Monday, January 27, 2014


You’ll find that in most development work a majority of the time is spent out in the field. While there is an office, a brick and mortar place that houses reports and files, the key is to getting your face out into the community meeting the people who you do business with in their homes, their comfort zones. It also comes down to if someone is delinquent on their account, most likely they’re ashamed and aren’t going to come all the way to the office to air out the fact they can’t pay.

The Episcopal Development Foundation of St. Mark’s currently has a war on delinquency. I don’t think this is uncommon in Microfinance. You’re borrowing to start-up entrepreneurs with small businesses in rural, poor communities or to farmers working in typhoon-ridden areas. Everyone’s trying to make ends meet and when it comes to feeding their family or paying their loan, they usually choose the former. But it is our job to visit them, talk with them, learn what’s causing their delinquency and figure out a plan.

For us the best time to do this is on Sundays due to the fact most of our communities are part of the Episcopal Church. On Sunday, January 13, Jocelyn, Jordan, Sir Junior and I headed to Belance with Ma’am Andrea simply tagging along to get off the compound. Belance is a farming community relocated from Mountain Province. They are vegetable farmers since they live up in a cool region of the mountains of Isabela. It’s about a three to four hour drive from Santiago.

We started early around 6:30am on Sunday to get there in time for the Sunday Mass at St. Barnabas’. On the way we stopped to buy a couple of chickens for lunch. Of course nobody warned me how cool Balance is so while Jocelyn was bundled up in layers of sweaters and socks (with flip flops I might add), I was donning jeans, t-shirt and a light scarf. However, I can’t complain because it was no polar vortex.

Hydrangeas, my favorite flower, littered the church property!

The church cat with its kitten.

The mass started about an hour late because Deacon Mariano must travel from area to church to another and he can’t always promptly find a ride. The congregation members travel down the mountain to attend mass. No that’s dedication. I can’t say I would hike up and down mountainsides every Sunday morning for church.

After mass, we met with clients giving them updates on their accounts, asking them why they’re having trouble paying and collecting any payments we can. Jordan cooked us a simple chicken dish with rice to share with community members. Not all of our clients were present at mass so we had to go around to meet with them in their homes.

Jocelyn speaking with clients.

Deacon Mariano with a member of the congregation.

Jordan cooking lunch in the biggest pot ever!

Lunch is served!

Jocelyn thought it would be good to see the other Episcopal Church in the next community, about a 10-minute drive away. Mass happened hours earlier so the church was closed up but they were three little boys, around seven or eight years old, playing on the front stoop. As we approached I noticed the saws and machetes in their hands as they chopped away at small wooden pieces. The minute they saw me they stopped what they were doing to point, ask questions in Ilocano, then went back to work. Ma’am Andrea informed me they’re making tops. Yes, like those wooden spin tops we played with as a kid. They were determined. I shared the few Ilocano words I knew with them and they got quite the kick out a white girl knowing Ilocano. At one point they came up to me and said, “look her nose is so long” (Ma’am Andrea translated). Probably the best part of the day! Their dynamic and demeanor were hilarious! So of course I asked to take their picture to forever remember the determined top makers.

I just LOVED these guys!

Then we headed back home. We returned around 7pm, which made it about a 12-hour day. Phew! It’s not easy, quick nor simple fighting this war on delinquency!

Thanks for reading!

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