microfinance institutions who have relationships established with these borrowers as well as the access to assist them through these uncontrollable disasters. Join us in this movement and share with us why you Kiva?.

Jill Hall is part of Kiva Fellows 16th class, working with Center for Community Transformation (CCT) in the Philippines.  Please support CCT borrowers by reading about their stories and making a loan today. Be a part of the movement of Kiva and join CCT’s lending team.

2 October 2011 at 07:43 6 comments

The Circle of Life; Filipino Style

The phrase “The Circle of Life”, for individuals of my age demographic, typically conjures up images of Timon and Pumba. Hopefully I did not pull you into this blog under false pretenses but unfortunately the title is the only relation to the famous Disney movie. My hope is that you will continue reading in order to find out what “The Circle of Life” has to do with microfinance and Kiva.

First off, let me introduce you to the place, which is not Africa. For this circle of life I will be showing you around the workings of my MFI placement in Manila, Philippines.  My MFI placement is called Center for Community Transformation (CCT). I have been working with CCT for just a week and already had a whirlwind introduction to what was microcredit services at birth and has transformed into a diverse body of services to enhance the lives of their “partners” in Metro Manila and to the greater body of the Philippines.

Prior to starting my Kiva fellow duties associated with their microfinance activities, the staff at CCT wanted to introduce me to the breadth of services they offer so I can understand how my participation in their microcredit services is contributing to a much bigger picture. I am going to bring you along on the ride, so you can get a glimpse of this bigger picture as well.

  1. Microfinance services- My first two days here I got to travel to several field offices of CCT, in order to see individual lenders and community lending meetings. One of these areas is just outside of Manila and it is called Payatas.  This place is home to Manila’s infamous trash mountain called “The Smokey Mountain” (please see links on bottom for more information). Here many of the entrepeneurs own junk shops to clean and re-sell the items that have been scavenged from the nearby infamous “Smokey Mountain”.
    Payatas, the infamous “Smokey Mountain” landfill
  2. Health services- In this same field office I was introduced to just a portion of the services offered by CCT in their field offices. Here the CCT staff look for individuals that show leadership and consistency in participation in order to recruit them to be health partners for individuals undergoing Tuberculosis treatment in their area. The reason this is important is because the treatment for TB is a daily, six month long treatment that requires much support to complete correctly. If left to themselves, TB patients will often not complete the treatment without support.
  3. Feedings for Kaibigans (Tagalog for friends) aka Street dwellers- Manila is home to a large community of street dwellers.  CCT has developed a transitional program to help individuals, who desire to do so, get off of the streets and find housing, mentorship, job training and school services for their children.
  4. Trade/job training- for the Kaibigans in areas of trade that include construction, janitorial work, sewing and agriculture (rice farming).
  5. School services and job skills for Kaibigan children- CCT has constructed several schools (by Kaibigan construction workers) to provide boarding and school services to students of all ages. In addition to this, they provide trade and job skill training to the teenage students.
  6. Agricultural services- for those Kaibigans who choose this areas of speciality they get to move out of Manila to help manage the rice fields and agricultural areas that are a part of the CCT portfolio . Not only do they earn a wage and food for their home/community, the food goes to supply the on-going Kaibigan feeding program from which these individuals came.
  7. Jobs- CCT provides jobs to the Kaibigans that go through their training programs as well as increased leadership opportunities for the entrepeneurs that show potential in these areas. The janitorial staff work at all of the CCT field offices (spanning the Philippines), the construction workers help build the buildings going up for CCT’s growing programs and the agricultural workers get to help raise the crops for the feeding program.
    CCT provides job training for former street dweller which they call Kaibigan (Tagalog for friend)
  8. Support and create community water programs- CCT finds local spiritual communities to become partners in supply affordable and safe drinking waters to low income areas. Through the water program, CCT is able to offer more jobs to Kaibigan to run the water purification process and packaging. CCT also works with local microentrepeneurs so that they can sell the safe water products.

The aforementioned items are a part of the whirlwind orientation I received over the last four days. I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did. These programs grew out of what was initially just microcredit services.  It became a circle where borrowers become health partners and community leaders and former street dwellers find homes, get jobs, supply their products and skills to enhance CCT’s day to day functions. A CCT field staff and I were talking over my time in orientation and she kept emphasizing to me this element of spiritual transformation, long term growth/vision and sustainability. Together we joked about this “circle of life” that CCT is trying to provide.   At the end of four days, it is not so much a joke but a serious and inspiring vision to me.

For more information on Manila’s “Smoky Mountain”:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/21/world/asia/21iht-city7.1790859.html?pagewanted

Jill is a Kiva Fellow (KF16) currently serving with the microfinance institution CCT in Manila, Philippines. In addition to seeing micro-finance work first hand, she’s looking forward to personally assisting food vendor micro-entrepreneurs across the Philippines to increase their revenue. Please be a part of this movement and check out more about the stories of CCT, the Philippines and Kiva. Visit Kiva.org and CCT’s partner page (http://www.kiva.org/partners/1440).

9 September 2011 at 05:08 8 comments


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