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Spreading the Good News of community savings

In Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela, what started as five Community Savings Group (CSG) boxes given by Move Up Project in 2017 grew to a federation of CSG groups in the city. Soon, the federation plans to be a full-blown cooperative.

At the helm of this growth is Rovelyn Bautista, the President of the federation who is also a teacher and a pastor’s wife. She became involved in the project when her friend who works at the barangay council approached her and told her about the CSG.

“Our friend knew that it was our advocacy to help the community. Out of the first few CSG boxes in our barangay, we were the last to be given one. That’s when the turnover happened and when we started saving,” says Rovelyn.

Being a preacher, she initially encouraged 80 families who go to their church to join the CSG, but only 33 joined. Over the course of several months, the number of members steadily increased, as more people were seeing how others who have joined the CSG earlier were reaping the benefits of saving.  “It was hard to convince people in the beginning. But the first members saw the beauty of the program—that we were able to teach them not only values but also about livelihood. Others then saw how life-changing it was, they looked at the results, and now even the children in our community want to save,” explains Rovelyn.

She shares how being part of a CSG and attending seminars have helped members grow as individuals who have learned to save and earn using their skills and innate talents. The result? A community that thinks about the future instead of just the present, and one that is better prepared should any disaster strike. “It strengthened the community. Plus, we became a family. In times of need, we help each other out. We now have this concept that we are the first to help, instead of us being the ones who are being helped,” says Rovelyn.

She continues: “Before with the 4Ps, people are just waiting for money to be given to them. But CSG has taught them that they can have their own money that they, themselves, have saved. What they learned from CSG is not to rely on aid from the government, that they have to work hard and put in the effort to save.”

In a span of two years, the federation of CSGs that Rovelyn is handling encompasses four barangays with more than 20 smaller community groups, a homeowners’ association that comprises 200 households, a school, and even one CSG in Quezon City, which became part of the Valenzuela CSG umbrella.

Leading a wide scope of CSGs is not without its fair share of challenges, especially since more groups mean more people to talk to and work with. How was Rovelyn able to handle different folks all with different strokes? “Whenever members don’t understand some matters, I sit them down and explain the situation clearly to them. There are also times when I have to be strict. The biggest challenge for me is dealing with different personalities, but so far, I have seen that we have matured. We are able to settle our differences,” explains Rovelyn.

She has learned a lot on how to handle members, CSG representatives, and other problems along the way. She passes on these lessons on leadership when she’s training new leaders, including one who will replace her in the future. “The strength of an organization lies in its leadership. We can’t have a leader who just wants to gain wealth. We need people who are selfless. This is why we are careful during the selection process,” says Rovelyn.

Indeed, many new leaders are needed. Because despite the already wide reach of the Valenzuela CSG Federation, Rovelyn’s work is far from over, as she plans to extend the good impact of CSG to 29 barangays in the city, as well as to professionals and teachers. “Right now, the CSGs are a melting pot. It excludes no one because we want to help more people,” concludes Rovelyn.