Helping NGOs do more with their money

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A Philippines experience

The Philippines is a long way away! Some 26 hours door to door and with an 8 hour time difference to factor in, that all adds up to a lot of travelling and a lot of jet-lag. Unfortunately, even though I travel a lot for my work, I have yet to find the miracle cure for this so I regularly suffer, mainly from not being able to sleep.

Undoubtedly the first thing that springs to mind, in recent memory, with the mention of the Philippines is Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, which happened in Nov 2013.  This was  a typhoon that was the deadliest on record in the Philippines, killing in excess of 6,000 people and devastating large areas of the country.  Haiyan was so powerful it was the strongest storm ever recorded at landfall and unofficially the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed.

And that was, in the main, why I travelled out to Cebu City in February of this year. I was asked to facilitate a 5 day Mango training for Caritas, a Catholic Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), to teach their local diocese partners about good Financial Management and thus provide Caritas, as the donor of emergency relief funds, with the reports and documentation they require.

Mango, an Oxford based NGO whose mission is ‘to strengthen the financial management and accountability of humanitarian and development NGOs and their partners’, offers finance training, consultancy and recruitment services throughout the worldwide NGO sector.

Flying out of Heathrow on a clear night I was struck by how beautiful the M25 is from the sky  – a ruby and diamond necklace formed from the lights of the continuous streams of slow moving traffic. This, however, didn’t quite prepare me for the Valentine celebrations that Cebu was enjoying and almost my first greeting in the Philippines, by the Caritas staff that met me at the airport, was “Happy Valentine’s day!” A Valentine party was in full swing at the hotel too and a delay in my check in gave me a chance to hum along to the live band crooning their romantic UK and US hit songs.

I had 18 people on my training course, a mixture of finance and programme staff, who wanted to improve the systems and controls within their diocese to make them more able to use their money well – planning, controlling and monitoring the funds being key to fulfilling this need.

Filipinos are lovely people – kind, polite and fun loving, as I was soon to find out. Mango training is very much participatory and one of our rules is to have FUN! We want to take the fear out of finance and believe it or not, finance can be fun! The participants threw themselves into the training with gusto and even those who were very shy during the ice-breaker were soon participating happily and with plenty of enthusiasm. The post lunch energizers produced much raucous laughter and boosted energy levels for the learning and exercises ahead. The Mango Health Check is the foundation of the training and at the end of the 5 days the participants had highlighted the weaknesses within their organisations (as well as recognising areas of strength) and had great new tools and skills to improve the financial management of their organisations.

And, in true Filipino style, we celebrated the end of the successful training with a Karaoke party! What a fun finale to a great week. Thank you!

Gail Leeder

 

This article originally appeared in Mature Times at www.maturetimes.co.uk/philipines-experience

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