Mary Riedel, KF9, Philippines
I’m sitting in Cabanatuan City, Philippines on the island of Luzon, which is one of the main islands in the Philippines (a nation composed of over 7000 islands). My name is Mary Riedel and it’s Day 5 of my Kiva Fellowship at Alalay sa Kaunlaran, Inc. (ASKI) (a partner in development). ASKI has been an MFI Partner with Kiva for 10 months and I am the third fellow to be on the ground here with Adam Preston fellow #4. They have over 2000 Kiva Entrprenuers and have raised a little over 400K on Kiva.
It’s weird to be so close to the recent devasation of Ketsana (Ondoy – local name) and Parma (Pepang – local name) and still feel somewhat removed from it all, apart from the rain of course and carrying “payong ko” (my umbrella). However, it has touched the lives of many employees here and all of the Kiva clients/borrowers at ASKI who live in Region II (Northern Luzon) where there was serious damage from Parma. This region was chosen to be “Kiva Country,” (as the ASKIANS call it) because it is the most remote and under-served area in the ASKI portfolio.
It’s all just settling in now. Personally, while the first storm was happening I was scurrying around the US packing up my apartment, saying goodbye to loved ones, and wondering what the future would hold. Fully taking in the storms would have put my system on overload so I just concentrated on flying into Hong Kong and getting all my ducks in a row (local phone, local plane ticket, last minute “work” shoe purchase) to head out to the Philippines. The storms were a part of life only from a logistical standpoint. It was of course a weird feeling knowingly flying into Parma even if was winding down (so we thought). It was also strange arriving on Day 1 and hearing that Parma made a u-turn, and was heading in for more carnage from my clients (borrowers) and fellow ASKIANS. I am mad at Parma and the rain! But I am told this is par for the course – Ketsana and Parma were typhoons of devastating proportions but during the year the Philipines gets about 25 typhoons on average (Philippine Climate) - part of life like death and taxes in the US.
Anyway, I digress…. Over the past four wet days I have had the opportunity to attend a morning devotion before work. (The Philippines is predominantly Catholic and many organizations including my host MFI are religiously affiliated). Wednesday’s devotion given by Mr. Boggs really hit home for me, they showed a video of Ketsana and the devastation in Manilla…set to music (tears).
You tube video…not exact video, Mr. Boggs is in the field
There were dogs and kids and amazing images of survival and people coming together. This was followed by a moving talk about hope and service. We were all encouraged to think about what we could do for the community- “Take out your cell phones and text yourself– ‘what is the legacy of service I’d like to leave behind?’ He then when asked, “Could we give up some time today to pack relief goods?” This is a true reflection of the type of organization ASKI is, they go beyond microfinance with their ASKI foundation arm.
Today (Friday) formal devotion didn’t really happen, there were too many people who couldn’t make it into the office. So we sat in groups and used the time to pack more relief goods for those most recently affected (600 packages/300 Pesos each for today’s delivery) thanks to Opportunity International. It has just stopped raining today, mid-morning.
So where does this actually leave the MFI clients? Well, ASKI is still developing a strategy right now but the rumor is that many of the loan terms will be extended (grace periods) and new loans will be given on top of these loans so people can rebuild. “What other choice do we have?” said one of the ASKI employees. If we don’t provide new loans to rebuild the borrowers won’t have a fighting chance. Historically, ASKI has chosen to guarantee their loans on the Kiva site so most likely the loans will be covered by ASKI to Kiva Lenders.
Right now overall damage is being assesed by the Executive Director, Rolando B. Victoria (Boss Rolly) Unfortunately, I just found that Boss Rolly is stuck in the field and can’t get back to HQ right now because of a flooding bridge. But there are still smiles at ASKI because the sun is out and the water will go down. “After the storm a new day comes.”
Me and my partner in crime (KF9er Adam Preston) will also have to delay our trip up North another few weeks, the recent flooding in Central and continuous flooding in North Luzon is just too bad and electricity is not yet restored.
I am grateful to be here to help a new morning come to ASKI clients and employees. Stay tuned….
Loan to ASKI clients!