Great change always comes down to the actions of a single person.
– Michael Scott, The Alchemyst: the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
Or in this case, fifteen.
When the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KoICA) came knocking on their door, the fifteen members of the Banga Community Working Group (CWG) knew that this wasn't just a business opportunity but a chance to give back. After months worth of training seminars and workshops about entrepreneurship and how to run a successful business, the members settled on rice trading as their livelihood not only for their sake but the community.
Before they had set up shop, the residents of the village had to commute down to Mindanao State University to buy their daily necessities. That meant taking extra time out of their day commuting and doubling their traveling expenses. Soon enough, however, even after they started their rice trading business, it was clear that rice wasn't the only thing their community needed.
Kahit pa dito sila bumili ng bigas, eh, kailangan pa rin nilang pumunta sa MSU para sa ibang pangangailangan nila. (Even if they do get their rice here, they'd still have to go to MSU for their other needs).
Seeing that their efforts in providing their needs while cutting down on their expenses would be in vain unless they diversify their products, they did exactly that and expanded to include basic groceries.
Prior to the siege, most of the residents in their barangay were either farmers or pedicab drivers. The siege had destroyed both livelihoods and made it near impossible for the former to continue, and the members of the CWG were more than sympathetic to their situation, having gone through the same experience. Life was already hard – aside from dealing with the loss of family and property, they had to deal with losing their source of income. That's why whenever someone came knocking on their doors asking if they could just add a few things to their tab, the cooperative was more than lenient about it. After all, this grocery store was made with the people in mind, not just the money. The effects of their business decision weren’t just felt within the community but neighboring ones as well.
Yung mga malalapit na barangay dito na rin sa amin bumubili kasi nga malapit lang kami atsaka yung mga presyo namin mababa lang. (Residents of neighboring communities buy from us as well because we’re closer and our prices aren’t as high).
Their mission of community service doesn’t end with their business though, because once, during Ramadhan season, they went around and gave each family in their community 5 kilos of rice for free saying that when you are in a position that enables you to give it, it becomes a social obligation to do so. So now not only do they have a stable and successful business going for them, but they also managed to foster a healthy and united community relationship with their neighbors.
When IOM-KoICA chose this community as one of their beneficiaries, they did not expect this level of altruism and community spirit to come forward. The Banga CWG saw the opportunity to help themselves all while keeping others in mind - perhaps that is why their business continues to bloom and achieve the success it has. Where there is life, there is hope, and where there is hope, there is progress. (PJF/PIA-10/Lanao del Sur)