How saving is helping mothers cope from COVID-19

Saving helps you get through a crisis – this is what 34 mothers in Misamis Occidental believe in. Before COVID-19 hit, their group has been coming together every week for their community-managed saving and credit association (CoMSCA) meeting. CoMSCA is a World Vision-economic development project model that aims to provide simple savings and loan facilities to communities where access to financial services is difficult.

Mellie Toledo, one of the leaders of the group shares, “I’ve been saving through CoMSCA since 2010. In 2015, we decided to have two cycles every year. We save for six months and we shareout every June and December, in time for school opening and Christmas. We’ve already seen how helpful this is but we’ve seen more of it when COVID-19 happened.”

During the first years of being in the group, Mellie was able to improve her store, did house repair, buy furniture and also provide for her children’s needs in school using her savings. Through her combined savings and loan, she was also able to provide for her son’s needs when he was applying for work abroad.

When the World Health Organization announced a global pandemic in March 2020, and when the Philippine government started implementing community quarantines, she knew they wouldn’t be spared.

“It was difficult at first. My husband who does construction work was without income for months. This, in turn, affected our ability to put food on the table,” she shares. Mellie used to have at least Php900 weekly food budget for her family of five. During the pandemic, however, it decreased to Php750. A recent World Vision assessment showed 92% of household surveyed reported that their livelihoods were disrupted by the pandemic. As a way of coping, 24% have reduced the quantity and quality of their meals.

“I’ve also seen the decline in the number of shares that CoMSCA members give during meetings,” she adds. Each person can give up to maximum of five shares per week. Each share is worth Php50. Members can also borrow twice the amount of their share with an interest rate agreed upon by the group.

“CoMSCA was a huge help to us during the lockdown. We borrowed money when our livelihoods were disrupted. Although there was an interest to pay, we didn’t mind because in the end, it would still go to us.”

With barely three months into their shareout, the group of 34 women decided to continue saving, even if they only had a share to give. In June, they celebrated their win.

“In June, when restrictions eased, we met as a group for our shareout. It was a time for celebration for us because the amount that we got – from our savings and the interests from our loans, was what we needed in this time of crisis,” says Mellie.