Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Thoughts from an Airport

Wow, we fly out in the morning. I can’t believe it. This trip has been an absolutely wonderful experience and one I will be forever grateful for. After the stress of the middle third of the trip (we had four flights over a three day span), the last couple days we spent at the beach in Batangas, at a resort courtesy of one of the Daughters of Charity’s uncle, and the Mall of Asia. I spent yesterday in the warm water of the central Pacific, soaking up the sun (confession: I got pretty badly sunburnt) and seeing my first coral reef. It may have been the best beach water I have ever had the opportunity to swim in. Oh, and how could I not say more about the coral reef? Sure it was a bit bleached and devoid of its famous colors, but it was amazing to see hundreds of fish swimming around. It was like living inside of Finding Nemo. It was beautiful really, and a small miracle. Our three hour drive seemed doomed by rain clouds. The Daughters of Charity, God bless them, really, accompanied us as they cooked us another feast of a dinner. A few of us rose early the next morning to take pictures of the sunrise over the water. After a night of on and off rain, we were gifted with a rainbow to go along with our sunrise. We soon packed up and left Batangas for a trip to the Mall of Asia, a shopping mall big enough to function as its own city. The store Kultura, packed with all things Filipino, served as a great base of activity as we all bought souvenirs consisting predominantly of mangoes (the mangoes here are heavenly) and pearls. I also finally got the opportunity to try Jollibee, the Philippines’ own fast food chain that serves items disparate as fried chicken, spaghetti and red sauce, and cheese burgers. And of course rice; no Filipino meal would be complete without rice.

While that was all great fun, I don’t want it to distract from what this trip did for me personally. For one, I got to meet with almost all of our borrowers in the Philippines. These were the people that GLOBE always set out to help. These were the people we spent those countless hours organizing fundraisers for. I’ll never forget sitting down for meals with the borrowers and their families in Libon, or the smiles and energy of the women in IloIlo City. For me it showed me there is a world outside of Queens, a world that is not necessarily Paris or Rome. None of those cities have anything close to the sheer magnitude and depth of Manila’s poverty. The images of the city were unlike anything I had ever seen before. The filth and squalor and abjection that much of the city has to live in, yet in the same city that can house a mall as prolific as the Mall of Asia. I can now say I have seen what poverty looks like, what someone means when they say developing world.

I have been contemplating applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for about a year now. Most of the countries I have looked at working in are a part of the developing world and are generally a part of Southeast Asia. After spending (a short) time in the Philippines, I have an idea of what I can bring to the table and why the work I want to do is so important. For many, education (which is almost synonymous with access to the English language) is the way to escape the cycle of poverty and advance in life. This trip has made me think only further on how I can contribute. I would like to thank everyone involved for giving me this opportunity and Dr. Sama for this extremely vital experience. Your work for us students does not go unnoticed. Now, back to the States!

What are your dreams?

 What are your dreams?

Are they for fast cars? A luxury home? Or maybe to graduate college? What about starting a family? We think of what makes us happy; what we would like our lives to be like in the distant future. No matter how much or how little we may have, there is always that thirst to achieve something greater. While many dream of material things, our borrowers envision the success of their families and members of their communities. They may have very little, but they work tirelessly so that their children can have an education and access to a quality of life that they never had.

Day three brought us to Iloilo, home to 22 of our Filipino borrowers. Luckily for us, our chaperone, Sister Cori, was also a native of Iloilo city. She enthusiastically gave us a first-hand look into to a wide variety of people, cultural sites and historical monuments. 

We visited her home and got acquainted with her mother and family. Beautifully decorated, her home exuded culture, tradition and perseverance. The walls were lined with pictures of her many siblings, proudly adorned in their graduation attire. While her father earned his income as a lawyer, her mother stayed at home and cared for all twelve children. These parents dedicated their lives to ensuring that their children would flourish – and so they did!

Followed by visits to churches and other cultural beacons, we travelled to Colegio de San Jose, where our borrowers eagerly awaited us. One of the major drawbacks of micro-finance is that it is difficult to measure the impact of the work performed. How do we measure the transformation of the lives in the communities we offer micro-credit to? How can we be certain that the services we are providing are truly worthwhile? Those and so many other questions were answered in a single PowerPoint presentation (Yes, our borrowers prepared a group presentation worthy of exposure on a college campus!). We were truly amazed at the progress these borrowers had made with their enterprises since the approval of their loans in December last year. What began as a mere idea in 2009 became the GLOBE that we know and love today – a program that is now evidently uplifting communities and changing lives.

As shown in their presentation, these borrowers transcended the model of individual entrepreneurship. Castaway on a remote island of Taloto-an, just off the coast of Iloilo, our borrowers formed cooperatives, established group enterprises and reaped rewards exceeding our expectations. They conducted regular meetings and created a natural cohesion that motivated each business to success. With a limited command of the English language, they presented their cases with confidence, sprinkling their local dialect in between to our delight. For example, consider the case of the Sitio Guinmesahan Store. Have a look at the transformation as a result of GLOBE:

In a joint – cooperative, these borrowers combined their efforts in order to relocate and improve their store. The store is now represented by ten cooperative members, who each enjoy a capital share of 500 Philippine Pesos each – a scene reminiscent of what we learn in the Finance textbooks. Their store now generates approximately 800-1200 Pesos a day and meetings are regularly conducted by officers to ensure smooth operation of the micro-enterprise.

How about the Sitio Bago-Isi store, can you “spot the difference” between these images?

Like (most) stories we appreciate, this one also comes with a happy ending. We sat at the Colegio and witnessed the impact of GLOBE being multiplied within this community. These borrowers managed to find innovative ways to use the returns from their enterprises to help their communities – just as they promised to do within their loan applications. They even offered microfinance services of their own – giving a far greater number of people the means and hope provided by GLOBE. In one example of a joint loan, totaling, 90,000 Pesos, the Sari-Sari (Convenience) store was expanded and can now accommodate a greater variety and volume of items. Considering the long run growth of the store, the shopkeeper even opted not to have a formal salary, devoting a greater amount of funds to the business. More importantly, the three borrowers designated 50,000 Pesos towards their very own micro-finance fund. This fund is used to provide loan assistance to their 12 cooperative members. Isn’t that amazing? It appears that GLOBE is spreading within greater communities, serving an even greater population as if on its own.

At the conclusion of the formal presentation, our meeting was far from complete. We engaged each other, asking questions, sharing insights and stimulating discussion. Curious, I asked them, “What are your dreams? What do you dream about?” At the time, I anticipated responses relating to having a thriving enterprise, expanding profits, or alleviating poverty for themselves. Instead, they responded with, “To see my children with a good education,” “To make sure my family can get out of poverty,” “So that our children will be happy.” Our borrowers were much more concerned with uplifting future generations with wise investments that looking after their own benefits. They were planting seeds – seeds that promise to create successful enterprises, proud parents and grandparents.

We left the Colegio with a sense of pride and accomplishment. GLOBE was igniting change in communities in ways we had never imagined. We could not help but anticipate the next meeting with a great sense of optimism.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Legazpi we have arrived!

At this point in the trip, we have  become frequent flyers. After a quick flight back from Iloilo the same day, we boarded another flight the following morning to Legazpi. Unfortunately, we experienced a flight delay that put us all in a frenzy because we were unsure if we would be able to meet to our borrowers in time. Nonetheless, we made it. Patiently, they waited for our arrival.

As we made our way to the table to have lunch with them, we were given partners to sit with. The borrowers did not come alone. They came with their families, many of which were their children. When it was time to present, their children would speak on their behalf. With little experience speaking English, they expressed their nervousness to us. We assured them that it was okay. We were not their to judge. There would come a time where we would have to introduce ourselves to the group. I understood their nervousness. What to say to the people I've learned so much about? I was so inspired by their bravery and commitment to create a life that was sustainable.

Later that day we planted mango trees together before indulging in dessert. I believe that the  trees were an indication of the bond we had created with one another. The bond was sweet, mutual, and forever. So grateful for the endless selfies and laughs that I will remember for a lifetime.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


As a member of the Marketing Team a year ago, I felt fairly isolated from the borrowers. I never got the chance to really spend the time with the loan applications; GLOBE wasn’t even in the Philippines at the time. Yet there was something truly special and moving about meeting with our borrowers. I can be a fairly stoic person. It takes a lot for me to really connect with something and feel in the moment. To be brutally honest, I was not sure if meeting the borrowers would move me. It did not help that this trip has been a true whirlwind and getting to our borrowers has always taken a good deal of energy. In fact, we have taken four flights in the last three days, all on the wonderful Philippines Airlines. But meeting with our borrowers in IloIlo City helped shake some of my stoicism and being in Libon completely destroyed it. GLOBE, and the work I put into fundraising money for the program, has helped alter the lives of people.

Friday started with an early flight out to IloIlo City which happens to be where Sister Corey is from. She gave us a wonderful little tour of her hometown, including of her own home to meet her 95-year-old mother who doesn’t have a single wrinkle! After the quick tour, we made it to the local Colegio de San Jose, where we were served some food. I have no idea where my head was but I was certainly not prepared to meet so many borrowers. The conference room we were in was suddenly packed with Filipinos, almost all women, smiling widely and chatting amongst themselves in the local dialect. There were so many borrowers! These were all people we had loaned to! It was us who were helping to fund their (mostly) sari-sari stores, but their dreams. These women had woken up at 3 AM to meet with us, and here they were, happy! I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy, but I would imagine some nerves or stiffness when meeting your money lender, but these women were so grateful. We then watched a very much in-depth slide show about all of the borrowers’ businesses. But the detail that really stuck out to me was that these women were using their loans to then loan money to others in the community! And they were having success with collection! That means that all of the loan we gave out had so much larger an effect than we at GLOBE could have ever imagined. As some of the women spoke, they mentioned their desire to help out their community. It is a genuineness and a desire for a greater future that I personally don’t find all that often. While these women then turned around to thank us for loaning to them, it was us who were really inspired. These women who lived in a remote part of the Philippines, on an island with no (or was it limited?) electricity, were doing absolutely everything they could to better their lives and the lives of those around them. Never did I think that the money I raised during my term would help fund so much and mean the world to so many people.

The next morning we had another flight, this one to Legaspi. We arrived to the airport early only to find out that we had been bumped from our 9:30 AM flight and moved to a 12:15 PM flight on a propeller plane. This delay threw off our entire plan to meet with our borrowers in Libon at 1 PM. By the time we got to the Legaspi airport is was already around 2 PM, with what was at least an hour drive to go. It really felt as if the day were ruined. After an hour drive to our destination (another colegio, this one Colegio de Santa Louisa de Marillac), I had to go to the restroom. I leave the restroom and search for my group when I find all of our borrowers and their college-aged children sitting outside, with a banquet of home-cooked food sitting in front of us. We were encouraged to mingle with the borrowers and their children and not sit amongst each other. At my end of the table was the sister and daughter of two different borrowers, both of which were studying at the colegio for a degree in elementary education. As we ate what probably will go down as our best meal in the Philippines, I tried to make small talk with those surrounding me. I’m fairly awkward and found it a bit difficult: after all, I really had no idea what to expect. So, we chatted about the fried chicken and lechon and coconut, crab, and chili concoction (the actual name for it of course escapes me).

It was then that I found out there was even more of a plan. One of the Daughters of Charity began to call up the borrower, their spouse, and their child up to the microphone, during which the child was to explain the business plan. For many of the kids, the speech was nerve-wracking and English was a struggle, but they all did it anyway. It was so moving to see how much these kids respected their parents and felt indebted to them. One boy said that his dream is to make enough money so that his father doesn’t need to feel the pain in his arms from his work as a fisherman. While whispering to the girls surrounding me, it was then that I found out that all of the borrowers had taken part in making today’s feast. It was them that had made the coconut milk and water fresh that morning. Who had prepared the eggplant salad and lechon. They made a chocolate sticky rice pie and much, much more. They were transfixed and in awe of us, and of course not to mention grateful. It was in that moment that the impact of GLOBE really hit me. The money I had raised was funding dreams. It was funding students’ educations so they could go on and have a better life. It was breaking families, families who I am eating with, to break out of the cruel cycle of poverty.

We planted mango trees to commemorate the moment and took many, many pictures with the borrowers and their kids (basically our peers). They ogled at us; I was told I look like Harry Potter. We said a sorrowful goodbye, one panged with the desire to come back and meet again but the knowledge that it would probably never happen. We got back on the van and drove off back to the city. We sat silently for a couple moments, taking in what had just happened. After the morning we went through, Dr. Sama said it best, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but what a beautiful day.” 

Day 4-5 Trouble in paradise!

It was time to visit our borrowers of Libon and for this we needed to get in another plane to get to Legazpi, from there we will drive for two hours in order to get to our meeting point. We were expected to catch a 9am flight which will only take 45 minutes, however once we got to the airport our plans were forced to change. Out flight was being delayed and now we were leaving at 2pm. We tried our best and look for solutions but there was nothing that we could have done. We were all very frustrated and worried, we were expected at 1pm at Libon. For us it was a tragedy but looking around of us in the airport everyone else whose flight was delayed seemed calm. Apparently this is common in the Philippines, hours always change and you just have to be patient and wait for the best. Once at Legazpi we immediately got on our way to Libon we were all very anxious to meet our farming borrowers. We arrived with 3plus hours of delayed but our borrowers and daughters all greeted us with a huge smile and applause. What are we ? celebrities ? In my view they are the people we should applaud for.
Once again there was an amazing traditional lunch waiting for us. How delicious the food was. This time not only the borrowers were there but also their families. Their children were part of their business plan, they talked about how essential these loans are for their families, how much they value education and how grateful they were. This made the event extra special. After lunch they shared their stories and entrepreneurial plans and we also got to opportunity to tell them about us but specially to say thank you. Thank you for taking a chance with us, thank you for being adventurous, thank you for having us today and create memories of a lifetime. 

We provide them GLOBE tee-shirts and they had a very lovely surprise for us. We were all given mangoes and papaya seeds so we can plant them, this will represent our immortal presence in the community. Every GLOBE member planted their seeds along with a Filipino partner. It is by far my favorite memory of the trip. It was truly beautiful. This made us forget the inconvenience we had at the airport, it was all worth it once we got to know our borrowers and their stories. My heart was full of joy.  
The following day before returning to Manila we got the opportunity to visit our surrounding us. We were once again toured by the Daughters of Charity. We saw their community, visited the Cagsawa Ruins and saw the magnificent Mayon Volcano. Legazpi was truly paradise.   

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Day 3 22 beautiful stories!

Iloilo bound! 
This day was full of excitement and adventures. We took an early morning flight in order to get to Iloilo City and meet borrowers from Conception. Sister Corey was our tour guide, how excellent she was! Our day started by visiting her mother, since Iloilo is Sister Corey hometown. Her mother is an extraordinary woman, she is more than 90 years old have the cutest of smiles and a flawless skin. Sister Corey's mom gave birth to 11 children and adopted one; all of the count with college education except for Sister Corey who devoted her live to the poor and needed. What a remarkable family.
Iloilo is a beautiful town, it is quite refreshing after coming from Manila since there is less traffic, smalls buildings and a lot of nature. We visited the main church of the town where according to locals the statue of Virgin Mary “grows”.  Following, we finally got to our main destination which was Colegio de San Jose. I was beyond excited  , we were about to meet 22 borrowers. We all gathered in the meeting room of the Colegio the borrowers arrived just after us and we all start to mingle and grabbed lunch. I must admit the hospitality of the Filipinos is admirable, they always get you with a smile and food, tons of traditional food which they are very proud of. This was not the exception, after having some delicious milk fish and panceta noodles (Iloilo traditional) we were ready to start.
The organization of this group was outstanding , they prepared a magnificent slideshow, explaining the business of the borrowers, the progress, repayments and hopes for the future. This slideshows counted with innumerable pictures and precise facts of how their businesses are doing. It was like attending a presentation in New York just more fun. I was truly amazed by this group, since they were truly entrepreneurs. They were provided loans in groups of three, all counted with a president, vice president and an administrator. The beauty of this is that they are not only using their loans to improve their business but they are also providing microloans! Yes they are also managing their own microloan organization! Isn’t this remarkable ? They claim that their main objective is to help into the development of the community.  Sister Corey have sent a social worker that direct regularly meetings with these entrepreneurs so she can assist and advice them about payments and micro finance, obviously these meetings are not just business, they also have fun having group bounding activities. The Filipino culture is a very fun culture, they are always smiling ans joking around. Being positive and patience is a very great asset they have. After giving them some GLOBE tee-shirts and taking tons of pictures and selfies it was time to say good bye.
We visited some other institutions managed by the daughters in Iloilo and left to the airport. It was a very intense day but full of joy and inspiration. I am so happy and proud of all those 22 entrepreneurs.

Meeting with Habitat for Humanity

First of all, a few apologies. For one, sorry for all of these late posts, the wifi situation has been spotty to say the least and the days are so packed that pumping out quality posts has been a bit of a challenge. I also want to apologize for not posting any pictures; I’m not much of a photographer (and just generally forget to take photos). I’m sure Will’s and Alina’s posts will be much more picture friendly than mine. Finally, I want to apologize for all of the clichés that this post will have. Sometimes, clichés really just fit a situation best.

This trip has been quite odd for me. For one, it has been a year since I even took part in the class. As well, as a part of the marketing team, I felt really detached from our borrowers. I don’t know if I ever learned a single borrower’s name that term. Being in the Philippines complicates that feeling even further: back during my term, GLOBE was not even in the Philippines. I spent some time prepping for this trip by reading up on our Filipino borrowers. I had to be reminded by Dr. Sama at some point that a sari-sari store does not sell saris, but rather functions as a type of convenience store. Meeting our borrowers over our last few days has really put a face to poverty and given new meaning to the work that GLOBE does.

So much has happened over the last few days that I’m going to naturally gloss over some things. Again, for that I apologize. I guess this is where I try and explain.

On Thursday we spent the day with Habitat for Humanity. I hate to admit it, but before this trip, I really knew very little about the Philippines. I had no idea what to expect from Manila; what the city would look like, what to eat, how people would dress, what Tagalog looked and sounded like. Sure, I knew about the recent presidential election and had a vague recollection of the colonial history, but that was it. So, learning that Manila serves as the base for Habitat for Humanity’s operation in Asia was quite a shock. The Habitat office (which was located, for the record, in a very, very different looking part of Manila; if you were just placed there, you would think you were somewhere in the States) was large and spacious and looked like an absolutely thriving center. From there, we learned quite a bit. The foremost lesson was that Manila’s traffic is no joke.

Okay, maybe not the most important lesson, but the traffic situation is actually a true disaster and will cripple the city in the future. No, the great thing was learning about Habitat for Humanity’s microbuild, a program that extends microloans to those in developing countries to help either build or renovate their homes. One of the first slides we were shown was a really neat one with an animation of how homes in the Philippines are generally constructed. That animation really clicked after driving and walking around Manila and seeing the homes in person. It really is totally different talking about someone else’s living conditions versus actually seeing it and sitting in their house. Which goes back to what might have been the most powerful moment of the day; before our meeting with Habitat in their office, we had the opportunity to attend one of their group microloan meetings. The meeting, housed in a prototypical Manila home, was packed between us and the women. The woman were so happy and full of life and grateful for being given the opportunity to uplift themselves and their families. One woman was a dress maker and had one of her dresses with her. The dress was a beautiful royal blue but the woman was too shy to model it so one of the other borrowers from the group showed it off for us. The entire group had such an amazing energy and a true bond as they all have yet to default on a payment. Seeing the real benefits of microfinance and what our loans can do for people and how it can enhance their lives really shined through. It gives actual faces to those that we can help.

Okay, this post is already quite long. My next post (which will hopefully be out tonight!) will be about meeting our borrowers in IloIlo City and then the next day in Libon, Albay. As the Daughters of Charity have told us repeatedly when dealing with Philippines Airlines, pray for patience!

Greetings from Iloilo!

Our next stop during our excursion was Iloilo. We boarded an early morning flight to the city from Manila. Noticeably different from Manila, Iloilo seems to be more sustainable in terms of their agricultural structure. Nonetheless, it's still a bustling city like Manila that even New York traffic couldn't compare too. 

Sister Corey was our guide for the day. She is a native of Iloilo, so it's was only fitting that she toured us around the city that she knows so well. She took us to visit her home where we would be able to visit her mother. A woman of wisdom and stunningly beautiful, she made sure all 12 of her children received a degree. I hope to be as resilient as her at age 95. We were also able to visit the school she attended where we met student leaders and toured the facility. 

Later in the day we were finally greeted by our borrowers at Colegio de San Jose! They came baring beautiful shell necklaces for us as a welcome to the Philippines. So far I've noticed that before all of our meetings, we first join together in prayer. This has been a great way to unite us together before our discussions.  During our meeting, they each shared a presentation of their businesses that depicted before and after photos, pictures of their meetings, and an overview of where the business is now. The presentations were so well put together. Despite being able to speak little English, they each stood up to express their gratitude to us. Although we may not have been able to understand each other's dialect, I believe that thank you is universal.  As thankful as they were to us is as thankful as we were to them. They were a group of strong women who expressed that they wanted to be able to educate their children with the income from their businesses. They didn't want them to work on an island but rather attain a degree. In that sense, I believe that GLOBE's impact will be generational. 

Our next stop is Legazpi, stay tuned!

The Tale of Two Cities

Yes, both of these places are in Manila, but they have very little in common. This is the tale of two cities.

Generally, we believe that we are all equal. We cringe at the sight of any form of discrimination and even protest when our own rights are violated. However, is equality just a concept in today’s world? Each example of social and economic inequality reminds us of George Orwell’s statement that some people “are more equal than others” (I hope you’re familiar with Animal Farm). One of the first things they teach us in Economics is that limited resources are matched with unlimited wants. The sad reality of this is that the majority is forced to live in a state of desolation so that the rich can satisfy their unlimited wants.

Day two introduced us to two sides of the same city with the help of our dear friends at Habitat for Humanity, an international NGO dedicated to providing housing for the world’s poor. It is their vision to have “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” One of Habitat’s thriving operations is housing microfinance. Although they do not provide microfinance services on their own, they develop partnerships with microfinance institutions such as Kasagana-ka Development Center Inc, which provides microloans, savings, insurance and education for the urban poor.

The day’s activities began with a brief overview of Kasagana-ka’s business objectives and operations.

You may read about poor communities in books, see them in the news, or discuss them with colleagues, but the complexion of the poverty problem is quite different when you experience it first-hand. Kasagana-ka, alongside with Habitat for Humanity, plunged us head first into one of the communities they serve – just in time for a borrower repayment meeting. The streets were paved with debris of all kinds. We were greeted by the smell of poor sanitation and pestilence, along with hungry stray animals. As we walked through the neighborhood, we witnessed the daily lives of those deprived of the luxuries we often take for granted.

Nevertheless, the attitudes of the people reminded us of the important distinction between ‘poor’ and ‘living in poverty’. As we listened to Kasagana-ka’s borrowers welcome us and share their delight and enthusiasm, it was clear that they are by no means ‘poor’. They emulated a sense of hope and solidarity that many ‘rich’ persons would love to experience. The repayment meeting was not just a formality to collect loan funds. It was a home of unity among the borrowers. They share joy and support each other in every aspect of life. The strength of this community and the dedication of the borrowers allow Kasagana-ka to boast a 100% loan repayment rate – how impressive!

I was told that the other side of Manila is “much more Westernized,” but it was as though we travelled to a different land. During the drive to the main office of Habitat for Humanity, we encountered an unbelievably different city. It felt like New York (well..somewhat). I wondered if I was still in the Philippines! Just over an hour away by car, the buildings pierced the sky; the residents were dressed for office; the culture painted a different picture.

Fortunately, there are organizations such as Habitat for Humanity that are making strides in alleviating poverty and hopefully tipping the balance of inequality. Inside the office, we were introduced to a lot of the impactful work that Habitat is performing in the Asia-Pacific area and beyond. 

Incremental Housing; Housing Microfinance; The MicroBuild Fund; what does this all mean for the poor? Incremental housing reminds me of Lao Tzu’s words: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This is the process whereby repairs and improvements can be made to homes- one step at a time. This way, affordable houses can be built for those in need, one step at a time. Coupled with housing micro finance, those living in poverty are given access to small loans so they can improve different aspects of their homes. Over time, the proud beneficiaries can see their homes slowly transform into something safe, comfortable and secure. 

The MicroBuild Fund adds an interesting perspective to the micro-finance industry. Micro finance has usually resulted in the formation of micro enterprise; Habitat urges micro finance institutions to focus on the creation of housing for the poor. 

It does not end there; they also provide technical assistance, educating borrowers so that they can create high quality homes. The result is an all-rounded increase in the well-being of communities. Having already funded home improvement, GLOBE is no stranger to Habitat's vision. 

The fight against poverty needs all the helping hands available. Let's build together.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Hello from the Philippines!

As we anxiously exited our 20+ hour flight, it finally dawned on me that we were in the Philippines. This being my second time out of the country, I was reminded of what it's like to be in a foreign land. My excitement prevailed my jet lag as we began to make our way to our destination. We were welcomed by the Daughters of Charity who have graciously accommodated us during our stay. They took us to Hospicio De San Jose in the city of Manila. The Hospicio operate as an orphanage housing the sick, abandoned, and elderly. While there, we received a tour where were greeted by the vibrant personalities of young children who bombarded us with warm hugs and playful spirits. 

Additionally, we would have the chance to met our GLOBE borrower, Olive Cerro. Olive operates a small store in Manila where she sells groceries, kitchenware, and ingredients. She gave us a tour of her home where we were able to meet her family. A small woman with a large smile, I would best describe her as admirable. Olive has 8 children that she cares for daily. She explained to us that they are school aged. Because of this, she wakes up before the crack of dawn to prepare breakfast for each of them using only one hot plate. I was happy to learn that our GLOBE loan had assisted in the education of her children.

Despite her circumstances and the poverty she faces, she greeted us with a welcoming spirit. I believe that we shared mutual excitement in meeting one another.

The following day we met with the Philippines Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. They offer incremental housing/micro housing projects thought the Philippines. They took to us to a village in Manila where we were able to sit in on a meeting with their borrowers, all of which were women. This moment has been the highlight of my trip thus far. During that meeting, we learned what they did with their micro loans from Habitat as well as how the program is helping them in their personal lives. They explained that their weekly meeting where they repay their loans also allows them to catch up with one another. Because of this, they have created a support network. Like other's we've met, they were welcoming, and pretty hilarious all things considering. I was grateful that they allowed me to sit in on their meet and and share laughs with them. That being my first time experiencing extreme poverty, my heart was heavy as I left them. My life and the way I viewed the world changed. 

DAY 2 Micro Building wonders!


This was a day all about Micro finance wonders, in particular Micro Building, which basically consist in providing microloans to individuals which need to improve or construct a safe home. This is the base of anyone well being.  We spend the whole day with our friends from Habitat for Humanity Philippines. We started by meeting them at KASAGANA, which is a partner of Habitat that focus on Micro Building. Our first activity consisted on attending a meeting with a group of Micro  Building borrowers. We had to drive for a while and then take a walk to finally get to the heart of that little crowded neighborhood. Our friends from KASAGANA explained to us that borrowers have weekly meetings, were they submit payments talk about their progress and learn more about Micro finance. There was such a great energy in the group, people is smiling joking and just having a good time. They love to attend these meetings and I believe that it is the base of the success of micro credit group programs. As for this group no member have failed to summit payments. KASAGANA overall has a 98% repayment rate. It is truly amazing! The highlight of the meeting was listening to the stories of borrowers and how Micro finance have changed their lives. Thanks to the guidance and help of institutions like KASAGANA and Habitat they are able to brake the cycle of poverty and improve their lives. 
 For our second part of the day we drove to the financial area of Manila. What a change it is. For a moment you have the feeling of being in a big American city with luxury buildings and malls. We were invited to the offices of Habitat, I was surprised to see how big their offices are and specially how many awards they have received. Girly and Greg, our friends from Habitat, along with other members of the Micro Building team processed to give us a presentation of Micro Building. They explained how successful it is becoming in Asia but especially how essential is for people's development. I loved to spend the day with Habitat we got the best of both worlds, we got to experience first hand the impact it has in people lives and learn more about the topic, reflecting on ways we can applying it in GLOBE. 

DAY 1! Hello Manila we are here!

We have arrived! After a 15-plus-hours long flight, the GLOBE Fellows are finally at the Philippines. We are staying at Hospicio de San Jose in Manila City; this is an institution under the administration of our incredible partners, the Daughters of Charity of the Philippines. Our first day we were up at 7am, I was so excited that jet lag didn't affect me as I though it will do, we have a 12 hours difference here. Our first activity was getting to know Cindy, one of our borrowers. She conducts the bakery at Hospicio. Cindy besides being a fantastic baker is an amazing warrior. She has suffered a lot in her short age, mainly due to a men, she is just 24 and have 3 children which are her motivation to keep fighting for a better life. Thanks to the guidance of the Daughters and a loan from GLOBE she is slowly but surely changing her lifestyle. She kindly offered some bake goods, they tasted delicious. I truly recommend her coconut bread it's is fantastic! 
Following sister Corey Daughter of Charity (DC) started by telling us about the services the institution, Hospicio offers. They focus in fours different programs, which advocates for children and elderly. The work they do is so supreme that they have achieved a grade A for the four different programs, which is the highest recognition for this social institution in the Philippines.  The program that called most my attention was they adoption program, they manage successful adoption in a national and international level; however what make me the most happy was to see how happy the children are. They have amazing facilities and staff which provides them love and guidance. Hospicio de San Jose has come a long way it was founded in 1810 and since 1865 was directed by the Daughters of Charity. Now it keeps on being one of the most reliable and respectable social institution in Manila Center. 
For the second part of the day we visited another of our borrowers and different institutions that are also directed by the daughters. 
Driving around Manila center is perhaps the hardest things to do, not only because of its intense traffic, with streets and avenues full of trucks, bikes and cars all in a same lane but mostly because the crude extreme poverty one can feel. The streets are full of garbage with people living on it, sanitary conditions are non-existing. Children running around playing on big piles of garbage, digging in to see what they can reuse. It is truly heartbreaking. I come from Ecuador that just like the Philippines suffers of extreme poverty, I have seen this level of poverty before nonetheless that does not make it easier to assimilate, it is still hard to understand how can be so much injustice in this world. However our day became brighter when we meet Olive, one of our borrowers. Olive greeted us with a huge smile next to her little food car. An excited Olive intend us to her house, which is close to her food car, she introduced us to 3 of her 8 children. I was mesmerized when I saw that Olive just count with one set of fire to cook all her food, she told us she wakes up everyday at 3 am to start her entrepreneurial and mother activities.  Olive's food truck sells many items such us:  boiled eggs and fried rice for 10 pesos. In regards of the short time of her business she counts with loyal costumes already, which are bikes drivers. Our day continue by visiting other institutions manage by the DC. It is mind blowing to see how predominant the daughters are in this city. Their presence is essential for the social development and history of Manila. One of my favorite institutions aisles Hospicio is Asylum an institution for temporary residencies that provides and advocated for education of their residents. 
For the last part of our day we meet the Ladies of Charity for dinner. Once again driving by the streets of Manila I was amazed by its poverty, this time I was able to put more attention into its surroundings, it's incredible there are restaurant chains mingling around this poverty, I saw innumerable Dunking Donuts, McDonalds and Starbucks. It is shocking. At this time of the day I must admit Jet lag hit me and I was extremely tired but once I saw the Ladies of charity I cheered up, they tread us dinner and we were able to talked about our organization and the work they do. It was a great way to finish our day.
I have seen and learn so many things it is taking me time to process all, as for now I am just grateful for being here and mostly to see the impact one loan at a time can do.