TIGRA + Remitly

TIGRA Announces Partnership with Remitly to Expand Support for

Post-Storm Rebuilding Efforts

 

Oakland, CA – Rebuilding efforts of affected communities got a boost of support from one of the emerging leaders in the remittances industry. Effective immediately, Remitly will donate $10 per new account established by TIGRA members to help rebuilding efforts underway in Bantayan Island, Boracay, and Camotes Island. Remitly’s support will enable two dozen volunteers from the United States to go to these communities and help build or repair boats, install water catchment systems, and jumpstart community-based enterprises to strengthen local economies.

 

Dubbed as the “Relief and Resilience Summer Tour”, TIGRA’s effort builds on last year’s successful campaign in which TIGRA raised more than $55,000 to support these island communities.  “People now want to do more than just give money,” according to Francis Calpotura, Executive Director of TIGRA.  “They want to get their hands dirty, meet the folks they’ve helped, and see the situation first hand.”

 

TIGRA found a willing partner and accredited Remitly as a socially responsible remittance service provider in 2013. “Remitly is more than just a remittance company,” stated CEO Matt Oppenheimer.  ”We consider ourselves partners in rebuilding communities that our customers call home.”

 

Remitly  helps Filipino immigrants send money home faster, easier, and less expensively by leveraging mobile phones. Remitly has partnered with every major bank in the Philippines and has over 10,000 cash pickup locations. With the lowest fees in the business (as low as $0) and great exchange rates, Remitly saves Filipinos money to send back home. Remitly also offers 24/7 live customer support in English and Tagalog, free SMS status updates, and a 100% money back guarantee. Remitly is based in Seattle, Washington with an office in Manila.

 

TIGRA urges Filipinos in the United States to sign up for Remitly.  In addition to the $10 donation to the project, new users will also receive $20 off of their first transaction from the company.

 

This campaign ends on May 25, 2014.

 

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News Flash: Speaker Boehner confesses sins to Pope Francis

After the Republican Party unveiled their “Republican Principles on Immigration Reform”, Speaker Boehner, a devout Catholic, asked Pope Francis to hear his confession.

Bless me Father for I have Sinned…

“There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals…Rather these persons could live legally only if they are willing to admit to their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be without access to public benefits.” *

 

 ”Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity, they are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more. A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.” **

 

“We must secure our borders now and verify that they are secure. In addition, there will be a zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future…Finally, none of this (i.e. giving legal status to undocumented immigrants) before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented.” *

 

 

“Being disciples of the Lamb means not living as if we were a ‘besieged citadel’ but as a city set on a mountain, open, welcoming and supportive. It means not assume as attitude of closure, but bringing the Gospel to all, bearing witness with our lives that following Jesus makes us freer and more joyful.” **

 

  ”The goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of our country and to strengthen national security.  Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry, among others. It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers.” *

 

“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.” **

 

 

* Actual text from the “Republican Principles on Immigration Reform” Released on 1/30/2014

** These quotes are excerpted from sermons, speeches and interviews of Pope Francis.


Six Weeks After the Storm: Rebuilding for Empowerment in Full Swing

It’s the Solstice season and the spirit of the Bantayan Back To Sea (BTS) team is buoyant. They have just formed a fishing association in a seventh ward, with residents of Barangay Okoy in Santa Fe electing their officers. The project team helped establish a boat repair station and a schedule of master-builders to assist the locals in getting the vessels back to the sea. In an impressive show of resilience and grit, Bantayonans are rebuilding their lives and in the process empowering their community.


In another sign of renewal, fisherfolk in Barangay Guiwanon launched 20 repaired boats on Christmas Day. Families proudly stand by their newly-painted vessels.

“Never felt more alive than now with the sense of fulfilment and the satisfaction that we are making a difference in the lives of people and their communities,” shares Allan Monreal of BTS in his Facebook post. “This is the best Christmas gift given to me.”

Allan is also the president of the Bantayan Island Association of Resorts, Hotels, Bar and Restaurants. Even before the storm, he was already seeking ways to integrate the locals into a communal, local development strategy. He wants everyone in the island to benefit from the economic activities that tourism brings—from employment opportunities, to reinvestment from resorts to local development priorities.

After the storm, in a conversation with Tourism Officers of the Island , Allan said “We could only say that tourism in Bantayan has fully recovered when all communities in it has recovered as well.”

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Last December 21, TIGRA initiated a fundraising event in Berkeley, California to support the project. The event highlight was a Skype conversation with the BTS team, accompanied by the elected president of the newly-formed Guiwanon Fishermen’s Association, and one of its members Jimmy Fernandez and his family. After Jimmy’s boat was repaired, he named it “Concepcion” as a request of one of the donors in Oakland. (Fittingly, Concepcion was a migrant farmworker in the United States who knew about poverty and hardship. She passed away last year, and her daughters thought their mom would be proud to lend her name to the plight of fisherfolk.) BTS calls this the “Love Boat Project” when donors can adopt a boat and name it in honor of someone they love.

The event proved successful, encouraging more people to donate. Most notably, a representative from the Service Employees International Union pitched the project to fellow members after the event and got a commitment to adopt 20 boats in the name of the Health Workers Organizing for the Philippines Effort (HOPE). There will be purple and yellow boats (SEIU’s colors) plying the waters of Bantayan for years to come—a show of solidarity across the seas.
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As a sign of ongoing commitment and a recognition that the work has just begun, the Back To Sea team is planning on becoming a formally constituted non-government organization in the area. TIGRA-Philippines is helping BTS develop a plan and infrastructure for best servicing the newly-formed associations and to ensure that grassroots leadership development becomes a central component of the effort. They are considering a social enterprise approach in sustaining the project financially. They are initially looking at two performance indicators in organizing the fisherfolk communities. First is having the fishermen with their boats and implements back to sea; the second is for them to be able to manage their community’s resources.

With TIGRA’s help, the BTS project is looking at a third performance indicator, i.e. making the fisherfolk associations more meaningfully participate in the overall development plans of their communities and municipalities. For example, in another fishing community in Aloguinsan, the association flexed their political power by sponsoring a candidates’ forum and invited all Mayoral aspirants. Each was asked on whether they support the Association’s platform, which included a request to build toilets in every household in their Barangay. Their candidate won and toilets are being installed.

 

 

 

 

In line with this, TIGRA is joining a four-day seminar in Bantayan Island that will be attended by 100 barangay and fisherfolk association officials. This will be held in the Bantayan Island Nature Park on December 26-29, 2013. Melissa Gibson of TIGRA-Philippines will be talking about Assets-Based Community Development as a participatory process for associations to map their assets and manage them according to their needs.

As you can see, residents of Bantayan Island have begun to forge an exciting path forward since the storm. In an ironic twist of inexplicable fate, Haiyan/Yolanda has ushered in a new era of hopefulness that Bantayanons have seized, fervently!

Let’s continue to support our brothers and sisters realize their dreams. Give today.


Report from Bantayan: Building Community Resilience in the Wake of Typhoon Yolanda

 Twenty days after the disaster, the people of Bantayan Island are far from forgetting Typhoon Yolanda. Houses and boats are in pieces and trees felled or turned bald of their crowning husks.  The island used to look like an oasis, but now there is nothing to protect the land from the scourging heat of the sun.  With only the rough road cleared from debris, the island’s natural environment and its 120,000 people are facing years of recovery and rehabilitation work.

 

Out of the 25 Barangays (similar to a ward or district in the United States, usually comprised of at least 100 families) in Bantayan, 20 are majority fisherfolk communities. Since Yolanda destroyed their boats, fishnets and crab cages, the people have no other choice but to rely on relief efforts for food.

 

“One to two weeks,” one of the survivors answered when, Allan Monreal, TIGRA’s key partner in Bantayan asked a leading question:  “how long will your supply of relief goods last?”  Bantayanons realize that they cannot go on like this forever, waiting for food to come.  Out of the many organizations sending aid, only few are really concerned with long-term impacts. TIGRA is one of them.

After the typhoon, this is all that’s left of Gemino Lasala’s boat. He will be one of the beneficiaries of the Back To Sea project in Barangay Sillon.

 

Through its local partner the Bantayan Island Association, TIGRA is supporting the Back To Sea Project. It is a project that encourages fishing communities to organize themselves and administer the repair and replacement of boats and fishing implements damaged by Yolanda.  Where there is no organization, TIGRA is helping to form community associations who elect their officers, list the damage and cost of replacement, and begin planning for the future. In each barangay there will be a boat repair station that hires skilled local boat-builders.

 

TIGRA has pledged up to P100,000 to each barangay so that they can buy materials for repairing their boats.  In the long run individual beneficiaries of the Back to Sea project will have to pay half of the money back to a rolling fund of the association.  It is an initiative that recognizes the capability of the community to trust each other, organize, and decide amongst their membership.  The project recognizes that community organizing is the core requisite for real resilience.

 

We were able to visit with residents of a few Barangays. In Barangay Atop-Atop, we saw a fisherman rebuilding his boat with materials from his destroyed house.  The houses and boats were destroyed either by strong winds or fallen trees.  In Barangay Malbago, we spoke with a fisherman in his relief tent, having canned sardines for lunch. He said that he and his family have 20 more cans of sardines for the coming week.   It was pretty ironic to see a fisherman eating fish from a can.

Lunch time in Barangay Malbago.

The scene in Barangay Bantigue was similar.  Houses and boats destroyed and the community subsisting on relief goods.  In one area four massive tamarind trees crushing boats and houses. However, Bantigue is the first place to organize their association for the Back to Sea project.  Hope was in the air as the Bantigue Fisherfolk Association elected its officers.

 

After choosing their leaders and completing their list of estimated damages to boats and implements, TIGRA , on behalf of all its donors, proudly gave P107,000 (or $2,500) through the barangay and association officers.  With this money, they can buy the necessary materials and hire builders to repair their boats.  It was agreed that Luckie, a local resident and staff of the Bantayan Nature Park and Resort, will monitor the project as it rolls.

 

Bantigue fishermen and women vote for their officials.

 

The following day, we went with Luckie to survey and verify the submitted list of damages in Barangay Sillon, Bantayan.   It was sad to see boats ripped in two, parts scattered meters across the sandy beach. People gather whatever is salvageable, pieces of wood, fishing nets, and boat engines.  As a sign of hope, however, some of the boats in Barangay Sillon have been repaired and are out at sea.

 

Pumpboat repair station in Barangay Sillon.

While the Back to Sea project is beginning to revive the spirit of bayanihan (similar in meaning to Ubuntu in the African tradition) TIGRA is very aware that this is a painstaking and long-haul process.  Fisherfolk are frontrunners to feel the impact of typhoons.  But more than that, fisherfolk are frontrunners to feel the impact of big problems like climate change and overfishing.  With the long-term recovery of Bantayan still in its early stages, we are hopeful that community organizing will mobilize people to find local solutions to big problems.  Lack of education, commercial overfishing and the dearth of local value-added fishing infrastructure are among the big problems that have kept fishing communities the poorest of the poor across the Philippines. Building resilience to disasters needs to also acknowledge that coastal communities are vulnerable to typhoons in large part because of poverty and marginalization. 

 

We have begun to ask some of those hard questions regarding the sustainability of fishing in Bantayan Island and the potential for alternative livelihoods. Other means of livelihood include, planting corn, selling fruits, raising chickens and eggs, seaweed farming, and community-based ecotourism. While livelihood issues are certainly different  in each place, there is an overwhelming need to empower local people to assert community participation and community-based solutions.  We are looking forward to a more thorough organizing and consultation process in the coming months as we help build local governance capacities through the Back to Sea Project.

 

If you’ve already given, please consider making another modest gift. If you haven’t, then make a donation to support us in our work to restore boats and re-build lives! 

 

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Maraming Salamat! Thank you!
 

For more information on TIGRA’s Relief & Resiliency Campaign click HERE