Monday, July 6, 2015

Soapsuds and Savings

Digna Nibay started a group laundry business
 that has provided jobs for more than 
three dozen neighbors. 
The group uses machines to wash most
 bedding and towels used by 
CCT Retreat and Training Center guests,
 but those with tough stains are scrubbed by hand. 

Digna Nibay worked as a laundry shop employee in Tagaytay City for much of her adult life (and certainly has seen more soapsuds than the average person).  Four years ago she made a move that changed her life and the lives of many in her community when she joined a savings group and was elected president.

Along with about 120 of her neighbors, Digna, 61, is a saver in a program of the Center for Community Transformation called the savings and credit association. Here, a group of individuals meet once a week to make contributions to a savings fund. 

During their first cycle, she and 16 neighbors saved P79,000.00 by contributing P50.00 a week or any bigger amount they could afford to a savings fund. It was the first time in her entire life that Digna had put away money for a future need.  “Before I joined the savings group I had never saved a single centavo,” she confesses. “I didn’t know anything about saving money.” A carpenter’s wife and mother of six, she used part of her savings to buy a washing machine, resigned from the laundry shop she worked for, and went into the laundry business on her own.

Thirty-two members joined the group’s second cycle. They saved P173,050.00 and earned P99,193 interest on loans made to members to finance the sale of rice and butchered hog.  For its third cycle, 94 of 120 members saved up P650,000 and earned P400,000 interest from loans similar to those in the second cycle.

In 2013, Digna started a group laundry business composed of members of her savings group.  The business, which takes in laundry and ironing from the nearby CCT Retreat and Training Center, has provided jobs or an additional source of income for more than three dozen neighbors as launderers, ironers, or delivery persons. 

The launderers and ironers work eight-to-five and receive P330 per day plus overtime pay when they have to work past eight hours. Eighteen tricycle drivers earn P60 each time they transport a load of laundry to or from the retreat center.     

Actually, Digna could have used her savings to buy more washing machines and she could have hired her neighbors to work for her.  Instead, she created a laundry group and joined them as one of the laundrywomen, bringing with her the knowhow gained from having worked in a laundry shop.   

Women in Digna’s community have been able to afford things they wouldn’t have been able to pay for without the motivation to save up provided by their being in a savings group.  For instance, 25-year old Abby, her husband, and their five-year old daughter used to live with Abby’s mother. The couple used their savings to start building a house of their own next to Abby’s mother’s house.  Lita Tuquero bought a fishing boat that now provides relatives in Bohol with a livelihood.  Corazon Alias paid for the installation of a water meter and now enjoys the services of the local water district. Lorie Manalo added a terrace to her house. Monalisa Cebedo bought household appliances. And Lea Layno built an anteroom that now serves as a sari-sari store.  

More importantly, Digna says that because their jobs keep them busy, the women now spend less and less time sitting around playing tong-its or drinking. “It was common for the women in my neighborhood to start drinking by sundown,” she says.  Women from 48 households are currently involved with the savings program and about 98 percent of those households have undergone transformation.  

Digna has also organized a savings group composed of children from her own neighborhood, and started two other savings groups for adults – mostly relatives –  in two nearby communities.  The weekly meetings of all savings groups involve Bible study and prayer.  

“For a long time,” Digna says, “I prayed for a way to introduce my family to Jesus and bring them closer to God.” She belongs to a large clan and relationships involve her own siblings, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in law and their siblings, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and in-laws! The savings program is the answer to that prayer.

Because of her efforts, Digna was nominated to the 2015 Thurman Award program of Hope International and was named honorable mention for Asia.

The award, named after Eric Thurman, first CEO of Hope, is given to men or women who are an inspiration to others,  creative or entrepreneurial, compassionate, family- and community- oriented,  have overcome significant challenges, have demonstrated strength of character, and  who have demonstrated life change as a direct result of joining a savings group. 

Like her neighbors, Digna has undergone significant change. Her life used to revolve just around family and work. Being president of her savings group allowed her to discover leadership and organizing skills she never knew she had, and gave her a venue for helping others.

So why does she do what she does? “When blessings come my way, I want to share them,” she simply says.

Digna Nibay holding her plaque, with Malu Garcia
of the Center for Community Transformation Inc. 

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