Posts filed under ‘Family and Community Empowerment’

The Filipino Sense of Community

Keith Baillie | KF19 | Philippines

Part I: Construction of a New Community

Following the Sendong typhoon, many Cagayan de Oro residents were displaced. I visited one of the resettlement villages, Xavier Ecoville.  Flood victims are still currently living in temporary wooden accommodation built by agencies like Habitat for Humanity.

Temporary housing:
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But new permanent housing is being constructed, with the philosophy “We are not just building houses, we are building a community”.
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Permanent housing:
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Among the first facilities constructed are a church and a community hall. There are also a health and family planning center, day care and preschool facilities, and covered basketball and volleyball court. Housing is in low-rise terraces, enabling neighbors to mingle in the street.

Playground and Church:
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Children’s Study Center:
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Part II: Factors Driving Community Spirit

If I mention that I am visiting or eating somewhere, they always ask “Who’s with you, sir?” I ask myself “What are the factors that drive the strong Filipino sense of community?”  Here are some factors that occur to me:

  1. Strong family bonds. Filipinos typically have large families.  Working children are responsible for helping support parents and younger siblings (including their education). Children will frequently work abroad to accomplish this. Such family obligations imprint a model for shared responsibility in the broader community.
    Note: However, nowadays many Filipino couples separate and many children are born outside of marriage. Nevertheless, parents or grandparents always take care of the children if the mother cannot.
  2. Living accommodation. Single Filipinos typically live with their family until they marry and establish their own family home. Young Filipinos studying or working away from home typically live with colleagues in boarding houses, which provides a community atmosphere in place of the family home. Few Filipinos live completely alone, even when elderly.
  3. Shared religion.  (I have worked in Christian areas but suspect the same holds true in Muslim and indigenous areas.) Almost all Filipinos I have met have a strong, active Christian faith. Although most are Catholic, other denominations are integrated in non-sectarian events, like religious festivals/fiestas and office devotionals. One of the first questions Filipinos ask me is “What is your religion?”
  4. Avoidance of conflict. Filipinos rarely get angry or raise their voices. If I say something critical, a Filipino will ask “Are you mad at me, Sir?” leading me to soften my response. I do not see angry rows or fights even in drinking establishments. When I berated a young girl for pushing in front of me in a grocery line, she just remained silent. And when my motorcycle taxi nearly collided with a motorcyclist who had pulled in front of him, there were no expletives. They both just smiled and chuckled.
  5. Community service. I met a large group of students who were studying a college course in cleaning neighborhoods and planting mangroves. When they graduate, they will be unpaid volunteers. In the cooperatives I have visited, serving the community (especially the poor) is always stressed in the devotionals and board members provide their time for free.
  6. Performances and shows. Church, school, college and office events bring people together to practice for dance performances, beauty contests, sports contests, etc.
  7. Fiestas. Each municipality has an annual fiesta when community members who live away return home. There are family reunions, school reunions, church services, public entertainments, and the roaming meals where people visit a succession of homes to eat.
  8. Texting. Throughout the day, Filipinos text small talk like “Good morning!” and “Have you had your breakfast?” This is an extension of normal social interaction.
  9. Maintenance of local bonds while away. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) maintain social connections with others from their city or region – for example maids in Hong Kong or workers in the Middle East congregate on particular streets or intersections designated for their home location.

Whatever the reasons, there is no doubt that Filipinos have a strong sense of community – both with other Filipinos and (happily) in welcoming visitors from other cultures.

Afterthought: This may explain why Filipinos so readily ask foreigners for money. When they see financial inequality, it seems only right to share it. However, they don’t seem to resent the rich-poor divide within their own country enough to change it.

22 February 2013 at 17:38

Costa Rica? …Costa Lot!

my new 'hood

my new ‘hood in San Carlos

A road trip with FUNDECOCA

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since I arrived in San Carlos and started working at my second MFI. FUNDECOCA is one of Kiva’s newest partners… and they are really excited about working with Kiva!

My fellowship here started off with a bang as I was whisked off on day trips (more…)

3 December 2012 at 08:00 2 comments

Why Kiva Lenders Should Fund Consumer Microloans in Jordan

This week, I met a Jordanian widow who is supporting four children and her elderly mother on less than 200 JD ($283) per month. Her income comes from her deceased spouse’s pension. She is applying for a microloan to make ends meet. Do you think this non-entrepreuneur should be granted a microloan?

While you and I may be able to automatically reach for a credit card or withdraw money from a savings account in case of emergencies or unexpected expenses, such luxuries are not available for the majority of the low-income population in Jordan. What is the solution, then, for marginalized communities?

One of the many low-income neighborhoods in Jordan

(more…)

29 November 2012 at 07:00 2 comments

A tough day in the office? Microfinance at an inspirational organisation

Alice Reeves – Timor-Leste

East Timor, Timor-Leste, Timor-Lorosaé…

Literal meaning is important here, and names are not chosen frivolously.  Leste means ‘east’ in Portuguese.  In the local language, Tetum, Lorosaé means ‘east’ – literally ‘sunrise’.  For those of you familiar with Bahasa, the main language of Indonesia, the word Timor can be translated as, well, ‘east’.

Just keep heading towards the rising sun, one day you will eventually arrive at the shores of this rocky, dusty, mountainous island just off the northern coast of Australia, at the very tail end of the Indonesian archipelago.  It’s definitely a long way east.

(more…)

7 November 2012 at 15:00

Expanding Access to Higher Education in Kenya

Expanding Access to Higher Education in Kenya:

In January of 2012, Kiva, a microlending platform that aims to alleviate poverty by connecting lenders with borrowers who do not have access to traditional banking, partnered with Strathmore University, Kenya’s premier, private college, to launch a groundbreaking partnership in the financing of higher education.  They joined forces to expand educational opportunity across socioeconomic lines and mitigate the absence of sufficient financial aid options for Kenyan college students.

Strathmore University Student Center

Tuition at Kenya’s overcrowded and under-resourced public universities is heavily subsidized by the government. Students apply to the government’s Higher Education Loan Board (HELB) for loans to cover the remaining cost. HELB loans are about 60,000 Khs or $700. A HELB loan covers only a fraction of private tuition fees at a University like Strathmore, where tuition is not subsidized by the government and costs about $16,000 for four years of enrollment. For more than half of the country’s population that lives below the poverty line, on less than $2 a day, a Strathmore degree is unattainable, and reserved for rich, upper class Kenyans.

Together, Strathmore and Kiva are trying to change that. They offer students three low-interest loan products: full tuition, partial tuition and laptop loans.  Currently, there are 34 Kiva beneficiaries at Strathmore, 9 of which receive full tuition loans. Students who receive the full tuition loan, are young men and women who would not  be able to attend Strathmore without the assistance. You can refer to the Kiva-Strathmore partnership page for more details about the loan products.

Meet the Borrowers:

As a Kiva fellow at Strathmore, I am helping to expand the University’s credit limit, so that these loans can be extended to a new group of students.  I’ve had a chance to meet the current Kiva beneficiaries at Strathmore and work with them through Campus Kiva, a club for loan recipients to support each other and engage in community outreach projects. Watch this video created by Strathmore University and read on for in depth biographies of two full tuition loan recipients, Lydia and Jackline.

Lydia:

Lydia is a first year student at Strathmore University.  She is studying for a Bachelors of Commerce and plans to pursue a career in accounting upon graduating with her degree. She is part of the first group of students to finance their Strathmore degrees with full-tuition Kiva loans. Lydia is from Lodwar, a small town in the remote, northwestern district of Turkana in Kenya.  Lydia’s journey to Strathmore University begins with a 5 hour trek through dry, arid bushland from her mother’s home in Lorengelup village to Lodwar.  From there, she hops onto a bumpy, 12 hour matatu ride through Kenya’s unpaved hinterland to Kitale City on the Ugandan border.  Finally, she transfers to a second matatu for the last leg of her journey, an 8 hour ride to Nairobi. 

Lydia

Lydia’s presence at Strathmore is groundbreaking.  Economic opportunities in Turkana are sparse, centered mostly on the rearing and trade of livestock and weaving.  95% of the population lives below the poverty line.   Most girls in the region cannot afford to complete secondary school, and are instead married off as young as 12 years old for dowries of livestock. Against most odds in the region, Lydia completed secondary school.  Her primary and secondary school fees were sponsored by local charities and organizations.  Lydia was amongst the top ten, highest academic performers in her graduating class, and the only student selected by her principle to travel to Nairobi to interview for a Kiva loan. 

Lydia is very grateful for the opportunity to study at Strathmore.  The University’s mentorship program has helped her make a smooth transition from rural life in Turkana to the fast pace of Nairobi.  She loves the cosmopolitan nature of the capital, where she is interacting with Kenyans of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds for the first time.  Lydia is an avid football fan.  On her free time, she plays football on a team of Strathmore students.  In the future, Lydia is looking forward to returning to her community and inspiring girls to follow in her footsteps by completing their education.  She would eventually like to sponsor a student’s schooling as hers was, and spread awareness about organizations like Kiva that can help finance their education. 

Jackline:

20 year old Jackline is a first year student at Strathmore University.  She is studying for a Bachelors of Commerce and plans to pursue a career in accounting upon graduating with her degree.  She is part of the first group of students to finance their Strathmore degrees with full-tuition Kiva loans. Jackline and her siblings grew up adjacent to Beverly Flower, a flower exporting factory where her mother was employed in Nairobi.  Her mother died when she was a child.  Jackline and her sisters moved with their Aunt, a domestic worker for an upper class Nairobi family, and her brothers left Kenya to seek employment elsewhere. 

It was at this time that Jackline said she began to see “God working in me.”  After completing primary school, her Aunt’s employer insisted that she continue her schooling at a good provincial school in Nyeri, rather than attending a local one.  In agreement with her Aunt, he began deducting a portion of her salary each month to create a savings account for Jackline’s education.  Since he established that fund, she has always been able to cover her school fees.  

Jackline

Upon graduating from Secondary school, Jackline considered applying to a public University.  She planned on raising money for tuition by spending a few years cleaning houses as a domestic worker, and working as clerk in a supermarket.   She went to work as a domestic worker for Mrs. Irene Kiai, who saw Jackline’s potential and took her under her wing.  When Jackline expressed an interest in taking computer classes to prepare for University course work, Mrs. Kiai encouraged her to enroll in the best program and covered the cost.  Not long after, Mrs. Kiai saw an advertisement for Kiva loans at Strathmore University printed in “The Daily Nation.”  They both attended the information session, where Jackline submitted her application for the full tuition loan.

Jackline is very grateful for the opportunity to study at Strathmore University.  She has already begun thinking about how to make repayments on her loan, the first of which is due 5 years from now.  She started a fund to collect donations towards repayments in case she cannot find a job immediately after graduating.  On her free time, she enjoys listening to Swahili artists like Rose Muhando and gospel music.  She is a member of Strathmore Unviersity’s church choir.  On most mornings, you’ll find her awake as early as 5:30am going for a morning run.  Jackline recently participated in a marathon organized by Strathmore University and Standard Chartered Bank’s 10th annual Nairobi Marathon.

Jackline feels a strong obligation to create the same kind of opportunities that were afforded to her for others.  “If I’m not in a position to give materially, because of what I’ve seen in my life, I may be able to inspire someone.  If I am in a position to give materially, I will.  Outside there, there are very many people who are suffering.  Maybe there are those who don’t have school fees and have to drop out. Or maybe they don’t have a person to inspire them to continue and have hope.  I will do my best to give back to society.” 

28 October 2012 at 14:16

Hard Workers and the Spirit of Entreprise

En route to San Carlos for some BVs

Visiting borrowers in rural Costa Rica

By all accounts, borrower verifications (BVs) have been a highlight for all Kiva Fellows who have had them on their work plans. I started mine last week, but I have to admit I went into them feeling apprehensive—especially since not all borrowers fully understand how Kiva works or how Kiva is even related to them. (more…)

24 October 2012 at 10:15 1 comment

My Week with Premal – Kiva’s President visiting borrowers and partners in Nicaragua

Luan Nio | KF18 | Nicaragua

He is named Global Young Leader by the World Economic Forum and is on the Fortune’s 40 under 40 list for the most influential people under the age of 40.
It is easy to become impressed, maybe intimidated by a person that holds such accolades. But Premal Shah, president of Kiva, is the last person to become intimidated by. However, impressed? Yes, highly. And he was coming my way to Nicaragua.

Premal Shah’s lender page on Kiva. Note that he made over 300 loans.

(more…)

24 September 2012 at 20:46 2 comments

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