Sitio Pesong is about an hour walk away from Judy Villamor’s house. It is one of the farthest sitios in Barangay Dian-ay, Escalante and the road going there is hilly, narrow and rough. There is no public transportation going to the area – no jeepneys, no tricycles, not even habal-habal – and the 4-kilometer walk going there is very tiring for 48-year old Judy. Even so, her determination to help families in Sitio Pesong keeps her going.
Sitio Pesong is Judy’s first assignment as a CoMSCA Village Agent (VA). She is one of at least 50 Village Agents who attended the CoMSCA Village Agent Training conducted by World Vision last August in Negros Occidental.
Community Managed Savings and Credit Association (CoMSCA) is a small scale self-managed financial system which aims to provide savings and loan facilities in a community where access to formal financial services is difficult. Each association is composed of 10-25 members who join and form the group voluntarily. Members decide if they want to meet daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly to purchase shares. A share is equivalent to an amount the group decided at the start of the 1-year cycle and can range from as low as P5 to P100. Each member can purchase a maximum of 5 shares per meeting.
Village Agent Judy believes that saving is important especially during emergencies. By fostering the value of saving among parents, CoMSCA helps families meet predictable expenses and reduces financial shocks during tiempo muerto (dead season) in sugarcane and during emergencies. The money saved by the members is invested in a loan fund that can be borrowed and repaid with a very low service charge. The service charge also adds up to members’ earnings and distributed according to their share purchases during the share out at the end of each cycle.
CoMSCA also provides members with a limited financial insurance through a Social Fund, an agreed amount paid by members every meeting, which can be given to a group member for free during emergencies and other social needs.
“The biggest challenge of being a Village Agent is when people reject or turn down the invitation to join CoMSCA,” Judy shares. In spite of this, she gets inspired whenever she sees children and their parents happy because of ABK3 LEAP’s services. While Judy’s family is not a beneficiary of the project, she is a strong believer of its goal to reduce child labor in sugarcane areas. She feels fulfilled knowing that, in a way, she is able to help achieve ABK3 LEAP’s goal. Aside from being a Village Agent, Judy is also an active Community Watch Group (CWG) member.
CoMSCA serves as the entry point for livelihood by developing basic financial skills such as saving, cash management, understanding loans and the need for investing in capital among parents/ guardians of ABK3 assisted children, before introducing viable livelihood activities.
As the number of CoMSCAs continue to grow, VAs are being trained to ensure a continued technical support system for these associations at the community level, even after the project has ended. VAs’ roles include organizing new CoMSCAs, training them on the proper use of the CoMSCA system, monitoring of associations and ensuring their stability.
At present, there are at least 400 trained Village Agents in communities assisted by ABK3 LEAP.