Saturday, August 31, 2013

First Day on the Job

Friday was my first day at the St. Mark's Foundation. I arrived promptly at 8am to my new desk. I haven't yet explained how tall I am compared to Filipino standards. Yes, there are tall Filipinos but I'm still usually taller. Therefore, even with my chair lowered completely my knees barely fit underneath my desk! Fortunately, I did not spend really any time at my desk on the first day.

Me at my desk on the first day. I apologize for the blurriness and low quality of the photo.

St. Mark's Foundation has a couple of different loan assistance programs which fall under the microfinance category. One of them is the Market Vendors Loan Assistance Program. This program gives loans of 150,000 pesos ($3,409.09) or less to people who own small stores or stalls. First, the vendor comes to the office and fills out an application. Then one of the staff of the foundation goes out to inspect the store or stall of the vendor to ensure it exists, interview the vendor, take pictures for the Board for when they make a decision, and take any additional relevant notes. During the morning, I went with Jocelyn, Program Officer, and Sir Junior to inspect a couple of recent applicants.

Inspections allowed me to get out and see more of Santiago City and its neighborhoods. The first two were of Sari Sari Stores which I equivocated to a Pulpería in Honduras. Basically, it's a small store usually attached to a home which sells basic hygiene products, snacks, drinks, and kitchen items. A small convenience store is what it is!

Sir Junior & Jocelyn walking to the Sari Sari store
The inside of one of the Sari Sari Stores.
Potential client in front of her store.

Another potential client's Sari Sari Store.

Afterwards, we headed into the maze of stalls which is the central market, the heart of Santiago City. It amazed me how many vendors cram together all selling similar items either vegetables, rice, meats, fish, spices, or thrifted items. I cannot even describe how expansive the market it is. A dark, cramped, stuffy maze with a mass of people all trying to make a living where I could easily get lost even though Jocelyn says it is organized into sections. Good thing she knew exactly where to go!

The next two applicants have Ukay Ukay stores within the market. Ukay Ukay means second hand store. Have you ever wondered what happens to your donated clothing or old Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirts? They get shipped back to the Philippines. There was stall after stall after stall of thrifted clothing, t-shirts, jackets, jeans, bras, and handbags. And that Hollister t-shirt you bought for $30 is 20 pesos, 50 cents.

Ukay Ukay Store
Jocelyn talking with the client.

We returned to the office for lunch which is provided for the staff every day. It has allowed me to try Filipino food like pinakbet and the national fish (don't remember the name!), which I will hopefully learn to cook! Then there is a rest after lunch. Something the Filipinos took away from the Spanish culture, afternoon siesta.

For the afternoon, I went back out to the market with Sir Junior and Jocelyn to retrieve collections. Clients can decide to pay daily, weekly, or monthly installments of their loan. Those that pay daily, their collections are retrieved on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. By Sir Junior going around town and the market, its more efficient than clients trying to come all the way out to the office every other day. I met more clients and that's when I truly learned the extent of the market and the number of clients within the program. The morning was only just a taste. And again was reminded of how tall I am compared to Filipinos because I had to duck while walking parts of the market. By the time we returned, it was the end of the work day. We debriefed Sir Patrick, manager of the Foundation. Then I walked my 200 yards home.

The following pictures do not showcase the market in its full capacity. I only snapped these in one tiny part of the expansive place. 

It was exciting being out in the field! Took me back to Honduras when we would walk around the villages interviewing clients, seeing their businesses, and talking with them about their loans. The day went by quickly. It wasn't a typical first day where you slowly settle in and twiddle your thumbs while you wait for work.

Also, last night, Friday night, at 11pm it marked it exactly one week of being in the Philippines and the beginning of a life changing experience! The week has gone by so quickly that I know I must learn to savor every moment, the good and the bad, before I blink and the year is over.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. About how much does the produce cost? How often do you get to go through the market? Looks like so much fun so far!