Tag Archives: Microfinance

Philippines: Part II (2010)

Filipinos are known as some of the warmest, friendliest, and most hospitable people in the world. Relatedly, they are also very communal – they share space together and always like to be near friends & family. They have a very circular sense of time: There are no set schedules and no set deadlines. It’s OK to be 2 hours late (or more) to a scheduled meeting or appointment! Contrast this kind of demeanor with that of most Americans: Individualistic, linear time orientation, and usually less willing to go out of their ways to make one feel welcomed.

These are the two cultures that are crossing paths this week. This is one of the reasons why I love the Philippines.

In 2008, as many of my readers know, I spent 3 months living and working in the Philippines with a Christian NGO known as Food for the Hungry Philippines. Then, I studied their microfinance initiative (which is only 1 small part of what they do here), evaluating its effectiveness in a few key communities, and learning how recipients benefited from the earned income in their IGAs (Income Generating Activities). For example, I interviewed several loan recipients who had received very small loans with which to buy a pig. They then raised the pig, and I learned how they benefited from the extra income of selling the adult pig.

Three months is a short time in which to do research. One week is even shorter. I am here for a week in order to do a case study with the Christian NGO, Center for Community Transformation (CCT). My focus is on how they conduct their Fellowship Groups, or the weekly meetings that their partners come to in order to pay down their loan and encourage each other. (CCT prefers to use the term “partner” rather than “client” because in a partnership, both parties are equal and one is not “above” or “better” than the other).

The Fellowship Groups are largely normalized across the country. However, due to the very short time period, I will not be able to quantify any of my research, and will be unable to make any generalizations. The time is way too short to be able to interview enough people, do focus groups and hand out surveys. Rather, my goal is to build a narrative of what a fellowship group should look like. I will be observing one or two fellowship groups, but most of my research will come from interviews with CCT staff members.

The “standardized” process of each Fellowship Group is summarized in the following five steps:
1) Welcome
2) Worship
3) Word
4) Work
5) Wrap Up

CCT is a distinctly Christian organization, and this fact influences everything they do. “Worship” and “Word” (Bible study) is considered just as important as the “Work” (paying off the loans). As a Christian who has studied Community Development, I agree: Holistic transformational development can not just come piece-meal. It must be an integration of services meeting different kinds of needs – the physical (material), the spiritual (without God, we are nothing), the mental (a strong sense of identity and strong sense of ability & self worth), the the health outside relationships (harmonious relationships with community and government is important), and much more.

Having arrived at 10:15pm Sunday (Philippine time is 13 hours ahead of EST), I have only been here 1 & 1/2 days (it’s early Tuesday morning now). Last night, I got to experience Filipino culture at its finest, and was welcomed very warmly to CCT:

You will notice that this banner includes the name of two other organizations as well: Hope International (which is also a Christian microfinance organization), and Esperanza (an MFI located in the Dominican Republic). We had no idea that CCT was going to host all of us during the same week, but this is incredible! PEER Servants’ first goal is to write these case studies in order to bring the stories back to the States and share them with other MFIs around the world.

But I am also always looking for connections in the Development world (working internationally in community development and microfinance is something I’m very interested in pursuing) and am excited to be able to spend time with some of the people in both of these organizations, with whom I am already familiar.

The people captured in this picture playing the stringed instruments are just a few of the dozens of guitarists on a stage. As we walked into CCT’s headquarters last night, this band started playing, there were people at the door there to greet us, and they served us a feast! It was a delight and a wonderful introduction (or, for me and a small number of others who have been to the Philippines before, a re-introduction).

Today, I’m back off to the CCT office for a more formal introduction to the organization of CCT and to begin my interviews. I am excited to learn, and am absolutely humbled to be able to spend time with such an incredible organization.

I’ll try to post another blog before I leave on Sunday morning.

Thank you for your continued prayers & support.


Philippines Support: Will You Help?

I wrote the following support letter to several of my friends, and I’m hoping that others who may know me online would be willing to pray for me, and/or help me financially.

Dear Friends,
As many of you know, I am currently living and working in Boston, and have been here for just under 1½ years. My time here has been special. I have grown tremendously, learned many things, and have formed deep friendships.

Recently, I have spent time volunteering for a Christian microfinance organization (MFI) known as PEER Servants. As you may be aware, I graduated with a degree in Community Development. Organizations like PEER Servants get me excited because they place an emphasis on both the spiritual and material needs of the poor, while at the same time respecting the poor by honoring their own knowledge, desires and experiences.

In the middle of November, I have the opportunity to spend a week with PEER Servants as they take a small group of people to the Philippines. (You may recall that I spent 3 months in the Philippines in 2008! If you would like to learn more about that trip, you can visit my blog at www.davidmartinwhite.com, and click on “Philippines.” I will try to blog about this trip too.) The goal of this trip is to document short case studies on an MFI that PEER Servants has partnered with in the Philippines, known as Center for Community Transformation (CCT).
CCT is an indigenously lead Christian organization that has partnered with thousands of Filipinos to provide very small, affordable business loans. These case studies will be used to help others here and around the world to learn about successful microfinance. PEER Servants has partnered with several MFIs around the world, and the case studies will be valuable in helping several of these organizations learn from a successful, indigenously lead organization. You can learn about CCT by visiting www.cct.org.ph and you can learn about PEER Servants by visiting www.peerservants.org.

I am writing to ask you to consider prayerfully in supporting me. I have already purchased my plane ticket, which cost just under $1,300. Other costs will be approximately $500. By my own choice, I have committed to paying for at least half of this trip out of my own pocket. Therefore, if I raise more than $900 from friends like you, I will be donating the excess money to PEER Servants for their continued work in Christian microfinance around the world.

As I wrote in my first Support Letter that took me to the Philippines in 2008, I believe that your investment is more than simply helping me “provide” things “to” “the poor”. Instead, my aim is to build partnerships in the Philippines and to help strengthen the ties between CCT and PEER Servants. Your investment in this trip would also help me in my own critical thought (and prayer) process of whether or not a life working overseas is what I should continue pursuing.

Will you join me? First, I am asking for your prayers. Pray that, even though 1 week is an extremely short time, I would be blessed by the people with whom I work in the Philippines, and that they would be blessed by me. Pray that I would humble myself and allow myself to be taught by the CCT staff. Pray that I would learn from the microfinance recipients. And pray that our quest for case studies would be a success!

Second, I am asking you to contribute financially. If you are able and willing to help, please donate online at www.peerservants.org/emaildonation.php?volunteer=David+White.

Thank you in advance for your prayerful and/or financial support.

David White