From a jar of salt, a mother strives hard for her family’s fate

This story is the journey of a mother who fought her way through her husband’s death, a mountain of debt, and a small business that was barely surviving – to keep her children afloat.

46-year-old mother, Zenen, opened her store and only saw a jar of salt left to be sold. Her family had consumed most of their store’s products because they had nothing else to eat.

Zenen and her small family were in a middle of a crisis. Her husband fought for his life after being diagnosed with Auto-Immune Hemolytic Anemia, a rare hereditary disease.

The family was still based in Manila in 2004 when they found out about the father’s disease. He left his work as a company driver to recover. Zenen, who was the first to leave her cashier work to take care of their first child, eventually followed the doctor’s advice. The doctor recommended they return to their province for a less stressful living environment.

But for the couple, the less expensive lifestyle in the rural town ultimately made them decide to leave the metropolitan.

Both jobless, they had to start from scratch in their hometown. The family used their savings to build a house made of bamboo and nipa (dried coconut leaves). They also started a small variety store as their primary source of income.

“I had to start finding means to earn in the province because we didn’t have jobs. I thought of starting a store because I remembered my mother who also had her store, and I would help her when I was still a child,” says Zenen.

However, their business wasn’t earning enough. They borrowed money from their relatives to invest in a motorcycle cab. When the father didn’t have symptom attacks, he would drive the cab to earn extra income. He also used most of his earnings for his medication.

Years went by, and everything seemed well. Zenen’s store was stable, and the medication kept the symptoms at bay. They started planting crops to add more income.

But they were wrong. A few months after the mother gave birth to her second child in 2009, her husband passed away. The family was devastated.

“It was a tough time for me because I was mourning, but I needed to show strength to my children, especially to my newborn child, because I was the only one they relied on,” she shares.

The mother had to face the debt that accumulated during her late husband’s medication and hospitalization. Her store that ran out of products to sell also needed saving. On top of that, her two sons’ education needs were growing.

“It came to the point that the only product to sell in our store was a jar of salt because I had no money to buy for our daily food. At that point, I knew that I had to do something for my children,” says the mother.

Zenen had to scrape the end of the barrel for five years to provide for his children and pay her debts.

But that lowest point in her family’s life just meant that there was no other way to go but up. In 2014, the widow met a man who became her second husband. A hardworking and dependable farmer, he became the primary breadwinner of the family. Their marriage was blessed with a daughter.

Around that year, Zenen’s second son, Jovial, became part of World Vision’s sponsorship program. The young boy received school supplies, school uniforms, and other basic needs, which helped the parent save money and spend it on other needs.

With World Vision, she was introduced to community savings, where she learned how to manage their family’s income and invest it in livelihood and businesses.

After a year of saving, she loaned money for her farming needs. She bought seeds, fertilizers, plant medicines, and paid labor. Their first harvest was bountiful that they were able to increase their saving.

They repeated that cycle for over three years. They have already invested in various businesses, including a farm mower and a water pump rental and a coin-based motorcycle wash system. Zenen also regained her store and stocked products regularly.

She also received training from World Vision about business development and financial management. With that, she shares that she became wiser in handling and adding more businesses. She plans to add a vulcanizing shop since her house was near a road where motorcycles would often pass.

“Reflecting on what I went through, I realized that I overcame all of those challenges because I remain faithful to God. I also believed that I received blessings because I didn’t harm anybody while working hard,” explains Zenen. “I believe I survived all of that struggle because I held on to my inspiration which is my children. They are my life and my strength,” she adds.

Her eldest child is already in his senior year as a Marine Transportation college student, while her second son and daughter are in junior high school and primary school. With the multiple income sources they have, the children receive quality education.

Zenen also wants to share her experience and help other mothers who are still struggling in their journey. “To all mothers out there who are going through what I have been through, never lose faith in God. He sees the hardship that you are in, and He will provide opportunities for you to recover,” she shares.

World Vision’s Community Managed Savings and Credit Association (CoMSCA) is one economic development program that aims to build households’ economic resilience and financial literacy by mobilizing self-help mechanisms on savings and credit services.

Through its regular program and partnership with organization, World Vision already formed more than 8,500 CoMSCA groups with around 200,000 members in the Philippines.