By Lydia Koehn, Field Communications Fellow
While HOPE International works in a variety of locations around the world, many groups follow a similar 5W’s meeting structure. Adopted from HOPE’s partner in the Philippines, The Center for Community Transformation (CCT), this simple structure ensures consistency, while also creating space for flexibility. Traveling with CCT savings group facilitators for the past four months, I’ve enjoyed experiencing the unique heart that Filipinos bring to their own culture of savings communities.
2:15 p.m. – After unsticking ourselves from the small motorcycle, the three of us—savings program regional coordinator, volunteer facilitator, and me—begin gingerly descending the sharp rocks, down to the edge of the sea. We pick our way through the narrow path of the fishing village, dodging crowing roosters and scampering children.
2:30 p.m. – We arrive just as the savings group’s treasurer squats down beside a rusty, peg-legged wooden table. I gratefully slip into a sliver of shade and look around at the houses perched precariously on wooden stilts that buckle on the rocks below. Tucked into the shadows beneath their homes, several savings group members sit, smiling back at me while waiting patiently for the meeting to start.
3:00 p.m. – Welcome: The secretary calls attendance, officially establishing the tardiness of any members arriving late. The president then invites Ate (“Sister” in Filipino) Joy to introduce me to the group and asks the volunteer facilitator, a local pastor, to pray.
3:10 p.m. – Worship: Patriotism is valued among Filipinos, and we all stand for a short a cappella rendition of their national anthem. After, the volunteer facilitator suggests the hymn “Give Thanks.” The Philippines is a nation of beautiful singers, and many group members close their eyes as our voices blend together in praise.
“And now let the weak say, ‘I am strong’
Let the poor say, ‘I am rich’
Because of what the Lord has done for us.”
3:20 p.m. – Word: As members pull out paperback Bibles, the volunteer facilitator eagerly leads the study in the local Bisaya dialect on the story of Mary, Martha, and Jesus. He turns to me and smiles. “I am asking them, ‘Who are you? Martha or Mary?’”
3:35 p.m. – Work: The key-holding savings member unlocks the savings box, while the treasurer begins collecting the weekly savings—rainbow colored bills tucked into the folds of passbooks—from each member. The pesos are handed to the money counter who organizes the bills and coins into neat piles in a metal tin.
The group is an accumulated savings and credit association (ASCA), so part of the work involves deciding who will take out a loan from the group’s savings this week. While the treasurer and money counter finish recording the total savings and loans, the members crowd around a low table and excitedly discuss plans to begin a group enterprise, buying sacks of rice in bulk and then selling it among themselves.
3:55 p.m. – Wrap-up: The treasurer announces the total savings for that week: 5,300 pesos (USD$112.83). And the president declares that the group will officially begin a rice business, using their savings to purchase two sacks of rice that will be for sale among the members at next week’s meeting. Using their group’s capital build-up to buy in bulk, the members reap the double benefit of a cheaper price on a staple product as well as a share of the profit earned from the sales.
Before everyone scatters, I call, “Wait lang!” Laughing at my Taglish (Tagalog and English), the group gathers for a final picture. As we stumble back up the rocky slope to the highway, we’re followed by their goodbyes: “God bless you!”
Lydia is HOPE’s field communications fellow with local partner, CCT, in the Philippines. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in communications and international studies, having also spent several months in Brazil, Germany, Nepal, and India. She’s excited to share what God is doing through CCT and the Filipino brothers and sisters they serve.