Rebuilding homes with mobile money


February 12, 2014

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Many typhoon-affected families in the remote Philippines don't have access to a brick-and-mortar banking system that could provide them with the financial services they need to get back on their feet. Through our mobile banking program, these families can instead visit partner businesses in their communities to trade mobile money transfers for cash. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

Angela Owen, a program officer for our Strategic Response and Global Emergencies team, recently sat down in Cebu with Rodelyn and Zeny, two young Filipina mothers whose homes now have new roofs thanks to our mobile cash transfer program.

Angela picked the right moment to talk to them about storm protection — as the women chatted over lunch, a Category 2 tropical depression was heading their way, carrying a heavy load of rain.

Rodelyn and Zeny were among the first recipients of our unconditional cash transfers after Typhoon Haiyan, a program made possible by our partnership with the Philippine mobile-based bank BPI Globe BanKo.

With the 3,200 pesos (about $72 USD) she received, Rodelyn was able to clean out her damaged house and get a new tin roof. Zeny spent her cash on a new roof, too, as well as food for her family.

She has one word for the help she received from us: Super!

SEE PHOTOS: Mobile banking helps isolated families recover from Haiyan

In order to receive the money, the women were required to attend a "cash transfer caravan" event at which they signed up for bank accounts, received SIM and ATM cards, learned how to use them — and had the opportunity to learn about other financial services that will now be available to them.

Call it a one-stop introduction to the world of banking, with an immediate cash benefit. The caravans are held under large tents where BanKo's local partners — pharmacies, pawn shops and other retailers that give the branchless BanKo a presence on the ground — connect with their new customers.

Zeny, mother of two teenage boys and a younger girl, and Rodelyn, who has three daughters, are hardworking people.

After making her home safe for her family, Rodelyn began volunteering to help at other cash transfer caravans. As a local health worker, she knows everyone in the community. That makes her, like our other local volunteers, hugely helpful in keeping distributions organized and flowing smoothly.

When Rodelyn isn't volunteering with us, working at the health center or fixing her home, she spends time with her children.

As the three women wrapped up their lunchtime visit, down the road in the Lady of Guadalupe church our local partners were hosting another cash transfer caravan. That means more Filipino typhoon survivors will soon have the same protection and opportunities Rodelyn and Zeny do.