Our CEO Guy Winship challenged our Ambassador Heath Francis to the 7K fun run, and they became our iconic superheros — gamely letting us splash their faces all over our website, Facebook page, and on posters.
And who won? Well, Heath’s track experience as a gold medalist Paralympian and world record holder of the 200m and 400m meant that he finished the 7K run in 35.3 min. On the other hand, Guy smashed the fundraising with $6,430 — well above his $5,000 goal. We are proud of them both.
Even more awesome in our opinion is that our magnificent fundraisers raised $15,721, which will go towards our program work in the Asia Pacific. To everyone who fundraised and donated — thank you, thank you, thank you.
We will be organising the Sun Run again next year, as well as the City2Sea, a similar event in Melbourne in November. Keep an eye on Our Events to find out more.
You are very welcome to join us again: Sydney or Melbourne – your pick. We’d love it even more if you could help us recruit new runners and fundraisers: families, friends, neighbours or colleagues. Let us know in the comments below if you’d like to join – we have 12 months to prepare.
And last but not least… here are some of our favourite photos from the morning. (Or, check these out on Facebook.)
The whole city closes its streets and reroutes the traffic, causing some distress amongst those forced to brave it. An uncommon yet welcoming sight was seeing the large numbers of people walking the free from congested streets, a very rare sight in the Philippines.
The week-long fiesta was a combination of religious, cultural, and historical activities that sees groups of college students and the like battle it out in choreographed dance ensembles whilst moving through the streets of the city, to the beat of loud drums. A fiesta in the Philippines is not complete without beauty pageants of every possible category. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, it was raining for most of the weekend, which made seeing the pageants difficult.
What was perhaps the most unique aspect of the festival is its recognition by the United Nations. It is the first – and only – festival in the world to be recognised through its promotion of the UN Millennium Development Goals and the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights. The festival’s aim is to raise cultural awareness of the various indigenous tribes who still inhabit the island.
Whilst the tribes do not directly participate, the performers must select a particular tribe that they wish to represent with a requirement being that performers paint their skin brown and use only indigenous materials for the costumes. There is a great deal of prize money at stake with some performers even being backed by big sponsors, with the finalists competing in Manila. The prize money is given to the performers, with some choosing to give a portion to the indigenous tribes, although it’s not enforced.
I’ve definitely mastered festival preparation – buying ear plugs was the best choice I’ve made (the music is played at top volume all night), and extra sleep is never a bad thing in the Philippines.
I noticed a couple of things on returning to Australia. Firstly, I had to stop myself saying ‘Vinaka’ (thank you) all the time. ‘Vinaka’ is used all the time in Fiji – for example, whenever you encounter a bus driver, work colleague, market vendor, waiter/waitress, or sales person. When I get back to Fiji I feel I should keep a tally of the number of times a day I use that word!
Secondly, I was amazed by the cashless society in Australia. It was awesome to not have to worry about having enough cash for everything, and to be able to pay for everything so much more easily with debit or credit card. I’ve gotten so used to having to rely on cash for everything in Fiji (except for the higher end resorts, a couple of supermarkets and few high end shops, who charge you between 3-5% for the privilege of using a card).
Thirdly, it was such a relief to be back in the land of reliable internet. I quickly got back into relying on Google Maps to navigate (which is not worth using in Fiji!).
On the food frontier, I have been happy to indulge in all the cuisine Australia has on offer – Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Chinese and of course good Aussie pub food! I love the Indian and Fijian cuisine available in Fiji, but living in Suva has made me appreciate the variety of food available in Australia.
While I’m loving life in Fiji, it definitely is a nice sanity break to come back home.]]>
This was the first time that the staff of SECDEP had been oriented on the concept of disability. The objective of the workshop was to brainstorm with the staff ways that they could be more inclusive to the disabled population of Panay Island. Currently, SECDEP has branches in 4 of the 5 provinces that Judith mentioned as having large PWD populations – who don’t receive any financial services.
In an already competitive microfinance sector here in the Philippines, it was identified that there is an opportunity for growth and outreach to these vulnerable groups, fitting into SECDEP’s social mission of serving the most vulnerable groups on Panay Island. SECDEP already targets women and indigenous populations, but disabled people are excluded from any financial support. With vision impairment being the highest disability amongst Filipinos, SECDEP’s support can be transformative in not only helping with livelihood creation, but also in helping correct their vision, through the possible introduction of small loans for glasses.
There are a lot of opportunities for both SECDEP and this vulnerable group of society. The staff were able to brainstorm during the training a number of recommendations and action items SECDEP could take, including identifying the current PWDs in the community, looking at what skills training and education can be provided to them, and assist them in suitable livelihood projects (based on their disability and skills), followed by providing them with low interest loans.
It’s definitely exciting times ahead for SECDEP and heartening to see that these neglected groups of society will now be on the agenda for SECDEP’s programs and outreach.]]>
While the PPI tool is a very short and simple questionnaire, the roll out has not been quite so straightforward! SPBD is training specific clients to carry out the surveys in their centres, which means we have had to train over 200 Survey Administrators in how to correctly interpret the questions and hence get accurate data.
To ensure the data we collect and analyse is of high quality, random field verifications (re-surveying clients) are required by more qualified staff to check if the answers are consistent. If there are too many errors found by one Administrator, we have to re-do all the surveys submitted by them, which is a lot of work.
I travelled to 3 of SPBD’s 4 branches to help with the field verifications. The clients are almost always happy to give us their time, which is completely the opposite of how most of us would react in Australia if we were approached and asked to do a survey! I don’t normally get the chance to visit clients in their homes, so it was a wonderful experience to be able to sit one-on-one with the clients and not just go through the survey with them, but also to chat with them, get to know about their families and their lives.
The PPI data collection is still going on, after which Good Return will analyse the findings and develop a report for SPBD. It’s been an interesting program, and I’m glad to be part of it.
I was born here in a small house in Prey Veng town over 34 years ago. My father was a government official and my mother was a teacher. I am the oldest son in my family.
From 1999 to 2004, I have taught many people in Prey Veng. Some of them now are doctors, some are teachers, government officers, and company staff.
Since 2004, I have been away from my homeland because of my work and family. One of my dreams has been to one day come back to this small province to continue teaching the next generation, and now through TPC and Good Return, my dream has come true.
As of today, 890 students from two universities in Prey Veng; Chea Sim University of Kamchaymear (where I graduated with a Bachelor Degree) and Angkor City Institute, participated in Personal Financial Management Awareness Program.
Besides facilitating the workshop, I like mentoring and coaching people. Therefore, I frequently go back to the universities to motivate and encourage the students to apply financial skills in their daily life and also keep coaching them through phone calls, social media, email and other ways as available for them.
It was very special to go back to my homeland province to teach. I hope another opportunity comes again soon.
There are very few social or financial benefits that the government provides, nor is there much self-determination for the plight of indigenous peoples here on Panay Island. However, despite these challenges, it was heartening meeting with Elna and her 3 family members who are all members of SECDEP, Good Return’s partner. They shared with me the differences their membership has brought, not only to their financial prospects but also to their integration with non-Ati Filipinos.
It should be mentioned that SECDEP is the only microfinance institution in the region who still visits the remote villages of the Ati to provide financial services.
How much is your loan with SECDEP?
Elna: I received a loan for 4,500 ($119) it was used to purchase materials for my weaving business. I weave bags, purses, pencil cases and cellphone cases and sell them in the market every Monday. On average I am able to sell 5 bags and 50 purses in the market and spend the rest of the week making the products and gathering the nito (vine), which I use to weave the products.
How was your life before you got the loan?
Elna: Before I was making herbal medicine with my mother and we were selling it in the market and splitting the costs. My mother has now died and I don’t have the skills to continue this livelihood. This loan has given me capital to be able to weave and I can also now send my children to school. Before we had no permanent source of income.
What is the difference the loan has provided to you and your family?
Elna: Now I have a permanent livelihood I can rely on, my husband is a sugar cane labourer so our income combined can help our family.
Before we received SECDEP’s support it was difficult to integrate into society, everyone has a perception that we’re bad borrowers but with SECDEP’s help this has changed. We have increased our worth as individuals, indigenous people, and as borrowers.]]>
Recently, our Program Coordinator Bunthoeun and Consumer Analytics Specialist Asim visited the Tboung Khmum province, about 4 hours away from Phnom Penh. Below are some pictures from a final session where students have just completed an 8 session course on Savings.
Bunthoeun and Asim visited a Cham village, who are a minority group in Cambodia, and primarily Muslim. The Cham kingdom ruled much of Cambodia into the 12th century, but were ousted by the Khmer empire shortly afterwards. The Khmer remain the majority in Cambodia and are Buddhist. In the Cham village, the course was facilitated by a community trainer, and in the Khmer village, the course was facilitated by a Client Training Officer.
Zac, Tonga: There isn’t really anything for this but I got a basic translation – “Ofa ke mou mau ha kalisimasi fiefia moha ta’u fo’ou monu’ia” – meaning literally “love you all to have a merry christmas and a happy new year.”
Jason, Cambodia: សប្បាយរីករាយ ឆ្នាំថ្មី, or “sabbayrikreay chhnam thmei,” which means Happy New Year.
Esther, Fiji: “Vakanuinui vinaka ena Siga ni Sucu.” This means best wishes for Christmas, but literally ‘Siga ni Sucu’ means ‘birthday’. So Christmas is known as ‘Birthday’ because it’s Christ’s birthday… Makes sense!
Zena, Philippines: “Maligayang Pasko,” translating to, “Joyful Christmas” or “Happy Christmas” in Tagalog.
Jason, Cambodia: Christmas is not an official celebration in Cambodia. My work mates at TPC tell me that while it’s not an official holiday, it’s celebrated by many – including children and young people. My TPC work mates will be coming to work as per normal on Christmas Day.
However in Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital) there is no shortage of signs that it’s Christmas time. From the beer can Christmas tree with lights, to the decorations our Cambodia landlord put up for us – “Just so it would feel like Christmas at home for you.” Very thoughtful of him.
Esther, Fiji: Similar to Australia, Christmas is an important family occasion. Everyone goes to church on Christmas day, and families gather for big feasts – mainly featuring pork or ham as special festive treats. (Pork is expensive here.). Pork is cooked on the BBQ or in underground ovens (‘lovo’), and ham is boiled.
New Years is also a family occasion, and everyone goes to church on New Years from 10pm to 1am. Apparently there are also stacks of backyard fireworks set off, though not as many as at Diwali! That was pretty crazy. The most fun part of the New Year celebration is that people throw buckets of water at you or rub mud all over you for the first 2 weeks of the year. This happens in the villages, and even sometimes in Suva! Apparently if they get you wet/dirty they are supposed to also provide you with clothes to change into (which you then keep).
I’ve heard that when buses approach villages, bus drivers will stop and ask passengers to let down the rain covers, so that when they drive through the village they will be somewhat safe from buckets of water. I’ve asked a few people why they do this, and just got told “for fun!”
Zac, Tonga: With the importance of religion here, Christmas is very traditional, similar to Sundays. People will go to church and have feasts. New Years isn’t something that is really celebrated.
Zena, Philippines: The Philippines is known for having the world’s longest Christmas season, with Christmas carols being played in all shopping centers from the beginning of September. Like most Roman Catholic nations, Christmas is a big celebration and is spent with family, eating and partaking in sunrise masses from 16 December up until the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. All families celebrate Noche Buena, which is a feast on Christmas Eve, with Christmas Day being reserved for parties and exchanging of gifts.
No fiesta in the Philippines is complete without noise, so New Years includes both loud music and backyard fireworks, I’m glad I’ll be out of the city during this time as the number of street dogs outside my house will surely be deafening!
Esther, Fiji: We’re heading to the Yasawas Islands, located several hours’ boat ride north-west of Nadi. We’re really looking forward to some quality chill-out time, beaches, snorkelling and not much else. We’re trying out our brand new tent so let’s hope it doesn’t rain too hard.
Zena, Philippines: I’m looking forward to meeting my family from Perth in Palawan, the most western island of the Philippines, closest to Malaysia. We’ll be island hopping and snorkeling for 2 weeks while the SECDEP office is closed.
Zac, Tonga: I am coming back to Australia for 2 weeks over the holidays, first to Melbourne with my partner’s family and then Sydney with mine. I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family most of all. I have my aunty and grandmother coming from the UK, I haven’t seen them in a few years!
Zena, Philippines: The shops are certainly displaying a lot of new products I’ve never seen before, mostly because they’ve been imported from America (this includes all Hershey’s products and marshmallows). I’ve been told that the Christmas staples are keso de bola which is a ball of Edam cheese, macaroni salad, hamon (ham) and lechon (whole suckling pig) followed by leche flan and fruit salad.
Zac, Tonga: One thing is the amazing seasonal fruit – pineapple and mangoes are in season now! Avocados have just come in – the yummiest I’ve ever had.
Jason, Cambodia: The main big celebration/holiday season in Cambodia takes place in mid-April. The holiday is for 3 days and makes the end of the harvest season. During this time many Cambodians return to their home town or “home land.”
Esther, Fiji: It is HOT! And muggy. Feels like 40 degrees but actually it’s only 29. Otherwise it seems to be the start of the IRB rugby 7s tournaments and there was a bit of drama when Fiji didn’t get broadcast rights to show the games (due to the government wanting to put in crazy clauses into the contract with IRB which no other country does). That would have been a national crisis, but they seem to have resolved it. It’s also end of financial year here, which means that while the rest of us get to enjoy the holidays, the finance team has to be hard at work closing off the year end. Poor guys.
My photo below is of the ’3 Wise Santas’ (that’s my name for them!) at the 5 star Grand Pacific Hotel. I’m not sure why there are 3 at one time, so my only explanation is that they are mixing the message with the 3 wise men. They also had an awesome gingerbread house that was the size of a kid’s playhouse and was all real gingerbread but I forgot to take a picture.
I was able to provide them with a loan of US$250 so they could buy a cow and also some fertilizer. The cow is an investment for them, as she is a female cow and they are hoping she will have a calf soon.
Mrs Tok An only has a very small wooden home and was too embarrassed for a photo to be taken. But she has plans for the future to improve the home. It makes me happy to be able to be a positive part of Tok An’s life and to see her family making progress.