Diabetes Cake and Child-Headed Households

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“Wow, they shouldn’t call these 7-layers bars, they should call this Diabetes Cake”, says one of my students during a cooking activity. This quote is the first thing that comes to mind whenever someone brings up diabetes. Having worked as an occupational therapist in hospitals and mental health in inner city Los Angeles, I was very familiar with the complications of Adult onset diabetes. I had seen tons of people with vascular disease, blindness and occasional amputation due to years of poor nutrition or other complications.

It was rare, though, when I had a student in my life skills groups, who had made the connection between the consumption of sugar and the disease that was currently progressing in one of their family members. This student who was one of my favorites (yes, I know you are not supposed to have favorites but any teacher/therapist does), had a parent who had already lost his leg and so at the age of 16 was already very conscious of the factors that could make that his future as well. All this to say, Diabetes Cake was the legacy he left behind and the majority of what I thought of in regards to the disease.

All this ties in to a recent trip to Uganda. I have had the privilege the last 8 months of traveling around the world to spend time working with NGO’s doing great work in difficult situations. Uganda was my second major stop and an awesome opportunity to spend time with a dear friend who has just committed 2 years of her life to work with a community of HIV affected widows. The organization, Dorcas Widows Fund, provides an array of services such as group farming projects, potential home support, medication support, clean water projects and child sponsorship.

The child sponsorship program is what my friend takes leadership over and where my story with diabetes continues. Renee and I got to spend a large amount of time learning about a different kind of diabetes, juvenile onset. And by a large amount I mean jumping right into a day of diabetic crisis with one of Renee’s students.

In the middle of that day, a few confusing doctors visits in, you begin to wonder how things got to this point for a 24 year old whom we will call “Bob”. The story starts somewhere in the middle for him as well, in the crux of his teen years when he lost his parents to AIDS and his brother, sister and himself became a “Child-Headed Household”. This term is often used for families in Uganda where children have been left to take care of themselves when parents are gone and there is not other family to take them on.  Bob and his siblings were left to make some hard and destructive decisions in order to maintain resources for food and housing. The details of their story are pretty amazing but not mine to share so I will leave their history at that and return to our crash course day.

1. Long wait at the hospital

2. Frustrating doctors appointment where the doctor confuses himself explaining the course of treatment.

3. Doctors returns to the room after multiple requests, wearing a ladies headband and a bow.

4. Return later to find Bob has not been attended to to follow up on his medication, not to mention in hospitals there, the family (in our case us) has to go purchase the medications, supplies and food for the patient.

5. Get another doctor who describes a completely different equation and recommendations for Bobs treatment.

6. We get Bob out of the hospital only to realize we have no idea how to give a crash course in Type 1 diabetes treatment to a patient that has little money for food, when food regulation is a major part of treatment.

7. Thanks so much to several friends that responded to a public facebook call and help us set up course of treatment recommendations for such a difficult situation (Dr. Kevin and Nurse Katie) thank you…..

The situation continues after that in much more detail, only to be summed up in one word, “Frustration”. Frustration at a medical system that is ill equipped and over burdened to provide adequate medical care. Frustration at a situation that has created families that are “Child-headed” so that there is little external support for children/young adults going through such a difficult situation. Frustration that in a world with such amazing innovation, that there are places where such maddening situations occur.

I could on, but why….. I guess, please just know situations exist in frequency in certain parts of the world and that is just tragic. So with this said, a big thanks to Renee for being present and being a blessing to boys such as these. Thank you to those who responded to our facebook plea and helped us set up a manageable treatment plan for Bob that will hopefully keep things managed for his near future. Lastly, thank you to you, whoever is reading this and if you so dare, be invested in other places and people so that they too can have access to education, healthcare and community that is supportive, loving and advocated for each person.

And She Is College Educated…

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It must have been 100 degrees out in the mid day sun whilst four of us were piled into the back of a cab and two in the front on the passenger side. In typical Filipino style, there is always room to accommodate everyone and so everyone came to our destination.  With my friend from the states in town, and the help of NGO friends, we got to tour some of the different service areas that my NGO, CCT, had in the Manila area. We were on our way to see the lunchtime meal and fellowship meeting held for street dwellers under the bridge, near the city post office in Manila.

Initially mine and my friend’s energy was waning due to crawling traffic,  body heat, lack of air conditioning and claustrophobia but eventually my engagement kicked in more as my Filipino friend, Ciara, starting asking questions to “Kuya” (means “older brother” in Tagalog, I will leave it at that since I don’t technically have permission to tell this story).  I had met Kuya a couple of times and knew he was part of the street dweller ministry at the organization I had been serving at, but didn’t know too many more of the details. Ciara began slowly asking questions and soon allowed me to interject my own as my fascination increased. Kuya’s story goes something like this:

He grew up in the lesser developed province of Samar, in the Philippines, where there was not much money and not much opportunity. His parents encountered a recruiter who promised that if they allowed their son, at the age of ten, to move to Manila to work, that he would send home a steady paycheck to them in Samar. His parents took the deal and entrusted Kuya’s care to this recruiter.

Well as often happens in situations like this, Kuya discovered a life in Manila filled with long work hours and hard labor. Unfortunately at the time he had no way to contact his parents, no education to even understand his own address and no formal identification. With these disadvantages in mind, he still decided to run away from the work and risk his life on the streets.

Having worked with gang members in the past, I was fascinated to hear about his life growing up on the streets. He was strong and quickly became the head of his group of kids whose territory included the same Manila baywalk I would run along each Sunday morning. Kids that wanted to join their crew had to prove themselves worthy. Meals were stolen or crimes were committed to make sure that the group members ate each meal and were able to take care of each other.

View of Manila Baywalk from my condo

Details in the in between were lost to me, but somewhere in the last five years (Kuya is probably in his late thirties) encountered a group of people from CCT who were providing meals, fellowship groups, spiritual mentoring and job training. Despite receiving much grief from his friends on the street, Kuya chose to pursue a relationship with CCT and has dramatically changed his life. He works for CCT running outreach to other street dwellers and he is able to make income to provide for his own housing and personal needs.

Not being a very expressive man, you could still see the immense gratitude and humility Kuya feels about his new life.  As he explained about the blessings he has received the one thing that struck me was the tone of awe he had about how he had met a wonderful woman at his church and they had married. He turned to us as he said, “You know too, my wife, she is college educated. I explained to her how I haven’t even finished high school but she said she didn’t even care. All she cared about is the man I am now.  Yes, she is college educated”.

Not long after that, we arrived at our destination and I got to witness Kuya in action as he gathered street dwellers he knows in order to share good news of God with them, offer them community and provide them with a meal.  He recognized all the faces and greeted each person as a close friend.

This was taken at the lunch event for street dwellers

So that is the story that I wanted to share. I don’t really know how to finish this story other than with gratitude for getting to witness a life redeemed and a life that now is trying to redeem others.  I had the chance to be with an amazing organization that because of their love of God, has created an amazing program to pull street dwellers off the street and back into a life of beauty. It is stories like Kuya’s, that have been gone to show the power that this organization and program have provided. I have another good friend in the Philippines who writes a blog called “I see God in that” and I can’t help but think this for that day and for a life on the streets turned into a life of caring for others.

Yes, Filipinos, I am 30 and single.

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Let me set the scene for you. Is is approximately 3:30 am on a Friday morning and I flag down a taxi to take me to the Manila airport for my departure from five months of living in the Philippines. The conversation goes like this,

Taxi driver (TD): “Hello maam, how are you?”

Me: “Good thank you, very tired since it is so early”.

TD: “Yes, very tired. Maam, is it okay if I ask you how old you are?”

Me: “Yes, no problem, I am 30”.

TD: “THIRTY, I don’t believe it. Maam, are you married?”

Me: “Oh thank you. Yes, I am 30 and no I am not married”.

TD: “Boyfriend?”

Me: “No”.

TD: “Maam, you have no boyfriend? You are single? But why?”.

Me: “Don’t know why. Just haven’t found the right one yet.”

Typically the conversation goes on from here into other tedious details which I will not bore you with. I share all this to say that when I left for the Philippines I vowed to consistently use this blog for a few purposes: to report cultural/travel experiences, to share thoughts/prayers, and to discuss my participation in Microfinance/NGO work.

This particular blog falls in the cultural experience sector and involves a conversation I have on a daily basis, if not bi-daily, while living in the Philippines (for this example I will admit that on occasion I speak in hyperbole for dramatic effect but for this story, there is no such exaggeration). I recently attended a work conference with 900 employees and had this conversation at least 5-6 times per day (again no exaggeration). Initially the question was intimidating and exhausting. In LA, where I just had moved from, the conversation is pretty much extinct among strangers and really only happens in the context of good friends if your friends are ones to care about such matters. We, in my generation of metropolitan singletons, fill our shared word space with talk of dreams, accomplishments and future plans.

I will not spend too much time dissecting why this happens in the Philippines except for I have decided to take the positive spin on it and say that Filipinos care deeply about family and they care about hospitality. Providing hospitality for a stranger often means making sure you have your own family and connections while you are with them.

I initially felt like I had to make excuses for my state of singleness but I found that they moment I was honest and said, “I don’t know why”, that is actually the time I got the best response from whomever it was i was speaking to at the time. Now, I guess I don’t know why but maybe I do, so let me explain a little.

First caveat of course is to say, that I am not a person that puts all my value in this or feels I need to find a person to complete my life. I say this should someone stumble upon this one day, hidden in blog back logs and question my motives for life.

So, with that said, back to the question at hand that all Filipinos want to know about:  Why am I thirty and single? I guess because I haven’t found the person that embodies the following things yet (understandably, a relationship is a two-sided thing so for my part, this is why).

A passion for God. A passion for loving people, whether it is intentional or oozes out of them naturally. A person who is intelligent or at least cares about continuing to grow in life. A person who is adventurous. A person who can talk AND listen. A person who I can laugh with. At the end of the day, this is really it. I think the package this will come in will surprise me, and I also think that it could look different than these words so simply convey. I expect no person to be perfect and look forward to the unexpected, to the giving and receiving of grace and to embracing the mystery of love together.

Until that time, I commit my life to admitting that I don’t have the answers but I am embracing the journey ahead of me. I look forward to what God has to come and know that grace always surprises us so why wouldn’t grace do the same in the form of a partner of love. So Filipinos, I don’t know why I am single but I know why I live and I will continue to do that by myself and with my future partner, whenever that time shall come.

Tropical Christmas Part two (and Island Happy New Year)

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This is was my first Christmas away from. No Wisconsin snow, no Douglas Fir tree, and no family present. The nostalgia of years past gave way to a whole new Christmas experience. Christmas tree shaped creations, white sand beaches and new Aussie friends. For this sort of unique experience (well at least to this American midwestern girl) my friends and I traveled to the gorgeous Filipino island of Palawan.

Palawan is famous even among Filipinos and if you ever tell them you visited there you will always get the same response, “Woooowwwwwwww”. After having visited there now, I usually echo it back because it really is a beautiful and remote place.

First stop Puerto Princesa for Christmas Day, Tree Sculpture tour and island hopping instead of snow ball fights.

Second stop was El Nido for Cave and island tours, snorkeling, guava shakes, kayaking, mountain biking and hidden beaches. El Nido was the most stunning of the three as at each bend there was another hidden island or rock formation that popped up out of agua blue ocean.

Last stop was Coron where we adventured in New years celebrations, fireworks with locals, hidden Barracuda lakes, and the most impressive snorkeling at Siete Pecados Marine Sanctuary.

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As far as Christmases away from home go, this was a pretty strong one. Yes, I dearly missed a White Christmas, my family and the joy of watching my 2 year old niece open her Christmas presents but at least Skype exists and I got to hear my niece say “Auntie Jill” for the first time. As far as Tropical Christmases go, who can compete with an entire nation that loves Christmas so much the begin to remix Christmas Carols and play that at train station exits and malls since September. As my Aussie friends and I walked through the streets of Puerto Princesa or Coron late on Christmas and New Years nights, all the families lined the streets and sang out greetings to everyone who passed by. It may have not been my family but a couple of Aussies and a million cheery Filipinos made up for in a pretty strong manner.

Merry Christmas/Happy New Year!

A Tropical Christmas

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So this will be (in one day) my first Christmas away from home. I feel like I should feel more guilty about this but I have realized the having my first Tropical Christmas has pulled me into an alternative universe where it does not really “feel” like Christmas (it is HOT in December) and therefore I have a hard time believing it is. With this said, the Filipino Paroles (like Giant snow flakes that are lit up) and constant Christmas music playing in the streets, have indicated that the holiday season is truly upon us.

I have putting in my own effort in order to ready my spirit for the holiday that is upon us. This regimen has included incessant playing of Sufjan Steven’s Christmas album (confession, I actually listen to this year round), She and Him Christmas and a little Mariah Carey Christmas.  In addition to this I have spent my month meditating to Christmas themed excerpts from one of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner.

As a pre- Tropical Christmas post, here is my new favorite Sufjan Holiday song and favorite Buechner quote of late.

Caveat, I greatly enjoy songs that describe moments/interactions. This Sufjan song is a lovely representation of this.

And now for Buechner, celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace:

“Thou son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, to be born again into our world. Wherever there is war in this world, wherever there is pain, wherever there is loneliness, wherever there is no hope, come, thou long-expected one, with healing in they wings.
Holy, child, whom the shepherds and the kings and the dumb beasts adored, be born again. Wherever there is boredom, wherever there is fear of failure, wherever there is bitterness of heart, come thou blessed one, with healing in thy wings.
Savior, be born in each of us who raises his face to thy face, not knowing fully who he is or who thou art, knowing only that they love is beyond his knowing and that no other has the power to make him whole. Come, Lord Jesus, to each who longs for thee even though he has forgotten they name. Come quickly. Amen”.

Bohol: The Land of Little Monkeys, Shooting Stars and Big Chocolate Hills

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Bohol was magical. Now, if you know anything about Bohol, you know that they are most famous for these unique looking mountains called the “Chocolate Hills” and for being one of the only places that is still home to a tiny primate with gargantuan eyes called, the Tarsier Monkey.

Now don’t get me wrong, seeing those things and taking all of the appropriately angled pictures where I was gently cupping a Chocolate Hill was very fun but really what made it magical was a clear sky of stars, an eclipsed moon and a shooting star the size of a giant rocket. Okay, the entire trip was highly enjoyable but you know those things that kick a memory from the “pleasant” area of the brain to a “highly defined sensory experience” area; stars, eclipse and shooting star did the trick.

Everything Manila is; crowded, polluted, busy, traffic, and urban, well, Bohol is not. That is why a dinner at a stunning organic farm to table restaurant at a bee-farm-turned-hotel-and-restaurant-on-the-ocean, set up the perfect elements to create magic. After a spicy flower salad, squash bread with pesto and honey butter and ridiculous ube and coconut ice cream, left me primed and ready for an ocean side star gazing session.

Do you every forget how much you missed something until you experience it again? (Much apologies to my family, but this is very much always the case for me with them) Well, I saw stars, and man did I miss them.  Anna (the Kiwi), Genie (our Canadian travel writer friend) and I spent nearly an hour guessing at what little astronomy we remembered for the north vs south hemisphere, as well as debating whether or not we could actually stare at the lunar eclipse occurring without burning our retinas out. We never really came to a conclusion as we were distracted by perhaps the biggest, most briliant shooting star known to man.  True magic.

The other enjoyable pieces of this journey was a recipe of a girl named Anna (the Kiwi) and a guy name Jonas. Anna was a former Kiva Fellow I happened to stumble upon on the Couchsurfing.org website and Jonas was her highly entertaining and generous neighbor who was always ready and at my service.  The cool thing about Anna is that even beyond her 3 month fellowship at CEVI microfinance institution in Bohol, she has stayed because she believes in creating economic opportunities for Bohol neighbors. She left her civil engineering job with stints in Manila and Davao, to be in Bohol and create an awesome homestay business that will bring job opportunity and awareness into the Bohol region.

Anna’s vested interest in Bohol has helped her form awesome relationships in Bohol and that is how I met Jonas. In his forties, Jonas lost his government job due to an administration change and now you can see him just roaming over to Anna’s house everyday just to be productive and serve his neighbor. Jonas is a Bohol local and so he offered his time to show me the sites of the beautiful island. In addition to his time, I got the joy of an open air motorbike ride and an inside connection to the staff of every stop we happened upon.  A 700 stair climb to the lookout of the Chocolate Hills, a coconut juice and bee farm stop later, I would say I met a good friend.

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And the winner is………..

“And the winner is……..ppprrrrrmmmmmmm” (drum roll please).  Now, if you are anything like me, the image in your head is of some famous actress or actor fumbling with a large envelope, complaining about how is it hard to open. Luckily, for this post, we are going skip the envelope and talk about a winner who is a little closer to home for this Kiva Fellow. The winner I am talking about is CCT’s very own, Andresa Javines, who is Citi Bank’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” (MOTY) for Mindanao, Philippines.

Citi Award for “Entrepreneur of the Year”

So, what does it take to be named the “Microentrepeneur of the Year” (MOTY) by Citi Bank? Citi Philippines, in collaboration with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and Microfinance Council of Philippines (MCPI) just hosted their 9th year of this award. The collaborators said that they “recognize outstanding entrepreneurs with assets less than PHP 1 million, who have achieved remarkable growth as indicated by employment generation, profits, sales turnover and other enterprise performance measures.

The field of microfinance has garnered criticisms in the recent years that have questioned the lack of employment creation and high interest rates.  Although transparency is a key component of keeping microfinance acountable, it is important to recognize the success stories created as a result of microfinance loans. With this said, it is amazing to stand back and see people being honored for the gains they have as a result of their collaboration with a microfinance organization. CCT is also very proud of Ms. Javines and her accomplishments. CCT has submitted borrowers stories for the last eight years and Ms. Javines is their first borrower to win this prestigious prize.

Citi provided awards to individuals for different categories and within the categories, to the different island regions of the Philippines (Luzon, the Visayans and Mindanao).  The two categories of awards to honor different types of advancements in the industry. The award categories include the Masikap Awards and Maunlad awards. The Masikap award recognizes individuals who have set up businesses that are now providing a reliable source of income for their families. The Maunlad Awards recognize one person from each region who has grown their business and is now providing employment to others beyond their family circle. The prize that each person receives includes 100,000 Pisos, three-year health and life insurance coverage for all the winners, as well as a grant to attend an entrepreneurship management course in Bayan Academy, to ensure the sustainability of their businesses.

Nanay Javines got to travel outside of her province for the first time to visit Luzon for the Citi awards ceremony and for a reception at the CCT head office. Her eldest daughter and local branch staff loan officers also accompanied her. The CCT head office provided a lunch reception and gave Nanay Javines the opportunity to share her story of growth and success with her business of tuna packing.  Her business caters to two clients who send sashimi grade tuna to Japan, Canada and the US. She also makes a gel ice concoction to place inside of the fish to preserve its freshness for travel.

Nanay Andresa shared her personal remarks with the CCT staff. “I started doing business as a young woman. I got married at 15. My husband and I rented a house until we found a residential lot that we could pay for by installment.

I started out running a sari-sari store from my house. A friend told me about CCT’s programs. I became a CCT partner in the year 2000. I started out with a loan of P4,000. I completed payments on this loan, earning the trust of the loan officer and manager. In 2003, I built my house and started my tuna packing material business. In 2005, I bought two motorcycles, four low-cost subdivision lots and built a boarding house with eight rooms. The Lord’s goodness [to me] does not end there. Two of my children have graduated from college and have found jobs. I have two other children who are still in school. One of them is hearing-impaired.”

I pray God will keep blessing CCT, making it grow even more so that it will be able to help many other poor people like me. Our Lord is so good. One day is not long enough to speak of His goodness in my life.” (Original speech given in Tagalog, translation provided by CCT’s communications staff member, Myra Gaculais Del Rosario).

Nanay Javines stands in the company of other innovative microentrepreneurs in the Philippines. Other microentrepreneurs have businesses in industries that include the export of chicken lumpia (a traditional filipino dish), ready-to-wear clothing, herbal medicines and deep seas fishing. Some of those business gross between 2 and 4 million pisos a year now and employ up to 50 employees.

Microfinance has its criticisms, but stories like Nanay Javines show that access to capital via microfinance loans for small businesses can come together and work as they were intended. It can enable individuals to create income to help their families, take care of their necessities and begin to grow to a point where it creates jobs for other. A celebration is in order to honor those who are working hard to do things right to help themselves and others. Congrats Nanay Andresa on a job well done and an inspiring and ongoing life story.

Jill Hall is part of Kiva Fellows 16th class, working with Center for Community Transformation (CCT) in the Philippines. She is enjoying all the sights, sounds and food of her new home, the Philippines.  Please support CCT borrowers by reading about their stories and making a loan today. Be a part of the movement of Kiva and join CCT’s lending team or check out CCT’s partner page. Former posts written by Jill about her experiences in Manila and Center For Community Transformation (CCT) can be found at:

The Circle of Life; Filipino Style

Work is cancelled; Typhoon Day

Girlie’s Peanut Butter: Borrower Verification in the Philippines

Study Now Pay Now: Funding Higher Education in the Philippines

The Faces of Smokey Mountain

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“When are we leaving for Payatas”, I said to my friend from church.

“We’re not going to Payatas, we’re going to Tondo” she said.

“Wait, I went to Smoky Mountain and when I went before we went to Payatas”.

“Oh yeah, there is more than one Smoky mountain.We are going to the one in Tondo”.

The day before we went on a volunteer trip with my church, Church Simplified in Manila, I was shocked to find out that there was more than one Smokey Mountain here. Smokey Mountain refers to an old landfill, now abandoned, which has become home to thousands of people that daily turn trash into “treasure” to be resold and used as income to their families.  Visiting the site incites all sorts of thoughts and emotions that range from absolute pity to beautiful people making the best of a difficult situation. As always, I had a blast playing the “Picture, Picture game” so I will now introduce you to our games contestants.

 

Students of Smokey mountain using the new Young Focus computer lab

Theatre group practice

Now that you have met the residents of Smoky Mountain let me introduce you a great organization that is working with the people in order to provide access to services to improve the quality of life.  WE International was our host and tour guide to the homes, people and developments in Smokey Mountain and despite what seems like a dire situation, they were able introduce us to new and exciting developments there. They are partnering with local organizations to provide services that range from micro-lending, health care, education and support services for students. It was so exciting for me, the mental health OT, to see an organization called Young Focus. They had just built a new youth center and were focusing on many areas of youth development like job training, counseling and educational scholarships.

All in all, the trip was one filled with both sadness and hope. Sadness to know that people are living in conditions such as these but also hope to know the great things that are happening there in order to draw out the potential of those that are there.

Girlie’s Peanut Butter: Borrower verification in the Philippines.

As I stepped out in the oppressive humidity of a Manila morning, my spirit was excited and ready to leave the protection of CCT head office’s wonderful air conditioning because this was the day I got to do another borrower verification. Previous fellows have shared different aspects of what a BV (Kiva speak for borrower verification) is and so for more detailed descriptions I will leave that up to them to share. ( Look here to see details of BV and here to see the conclusion to this fellow’s BV story).

There are different ways you can view what the BV does but I have enjoyed every one of my visits to borrowers because it allows me to experience the very reason I became a Kiva lender and now, a Kiva Fellow; it’s all about the people we see on the profiles. (For a great explanation on this “Social Return”, see KF16 Laurie Young’s post).

This day’s journey is particularly exciting because the reward at the end of the two hour bus side in Metro Manila traffic, is Caloocan City, a place where nature begins to meet houses and instead of high rises and smog you plunge in to lush green hills and palm trees.

I had already established a meeting point with Branch officers at a local mall so they could escort me into the labrynthine communities where CCT’s partner’s live, even further north of the city. Most commutes here involved a crammed jeepney, a sort of jump on/off minibus.

I was pretty when excited when the local branch staff showed up with motorcyles to take us to our next destination. It would be my first time riding them and exposure to the open air was just the right remedy for the thick air.

The man on the front of the motorcycle is Kuya (term of older brother) Ronnie is the team servant (a.k.a regional manager) for the Caloocan City branches. For each of the MFI’s that Kiva works with, there is usually an army of people behind the scenes meeting with the borrowers, collecting information, writing stories, uploading profiles and corresponding with the Kiva Coordinator. (Here is more info on the job of a KC).

   Kuya Ronnie corresponded with his branch leaders to help me set up the appointments to meet with my borrowers. The branch leaders are needed to navigate the cryptic mazes of alleys leading to the borrower’s home and businesses.

On most our walks we encountered the business of some of CCT’s other borrowers like this production of brooms to be sold at a later date.

In addition to seeing CCT borrower’s businesses, we ran into other CCT borrowers who in true Filipino hospitality, invited us in to have lunch before our borrower visit.  CCT pride’s itself on it’s development of Fellowship groups which focus on community-building and leadership development in addition to the weekly repayment appointments.

One of our BV visits in Caloocan was to a Peanut Butter Vendor named Girlie. I went through the list of BV items; Name, Passbook verification of dates, reason for loan and visual verification of loan use. Girlie was able to check out on my list.  I asked Girlie to share more of her story with me and she excitedly shared the story of her business with me. Before I left, I asked Girlie to answer one more question for me, “What are your hopes and dreams for your business and personal life?”.

The new large pots were purchased to increase volume of production. Previously, Girlie had to borrow the pots from a neighbor.

Girlie was quick to answer and she shared that her hope is to continue to build her business and become a distributor to local groceries stores. She hopes to make enough income to quit her two other jobs and make peanut butter full time. We laughed about how she already had the perfect name for her product, “Girlie’s Peanut Butter”.

In KF 16’s Eric Rindal’s last post he talked about “Why small business?.” He suggested the answer was the flexibility and ingenuity of small business and how they offer endless benefits in economies where unemployment is high and opportunities limited. Girlie already works 48 hours per week at a local store. In my experience in the Philippines, hours of overtime are often completed at work without pay and without complaint. If complaint occurs, there are 20 other people who are lined up and ready to take your job. An entrepreneurial effort by an individual allows borrowers the flexibility to work towards their goals and develop their own businesses.

I had to taste test the product.

Kiva states on it’s website that they do what they do because, “We envision a world where all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others. We believe providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their families.”  Girlie is just one example of the people that CCT and kiva.org are trying to connect to the opportunity for a better future through access to capital.  Be a part of a creating opportunity for someone like Girlie.

Tri-lingual Language Lessons

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I recently had the opportunity to traipse all over southern Luzon (the Northern big island of the Philippines) and meet with several Kiva borrowers.  It was really fun to spend time with loan officers from different branches outside of Manila but due to long travel if I borrower is not home we simply have to wait UNTIL they come home.  The free time was great because it left open space for impromptu language lessons from my new friends.

I may not be fluent from this lesson yet but I have managed to master a few Tagalog words and integrate them into my office convo’s. Here is a list of my favorite words:

1. Diba?!- means “right?”, like “don’t you agree with me?”. The California girl part of me enjoys this one.

2. Bakit- “Why?”

3. Grave (said grah vay)- like “too much”

4. NAKS- slang for “Wow”…

Hopefully this list will be a little longer before I leave.