What am I doing?
Updated: Jan 7, 2020
Before I came to the Philippines, the most common question I was asked was what work I would be doing. I didn’t have a clear answer back then and left a lot of people wanting to know more. Although I am still framing the work I am doing, this post should provide make the work I am doing here less of a mystery.
Here in Santiago, I am working with multiple organizations. The majority of my time is spent with E-CARE which is an asset-based community development organization run by the Episcopal Church of the Philippines partnering with community associations. E-CARE which stands for The Episcopal Community Action for Renewal and Empowerment, has two programs that aim to create self-reliant, caring and sharing associations. The first program is an ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development) training program. All associations start their time with E-CARE with this training. The sessions teach gender equality, financial management, environmental sustainability, in addition to leading participants through exercises which show members how they can use their assets to achieve financial stability. After an association finishes the ABCD training, then they can choose to partake in the Receivers to Givers (R2G). This program is a new way to do microfinance lending. Instead of focusing on the lending of money, it is on how the money is shared. Associations receive livelihood assistance with the knowledge that they will pay back that amount of money as well as an add-on amount. The add-on money is 1.5% of the amount given in livelihood assistance. The add on is then given in thirds going to the local church, the association itself, and E-CARE. When they pay back their loan, the association can decide to apply for a new cycle of assistance or they can pass it on to another community. This passing on is the ultimate goal. These communities becoming givers instead of just receivers.
While in the office with E-CARE, I have been working on learning more about the issues facing the communities where we work, planning Bible studies, and learning the local language, Ilocano.
A lot of E-CARE’s work is done out in the communities. Currently, we are leading trainings on visioning and goal setting to enhance their process towards self-reliance. To start the visits, I am leading Bible studies focused on trusting God and being members of Christ’s body. I also get to meet and talk with locals about their experiences with E-CARE. I am interviewing members of the associations to put together case studies.
When I am not with E-CARE, I am with the loan organizations and Cooperative run by the diocese. The Diocese of Santiago has two loan organizations to help support the financial needs of the diocese. The first is EDFSM (Episcopal Development Foundation of St. Mark’s). This organization is a microloan organization giving loans that are less than P300,000 or about $6,000. Then there is LSM (Lending of St. Mark’s) which lends amounts over P300,000. Both of these organizations act like lending institutions. One special thing about them is their customer service. The staff recognizes that they are Christians working for a Christian organization. They treat everyone that walks in their doors with respect and understanding. They are willing to try to work with anyone, even those who are delinquent on repayment.
The Episcopal Diocese of Santiago Cooperative (EDSCO) provides access to loans, health insurance, and life insurance. To access those benefits, a person becomes a member through paying a membership fee and starting a savings account. I am learning about the operations of these organizations and financial management.
In addition to working in the office with these organizations, I also have gone with a team to collect payments as well as to introduce the Cooperative to new communities. And, we have traveled to the satellite office in Baler. I am excited about how much my experience here will give me relevant skills for my future when I will be working for a nonprofit and/or the church.
In addition to work, I have also gone to an ordination of 3 priests, an ordination of a deacon, a funeral, a baptism, a training on employee rights, a cooperative month celebration, as well as sat in on other meetings and events. I went to Baguio to visit E-CARE staff there and visit some communities. I have also gotten the opportunity to be a tourist in Baler and Sagada. I will talk about my time in Sagada in my next post.