There were a number of factors that made Bohol, an attractive location for a new office not least the ease of access from Cebu by fast ferry. The island also happens to be picturesque, with its awe inspiring chocolate hills and the presence of the world's smallest and most delightful monkey, the tarsier. Of course, the deciding factor for opening an office is whether or not our livelihood assistance programme is both needed and welcomed. Our first coordinator, Nelia Lagura took a systematic approach to this by studying various regional statistics on poverty and meeting up with selected barangay captains and Community Development Officers in various municipalities.
Nelia worked part-time from her family home in Loay, one of our first project sites. When she took on a full-time job in Cebu as a lawyer, Bernie Gampay transferred from the Bacolod office to continue the good work Nelia had started. In July, 2003, Bernie returned to Bacolod and Cecille Hernando took over. In April, 2005, we were pleased to welcome Ireen Ingles, who remains our coordinator to this day.
The Bohol office has assisted more than 1,000 families with livelihood and education loan assistance as well as medical grants since the opening of the office in 2000. During Ireen's tenure, we have implemented projects in 29 of the 48 municipalities on the island, and most recently Bien Unido in the far north of Bohol. A special emphasis of the Bohol office has been the training of farmers in organic farming and subsequent loan assistance for organic rice cultivation.