The coastal town of Carigara in the Philippines, with its wide rice fields and distant mountains, seems worlds apart from Alan Sugar’s office or the Dragons’ Den. Yet from within this unusual setting tomorrow’s business men and women are emerging thanks to a microfinance cooperative.
Many of the residents earn a living here at New Carigara Wet Market selling fresh fish and vegetables.
Amongst the sellers are parents of Compassion-supported children attending Hill of Zion Child Development Centre. Already the poorest of the poor, these families often struggle to make ends meet as they face strong competition from the packed market stalls.
Seeing their struggles, Pastor Celso responded by setting up a microfinance cooperative to provide small loans to Compassion-supported families. Rather than running the cooperative himself, the pastor placed his trust in these six Compassion-supported teens: Kimberly, Julius, Daisy, Erica, Arrabella and Judylyn.
“Our church leaders decided that we should run the show because this is our cooperative anyway, the members and beneficiaries are our parents,” explains Erica.
The cooperative was set up thanks to an initial investment from the RESPOND fund. Through the hard work of the teenagers that money has now doubled, allowing them to reach more families and buy a laptop to help with their accounting. Pastor Celso is careful to oversee the team, checking their balance sheets on the last Saturday of each month.
Since the cooperative started a year ago, over half of the parents have joined and it’s already making a huge difference. Holding back tears, Erica’s mum, Maria Rose says,
I don’t know any other way to earn a living but to sell fish here [at the local market] and the cooperative has given me a loan so I can sell more and bigger fish.
Maria is the sole bread winner and with ten mouths to feed she worries about her children. “I am very happy for my daughter,” Maria Rose continues. “She studies hard in school and is a leader at church. Her sponsor supports her studies so I don’t have to worry about her anymore.”
For mums like Narcissa, who owns this tapioca stall, the cooperative helps her earn a more stable source of income. As she explains, “I have been selling food and vegetables [at the local market] since I was 14-years-old. The cooperative has helped me improve my sales. I believe the youth are doing well [in managing our cooperative]. They are helping us have a livelihood and teaching us how to use money well.”
Kimberly (smiling in the black t-shirt) dreams of becoming an accountant or businesswoman one day and is thankful for the opportunity to learn how to handle money. “We were taught how to identify problems, provide solutions and given the chance to learn how to run a business, which we find very beneficial for us,” she explains.
“Kimberly and her team are doing well,” says Pastor Celso. “This cooperative is not just an exercise in leadership and accounting skills, but a legitimate business that could turn out to be their source of income in the future. There is potential for this to grow if they do their best. And as of now, just one year after, we are proud of these young people.”
We love to see the children and young people in our programme flourish. And thanks to RESPOND we can find creative ways to invest that not only benefits the children but also their wider family and community.
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