This weekend I went to Cebu, an island east of Negros, for the Kiva rollout in the NWTF branches. I figured the place would be ideal for my photography, especially since I’d gotten hold of the best dslr under $1000 that one could lay their hands on. I traveled as part of a five-person team, including Massah, the photography consultant, Raymond, the research manager, Jubert, the IT manager, and Presy, the Kiva coordinator. Pocholo, a friend of Raymond’s, needed a lift to Cebu and caught a ride with us. The six of us loaded the infamous red van and left at 7 AM on Thursday morning. The road to the port in San Carlos normally takes 3.5 hours, but we chose to take a shortcut through the mountains on a winding two-lane road cut neatly into the side of a cliff. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the port, the ferry was full. The next ferry didn’t leave until 2:30 in the afternoon, so we drove three hours south along a coastal road to another port in Aclan, where the ferry leaves every hour and takes 30 minutes to cross. Once on the other side, we had another three-hour trip back up north. Twelve hours later, we arrived in Cebu City and checked into a hotel.
In August of this year, Negros Women For Tomorrow celebrated its 25th anniversary. The organization commemorated the occasion with an extravagant party titled “Handum” (Dream) with 6,000 attendees, including staff, borrowers, partners, and a pre-recorded message from the godfather of microfinance himself, Muhammad Yunus. Yunus catapulted microfinance into the mainstream in 2005 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Naturally, most people (including myself until a few months ago) think that it is a fresh, new approach to economic development and poverty alleviation. At 25 years old, however, NWTF is hardly fresh or new.
As a means of immortalizing the 25-year anniversary, the organization created a book of 25 of the most inspiring stories from its borrowers. In this blog, I’ve tried to lay out the history and mission of the organization to frame or provide context for other stories. The foreword to the book, written by the founder of the organization Dr. Cecilia del Castillo, offers a much clearer description of the organization. I quote it in its entirety here: Continue reading