CFCA stories

Small groups improve Philippine community life

December 16, 2011

CFCA small groups in Antipolo, Philippines
Rose, second from left, leads a Bible study session with her CFCA
small group in Antipolo, Philippines.

In Antipolo, Philippines, the collective effort of CFCA small groups has led to cleaner environments, better performance in school, improved livelihoods, land acquisition and a general feeling of security, said Malou Navio, CFCA-Antipolo coordinator.

The small groups — called "kapitbahayans," a Tagalog word for "neighborhood" — have existed in one form or another since 1998. Groups consist of parents and guardians of CFCA sponsored children.

Today, the Antipolo project has 593 kapitbahayans serving the needs of 7,332 families in the Hope for a Family sponsorship program.

Kapitbahayan Nazareth is one of them. Since 2008, its 12 families have met every Sunday to sing, read and discuss Scripture, and talk about their lives.

Members said their participation in the group has helped them become more confident and cooperative.

"I am so grateful to the kapitbahayan because it made me peaceful," said Rose, the group's leader. "I was easily high-tempered, but my attitude has changed and I learned humility."

Navio said the group is successful because the members meet regularly, they are faithful to and support one another, and they are open about their feelings. They strive for self-improvement through seminars and training and they save diligently.

A neighborhood in the Philippines
Nazareth families live close together in their neighborhood in
Antipolo, Philippines.

Members of Kapitbayahan Nazareth can borrow funds from their thrift savings plan to cover emergency needs, housing repairs, education and livelihood projects. Sixty-seven percent of Antipolo's kapitbahayans have similar thrift savings plans, Navio said. Their savings are matched by CFCA.

Nazareth's members also save money to cover their Christmas expenses, such as gifts and family celebrations. Long term, they want to open a bank to compete with neighborhood lenders who charge high interest rates.

Trisha Pitts, project director for the Philippines, is amazed at the progress of the kapitbahayans and credits Navio and her talented staff in addition to the families.

While the groups required a lot of early training and guidance, they have actually made the staff's job easier.

"A lot of work has been delegated to the kapitbahayan," Navio said. "Even the accounting (with staff supervision) is handled by the families."

Staff members still have lots to do, but they can focus their attention on more complicated community issues.

Navio hopes the kapitbahayans will become a way of life for the families in the sponsorship program.

"It's so exciting," she said. "As they become stronger, this is what will lift the community up."

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