Since 2002, the Wesley Savings and Multipurpose Cooperative has transformed lives and livelihoods in the Philippines.
Established by the United Methodist Church of San Isidro in the Isabela Province, the cooperative has grown from 30 to 1,500 regular members. An additional 500 younger members form a group of children and youth savers. Beginning with the equivalent of $235 U.S. in seed money, the cooperative today has more than $1.1 million U.S. in total assets.
The cooperative’s purpose is “to alleviate poverty and enhance the dignity and quality of life of people,” said the Rev. Ferdinand J. Valdez, top executive of the cooperative.
One individual who has benefited is Margarita Mindaros. A street food vendor in Isabela Province for 11 years, Mindaros bicycled around to sell fish balls. Today, as a co-op member, she can send her children to school. Wesley also provided capital for her small business.
Wesley Savings has shown that it is possible for a credit cooperative to prosper without charging excessive interest rates. The cooperative strives to improve socioeconomic well-being; increase income and employment by maximizing the use of available resources; encourage thrift, savings and sound use of credit; and participate in environmental management and protection.
“The cooperative is providing loans to members for productive, providential, church and other ministry related loans, salary loans, emergency loans and others.” said Valdez.
The cooperative spearheaded an initiative to improve food production and food security. Purchasing approximately 27 acres of farmland, Wesley launched a farm integrated with a school to serve as a model for empowering communities.
The cooperative offers savings and time deposits as well as loans for productive and providential purposes. Productive loans are for agriculture, aquaculture, livelihood projects, micro and medium businesses, and investments. Providential loans cover such categories as education, health, housing repair and construction, and vehicle maintenance.
Rodolfo Dela Cruz of Rizal West United Methodist Church attributes the cooperative’s growth to its commitment to its mission.
“The Methodist Church is managing the Wesley Cooperative very well,” he said. “Compared to other buying stations in the province, Wesley Cooperative has very low interest rates. Plus, they have a program for the youth which plays a big role in keeping these young people from engaging in activities that might make them wander from the right path.”
Kier C. Ocampo, Baguio Area communications coordinator, noted that as of 2017, annual conferences had started 10 cooperatives in his area. One is GEMS E Network credit cooperative, where Ocampo serves as assistant manager.
“God has blessed GEMS E Network in so many ways,” Ocampo said. “I believe it is now making an impact by being a channel of blessings to our dear brothers and sisters in Christ in Isabela. With GEMS E Network, our fellow Filipinos are able to support the financial needs of their families by availing loans with low interest rates.”
Valdez said it is “a privilege to be an instrument of God’s grace to our communities.
“Witnessing our members’ children finish college [and] seeing our members with improved living conditions, we are somehow convinced that Wesley Cooperative has been a channel," Valdez said.
Co-op member Mindaros expressed gratitude to the church.
“Thank you to all the United Methodists around the world for helping me and my family. May God continue to bless you.”
Mangiduyos is a communicator from the Philippines.
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