Good Return’s first exchange visit: Learning from each other
The first exchange visit between two Good Return partners happened in the Philippines from 2 December until 4 December 2012. TPC’s (our microfinance institution partner in Cambodia) Chief Operations Officer Mr. Sok Voeurn accompanied me on a visit to SECDEP (our partner in the Philippines) to observe the client training in the field to gain some insights for the imminent implementation of financial literacy training in Cambodia.
The value of this ‘first’ exchange visit between Good Return partners was extremely valuable and both Luz (the Executive Director of SECDEP) and Voeurn recommended that we do this more often! It proved a fantastic opportunity for our partners to get to know one another and get (perhaps) a more global perspective of Good Return activities and our emphasis on country context specific activities.
It proved a truly beneficial activity to showcase client training activities in one country to a visiting Good Return partner where the sharing of ideas and recommendations flowed between Voeurn and Luz and Rose (Good Return’s Program Coordinator in the Philippines).
We visited four villages and observed four trainings delivered by a mix of client trainers and staff trainers. We also had the opportunity to interview three client trainers: Hermie, Julie and Cynthia.
All three women have been Client Trainers for around one year now and they have delivered training in debt management and budgeting and at the moment they are all delivering the savings module. Most income generating activities for these women consists of growing rice, sweet potato, coconut, corn and raising livestock.
The Client Trainers each deliver training to two centres, four days per week. Most groups consist of 28 or fewer SECDEP clients.
Some of the experiences and challenges that they shared with us included:
- “Teaching is good because I learn a lesson as well from the discussions. I have learnt how to deal with clients, how to handle debt, I had a lot of loans myself before. I realized that if I sacrifice a bit I can pay off my loans – now I only have one loan with SECDEP.” (Hermie)
- “I love that the clients call me Mam! I enjoy meeting and sharing experiences with each other and our beliefs around money, especially that money is hard to find and how to increase our income from just one source.” (Julie)
- “My husband used to smoke but when we calculated how much we spend on cigarettes he stopped because he realized that the money he has spent on cigarettes over the last two years we could have built a new house!” (Cynthia)
All three client trainers said they update their own cashflow journal on a daily basis and encourage their children to be thrifty, and as a family they cut down on expenses to ensure they keep up their savings habit to reach their family savings goal.
During one of our village visits observing training in Dayhagan village, Voeurn asked the group at the end of the session: “If you saved a small amount of money each week and you managed to save 40,000 pesos, what would you do with this money?”
Most women responded by saying that they would use it for the education of their children, with one woman saying that she now saves for the future education of her youngest child (around 10 months old) to ensure she gets the best opportunity for education; another said she would use the money to expand her business and possibly employ more people; another said that she would use the money to make some renovations to her house.
Voeurn said, “It was very interesting to see how very active clients were during the training sessions.”
At the end of the visit Voeurn said: “Overall the visit was very good and it was beneficial to learn about the training and methodology in the field. The level of professionalism that Rose brings to the program in her specialist area of Training the Trainer and re-echoing training to staff and client trainers was excellent. We can share the outcomes of this visit with Mr. Bunthoeun [Good Return's Program Coordinator, Cambodia] making a benchmark for our financial literacy training – while we cannot do everything the same way we can share what works well between the two countries.”
Some of the surprising things that Voeurn observed in comparing the two countries were: “I was surprised by the youth of the SECDEP Project Officers (Credit Officers) and that the majority are female. In Cambodia it is difficult to achieve this kind of ratio.” Voeurn went on to say that “Education levels are more equal – gender wise – in Philippines as compared to much lower literacy levels for women in Cambodia, where men usually have a higher education than women.”
Luz commented that, “Levels of training competence are being developed from the clients up to the supervisors. In hiring new staff we have a young age criteria for easy molding. TPC were not the only ones surprised but also one of our local partners at first thought we were hiring high school graduates because of their young age and faces.” Luz also noted that, “Education in the Philippines is a priority, and that is why high literacy percentage both male and female is evident. SECDEP strongly supports this need by offering educational loans and scholarships to their loyal clients.”
An informal chat between Luz and Voeurn sparked a thought for Luz on how to improve their pilot agricultural loan. Luz heard a lot of good things related to agricultural loans but could not clearly picture how to do it. Luz hopes to be able to visit TPC and explore more on the strategy of how TPC has implemented the loan and how and what their clients are using the loan for.
Lucky for Luz Voeurn has warmly invited SECDEP to visit TPC in the first quarter of next year!
Both Voeurn and Luz recommended to Good Return that we have a regular (maybe bi-annual) Good Return microfinance partners retreat to learn from each other.
This was a great exchange of information, ideas, and resulted in some great suggestions for us at Good Return.
Colette is Good Return’s Sustainable Livelihoods Program Manager and just returned from the Philippines.