Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A happy story about 12 women, their children and your kindness

Thanks to those of you who donated and publicised fundraising for this microfinance project, AU$7,000 (edit: $8600 total thanks to further $1600 community donation from my employer IBM) was raised to help Filipino women out of poverty through a 2 year program. And here are the recipients of your kindness.

The following is an excerpt from the Initial Report provided by Opportunity International Australia.

Furao Trust Group - Philippines

The Furao Trust Group is composed of 12 female members who initially heard about the program from another villager. A loan officer conducted an orientation seminar for the residents of Furao and explained the details of the program including the different services offered. The 12 women then passed the evaluation process, based on their determination and capability to run a small business. As a result, Furao Trust Group was formed.

Members meet with a loan officer every Thursday. During this time they make their loan repayments and receive business training and mentoring. They also discuss issues relevant to both their business and personal lives,and find support and encouragement. The loan officer facilitates discussions and helps the members solve problems.Members say they enjoy these meetings as they are able to spend time creating strong friendships.

This report provides information on the Trust Group which was established in the last three months, and outlines the types of businesses that have been funded as a result of your giving towards the Trust Group program.

Furao Trust Group

Furao village is located in the province of Isabela on the island of Luzon. Agriculture, particularly rice and corn, are the biggest industries in Isabela, which was named after Queen Isabela II of Spain. Villagers in Furao come from a mixture of three main ethnic groups: Ilocano, Ibang and Tagalog. All three languages are commonly spoken. Furao is a small village on the outskirts of the nearest town, however the closest market from the village is still 7km away. Furao Trust Group members have to travel 10km to buy stock for their businesses at the large public market in Roxas.

Furao Trust Group members are engaged in various small businesses including tricycle driving, piggeries, vegetable gardening and barbeque vending. With the loans received, members can invest in larger quantities of their product or can expand their range of stock.

Prior to receiving financial assistance, most members earned approximately Php.100 -150(A$2.55-3.85) a day. This income has increased to Php. 200-250 (A$5.10-6.40) as a result of the additional capital and business training. Furao Trust Group members are working hard to provide their children with opportunities they never had.

Furao Trust Group members (Name, M/F, Age, Business)
Conception Agudon, Female, 50, Tricycle operator
Lenie Calubaquid, Female, 55, Sari-sari store
Adelaida Mina, Female, 55, Tricycle operator
Delia Agudon, Female, 47 ,Piggery
Norma Diampoc, Female, 44, Sari-sari store
Charlita Caranzo, Female, 46, Vegetable vending
Linda Quibilan, Female, 58, Vegetable vending
Caranzo Arlene, Female, 34, Direct selling
Lucia Florendo, Female, 45, Vegetable gardening
Marcelina Pedro, Female, 55, Piggery
Aida Salvador, Female, 37, Piggery
Charliza Lumilan, Female, 35, Barbeque vending

Life in Furao

Household size
This group has an average household size of four people. In the Philippines, parents typically have two or three children, and are often responsible for supporting aged parents or an adopted niece or nephew.


Furao has its own health centre where villagers can receive free consultations and medicine.


42% of Trust Group members attended university, while 58% attended high school. Several members were unable to complete their university diplomas due to financial constraints. All of the members of Furao Trust Group hope to support their children until they complete senior high school and many hope to send their children to university. Each member saves a portion of their business profit each week with the intention of using this money for their children’s future.


Most houses in Furao are semi-concrete with roofs of galvanised iron, walls of lawanit (wood) and concrete floors. Most of the houses only have two rooms, so large families often sleep in their living room. Toilets are usually open pits located outside the house. Water is accessed from a communal well. Households in Furao have access to electricity.

Client Profile

Norma Diampoc runs her own sari-sari store business. She is married to Augustus, a farmer. Together they have three children: Cristine, 24 years old, Alma, 22, and Elgie, 18.

Out of the hardships she endured as a child, Norma has become a strong business woman. Being part of a family who did not have enough resources to provide for their needs, she was forced to leave high school early.Norma usually opens her store at 8am and closes it at 9pm. She chose to open a sari-sari store because she is able to earn a living and still fulfill her responsibilities as a wife and mother.

“I am able to buy more commodities for my store like detergent soap and canned goods." She recalls that before the assistance of ASKI she was having trouble budgeting her income. With the help of the Trust Group’s loan officer, financial planning for her family has become easier.

Philippines – At a Glance

The Philippines is a nation of 7,107 islands, known for its fun-loving people and American-influenced culture. The Philippines became the first and only colony of the United States in 1898, and is now the third largest English speaking country in the world.

Due to a long history of colonial rule and ongoing associations with merchants and traders, today the Philippines is a vibrant mix of cultures, with Malaysian, Chinese, American, Spanish and Arab origins. Tribal communities are scattered across the archipelago. There are more than 111 dialects spoken throughout the Philippines.

Economic and political uncertainty
The Philippines has a long history of political instability, corruption and violent demonstrations. Gloria Arroyo has been president of the Philippines since 2001. In the 2004 presidential election, 112 people were reported to have been killed in election related violence. There were widespread reports of vote-buying, intimidation and voter registration problems. In early 2007, the Philippines again held national elections and President Arroyo was reinstated. Despite fears of recurrent violence, the elections went smoothly. President Arroyo stated after the election that poverty alleviation would be a major focus of her government.

Multilateral lenders—such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund—are insisting that Arroyo’s government halt the endless cycle of budget deficits by stamping out corruption in the tax system. The new administration needs to vigorously tackle corruption and obtain due process in the legal system, as well as improve efficiency and competition. Delays in implementing such structural reforms have made economic growth slow in comparison to other countries in the region.

Poverty is a reality
Poverty in the Philippines has been a predominantly rural phenomenon, with the gap between urban and rural poverty increasing in recent years. In rural areas, many people depend on subsistence farming and fishing to support their families. Some work as tenant farmers of paid agricultural workers, and there are few social services to support them. Indigenous people are also more likely to be poor, illiterate and unemployed than their non-indigenous counterparts.
Groups who are especially vulnerable include indigenous peoples, small-scale farmers who cultivate land received through agrarian reform, landless workers, fishermen, people in rural areas and women.

Fishermen play a crucial part in the national economy of this nation of many islands
Area: 298,170 sq km
Population: 96,061,680
Capital city: Manila
Ethnic groups: Tagalog 28.1%, Cebuano 13.1%
Religions: Roman Catholic 81%, Muslim 5%
Language: More than 170 languages are spoken within the Philippines. The official languages are Filipino (basedon Tagalog) and English.
Source: CIA World Factbook (Nov 2008)

Poverty and health

A recent survey reported that hunger is a fact of life for 40% of Filipinos. Of the five leading causes of death, fourare preventable communicable diseases—diarrhoea, bronchitis, pneumonia and influenza. The prevalence of communicable disease places a huge toll on communities and on the health and economy of the nation as a whole.

The population growth rate is also presenting serious challenges to the delivery of health services. There are only 1.2 medical physicians per 1,000 people and 18% of the population is undernourished. In rural areas, people’s health is worsened by the difficulty of accessing medical treatment, along with locally endemic diseases like malaria. The growing population is also putting pressure on the environment, a concern which will only exacerbate the problems of poverty and disease in the future.

How Opportunity Australia is helping
Opportunity Australia is meeting the challenges in the Philippines by working with three implementing partners, ASKI, TSKI and TSPI (Alalay Sa Kanularan, Inc., Taytay Sa Kauswagan, Inc. and Tulay Sa Pag-unlad, Inc.) Our Philippines partners are currently providing loans, savings and insurance to over 390,000 clients.

Opportunity Australia is undertaking a Philippines Renewal Program—helping our Philippine partners move from product-driven to client-responsive services. This transformation will increase service quality to existing borrowers and allow for the expansion of services into other needy client markets. The renewal will also equip our partners toremain at the cutting edge of a rapidly evolving microfinance market, enabling them to deliver innovative financial solutions to address the needs of poor people.

The 2008-2010 Renewal Program achieves twin goals: improving the sustainability of microfinance and other antipoverty services to the poor; and broadening their social impact among some of the poorest families and communities in the Philippines. Together, we can make a difference to the lives of thousands of poor people across the Philippines.

Under-five mortality rate: 33 per 1,000
Average life expectancy: 71 years
Literacy: 92.6%
Population with access to safe drinking water: 85%
Source: United Nations Human Development Report

Opportunity International Overview
Opportunity International is a global leader and pioneer with over 35 years’ experience in providing microfinance and enterprise development to the working poor in developing countries.