From Struggle to Strength: A Mother's Journey to Financial Empowerment

Type: Story

During the pandemic, Filipino families faced unprecedented challenges, grappling with reduced incomes and limited job opportunities. Ruby's family was no exception. She relied heavily on the modest money her husband, who was also struggling to find a stable income overseas, sent for their three kids.

Despite these hardships, Ruby's dedication as both a wife and a mother propelled her to take initiative. She started a small business, selling dishwashing liquid. After joining Save the Children Philippines’ financial literacy project, she understood the importance of diversifying income sources and saving for her family’s future.

“Lahat tayo tinamaan ng pandemic dati. Doon namin naramdaman kung paano kapag wala kang nakasave na pera. Ayaw namin dumating sa punto na maulit yung ganoon. Yun yung nagpamulat sa amin na kahit gaano man kalaki o kaliit yung income, kailangan nakakapagsave ka,” she said.

("We were all affected by the pandemic before. That was when we realized how hard it is when you don't have any savings. We don't want to reach that point again. It made us realize that no matter how big or small your income is, you need to be able to save.”)

Supporting Her Family's Financial Resilience

In 2020, Ruby’s husband decided to work oversees as their sole breadwinner. Unfortunately, shortly after he left, countries began announcing COVID-19 lockdowns. Ruby recalls the hardships while her spouse was overseas, stretching a PhP4,000 monthly budget to support herself and her three children.

Ruby with the dishwashing liquid she sells to earn additional income for her family.

Ruby with the dishwashing liquid she sells to earn additional income for her family.

“Dun sa PhP4,000 na yun, nag-isip ako kung paano ko mapapalago. Nagtayo ako ng dishwashing [liquid] business. Maliit man ang kita, kahit papaano nakatulong parin hindi na mangutang,” she explained.

(“So with that PhP4,000, I started a dishwashing [liquid] business to make it grow. Despite the modest earnings, it made a difference...I didn't need to borrow money anymore.”)

Ruby has been a Child Rights Advocates Volunteer (CRAV) with Save the Children for almost seven years. This engagement introduced her to the Financial Resilience towards Economic Recovery (FREER) Project in 2022.

FREER is a partnership between Save the Children Philippines and Wells Fargo. Now in its third year, the project aims to alleviate poverty among marginalized families in Malabon and Navotas, impacted by COVID-19. It focuses on ensuring sustainable financial access, promoting entrepreneurship for better livelihoods, investing in children's development to break the poverty cycle and enhancing community resilience against poverty.

“Yung pagpasok namin ng FREER project nakatulong siya. Not [just] financially, iba't ibang knowledge po yung natutunan namin sa FREER—'yun po yung mas nakatulong sa akin. Marami silang pinamulat sa amin,” she said.

(“Joining the FREER project was truly beneficial for us. Beyond financial support, we gained valuable knowledge that made a significant impact. It helped broaden our understanding.”)

Investing in Her Family’s Future

Ruby shared that the most valuable lesson from FREER is learning to save. She learned that saving, no matter how small, is crucial for her family's future. This lesson showed her that even modest savings can greatly improve long-term financial security, emphasizing the importance of planning ahead for a stable future for her children.

She shared an advice she finds most helpful: “Inuuna ko yung needs kesa sa wants. Wants kagustuhan mo lang naman ‘yan eh, edi kung mayroon kang extra na pera, tsaka mo bilhin. Kailangan ko i-priorit[ize] yung mga talagang kailangan sa tahanan.”

(“I prioritize needs over wants. If there's extra money, then I buy the things I want. I prioritize what's truly necessary for our household.”)

As part of the FREER project, Ruby saved PhP200 every week in 2023. Participants do this so that by December, the most expensive month of the year, they have saved up to PhP10,000. Inspired by this challenge, her eldest child decided to take part.

“Yung panganay ko, 21 po ngayon. Last year, sumali siya. Kailangan niya raw kasi magpalit ng phone para sa school kasi comsci [computer science] ang kinukuha niya. Alam naman niya na hindi agad agad namin mabibigay yun dahil siyempre may pagkain, tuition, pang araw-araw na gastos,” she admitted.

(“My oldest child, who is 21, joined us last year. He said he needed funds to upgrade his phone for school, where he's studying computer science. He also understood we couldn't provide it immediately due to other essential expenses like food, tuition, and daily costs.”)

Creating Financial Security as a Community

From Struggle to Strength: A Mother's Journey to Financial Empowerment

Part of the FREER project is to help the barangays involved establish community savings groups (CSGs). Ruby’s CSG in Brgy. Catmon, Malabon, started in 2022 and is still going strong today. Their group continuously works together to improve their lives and their economic situation.

They attended FREER seminars on financial literacy including how to properly save and write a business plan. As their CSG enters the second cycle this year, they now utilize a passbook to properly keep track of their expenses. This way they can identify growth opportunities and avoid financial mistakes.

Recently, they also started a lending business for community members.

“Puwedeng mag-loan ang isang tao na ang interest lang ay 5%, mababa kumpara sa iba. Tapos sa huli, pagdating ng share out, lahat ng kinita ng CSG na ‘yon, lahat ng member maghahati-hati doon,” she said.

(“A person can avail of a loan with an interest rate of only 5%, which is low compared to others. When it's time to distribute the shares, all earnings accumulated by our CSG will be divided equally among all members.”)

Ruby also proudly shared her CSG’s achievements: “Last year kasi ‘yung total ng savings namin umabot kami ng kulang kulang PhP500,000. Tapos ‘yung naging interest namin, sa loob ng isang taon, umabot din ng PhP39,000. Sa PhP39,000 hinati-hati namin ‘yun kung ilang members kami.”

("Last year, our total savings amounted to almost PhP500,000. Then, the interest we earned in one year reached PhP39,000. We divided the PhP39,000 among our members.")

But more than addressing financial needs, their group has evolved into a community where members actively support one another.

“At the same time, may member din kami na ‘yung kamag-anak nila is nawala. Yung community savings group nakatulong din. Nakapagbigay kami ng burial assistance. Nasa bylaws din namin na kapag member ka tapos ‘yung immediate family mo nagkasakit, pwede kang lumapit sa amin para sa medical assistance,” she explained.

("At the same time, we also had a member whose relative passed away. Our community savings group also helped. We were able to provide burial assistance. It's also in our bylaws that if you're a member and a member of your immediate family falls ill, you can approach us for medical assistance.")

Last year, her CSG also extended help to the community. Using the surplus in their fund, they gave rice to those who unclog drains, clean canals, and collect garbage daily in their barangay.

By encouraging financial literacy within a community context, individuals not only strengthen their own financial well-being but also contribute to collective empowerment. Ruby said, “Sana mas madami pa po kaming matulungan at mahikayat na bagong members sa mga susunod na taon pang daraan.”

(“I hope we can help and encourage more new members in the next few years.”)

Ruby’s CSG now plans to encourage more families to join their organization and become part of their growing community. Members not only receive invaluable financial literacy training and support but also contribute to building a resilient network of individuals.

They also hope to further provide access to affordable credit and emergency funds for members in crisis. This pooling of resources fosters solidarity, trust, and cooperation among community members, ultimately leading to them further thriving economically and socially.

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