Mfi Profile Ahon Sa Hirap Inc Ashi

June 22, 2009 · By Sloane Davidson, Founder and CEO, Hello Neighbor

To Rise Up From Poverty

Let's start for a moment, shall we, from the basics. I've been writing about my Kiva Fellowship in the Philippines, the fundraising it took to get me here, the arrival - and so I know I've mentioned Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI) before - but since arriving I understand the organization a lot more than simply what I had read in the "About Us" section. Here we go.

First off, ASHI funds 100% loans to women. Being a country rampant with poverty, almost always a business is not one person alone, it involves family, husbands, parents, children and is multi-generational. So that being said, many times, the WOMAN takes the loan, provides the capital, but her husband might be sharing in the business responsibilities.

A few examples:

What this means is the woman is ultimately responsible for paying back the loan. She is responsible to ASHI, but needs her family to grow and sustain the business.

Next. For the lending. Ok, so ASHI has 4 regions they operate in the Philippines. The headquarters office is in Quezon City (just outside Manila). The other regions are named for the province they're in: Rizal, Antique (not like we know antique, but like ANT-eek-eh), South Metro Manila and Laguna. Only one region has a regional office - and that's Rizal. Otherwise each province has branches to cover different areas. I've spent the most time in Antique so let me explain from there.

Antique has 6 branches: Northwest, Northeast, Central, South, Southwest, and Southeast. Each branch has a branch manager, accounts officer and a few development officers. Each development officer is responsible for a set number of Centers within the branch. Each branch might have between 60 and 85 Centers. A Center is comprised of Groups (between 1-6). A Group is made up of 5 women - no more, and usually no less. Think of a Center as EACH VILLAGE. Each Village has its own Center - partially because the women walk to the meeting each week and wouldn't be able to travel far distances, but also to keep solidarity amongst them.

I told the story of a weekly meeting in a Facebook album I uploaded. The Center meeting is where the women make weekly repayments, put money into savings and talk about issues they might be having. As for savings, each woman has a basic savings accounts but they can have others too (each coming with different interests rates). The other types of savings accounts are: Emergency Savings (for say natural disasters) and Children's Education Savings (for tuition, books, supplies or college). Almost all women have the first kind, a few have the others. I've (ironically) found that the women with the most in the Children's Education Savings are not mothers themselves, but are single women and are saving to help send nieces and nephews to school. The second category with the most education savings are grandmothers helping to send grandkids to school.

Everything here is a family affair. Sometimes for the best - helping from a standpoint of family first is always a good starting point but sometimes for the worst - some family seems to be taking advantage of a family member that is doing well and uses it as a opportunity to take advantage of them and their generosity. There doesn't seem to be a lot of "saying no" or "putting your foot down" to family in need here. That is another topic for another blog post.

More about ASHI. Since it is the oldest existing replication of Grameen Bank Approach (GBA) to credit delivery to the bottom poor in the Philippines, it is very well known and well-respected here. They underwent an expansion in 1997 and grew from 5 branches and 1,266 members to today's numbers of 20 branches and 22,000 members. Their current portfolio has 17,000 active members with a 99.9% repayment rate. Their portfolio risk is a mere 2% and they have $120 PHP outstanding with $300 PHP in assets. In dollars (with today's currency exchange rate of $1 : $48.36) that means $2.48 million in outstanding with $6.2 million in assets.

A few other interesting points to note about ASHI:

So there it is, a (not-so-brief) overview. And I'm just getting started! So much more to share with you. I hope you're enjoying these updates, if you want to know something I'm not telling you, please let me know either in the comments or by emailing me at sloane@thecausemopolitan.com.

Last - to stay apprised of all of the loans provided by ASHI, consider joining the ASHI Kiva Lending Team or subscribing to the ASHI RSS feed.