CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Looking at money as a community resource

HONG KONG (SE): At the biggest and most successful micro credit organisation in The Philippines, CARD-MRI believes that economic progress does not happen in a vacuum, but only comes with community development.
While many migrant workers may believe they are helping the progress of their country by sending remittances back home, it is a fact of life that no country has ever made economic progress on the back of migrant remittances
This leaves but one conclusion: while remittances may help the immediate family, in isolation they do little or nothing towards building a better nation.
Beginning in Laguna province just outside Manila in 1986 as a rural development project, one of CARD’s first activities was a community-building and education outreach among landless coconut workers in which it emphasised that we only make progress if we stand together and cooperate with one another.
As the years went by it developed the concepts of solidarity and shared resources to develop product making and marketing and, since marketing a product to a population that cannot afford to buy it is a pious enterprise at best, the way forward was found in empowering the poor through the values of competence, excellence, family spirit, stewardship and simplicity.
The articulated ambition of CARD is poverty alleviation and it sees the creation of strong communities of competence and discipline, coupled with the appropriate support services and expert use of community money as the way to achieve this.
In 2009 it made its first foray among Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong by challenging the accepted fact that no matter how much you earn it is never enough and that building a feasible retirement is only a luxury enjoyed by the few.
Slowly but surely it has built an infrastructure in the city that can not only successfully challenge these notions, but introduce people to a path of financial wisdom and a support community when they return home for good.
On November 28 over 100 people graduated from the basic courses in financial literacy that are run by trained fellow migrant workers, taking the number of overall graduates to around 2,300.
CARD operates on the basis of a sound support system, and the original managers in Hong Kong spent some years consolidating a strong team capable of providing peer mentoring to their fellow workers.
Widely recognised as the most powerful and most successful form of education, the new team of trainers quickly made radical alterations to the original syllabus, using their own experience to touch on the issues facing migrant workers and the difficult task of challenging long held assumptions with new ones.
But as the new graduates stood to recite the pledge of membership in the CARD community in the Duke of Windsor Social Service Building in Wan Chai there was a warmth of belonging to something that can shine a ray of light pointing towards a future that may only have been previously dreamed of.
In 2012, CARD revisited its vision and mission to emphasise the social development undertakings that contribute to Philippine nation-building as a Community Development Group.
It has been established to consolidate its many and varied community based-activities related to education, health and livelihood, as well as the environment and both small and big enterprise.
CARD OFW-Hong Kong runs introductory courses several times a year in the city. They are free and, according to the testimony of many, enjoyable days well worth devoting a hard earned day off to attend.
It is a testament that there can be life after migrant labour. However, it involves looking at money with a keener eye, but is open to all.

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