On a Sunday afternoon in August, our Programs and Compliance Officer, Catherine, and myself, left Melbourne (and its dreary weather) for the sunny Filipino city of Manila.

Flying overseas to visit our program’s work is a common occurrence at INA. We need to ensure that we are accountable to you, our supporters, and see first-hand how your investment is benefitting women and children. It also means we can make suggestions and improvements (if any) for the work on the ground.

Our first priority upon landing was to find an ATM. There were four. None of them were working. Not a great start. We then took a ‘Grab’ (Filipino Uber) to our Airbnb, located very close to our partner organisation’s offices.

Our local partner organisation is called ‘Vineyard’. INA partnered with this local organisation because it wants to build self-sustainable partnerships led by local Filipino people.

Because this organisation is well integrated into communities, they know exactly where resources and donations need to go to, meaning YOUR investment can have the biggest impact or value for money! We were met and taken along during the week by three wonderful Vineyard employees, Pearlie, Joy and Josie. You’ll recognise Pearlie in every photo by her array of Purple tops (see right)!

Our first stop on Monday was to Towerville (a town 90 minutes north of Manila), to visit a COMSCA group; this stands for Community Owned Savings and Credit Association, which provides financial literacy training for families to save money, and access loans to start small businesses. We were lucky enough to sit and observe a meeting, including a prayer circle before they started (see below).

Seeing our projects on the ground is a lot different than working in our Melbourne office. Whilst we do correspond almost daily with our projects (whether by email, instant message or Skype), it’s not the same as seeing people directly impacted by your support through COMSCA, watching women come together and decide how they want to financially protect their families.

It also gave us a chance to speak directly with those using these services, and ask more in-depth personal questions; how it feels to have these services available, what it means for them, and more. Seeing this COMSCA group in real-life drove home why INA does the work it does.

And that was our jam-packed Monday in the Philippines! Stay tuned for my next installment, which will cover our Tuesday; including more background on our partner organisation, and some more information in just how life-saving First Aid training is!
– Preeti