Microfinancing: a hope that becomes tangible

07 December 2023

A new BRS colleague and a brand-new BRS volunteer. Natalie Vanden Eynde and Ronny Delchambre are both driven people, each with tons of experience in their respective areas. The trip to the Philippines that brought them together was new for both of them: their first mission on behalf of BRS.

Yes for BRS

Ronny: To be honest: when a good friend, a long-time BRS volunteer, asked me if I was interested in contributing my experience to BRS after my retirement, I seriously hesitated. I worked for KBC for many years, in various different roles and with a particular interest in SMEs. But what could I contribute from that experience to microfinancing institutions in the South? Because I find what BRS does very valuable, I finally said “yes”.

Natalie: Like Ronny, I am relatively new to BRS: for a few months I have been part of the core team as programme coordinator. And before that, I was involved in microfinancing. For example, I wrote a thesis on microinsurance and I worked in Tanzania for two years with small savings groups of MFIs. More than once, I came into contact with BRS. When a place became available in their team, I didn’t hesitate! 

Poverty and determination

Ronny: In May, Natalie and I travelled to the Philippines together. In the company of Kurt Moors, general coordinator of BRS, and enthusiastically accompanied on-site by the local team of the Belgian NGO Trias.

Natalie: The main purpose of this trip was to meet two microfinancing organisations that Trias had introduced to BRS: K-Coop and GSAC. The former is based in Manila, while the latter is more rural. Both have around 50,000 members. To assess the possibilities of us working together, we wanted to get to know both cooperatives on-site. And to talk to as many people there as possible: management, staff and customers. 

Ronny: Our first stop in the capital city of Manila was very confrontational for me. I found the dust and dirt in the streets stifling, the poverty distressing. Kurt and Natalie perceived this less negatively as a result of their experience. And I must admit: though I saw poverty, I didn’t see misery. People there really are doing everything they can to get ahead. 

Everything for their children

Natalie: The mutual solidarity they show in this respect is incredibly striking. Especially at the cooperatives we visited. The management and staff are hugely committed and deeply convinced of the cooperative values and the power of microfinancing. 

Ronny: They work extremely hard! Just like their customers. And they all have a big motive in common: to give their children the chance to study and build a better future.

Natalie: Microfinancing helps them do just that. This is clear from the stories of customers who proudly showed us their credit books. And from the fact that a lot of GSAC employees are children of borrowers, who were able to study thanks to their parents’ microcredits. Isn’t that wonderful! 

Hope for the coming generations

Ronny: It reminds me of my grandmother’s stories. She lived to be 101 and often pointed out to us how poor she had once been and how good we had it in the meantime. She taught me that a society can evolve hugely across generations. That gives me hope for the people I met in the Philippines and it motivates me to get further involved. Not out of pity, but out of respect: respect for their drive and for the pride with which they take charge of their lives.  

Natalie: That’s what’s so great about microfinancing: it’s a tool that enables people to be in control and take responsibility themselves. This trip has made that very tangible for me once again. And meanwhile, BRS has decided to partner with both GSAC and K-COOP. We are planning an initial workshop in the Philippines in December. For them both together, so they can also learn from each other. 

Ronny: And this time I have no hesitation: I’m going!