Philippine Self-Help Foundation

Lenel May (31) and her husband Gefre (35) come from Buclao, a fishing village in the southern Negros Occidental town of Cauayan. They have no children of their own but are looking after Leev Andrei (7) and Wyle Anton (4) who are Gefre’s nephews. The mother of the two boys is a medical technologist in the Middle East and until two months ago, was sending money regularly to the couple - 2,000 to 3,000 pesos per month, as their ‘fee’ for looking after her two children. Last year however, she borrowed money when she came home to the Philippines twice; the first time when she attended her son’s graduation from kindergarten and the second time, when she gave birth. She is paying back this loan now and so is in a tight financial situation.

Gefre and Lenel keep a small sari-sari or variety store at home which they started three years ago. They sell various food items and toiletries. At the same time they also sell electronic loads for mobile phones. Since their capital is only 500 pesos, one of them must go to the town centre of Cauayan twice a week in order to ‘purchase’ electronic load. This means paying for tricycle fares worth 30 pesos each time.

The couple were glad when they heard from a neighbour about the PSHF’s livelihood assistance program. They have applied for a loan of 3,000 pesos with the PSHF in order to buy electronic load (e-load) in ‘bulk’. This amount will enable both of them to buy 1,500 pesos worth of electronic load each from the two leading telecommunication networks, Globe and Smart.

The community where Lenel and Gefre live consists of about 30 households. Most of the families own mobile phones and some of them even have smartphones and so need ‘load’ frequently in order to have internet access. The couple are the only ones in the community who sell e-load. With a sufficient ‘supply’, they believe that they will be able to sell 1,500 pesos worth of load every week; this will give them a weekly profit of 375 pesos or 1,500 pesos (US$30) per month.

Aside from tending the sari-sari, Gefre takes charge of his parent’s rice farm. His share of the proceeds from the harvest is just enough for home consumption. As for the sari-sari, it has weekly sales of 1,500 pesos. The mark up is 20 per cent and so the couple make 300 pesos per week. This income pays for minor household expenses such as toiletries and snacks. With the additional income from the e-loading business, they will be able to save money to buy roofing materials in order to have their leaking roof replaced. They are thankful to the PSHF for helping them improve their income.

Bernadette G. Togado

PSHF Negros Oriental

May 2017