The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI) Microfinance program has been helping nanays across the Visayas become more economically empowered in taking care of their families by providing financial resources and know-how and access to financial services.
The foundation believes that a better quality of life begins with a stable and rewarding livelihood. And in times of crisis, women, who comprise the majority of the marginalized sector, are often the ones directly faced and burdened with the lack of financial resources.
The tenacity of Nanay’s hope
“RAFI has been a big help to our family. I was able to send my children to school and my business flourished because of their financial help. I was able to improve my house from one with woven bamboo panels as walls to one that is more comfortable,” said 58-year-old nanay Priscilla Noval of Brgy. La Union, San Francisco, Camotes Islands.
When her husband died, Priscilla had to raise her five children alone by selling woven mats and would be away from home for a more than a week at a time. It was common for her to sleep at the pier in Danao City, Cebu, if there were mats left for her to sell the following day.
“I can say being granted a loan from RAFI had a great impact on my family. Our lives changed,” she said. Indeed, after years of toil, her children are now professionals and yet Priscilla still sells mats, not out of need but because it is a deeply meaningful thing for her. She acknowledged that while diligence, perseverance, and prayers kept her going in her business, her membership with RAFI Micro-finance has been a turning point.
The same is true for nanay Zenaida Nuñez, 47, of Kananga, Leyte. Once an elementary school teacher, she left the profession to become a full-time homemaker. She and her husband opened a repair shop that later expanded to include a spare parts store.
In 2009, Zenaida received a start-up loan of PHP5,000 from RAFI, which allowed her to increase her store inventory. A few loan cycles later, she was able to make payments in cash for supplies previously purchased on credit. Their business flourished and now employs eight mechanics.
“The business has helped my family a lot. I was able to send my children to college. Our living condition has also improved,” she said in Cebuano.
And like many nanay clients of RAFI Micro-finance, she shares her blessings and leads a group of 40 mother-volunteers in their local church who regularly do community work including Bible studies, tree planting, feeding, and hospital visits. She also gives informal lectures and training to mothers who want to start their own business. These efforts are also important factors in her being chosen as “Most Outstanding Client” during the RAFI Micro-finance’s Leyte general assembly held on October 1, 2016.
Priscilla’s and Zenaida’s accounts are oft-repeated stories of triumph over poverty, pain, and hardship, and the RAFI Micro-finance program is proud to have been instrumental in these transformations over the past 18 years through both financial (credit service, capital build-up component/savings, insurance) and non-financial services. Non-financial services include business development services, which foster the entrepreneurial skills of the nanays, while center meeting activities refer to mini teambuilding activities to promote cohesiveness among members.
As of March 2017, the program has a loan portfolio of PHP438 million and loan releases totaling PHP155.7 million catering to 106,363 clients in the provinces of Cebu, Leyte, Bohol, Biliran, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and Siquijor.
“It’s about a higher calling—to serve and be a man for others. It’s about the people we work for—our nanays,” said Ma. Theresa Catipay, RAFI Micro-finance executive director.
And having touched the lives of more people like Priscilla and Zenaida, RAFI Micro-finance has set the bar even higher. By the end of 2017, it targets a loan portfolio of PHP925 million and 70 branches serving 150,000 clients.