There were two incidents narrated below that gave the Episcopal Church in the Philippines the impetus for evolving an effective approach to address what it perceives to be dependency and mendicancy problems propagating in its communities.
The Scourge of Receiving
The National Development Officer [NDO] of the ECP attended the General Convention of The Episcopal Church [U.S.A.] in Anaheim, California in 2009. Among several meetings attended, he was invited to a reception of a non-profit organization known as The Stewardship Network which was then honoring a Taiwanese priest for his work on stewardship. More specifically, the awardee was being honored for his leadership over a Taipeh congregation whose generosity made possible the construction of seven church buildings overseas. It was indeed a remarkable achievement. Prior to the awarding, a video presentation showed the work of this congregation and the church buildings it constructed. When the first of these buildings was flashed onscreen, the NDO gladly recognized it as it was a church in the ECP. The second church building was likewise in the ECP and the NDO proudly acknowledged it. When the 3rd, 4th and 5th buildings were shown, the NDO started feeling very un-comfortable as these were all in the ECP. At the photo of the 6th and 7th churches, the Taiwanese priest was called to the stage and was given a standing ovation but the NDO could not even move and just wanted to disappear from the room. All the seven churches were in the Philippines and he was so ashamed of himself, especially as the video ended with the message that it was more blessed to give than to receive.
Following the awarding, a keynote speaker by the name of Rev. Ed Baker was called to give a message. A brilliant preacher, he talked about the Sea of Galilee as being so full of life from Biblical times and even up to now. He contrasted it to the Dead Sea which, as the name implies, does not allow any living thing within its embrace. The difference between the two, he said, is that the Sea of Galilee receives water from the Jordan River and discharges the same water into the sea while the Dead Sea has an inlet but not an outlet. The Dead Sea only receives but does not give out water. What makes the Sea of Galilee so alive, dynamic and vibrant, Rev. Baker said, is the continuous process of receiving and giving out its waters. Conversely, what makes the Dead Sea “dead” is that it only receives but does not give out.
It was at this point that the NDO finally realized the answer to the question of dependency that has eluded the CBDP for more than 20 years.
Urban Poor Women Lead the Way
Miramonte is an urban poor community in the Metro Manila region with no Episcopal congregation nor members. The community was introduced to the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) when one of the community women came to Cathedral Heights, the ECP’s national headquarters, to offer therapeutic massage services. In the course of conversations with her, it was learned that many of the women of Miramonte were unemployed because the garment factories where they used to work had closed down as a result of the country’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The garment industry in the Philippines was wiped out when cheaper clothing entered its market as a result of the WTO membership. However, these women had assets – their sewing skills – which can propel their community to develop. So a project was evolved where the CBDP granted P120,000 for the purchase of 20 sewing machines.
A pleasant “shock” in the engagement occurred when the women organization managing the project, named KASALIKA, requested that the fund assistance of P120,000 be paid within a period of one year. Up until that time, grant assistance to community projects was the norm and traditional ECP communities or those which were familiar with the grants-based operation of its development program would raise a howl of protest if any such contemplation of repayment was ever raised. For this group of urban poor women therefore to say that they were “borrowing” the amount completely “shocked” the ECP’s National Development staff. This community did not know much about the CBDP and therefore they did not know about the grants-giving system. To them, it was normal that people don’t just receive and so they expected that they would repay whatever was given. Curious about the outcome of this arrangement, the ECP acceded to their request.
Rather than considering the funding arrangement with KASALIKA as a loan, the experience with the Miramonte women gave birth to what is now known as the “Receivers to Givers” Policy. Under this policy, communities receiving external grants to support their respective projects are enabled to eventually give back and pass on what they received so that, from being erstwhile receivers, they in time also become givers. The fund allocation to community projects remained to be grant assistance but communities receiving them will need to grant-back the same at some point and pass it on to other communities. It is inspired by the Rev. Ed Baker’s story about the Sea of Galilee being so full of life, vibrant and dynamic because it goes through a continues process of receiving and giving out. In short, the policy institutionalized and modeled the “Sea of Galilee”.
Following the adoption of the “receivers to givers” policy, the development program which was then re-structured and re-visioned into what is now the Episcopal-CARE Program, managed by the Episcopal CARE Foundation, set a target of P6 million in prospective grant-backs from receiving communities within a three-year period [July 2012- June 2015]. This figure simply resulted from a mathematical computation, i.e., 10% of P60 million which was the total projected grants for the development program within the period. At the time the target was set, there was no serious expectation that it would be achieved as it was a huge amount and considering the economic marginalization of most participating communities and the long history of grants-giving that ECP had with them. It took almost a year for the “Receivers to Givers” policy to be discussed and understood by partner communities and so actual grant-backs started only in early 2013 and thus extending the target period up to December 2015, to coincide with the conclusion of Phase VIII of the development program. By June 2015, six months before the end of the said period, participating communities have already granted back and passed on a total of P15 million, an amount that is more than twice the target which seemed impossible to achieve when it was set three years prior. By December 2015, the total grant-backs summed up to P25 million, an amount that astounded even the most fervent advocate of community empowerment and development in the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.