Risa Vereña, program coordinator in Manila, Philippines, presents at Unbound's Global Insight Series on March 29 in Kansas City.
Apr 7 2017

Families in the Philippines work toward sustainability

Manila program coordinator discusses the impact of co-ops

Risa Vereña, program coordinator in Manila, Philippines, presents at Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29 in Kansas City.

“We love peanut butter,” Risa Vereña said with a grin, describing Filipino culture to an audience of 100 at Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29. “… And [no matter the] religion or place, we cannot live without videoke .”

What does making peanut butter and renting videoke (a video version of karaoke) machines have to do with Unbound sponsorship? They are two of the many businesses started by parents of sponsored children in Manila, and according to Risa, they are ventures that will be welcomed readily by the community.

Risa is Unbound’s program coordinator in Manila, Philippines. With a bachelor’s degree in development communication and education communication, Risa has worked for Unbound for 15 years. She began as the communications officer in 2009 and took on the role of program coordinator in 2014.

Unbound has 37 projects in the 19 countries where we work. The projects serve as regional hubs in areas where sponsored members live, and are the coordinating centers for community-based programs that span the area. Each of these hubs is led by a coordinator who helps guide and manage the Unbound program in that area.

At both Unbound’s Global Insight Series on March 29 and at an employee-wide presentation earlier in the week, Risa shared about the innovative programs happening in her project in Manila. Families there are joining forces, with the support of Unbound, to build livelihoods and become self-sufficient through cooperatives.

Risa described the evolution of the cooperative project in the Philippines. Cooperatives are businesses or organizations that are owned and run jointly by members who share the profits or benefits. For the parents of sponsored children, the opportunity to work together toward a common goal has revealed the true power of community.

“All the mothers and fathers have potential, we just have to unleash it.“ — Risa in the Philippines Click To Tweet

In 2005, the first Unbound cooperative in Manila began to form. Members contributed a set amount of money per month to help kick start the business, lined out detailed principles and policies and elected a set of officers. By 2008, they were formally registered as a cooperative, starting with 39 members.

Immediately, the co-op began to grow by inviting new members, holding trainings and starting to plan ventures. Soon, a myriad of businesses were born — pig farming, basket weaving, clothing retail, rice trading and even funeral home services.

Today, the Manila program is host to seven registered co-ops ranging 300-560 members! Businesses continue to expand and advance, and many of the groups have future goals including starting pharmacies, gasoline stations and franchised fast food restaurants.

Risa was careful to explain the connection between sponsorship and these cooperatives. She described Unbound’s program in Manila as twofold — access to education for sponsored children and training for their parents. Together, the two goals have powerful results.

“All the mothers and fathers have potential,” Risa said. “We just have to unleash it.”

Learn more from the Global Insight Series.

Maureen Lunn

Writer/Editor

Maureen joined Unbound in 2016. With a master’s degree in international studies, Maureen has long been passionate about international development and loves using writing as a means to share that passion. She is a globetrotter, movie lover, Sporting KC fan, yoga teacher and self-designated crazy cat lady. Maureen and her husband, Toby, sponsor an elder in Kenya named Wambui.

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