I recently spoke to a friend from London that I hadn’t caught up with for a while. “How have you been?” he asked, “how is your new job, what have you been up to?”
As a relative newcomer to the Good Return team I’ve been asked these questions a lot by friends and family recently. More often than not, I struggle to find an answer; after all, the title ‘Social Performance Officer’ doesn’t quite lend itself to a simple explanation like that of a dentist, engineer, or lawyer.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to begin. Since we’d last spoke, I had travelled to Fiji, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines. I’d been coaxed into trying local delicacies from snake and squirrel to balut and cold dog meat. I had walked for 10 hours up a mountain when Google maps promised me it was a 2 hour drive, breakfasted on nuts and fern roots scavenged from the forest floor and fallen head first into a rice paddy field before spending the night in a wooden bed half my height.
And yet, despite all these new and unfamiliar experiences, two things always brought me back to the true globalisation of our world. Angry Birds and the English Premier League. From a tiny village in the depths of Indonesian Borneo to a remote village in the foothills of Nepal, I am yet to find at least one person who isn’t wearing a Manchester United or Angry Birds t-shirt!
So what does a Social Performance Officer do? Well, to answer that the best I can, it is probably best to explain a little background to the type of work we do at Good Return. And as to why so many people in the international development sector are called ‘officers,’ I have no idea and will leave that for someone else to answer!
Good Return has a number of microfinance partners across the Asia Pacific region. These institutions, or MFIs as they are more commonly known, provide financial services such as loans, insurance and savings products to the poor. Like us, our partners share a social vision to help the poor and improve their livelihoods. But how do we know the work we do and the services we provide are actually helping to do this?
You may have heard about the microfinance crisis in India a few years back. They saw clients committing suicide when they over borrowed from multiple microfinance institutions with no means to pay back what they owed. Services set up to help the poor inadvertently did quite the opposite. So how can we truthfully say we are helping when there are plenty of examples showing quite the opposite?
One solution is that we try and measure the success of our work. That is, are we being successful in helping improve the lives of the poor? Essentially, this is what we mean by social performance. At first, it may sound a little strange but let me explain a little further.
If I asked you how a business measures its financial success then it is highly likely you will start talking to me about profit and loss, assets and liabilities. And you’d be correct. Well, social performance works in the same way. It is about measuring the extent of success of the social goals an organisation sets itself.
For Good Return, a large proportion of the work we do revolves around social performance. Essentially, we work with our partners and encourage them to be more responsible bankers. We help them measure and quantify the poverty levels of their clients. Do these poverty levels improve over time and if so we can begin to say, “Yes, the work we are doing is making a positive difference on people’s lives.”
We also ask our partners to treat their clients respectfully, charge reasonable rates and provide privacy and complaints procedures that microfinance institutions can use to improve their services. We often take these things for granted in Australia – they have long been embedded into our laws so we can largely carry on with our lives safe in the knowledge that the financial services industry is regulated to protect us. Our right to complain is upheld and our right for privacy is a given. We are lucky, for in many developing countries this simply isn’t the case.
So what does this mean for a ‘Social Performance Officer’? Well in essence, my role is to support the social performance work we undertake with our partners. Last week I was in the Philippines helping to facilitate a training workshop for the staff of our partner SECDEP where I held a session on poverty measurement. We then spent a day doing fieldwork and meeting clients, many of whom were farmers and provided us a fine spread of watermelon fresh from the field.
This week I am back in Nepal working with our partner RMDC, a microfinance network with around 1.5 million clients. Last year we implemented a pilot project that allowed 19 member microfinance institutions of RMDC to measure the poverty levels of around 7,000 clients. This year the project will be rolled out to over 100,000 and I am working with some of the staff to implement a training program and materials which will help support them in this process. After this, I will make a brief stop in Sydney for my engagement party before heading off to the next destination.
As you may have guessed, my job involves a lot of travel and while my role is extremely rewarding and varied, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. It is rare a day goes by when you aren’t without either electricity, water, Internet, roads, an understanding of the local language or a decent coffee.
For all the adventures, I must confess to looking forward to getting back to culinary normality once in a while. Today the local restaurant in Nepal was offering ‘Veg and Non-Veg Snakes’. For a minute I thought I was back in Indonesian Borneo until I realised, unfortunately for the new proprietors, their newly printed menus had a spelling mistake (‘snacks,’ not ‘snakes’!).
Rob is Good Return’s Social Performance Officer, and is currently in Nepal.
But still, it does beg the question…
Why do we need an International Women’s Day, anyway?
After all, there is no International Men’s Day. And why do we need a day that reminds us of how important women are – shouldn’t it be obvious?
The answer is entwined with our history: our understanding of justice and equality, how far we have come and what we have yet to achieve. Having an International Women’s Day is a celebration of how far we have advanced in creating a society where women and men have equal rights and equal access to resources. It is an important reminder that until recently, we did not have this day – or the right to vote, or the option to have a career outside the home, or legislation outlawing violence against women. The list goes on. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come – a day that recognises that change is possible.
However, although women’s equality has made positive gains, the world is still unequal. While International Women’s Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women, it also focuses attention on areas that need further action. Even in the most developed societies women on average continue to receive a lower wage than their male counterparts, and women are not present in equal numbers in business or politics. Globally, women’s education, health and the violence against them continues to be far worse than that of men.
This is why ‘Inspiring Change’ is the 2014 theme for IWD. The aim is to encourage advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere. It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance in seeking positive change. It’s something that everyone can get on board with. Men, women, young and old: we can all be advocates inspiring change for women’s advancement. It’s also something we have a responsibility to do. In many places, women, especially young women, still have very little decision-making authority to be able to effect change.
And yet, the decisions women make about their families are key to improving the lives of many of the poorest communities. Evidence collated by the UN indicates that in the developing world, women are more likely to take care of their family’s health care and nutrition, things that children need to become adults who contribute to economic and social development. In fact, research has shown that a child’s chance of survival increases by 20% when the mother controls the household budget. Ensuring that women and girls everywhere can seize their potential and be empowered is about raising awareness and making specific changes that will set into motion these longer term outcomes.
This is why International Women’s Day continues to be so important. It’s a chance for us to not only celebrate, but also take action to create meaningful and sustainable change for women and girls across the world.
It is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
It is an opportunity to highlight injustice, inequality and the need for change.
But, it is also important that we remember to do these things every day. Women’s rights are not just for March 8.
Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, but let’s also celebrate on the 9th and the 10th and all the days following – so that real change can be made in the lives of women and girls who continue to face inequality and disempowerment.
If you’re feeling inspired, change a woman’s life today by supporting her business and giving her the financial freedom to lift herself and her family out of poverty. Make a loan on Good Return now.
Hello Good Return blog readers! We are very excited to introduce Zac to you, who is one of four new volunteers representing us in the countries where we work. Zac has just arrived in Tonga. You will be hearing from the other volunteers as they arrive in Cambodia, Fiji, and the Philippines in the upcoming weeks.
Malo e lelei,
So I’ve just uprooted my life in Sydney, Australia to work as a volunteer in Tonga for 1 year!
The post in Tonga is part of my role as a Field Support Officer for Good Return / World Education Australia (WEAL), a microfinance organisation in Australia who work throughout Asia and the South Pacific. Good Return partner with various microfinance institutions (MFIs) who work throughout the region. Their partner in Tonga, SPBD Microfinance, is who I will be working with. More on this later!
What is microfinance?
In its simplest terms microfinance is about providing the poor with various financial services that you or I in Australia take for granted. Imagine life without a bank account, access to credit, or health insurance for when you fall down the stairs or need drugs from the doctor for that ‘thing’ that everyone has at work. Most people don’t have these privileges. This is the gap that microfinance is trying (not always successfully) to bridge. More on that in later blog posts.
International development has always been on my mind since I visited the “developing world”, and I think it should be on the mind of everyone. We all want to improve our lives. In the developed world, with most of humanity’s privileges at our fingertips, that generally means wanting the latest technology to show our friends what we’re eating for dinner or how much muscle we’ve accumulated this week at the gym. In the developing world, improvement means having things we take for granted. Microfinance is a step toward expanding people’s capabilities and ability to improve their own lives through access to financial services. I first heard of microfinance at uni along with the name Muhammad Yunus. It is something that I believe in and am very happy to be a part of, learn more about, and help develop (it’s certainly not perfect). More on that in later blog posts.
First Impressions of Tonga
There will be much, much more on my life in Tonga for me to talk about later. I’ve been here less than 24 hours, but I’ll try to outline some of the things I’ve noticed so far.
Tropical! Darn is it humid here. Bring on the rain! Loving it so far!
Funerals. Funerals are a big part of Tongan culture, I am told they usually last 10 days! On my plane over from Nadi to Tonga there was a coffin onboard. The funeral party was there to greet us at the gates, all wearing black and varying sized Ta’ovala (woven mats) around their waists. The relationship with the deceased determines the size of the Ta’ovala and the time period that black is worn for. For example if your mother of father passed away you would wear black for a full year!
Church. Another HUGE part of Tongan culture. I arrived on a Saturday evening so my first morning was a Sunday. It was nice to wake up to the beautiful sounds of Tongan church singing. I can’t wait to go!
Islands. Wow! What a stunning flight in.
Tonga so far feels very untouched. It lacks big buildings and masses of infrastructure. In a world where it is very hard to escape a globalising influence it is a Kingdom that has never lost its sovereignty.
Family is paramount in Tongan society. I am still trying to get my head around the ‘ranking system’ of Tongan families. It is all quite confusing!
The people are very friendly!
I am looking forward to this year being a new chapter in my life and development in international development. I hope that I can bring something to the lives of the Tongan people. I know that I am going to get lots out of it!
Zac is a Good Return Field Support Officer and arrived in Tonga last week.
“It is indeed a great honor for me, and to earn money and make a profit in business requires a lot of dedication, discipline and determination.”
– Asenaca Qalilawa
In a fitting end to the Pacific Microfinance Week 2013 conference last October, women from across Fiji gathered in Nadi to celebrate their achievements during the inaugural Fiji Microfinance Awards.
It was also a clean sweep for our partner, South Pacific Business Development (SPBD), who not only won the Best Microfinance Service Provider award, but whose clients also took out top honours in the Best Microfinance Entrepreneur – Individual and Partnership & Cooperatives awards!
The awards are an initiative of the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce, sponsored by the Reserve Bank of Fiji, the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) and the Life Insurance Company of India (LICI).
Asenaca Qalilawa, winner of the Best Microfinance Entrepreneur (Individual) award, successfully grew her flower selling and weaving business into a reliable income source. She now also runs a small bakery, tailoring enterprise and kava business as well!
“It all started when an organisation called South Pacific Business Development visited my village three years ago,” Asenaca explained. “They held a workshop, gave us basic financial training and gave us $1000 as starting capital.”
Asenaca explained the surprise of independent assessors upon visiting their centre: “When they came to talk to us, they were surprised with the number of savings we had — we have savings for our children’s education, our businesses and our homes — we have saved FJ$18,000!”
As the women accepted their awards — to rapturous applause — the crowd of donors, service providers, researchers and practitioners acknowledged the hard work and dedication of all the nominees in achieving their goals to build better futures for their families and communities.
It was an uplifting end to a successful conference, and an important reminder of why microfinance — when combined with education programs — can be such a powerful tool to end poverty.
If you would like to read more about the conference and award winners, have a look at these articles:
Jessie is Good Return’s Program Officer and was in Fiji for the Pacific Microfinance Week in October 2013.
When the Philippines was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan late last year, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of Good Return supporters. With donations to our appeal totalling $18,200, the money has been put to work – with 100% of the funds going straight to the Philippines. Over $16, 000 has been spent on food and supplies, $936 on project coordination and $455 on delivery to affected areas. The money is managed through SECDEP, our microfinance institution partner in the region who is in the best position to know where the money needs to go. All staff on the ground are working hard to rebuild the region, and we recently received an update from Luz Coronado, the Managing Director of SECDEP, on how the relief work is going. This is what she had to say:
We are very thankful for all the thoughts for our country during this time of devastation. It means so much to us to know that there are people who care for us.
A few days after the typhoon, we mobilized our staff to survey the areas affected – and check on our clients. We identified their urgent needs and immediately canvassed goods from the grocery stores still operational. We ordered sardines, corned beef, noodles, biscuits, coffee, sugar, milk and laundry soap. We delivered the goods in the areas and packed it in the branch offices with the help of staff and Practicum students in our organisation. Signature lists were prepared for the acknowledgement of those who received the goods. We distributed a total of 3560 bags of groceries in 208 centres. Of this number, 172 families were also aided by another NGO, who saw us on Facebook and approached us to help. We have also served 3 more municipalities with approximately 1000 families who are not our clients but within the range of the Antique Branch.
The clients were so happy for the assistance we were able to extend through your support. They felt loved and supported in the knowledge that we had not left them in their most difficult moment. A member even commented, “You were the first group who responded to help us, not even the government…we are so lucky to be a member of SECDEP.”
Despite all the devastation and destruction, they continue to smile and have real joy. When we ask them why, they tell us, “We are alive. That’s the big reason we are happy. As long as we are alive we can gradually recover from the destruction.”
The road to recovery is long, but it isn’t hopeless. Many have been able to take out Good Return loans, or used saving to purchase solar energy. With many areas lacking electricity entirely, demand for solar energy has been so high that not only our clients but also many others in the community now have access to the solar lantern. They are so proud to have lights at night, and the ability to charge their phones and cook with electricity.
Sadly, some of our clients who had successful businesses before the typhoon have now lost everything. We have had interviews with many of these clients and have been supporting their businesses through the provision of funds. With these funds, one client bought an engine for her motor boat that was badly damaged, another was able to buy seeds for her vegetable garden, and another paid for the rehabilitation of his destroyed boat.
We are very grateful for all the support you have extended to our clients. Thank you so much to all the people who have been a part of the recovery; with your thoughts, prayers and support you have helped make it possible for these people to move on and survive the present struggle. Our prayers that God may bless you all for your kindness.
- Luz Coronado
Managing Director, SECDEP
It’s been great to hear of the work SECDEP has been doing in the region to support those devastated by the typhoon, and it is always encouraging to hear stories of those who have made it out and are doing their best to rebuild their lives. So, we thought we would share Nieva Bihagg’s story. Nieva has been a member of SECDEP for 6 years and had managed to start a thriving business that allowed her and her husband to put their children through school. But that was before the trauma of typhoon Haiyan.
In a single moment, everything changed for Nieva and her family. Living on the coast, the storm caused tidal waves which threw debris through the water, while the typhoon wreaked havoc by tossing debris through the air. Nieva was suddenly separated from her youngest daughter. Seeing her daughter being carried away by the surge, Nieva reached out and grabbed hold of her arm just in time. Thankfully, the family survived: a miracle for which Nieva and her family are eternally grateful. The house, however, was almost completely destroyed, along with everything in it. The pump boat which was their business and source of income was also destroyed.
Nieva recalled the incident in tears. It is a trauma that will continue to haunt the family, but they haven’t given up. Nieva’s husband patched up and recovered the boat pieces, and was able to set it sail again after borrowing an engine from a barangay (village) captain. However, soon after, the captain needed the engine returned for his own boat and Nieva and her husband were left with a boat that couldn’t function.
When our field officers met with Nieva, she told us that she had been praying someone might see their struggle to rebuild the life they once had, and provide an engine for the boat. Because of the generosity of our donors, SECDEP was able to commit to paying for a new engine for Nieva and her family. With tears running down her cheeks, Nieva jumped up and hugged the officers – not even a moment later, her husband was doing the same.
There are other stories like Nieva’s too – Lydia Laglag and Emy Marcelo are just a few among many who are working hard to rebuild their lives through the help of SECDEP, Good Return, and you. Please continue to support these women and their families by donating a loan through Good Return today.
Richard and Julia are two of the participants on our upcoming Trek to End Poverty to the Philippines in March 2014. We’re very pleased to share their stories with you!
Interview with Richard
What inspired you to take on the Good Return Trek to End Poverty 2014?
I’ve been a very keen supporter of Good Return since first hearing about micro-financing in June 2010. When there was a chance to see the educational work being done in the field I decided that I wanted to be a part of the team heading over to the Philippines in 2014. The logistics about how to do that weren’t of interest at that time; I just knew immediately that I wanted to be in that group and see the work being done in the field.
Tell us how you’re fundraising.
With so many charities and demands on peoples time & money these days I started to think of ways to raise $4k. Initially I thought I could get 40 people to sponsor me $100 each and that would be it. Surely I knew 40 people who believed in alleviating poverty in our region as much as I do. After starting though I realised that finding 80 people who would donate $50 each was a more achievable target. It was pleasing when 3 donations of $200 or more kick started my campaign. Talking and emailing people directly provided the opportunity to discuss the event and the organisation I was supporting.
What has been the most enjoyable part of your fundraising and fitness journey for Good Return so far?
Seeing people committed to sponsoring me and then following through with that… also their interest in doing something meaningful to assist the alleviation of poverty in the Pacific rim.
Have you had any pleasant surprises during fundraising?
I made a list of everyone I knew in the areas of work, friends, sports and organisations I am or have been involved with. What surprised me pleasantly was each time someone whom I’d had only remote or little contact would jump straight onto the fundraising page and sponsor me $50.
What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming adventure to the Philippines?
Meeting the entrepreneurial ladies of the Philippines and seeing the education system in action followed very closely by the trek up the volcano
What advice can you offer someone who is daunted by the idea of fundraising or just starting their fundraising?
Don’t think too much about it before taking action. Getting started and keep talking to those you encounter each day about the 2014 event. I probably took two weeks thinking about how I could get started and then decided I just needed to get started and from then on things started to happen.
A thought from Julia
“I am continually amazed by the unexpected wonderful joys that come about through my involvement in this trek. From the sweet giving nature of a child, the pride people express, the amazing generosity and keenness to help. Long before the trek actually takes place this has been an amazing journey already with the bonus of really being able to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Interested in joining the trip? Registrations close 30 December 2013, so get on it! Find out more here.
Mrs Mao Rin (41) has just received a certificate for completing a Good Return Savings course which will help her manage her loan.
After dropping out of primary school in year 5, Rin says that she can “read and write only a little.” Now a mother of three, two of her children have had similar educational experiences. Her eldest child, now 22, was forced to drop out of school in grade 7 after an illness affected his hearing, and her second child dropped out to work in a garment factory so that she could help earn money for the family.
Rin and her husband have always relied on their rice crop and their small well-boring business for income. However, the rice crop hasn’t always been successful, and the family has struggled to afford basic living costs let alone the the regular, costly repairs of drilling equipment for their well-boring business.
Things changed when Rin was granted a loan with Good Return. The funds from the loan meant that Rin and her husband were able to purchase fertiliser for their rice crop, which resulted in a higher yield than ever before! They were also able to afford the cost of fuel and maintenance for their well-boring equipment, which now earns the family up to $220 AUD per well bored.
Thanks to the Savings course Rin completed after taking out the loan, she understands the differences between income and expenses, and realises the importance of saving money for things she may need in the future, and for emergencies. Rin’s third child, now 13, will now be able to continue her studies due to the family’s extra income and improved financial stability.
Support women like Mao Rin this Christmas
Did you know that you can give a friend, colleague, or loved one credit to use on Good Return? They’ll love being able to make a loan to a woman like Mao Rin and hear how she goes with loan repayments. Plus, until December 31st, for every 3 gifts you buy we’ll send you 1! It’s our way of saying thank you for sharing Good Return with your friends and family.
Thanks to Steph of World Education Cambodia for this story & photos.
Have you heard of Giving Tuesday? If you haven’t… you have now.
Imagine a single day where people from all across Australia rally together to give back on a local and global scale. That’s what Giving Tuesday is all about. It’s a call to action that, with enough support, will change lives and make history.
This year, on Tuesday 3 December, we are celebrating a day dedicated to giving. Charities, families, businesses, community centers, students, retailers, and more are coming together as part of a movement to celebrate giving and encourage more, better and smarter giving. And what better time to do it than the holiday season?
How many times have you received a gift that’s ‘somehow’ made its way to the trash can, or been re-gifted for another unsuspecting recipient? We’ve all done it. Sometimes there’s just too much ‘stuff.’ This season, we challenge you to give a gift that actually matters.
Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 by New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, partly in response to the global shopping phenomenon Black Friday at the end of November. Together, they rallied different sectors together to ‘give back’ and support local not-for-profits, causes, and communities. Over 2,500 not-for-profit and business partners participated in different ways, resulting in awareness being raised of many different issues and a significant increase in giving. Blackbaud alone processed over $10 million in online donations (a 53% increase!) and DonorPerfect recorded a 46% increase in online donations. More than 50 million people worldwide spread the word about Giving Tuesday.
Now, it’s Australia’s turn!
It’s time to activate that competitive Aussie spirit and see how much YOU can give so that together WE can make a difference. Giving Tuesday is only as effective as you make it.
There are many different ways you can give. You can fund the causes that matter to you, find local volunteer opportunities, raise awareness over facebook or twitter, organise a volunteer day or fundraiser with friends or work. The possibilities are endless, and the chances are you’ll feel pretty good doing it too.
Here at Good Return, we’re supporting Giving Tuesday with our Christmas gift certificates – they’re the perfect gift for friends and family, and to say thank you for sharing Good Return with them, every time you buy three gift certificates we’ll send one to you!
We’re glad to have the occasion of Giving Tuesday to say a big THANK YOU to you for making loans to families in poverty over the past three years, and for your stunning support of our Philippines disaster relief appeal ($16,000 raised, and still going — all donations made before 12 Dec go to the Philippines, click here to donate). Many thanks to our community partner ConnectingUp for bringing this wonderful initiative to Australia.
So dig deep and give big this #GivingTuesday. C’mon Aussie!
Get involved and find out more:
- Giving Tuesday official website
- Ideas for individuals to get involved with Giving Tuesday
- Buy a Good Return Christmas gift certificate
- Donate to Good Return’s Philippines disaster relief appeal
Hi everyone, we’re pleased to provide you with another update from the Philippines. Gretchen, our Program Quality Lead, was on Skype yesterday with Luz, the Managing Director of SECDEP, our partner based on Panay Island. North-eastern Panay was hit particularly hard by Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda), with the Passi City and Sara branches having been hit the worst.
Luz has been in the field for the past few days, checking in on staff and borrowers alike, assessing the damage and seeing how SECDEP can help. After typhoons, SECDEP provides relief supplies to its borrowers, such as non-perishable food, clean water, cleaning supplies for houses and clothes, basic medicines, and even some miscellaneous rebuilding supplies, or other useful things such as batteries. They are also considering how to get solar lanterns to affected clients, to help with lighting and the charging of mobile phones. Their largest concerns with solar lanterns is cost and equitable distribution.
We are relieved to hear as well that there has been no known loss of life in the SECDEP community (its borrowers, staff, and associated families). Considering the initial reports of destruction and death tolls, this is very good news!
Communication systems and electricity are still down for most people, reinforcing the need for other options like solar lamps and charging stations. (Although did you hear that Skype has offered free credit to those affected by the typhoon? What a great idea.) However, what remains in most demand is food and clean water.
Luz had this update for us yesterday, 20 Nov:
SECDEP has uploaded photos of their relief efforts to their Facebook page — click here to like them and to see more photos.
Good Return is sending 100% of all donations to the Philippines between 12 Nov – 12 Dec, so please donate now if you can spare a few dollars to help. All donations over $2 are tax deductible for Australian residents for tax purposes.
All the team here at Good Return have been blown away by the support shown by Australians during this time — we have fundraised a total of near $12,000, which we know goes a long way in the Philippines, but more is still desperately needed. While disaster relief isn’t our specialty, we are very glad that we can assist one of our partners during this time. Thank you again for your support!
On 8 November, disaster struck the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan’s 315km/h winds, torrential rain and ocean surges destroyed Tacloban, the provincial capital of Leyte. It left in its wake severe devastation in the form of flattened homes, blocked roads, and damaged bridges. The death toll is estimated at 4,460 and 13 million people have been affected, and nearly a million of those have been displaced. The Filipino government has estimated that the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) is in the area of $244 million AUD, or 10 billion pesos — mostly in the farming and food production industry.
Our microfinance partner in the Philippines is SECDEP (St Elizabeth Community Development Program), based in Iloilo City on the central island of Panay. SECDEP works to provide financial services, enterprise development and health-related education to poor women in rural communities in the region. The path of Haiyan cut directly across Panay before it began to weaken in the South China Sea. Luzvminda Coronado, Managing Director of SECDEP, reported on the disaster in these words:
“After the typhoon, roads are closed due to debris, uprooted trees and floods. Power was cut off for almost all areas. Communication was lost because cell phone sites of all the networks were destroyed. Accounts of the casualties were not accurate because of loss of communication. We just know lately that thousands died due to the disaster.
Now that we are back to work, we are busy making efforts to help in the worst situation of our clients and staff. A lot of our staff are absent due to damaged houses and flash floods. We still need to find how to cope with the loss of power needed for our operations. The news said that power can be reinstated in 2 months for the most heavily hit areas, and in a few weeks in others. It was good for us the cut only hit our head office for some hours last Friday.
What we worry the most about is our clients. In two branches (Passi and Sara) heavily hit in the northern part of the island, we could not determine yet how many and how serious because of loss of communication. I had an initial information from the field staff but I need to visit the areas tomorrow. We need to be in solidarity with them who are suffering due to loss of loved ones, home, crops and hope….for the future.”
Good Return’s appeal for donations to support SECDEP’s disaster relief efforts started on 12 November. Since then, we have been blown away by the support from our members — who have donated over $11,000 to the appeal. $9,000 was transferred to the Philippines on Friday 15 November, and we look forward to sending the next amount soon. SECDEP has told us that in one branch alone, over 1,000 people have been impacted. If you are able to donate, please do so here!
A good portion of SECDEP’s clients in the affected areas are Good Return borrowers. 100% of donations are being sent to SECDEP (we are taking no portion for administration fees). Your funds will procure relief supplies such as clean water, food, soap and cleaning supplies, basic medicines, and solar lamps which provide much-needed . Once families’ immediate needs are met, they can start to rebuild their lives. Many of these poor farmers and fishermen will have to use their savings (if any) and raise new loans to repair their fishing boats, houses, or re-plant destroyed crops.