Friday, December 24, 2010

Easing world poverty with spare change By Elizabeth Balao | Special to the Herald

Why are so many third world farmers impoverished? It is not only because of primitive conditions and natural disasters. Many farmers are the victims of corrupt financial systems. Columban Father Shay Cullen, who spent time with farmers in remote areas of the Philippines, explained the reality in the March 2009 issue of World Mission, a Catholic magazine.

He wrote: “The farmers are impoverished because they give one-third of their crop to the landowner and pay the high cost of terminator seeds that have to be bought annually because they are designed not to reproduce themselves. They have to be bought yearly with the matching chemical fertilizer and pesticides made by a multi-national corporation.”

He went on to expose the rotten and corrupt system of government and Philippine lending institutions. “This unjust system is the greatest cause of poverty,” he said.

Father Cullen established a foundation to help farmers redirect their efforts from rice to fresh produce and livestock through micro-financing, a system developed in Bangladesh by the 2006 Nobel peace prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus that empowers poor people to help themselves.

I went on a humanitarian trip to the remotest areas in Cagayan Valley in the Philippines in October of 2009 invited by the Catholic priest who serves there, Father Manuel Vicente Catral. I witnessed the extreme poverty of farmers and their families.

Father Catral and I decided to look for a solution to the suffering. He suggested the very same idea I had been researching — micro-lending. And so was born our project, “Hope in a Jar.”

Hope in a Jar is a head start to self-sufficiency. It is a project to fund the livelihoods of farmers, single parents, and others who are victims of natural disasters, social discrimination, abuse, political corruption and other conditions that create poverty. It is not a dole out, but an opportunity for the poor to stand on their own, with the promise of success and pay back.

Fathers Catral, Geronimo, Sabban and Banggay are four young, energetic, dedicated Catholic priests whose parishes are in the remotest parts of the Cagayan Valley Province. They have initiated a micro-financing program to give their parishioners a chance for a better life and self-sufficiency.

Through modest donations from generous people in California and Hawaii over the past three years, Father Catral has saved $5,000. He will use that money to start a micro-lending program where the poor can borrow, with minimal interest, small amounts of money to invest in a business venture.

With a $200 loan, at 1 percent to 2 percent interest, a farmer, housewife, single parent or self-supporting college student can start a livelihood by growing vegetables, or raising pigs, chickens or fish, or opening a food stand.

Similar programs have been successful in the neighboring provinces of Ilocos and Isabela. Inspired by the achievements of these local entrepreneurs, Father Catral plans to spearhead his project with the help of volunteers.

Here is where Hope in a Jar comes in. We are asking anyone who wants to help to gather up all the loose change laying around the house, in your car, in your drawers and on your desk at work, and put it in an empty jar or any glass container.

Send the money, through the Philippine National Bank, to Rev. Fr. Manuel Vicente Catral, PNB Tuguegarao, advising him of the remittance number by sending a message to his e-mail address,

Or you may drop off your jars at Blessed Sacrament Church on Pauoa Road on Sundays, 9-11 a.m., where a volunteer will be at the main door to accept the jars. Write your name, address and telephone number to receive a receipt after the change is counted.

For more information, call Elizabeth Balao at 599-7623. She is a Blessed Sacrament parishioner and also the coordinator of the Adopt a Classroom project for the poor children of the Cagayan Valley. Following her own transparency and accountability policy, Baloa does not accept cash donations for her projects.

No comments:

Post a Comment