A Microfinance Classroom in the Philippines

In the U.S., there is a great deal of concern about hidden fees from financial service providers. “Read the fine print!” we are warned, because this is where fees and special conditions hide.

In a small village in Antique Province in the Philippines, I witnessed an entirely different approach. I accompanied staff from Ahon sa Hirap (ASHI) for the training of a new member. Potential borrowers are required to attend several days of training on interest rates, the different types and levels of loans, and the mechanics of group lending in order to be accepted as an ASHI member.

While only one woman was new, her entire group attended the training session. This is required by ASHI in order to reinforce the solidarity of the group and to help members refresh their knowledge. Not that they needed refreshing—the current members were quick to provide even the most minute details on ASHI loans.

The Development Officer used stories, quizzes and repetition to ensure that each concept was well understood. My favorite part was the use of props (rice as money, small purses as savings accounts) to demonstrate the loan process. While it’s important to “read the fine print,” it doesn’t really sink in until you’re counting out handfuls of rice to represent your principal, interest, savings and insurance contributions. Imagine a credit card company doing this!

I don't think he gets it

Casey Koppelson is a Roaming Kiva Fellow focusing on Social Performance in the Philippines.

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