Friday, 24 January 2014

More from Lendwithcare in the Philippines | The impact of Typhoon Haiyan

Day 12 and Tracey retells the stories of the Lendwithcare entrepreneurs she has met whilst in the Philippines ...

I had to accept that we were not going to get to Leyte or any of the other worst affected islands due to the bad weather. There has been an area of low pressure over the Philippines for the last couple of weeks which has been causing constant rain and high winds and severe flooding in some areas. 

CARE/Peter Caton

Instead we decided to travel four hours north of Cebu city to meet with one of Lendwithcare’s partners, a Co-operative called FCCT. FCCT have many branches, including two in the north of Cebu which was affected by typhoon Yolanda, as it is known here (if you say typhoon Haiyan people look at you blankly). 

Tracey's original route
First I met with the staff of FCCT who explained all the services they offer to their members, including loans. You can tell from their motto “only having savings breaks the bonds of poverty” that they strongly believe in encouraging their members to save. In fact, they even have a “kiddies savings plan” where children, from the moment they start school to when they finish year six, can save a third of any allowance they get from their parents. When these mini-savers graduate junior school they can withdraw their savings to spend on a graduation dress or new shoes. The interest rate they receive is 5% - I could only dream of finding a savings account that pays that much to my own son in a children’s account in the UK. FFCT also offer a good rate of savings to adults which they pay from the interest they charge on loans. 

Loan repayments are collected by staff every week – they go and visit the borrower to avoid them having to interrupt their business to travel to the office to make their loan repayments. Any profit FCCT makes is returned to their members at the end of the year. As well as savings and loans, FCCT offer mobile money transfer services. 

By the time I finished hearing about FCCT’s services it was the end of a very long day. We had dinner with the FCCT staff and they told me how terrifying it was to be in the middle of such a “super typhoon”. Luckily typhoon Yolanda hit during the day which meant that a lot of people had time to get to an evacuation centre (which in practice are schools or churches). They all said it was the most terrifying experience of their lives and most of the staff had experienced around 70% damage to their own homes. They told me this in a very matter of fact way. Apparently the Philippines experiences an average of 20 typhoons a year so they hadn’t realised quite how bad this one was going to be. After a night in a simple guest house, we breakfasted on the tastiest fried eggs on toast I have ever had – I wish I knew how the chef, who was a member of FCCT, had made them so delicious. We then left the FCCT office to meet some of their members who had been affected by the typhoon. 

First I met Melbina Tuico who has four children. She runs a food stall and as a side line rents DVDs to provide an additional source of income for her family. Both her business and home were completely destroyed during the typhoon. But she needs to feed her family and send kids to school so Melbina immediately moved her business next door to an area outside her sister in law’s house, which is manageable in the short-term. She said that business has been OK since the typhoon since people still come to eat. She provides breakfast lunch and dinner, her customers are neighbours but also people from other villages since she prepares such delicious BBQ food. 

When I asked her about the future she replied “only god knows my future”. She is hoping and praying that someone will help her rebuild her house and restaurant area again. Shelter is her main problem as they are now all sharing her sister in law’s house. The children keep asking when they can go back to their own home. Melbina and her family received some relief goods from humanitarian organisations working in Cebu but she has not been able to get any construction materials. She said she can’t focus on her business properly while she is worrying about whether her house will be rebuilt. I wished her good luck, not knowing quite what could be done for her in the short term. CARE and other relief agencies, who have specialised expertise in emergency shelter relief, are rightly focusing on the most vulnerable who don’t have anywhere else to go. 

However it is very likely that FCCT will offer her what they call a “rehabilitation loan”, which will be on a deferred repayment basis and at a very low interest rate. I asked them to send me details as soon as possible so that we can put it on the lendwithcare as I know our lenders will want to help. 

Stay tuned for more stories from the Philippines here and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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