Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C)
April 19, 2016
Volunteers from Citi Philippines Learn Green Skills for Earth Week
Manila – Nearly two dozen Citi volunteers from the Philippines made the hour-long trip to Bacoor in Cavite on April 16 to help community women like Angelina Pangilinan.
Angelina works from home, in her small makeshift house of about 10 square meters without the lights on for most of the time. Electricity is expensive and puts a drain on her limited household income.
When needed, her family gets electricity by tapping on their neighbor’s power connection and pays roughly PhP 200 a month. They do this only when absolutely necessary, such as to work at night and make rugs from garment scraps which they can sell for one peso each.
To help Angelina and more women like her struggling to provide for their families, Citi volunteers signed up to learn green skills: one is how to make solar bulbs using PET bottles as well as assist in making the same rugs as Angelina does using scraps bought from garment factories.
“It’s been an annual tradition for Citi Philippines to engage volunteers to celebrate Earth Week,” related Aneth Lim, Corporate Citizenship Head and Public Affairs Director. “I’m pleased to see that each year, the activities become more interesting, and the level of engagement from the volunteers deeper and more meaningful.”
This year, Citi’s partner non-profit is Social Enhancement for Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) Center Philippines Inc. Operating since 2005, SEED is a social microfinance institution focused on addressing the poorest of the poor.
Let’s talk money
The activity started with Lim giving a financial literacy talk on the importance of saving, no matter how small one’s income. The audience of mostly women shared their savings goals, and picking up the one answer that kept coming up, Lim covered three potential scenarios where the women will likely fail to meet it.
‘If you need PhP200 to get a new school uniform for your daughter, and only one month to save up for it, you should set aside PhP50 each week to make it happen. However, this is easier said than done,” explained Lim.
In scenario one, Lim showed that most will not be able to save, thinking the three weeks will be enough. As a result, they will end up with only PhP150. In the second scenario, after missing week one, most will try to meet the goal by setting aside PhP100 on week 4 – but that would mean the family will miss meals. But the worse is the third scenario where PhP50 is saved each week, only for a family member to dip into it for vices such as cigarettes.
From the nods among the audience, they understand too well that these scenarios do happen. Lim concluded the lecture to say that it is never too early nor too late to save, and reminded them about the first rule in personal finance: Pay yourself first. ‘Before you settle all the bills and indulge in small treats for the family, start by setting aside money for your savings pot.”
SEED Executive Director Hilda Aytin then took the opportunity to recognize the women who have been saving diligently in their Piso Pisong Pondo program. As a bonus, SEED awarded the most diligent saver in the crowd with a PhP1,000 incentive which effectively doubled the current savings of Wenifreda Costimiano. She has been saving with SEED since 2014 and at one time had a deposit of over PhP4,500. She only makes withdrawals for school-related expenses.
Let there be light…and rugs
After the personal finance talk, the volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was given a step-by-step demonstration to create the solar lamps that will illuminate homes and boost work productivity.
The solar lamps do not only save energy, but most importantly, it allows women like Angelina to have a chance to save and provide for the basic necessities of her family.
“I am very grateful that Citi and SEED chose me as one of the beneficiaries. I have always wanted to have a solar lamp but my family always needs to prioritize other things like tuition fees, school uniforms, or simply having food on the table three times a day. Now, I can work at home without the need for a fluorescent light. I can save that portion of my budget allotted to electricity and be assured that my family has money set aside for emergencies.”
Angelina Pangilinan (center) happily poses with the Citi volunteers as the solar lamp illuminates her home.
Apart from making solar lamps, some of the volunteers made rugs using scraps from garment factories. The community members and volunteers made a production line to finish the 8-steps in making rugs from sorting, cutting, sewing and bundling it together ready to be sold commercially.
After the activity, Aytin encouraged both the volunteers and the community partners to adopt waste recycling and other energy saving activities. “This joint activity undertaken by Citi and SEED gave us an opportunity to learn from each other, to see how simple environmentally sound actions and technologies can bring a huge difference in the lives of the poor, to challenge ourselves to rise above economic difficulties optimizing resources at hand and in doing so contribute to society at large.”
Volunteers Queenie Gonzales and Michelle Tuvilleja take their turns after the hands on demonstrations. SEED partner-beneficiaries and Citi volunteers were able to make solar lamps and rugs that can be sold commercially to generate more income for the microbusiness.
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