Grameen Foundation on Friday announced the results of its COVID-19 RELIEF (Response to Enhance Livelihoods of Individual Entrepreneurs and Families) initiative in the Philippines.
Supported by J.P. Morgan, the two-phase program targeted individual microentrepreneurs or daily wage earners, especially women, who were severely affected by community lockdowns imposed in Metro Manila and Cebu.
In Phase I, Grameen and its MFI (microfinance institution) partners, Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI) and RAFI Micro-finance, Inc., delivered food, medicine packages, vouchers, and COVID-19 crisis-related financial advice to 3,500 targeted microentrepreneurs and their households. Beneficiaries with basic-feature phones received e-vouchers via SMS.
For those with smartphones, Grameen partnered with Celo and BeamAndGo Pte Ltd. to design a solution using blockchain technology that allowed beneficiaries to download the Valora app, access various merchants or stores via a microsite and shop online for grocery and hygiene packages.
The combination of these two digital methods enabled delivery of relief that was effective, safe, fast, and transparent.
“We were shocked and scared of the community quarantine…. [We] were scared that we’ll die of hunger,” said Soledad Regis, a 72-year-old widow, and micro-entrepreneur in Muntinlupa City. “We were so happy when we received a call about the relief assistance. The assistance was really a big help to us.”
“We are grateful to J.P. Morgan for helping us make so many stories like Soledad’s possible. J.P. Morgan understood from the start that highly vulnerable microentrepreneurs would need both emergency aid and guidance during recovery to make them more resilient to future crises,” said Steve Hollingworth, President and CEO of Grameen Foundation.
In Phase II of the program, Grameen Foundation supported its MFI (microfinance institution) partners in equipping microentrepreneurs with strategies to cope and respond to the COVID-19 crisis both professionally and in their personal lives.
Drawing on its Resilient Life, Resilient Business (RLRB) curriculum, Grameen designed learning modules to support women entrepreneurs holistically by addressing gender roles and the constant threat of shocks and stresses they face, and by providing them with tools to thrive as microentrepreneurs in an ever-changing environment.
Beneficiaries were able to access modules through Grameen’s customized Learn with Grameen app, available on the Google Play store.
Grameen trained MFI staff and loan officers as mentors to help cascade the RLRB curriculum content to members. These women also received one-on-one coaching to promote adoption of healthy financial behaviors and resilience during a crisis.
Working with Grameen’s Bankers without Borders, J.P. Morgan staff also volunteered their time to mentor and provide training to support participating MFIs in their resiliency and recovery efforts.
“J.P. Morgan remains committed to helping individuals left most vulnerable by COVID-19 around the world,” said Carlos Ma. G. Mendoza, Senior Country Officer, J.P. Morgan Philippines.
“We are pleased to hear about the positive impact our program partnership with the Grameen Foundation has made and we are proud of our employee volunteers who have continued to make a difference in our communities during these challenging times.”