In 2016, taking hold of their resources and expertise, long-time microfinance employees ventured into an enterprise with the hope of enriching the lives of others through providing financial services and entrepreneurship development.
Tired of living away from their families, colleagues Enrique “Ric” Maca, Orbil Driz, and Kirk Candelon banked on their background in microfinance and decided to return to their hometown in General Santos City to start their practice right in their community.
HOPE Microfinance Inc., (HMI) since it began in 2016, envisioned itself as a microfinance catering beyond the financial towards a more holistic transformation for its clients. Along with pastor Pelindo Maris and accountant Aloney Somido Jr., Ric, Orbil, and Kirk established HMI, bringing together their church values and their microfinance experience to help the marginalized, especially women.
Of this thrust, Ric says, “‘Bakit tayo [magtatayo] ng organization?… To enrich people, in terms of financial, spiritual, social, even health. That is why … nagpagagreehan na gawing HOPE: Helping Other People’s Enrichment Microfinance Inc. (If asked why we are putting up this organization: it is to enrich people, in terms of financial, spiritual, social, and even health. That is why we agreed to name it HOPE: Helping Other People’s Enrichment Microfinance Inc.)”
HMI currently maintains 900 to 1,000 clients, although it has reached up to 2,500 individual clients over the years. Most of its partners are sari-sari store operators, in addition to clients in various businesses such as manufacturing, farming produce, bakeries, hollow-block makers, and meat market vendors. Due to the pandemic, a number of their clients have ventured into online selling, a peek into the aggressiveness and innovation for business.
HMI offers group loans, with a minimum of 10 to 12 members, amounting from Php 6,000 to Php 20,000. On top of financial help packages, HMI has also partnered with Living Organic and Variable Essentials (LOVE) Depot, Inc. to provide livelihood programs and trainings in an effort to equip members to begin their own business with homecare products such as dishwashing liquid, fabric conditioner, detergent powder and food processing. These products are then marketed through HMI’s “Store of Hope.” These stores, attached to members’ existing variety stores, promote and sell the products of members, helping them widen their reach. Ric explains, “Kung anong negosyo meron ang isang kliyente pwedeng ibenta sa ibang barangay o sa ibang purok sa ibang municipality, kumbaga there will be interchanging of products… ‘yun ang concept ng Store of HOPE.”
While Ric admits that they have the same advocacies with other microfinance organizations, such as poverty alleviation and extending financial help, he says that they also desire to improve other aspects of the life of their clients, such as their spiritual wellbeing, social concern and involvement in their community, and even their health and wellness. “Hindi lang palaging negosyo ang pinag-uusapan, kundi iniisip din talaga yung paano naman ang pamilya (It’s not always about the business; we also think about the family’s welfare),” Ric adds. Part of this move is to open opportunities for their clients to improve and care for their health. Pre-COVID, HMI partnered with groups that can provide for their clients’ health and wellness. With these partners, HMI has been able to come up with a health package in the form of a Food Supplement Program.
In the aspect of spirituality, HMI organizes gatherings of their clients with pastors for weekly Staff Devotion and Retreats, so to help clients with values enrichment, especially making them equipped for the problems they may encounter with their businesses or with their personnel. This is a chance for clients to learn about the corporate values of the company, essentially allowing the corporate values to permeate business relationships.
While HMI has been providing opportunities for its clients to advance their businesses, its work has also helped in building local communities among clients and their areas of operation. From the usual follow-up meetings with their account officers, it has also started celebrating members’ birthdays to build rapport among members and recognize each member’s importance in their community. During the pandemic, activities were done online. Innovation provides for continual support of their member communities.
REACHING FARTHER AND DEEPER
HMI has reached beyond its intended locale. Currently, it has two branches, one in General Santos City and another in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. Its General Santos branch also caters to South Cotabato and Alabel area. Orbil counts as a success their involvement with their clients in Badjao Village, a place which Orbil described as “talagang ayaw pasukin ng microfinance.” Ric says the Badjaos were not favored clients due to biases or prejudice, but HMI took a chance on them. They now see their efforts pay off in the area where small businesses have evolved and grown.
Ric is also particularly proud of their second branch in Isulan, some 100km away from the center of General Santos City. Moreover, through the support of the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc., HMI has expanded to the municipality of M’Lang in Cotabato – a testament to the positive effects of the efforts of HMI to reach out to its clients despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
True to its beginning, HOPE Microfinance Inc. peeks into the future bearing with it lessons from the past. The founders have seen how their products and services and even the businesses of their clients have diversified, changing with the needs of the time. HMI now continues to dream of more varied ways of helping others through microfinance. One dream which Ric talks about is what he calls not just financing but a “complete package.” Ric recalls coming up with this concept remembering the abundance of street food carts in General Santos City. “’Yung food cart is a very good concept kung saan we train them, we supply the products. Ang kailangan na lang nila i-loan ‘yung food cart mismo. Dito kasi ang daming streetfood, ‘yung mga kwek kwek mga ganon, mga siomai. Why not come up with a food cart concept na ‘yun ang ipapahiram namin sa kliyente?” Ric says. Additionally, Ric says, the food cart can serve as an advertisement for HMI and its partners.
HMI also wishes to address the serious problem of street children in its locality, and it is now in its planned expansion of its social responsibility work. Ric proposes a concept of HOPE daycare center, to give hope to less fortunate children.
HMI has high hopes for the future given that, as Ric points out, “Marami tayong pwedeng magawa dito. As long as we [are] able to mobilize our operations well, meron tayong pupuntahan. (There’s a lot we can do. As long as we are able to mobilize our operations well, there will be a future for us.)