If Donald Trump needs new contestants for his show “The Apprentice”, he should look no further than the Rizal province in the Philippines. After spending nearly a month as a Kiva Fellow interviewing over 40 members of Ahon Sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI), a Kiva microfinance partner, I can attest these women would give the competition a run for their money.
Picture of Nieva De Leon (ASHI member) and myself
I would describe the members of ASHI as scrappy and determined entrepreneurs who practice savvy business sense. During my interviews with the borrowers, I ask how the Kiva loans have impacted their businesses and what they value from their experiences as entrepreneurs. These women never fail to impress me with stories regarding the importance of:
- Diversifying their revenue streams by managing multiple businesses
- Investing in capital to expand their ventures
- Managing the cash flow of their daily operations
- Reinvesting profits back into the business
Poverty fuels entrepreneurial dreams. I have learned that selling charcoal, chicken feathers, gasoline, and bamboo are all viable means of livelihood in the Philippines. With Kiva loans, many of these entrepreneurs are doubling their monthly business income and improving their overall quality of life. “Higher quality of life” as described to me by the entrepreneurs is affording to install a functioning bathroom in their home or upgrading their walls to cement instead of bamboo.
So what are my thoughts of the experience so far? I think the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believing” best sums it up for me. Seeing the power of microfinance in the field has renewed the optimist inside.
Translated from Tagalog, Ahon Sa Hirap means “to rise out of poverty”. With portfolio loans to 100% women, ASHI has the distinction of being the oldest existing replication of the Grameen Bank Approach in the Philippines. In addition to general business loans, ASHI also offers educational loans, house repair loans, savings funds, and social development programs for their members.
Loan to ASHI members here.
Christina Reyes is a KF10 Kiva Fellow serving her placement with Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI) in the Philippines. As a first generation Filipino-American, she feels especially honored to pay it forward in a country so close to her heart