The Power of Savings

Nelia proudly shows the fruit of her savings from her first savings cycle. She finally had their house’s beam repaired. (Photo: Jennina Lanza/Oxfam Philippines)

Twelve months since the Inclusive and Affordable Financial Facilities for Resilient and Developed Filipinos (IAFFORD) project was implemented in Brgy.103-Palanog, Tacloban City, Leyte, several families are now wiser in terms of planning for their financial security. They have gained discipline in handling their money and have learned to save for the future.

IAFFORD is a digital financial inclusion project led by Oxfam, in partnership with PayMaya and Visa, with support from the Australian Government. Aside from access to formal financial services, IAFFORD aims to help households manage financial stresses and shocks through saving money, investing in micro-insurance, and cultivating entrepreneurship with the availability of micro-credit.

Nelia Garcia, 36, is very proud about how the project changed her financial habits. She regularly deposits PhP 100.00 (AUD 2.50) each week and stores it in her IAFFORD card. This is where she safekeeps their family’s income for the proverbial rainy day.

“I have learned the best way of budgeting. I must admit I used to be impulsive. I like buying things for our house. And, thus, we did not have any savings because of this. Now, I have started to avoid buying unnecessary things. This is what I have also learned from the financial training conducted by the IAFFORD Project,” Nelia shared.

Nelia has started renovating their house using her savings in IAFFORD. This is the first time they have invested in fixing their house after it was totally damaged by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013. “I am amazed because it is very convenient and very accessible. I do not have to bring cash with me when I go to the grocery stores to buy the ingredients for my homemade delicacies business. The card is more than enough, and makes things easy because we do not have to go to the banks for cash. There are accredited community Money In and Money Out (MIMO) centers such as sari-sari-stores within our community,” Nelia adds about IAFFORD.

“I have found the best place to put my money. I did not have savings before. I hesitated setting aside even a small amount. I felt my money was more secure if I kept it in a piggy bank or anywhere in my house because I can easily grab it whenever I want to. But through the IAFFORD card, saving became easy and possible”, Nelia added.

Protected households

Jennylyn Avila, a mother of four from Tacloban City, survived Typhoon Haiyan. “The IAFFORD card is a life-saver”, Jennylyn said. She used it when her two children were hospitalized in July 2017. Her eldest son had met an accident and tore a portion of his ear, which required surgery that cost PhP 7,000 (AUD 173). About the same time, her youngest child also had to be treated for dehydration. She proudly recalls that “I was partly ready at that time. I had the IAFFORD card in my hand and our savings group also shared PhP 500.00 (AUD 12) from our social fund.”

Jennylyn also remembers that when her husband was hospitalized because of an electrolyte imbalance, she was very humbled by how her co-savers sympathized with her medical situation and granted her a medical loan. “It was not difficult for our family to bounce back after the loan. The money we borrowed from our community self-help savings group had minimal interest and payment terms were very flexible,” shared Jennylyn.

IAFFORD project beneficiaries learned about, and enjoy using, other digital financial services. They have become more aware of the benefits of being financially included. Popular features of the IAFFORD card enjoyed by the project beneficiaries are electronic money remittance and mobile transfer. According to Jennylyn, “the more we use the card and its services, the more rebates or promotional offers we can avail of.”

IAFFORD beneficiaries also enjoy free insurance coverage for a time. “This is our incentive for continuously saving. Micro-insurance suits our families’ needs. It has annual coverage for accident, medical reimbursement, and education for up to three family members. We can continue this even after the free policy expires; and the premium is very affordable” explained Jennlyn.

Making financial services work for women’s and family needs

Through their experience, Nelia and Jennylyn are optimistic that IAFFORD can save more mothers from financial hurdles. They have committed themselves to lead a group of savers in their community and inspire them to continuously save.

“There were some who had second thoughts about the project. They were skeptical since it was the first time they have heard of this kind of strategy to save and invest,” Nelia described.

Out of the 30 who attended the orientation in Purok 3, only 10 participated in pioneering the savings group. However, this did not discourage Jennylyn,

“There was no harm in trying, especially if your purpose is for the good. This was how I motivated my neighbors who eventually decided to join our savings group.” Since then, their savings group has grown to 27 members. Across Brgy. 103-Palanog, there are now seven active savings group.

“I love how IAFFORD helped me be more disciplined when it comes to my financial concerns. I feel so successful leaving my bad habit of being impulsive. Now I am thrifty. For those who wish to start a group, I am very much willing to assist. In this little way, I could share with others the good change IAFFORD has changed about for me,” exclaims Nelia.