Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.E.F. Schumacher

Our people in the Philippines

Name Catherine
Role Field Support Officer
Year started 2015
Location Philippines

About Catherine

As my mum is from Baybay in the Philippines, from a young age I witnessed informal lending between Filipinos in Australia and their friends and relatives in the Philippines. What I noticed was the impact small lending can have, not only to an individual, but to an entire community. I saw the long-term benefits these loans had on a person’s life, as these loans often assisted with education for kids or establishing a small business.

It wasn't until I was studying a Bachelor of Social Science (Politics and Public Policy) that I discovered the work of Muhammad Yunus, and finally realised there was an actual term for the lending I had been witnessing for so many years – microfinance!

After I graduated university I went on to work on several community development programs at NGOs in Australia. However, I still couldn’t get microfinance out of my mind. Finally, because of my interest in using economics as a development tool, I enrolled in a Graduate Diploma of Economics at Monash University. It was through SEED Monash, a student-led initiative about microfinance and social enterprise, that I came across the Field Support Officer role here at Good Return. The rest, as they say, is history.

What I'm most looking forward to whilst working at St Elizabeth Community Development Program (SECDEP) is gaining a nuanced understanding of the practical application of microfinance, getting know my fellow SECDEP colleagues and clients, and learning the local dialect, Hiligaynon. Oh – and trying out all the sweet delicacies Iloilo has to offer!

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Love reading Catherine's blog? Please support her so she can continue her volunteer work (and blogging) in the Philippines.

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Name Fanie
Role Community Banker
Year started 2010
Location Philippines

About Fanie

Having first-hand experience of its mission, I always knew that I wanted to work for SECDEP, so that I too might contribute to the lives of others.

My family has a long relationship with SECDEP. My mother is a member, and my sister was fortunate enough to receive an education scholarship. Having first-hand experience of its mission, I always knew that I wanted to work for SECDEP, so that I too might contribute to the lives of others.

The nature of my job means that I’m on the road a lot. I work Monday to Friday, and for the first four days of each week, I visit clients. On Fridays, I’m in the office processing and catching up on work. Because I live quite far away, during the week I sleep in the staff house next to the office. On Friday afternoons, I go home to see my family. But I must get up at 4 am every Monday morning to get into work on time.

My favourite thing about being a community banker is serving clients. I also like visiting and experiencing other villages. It is very rewarding when we help people overcome their problems. I really enjoy the level of flexibility my job gives, as it means that when all my tasks are done – I have free time to spend with family and friends.

Help Fanie deliver responsible microfinance to the unbanked

to train a banker

As a Community Banker, Fanie travels far and wide to deliver financial services to disadvantaged communities. Help her extend financial inclusion so no one is left unbanked.

Name Grace
Role Village Trainer
Year started 2013
Location Philippines

About Grace

“Before I became a trainer, I had never even left my home province. Now, I love making new friends and visiting new places.”

I feel very excited and privileged to be a Village Trainer. I give training twice a week, mostly on saving and budgeting, and spend one day preparing for the following week's classes.

When I’m not giving training I’m working in my sari sari store and look after my family. I live on Guimaras Island with my husband and three children, although as a trainer I occasionally have to travel across Panay Island - sometimes as far as the northern province of Antique. 177 kilometers of travel might not sound like a lot to you, but before I became a trainer, I had never even left my home province - so I was very nervous to start travelling!

The first time I went to Antique I discovered I was sensitive to motion and spent much of the journey feeling car sick. Now, I love making new friends and visiting new places. Even though my stomach might get a little upset, I always enjoy the journey and all the new places and people.

Working as a Village Trainer has greatly improved my own self confidence and financial knowledge, and I look forward to continuing to assist and work alongside the women in these communities.

Help a villager participate in Grace's training course

to train a person

When you sponsor a person to participate in Grace’s financial literacy courses, the whole family also learns new financial habits. Help Grace train a villager and their families today.

Our Partner in the Philippines

Name St Elizabeth Community Development Program
Head office Iloilo City, Panay Island, Philippines
Year established 2000
Mission & Vision SECDEP Inc. shall be one of the leading microfinance institutions in the island of Panay staffed by highly committed and professional people in pursuit of economically empowered and values-oriented communities. SECDEP upholds the values of teamwork, mutual respect, truth, justice and love.
Number of branches 7
Number of staff 66
Number of field staff 44
Number of trainers 17
Non-financial products and services
  • Skills training
  • Scholarships for members’ children
  • Disaster relief
  • Access to renewable energy technologies


About SECDEP’s clients

Geographic coverage Panay & Guimaras Islands
Number of active depositors 9,935
Number of active borrowers 8,717
% of women depositors 99%
% of women borrowers 99%


Financial Performance

Dollar amounts are reported on in USD ($). Local currency in the Philippines is the Filipino Peso (PHP).

Average loan balance per borrower $110 (PHP 4,823)
Average deposit balance per depositor $61
Profitability (return on assets) 3%
Portfolio outstanding $962,298 (PHP 42,047,458)
Portfolio yield – real 70%
Operational self sufficiency 112%


Social Performance

Dimension 1: Define & monitor social goals Based on the Client Protection Assessment conducted by Good Return SECDEP finalised their Social Performance Management Plan and discussions underway for the formulation of a Client Protection (CP) Action Plan.
Dimension 2: Commitment to goals Client Statisfation Survey (CSS) completed in December, to be reviewed/actioned in 2014.,Planning underway for phase II of SECDEP’s Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) work, staff training scheduled for February 2014 with census collection to commence afterwards.
Dimension 3: Design products for clients needs Analysis of CSS in 2014 will inform updates to current SECDEP products.
Dimension 4: Treat clients responsibly CSS measured clients’ awareness of SECDEP policies, which will inform how SECDEP can better communicate with their clients. SPM Plan and forthcoming CP Action Plan will also enhance SECDEP’s responsible treatment of clients.
Dimension 5: Treat employees responsibly Ongoing training, coaching and capacity development activities for SECDEP staff (particularly field staff delivering financial education training. Ongoing month staff incentive scheme in place. Plans to conduct staff satisfaction survey in early 2014.
Dimension 6: Balance social & financial performance SPM Plan in place to better track social performance and capture/highlight progress being made. Plans to upload financial and social performance data to the MIX Market in 2014.