Wisconsin Microfinance: After the Storm

September 23, 2017

This week, Hurricane Irma ravaged the Caribbean while her contemporaries, Harvey and Maria, made devastating landfalls of their own, creating a three-pronged path of destruction. Antigua and Barbuda, one of the small island nations affected, reported having up to 95% of the structures in Barbuda completely demolished. Tragedies like these beg the question: How does one possibly begin to recover from having their community totally and utterly annihilated?

On October 15th 2013, the Filipino islands of Bohol and Cebu were hit with a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, killing over 200 and damaging tens of thousands of buildings. The energy released by the tremor was akin to the impact of 32 Hiroshima bombs being set off at once. Three weeks later, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, struck the Philippines. You may remember grim details of the aftermath making front page news all around the world: Stats of the thousands killed, thousands missing, millions homeless, and billions of dollars of damages swirled around anchor desks with almost the same fervor as the storm. The same question was asked: How to recover? This time, Wisconsin Microfinance was there to try and help formulate an answer, which can be seen through the stories of those who are now making new lives because of that assistance.

Starting her day at 2 a.m, Lorna Villas rises long before the sun to prepare taro, cassava, sticky rice, and other assorted foods to bring to market, where she remains until she jets off to her night job as a healer, giving massages and delivering babies. The home where Lorna had lived with her husband and seven children had been badly damaged by the 2013 earthquake, reducing it to matchsticks. In the time since she has already paid off one loan from Wisconsin Microfinance and begun another to expand her business. In fact, Lorna has never missed a payment and actually pays more than the required amount each month so that she may repay her loan on a faster timetable. Although Lorna is still in the process of rebuilding her family home, the loans provided by Wisconsin Microfinance have helped her to get back on her feet and provide some much-needed stability to her and her family in such an uncertain time.

Arlene Tusog’s life was also changed by the earthquake. The tremor toppled the house where she had started a family and raised her six children. For the last 15 years, Arlene and her husband have run an assorted goods business selling everything from clothes and shoes to school supplies and DVDs. But, for a family of eight, an average earning of $7 a day was not enough. Add to that the struggles of being newly homeless and living under tarps for two years, and you have what looks like a family living on the fringe. However, with a loan from Wisconsin Microfinance, Arlene obtained the prospects and the capital necessary to expand her business and attempt to break the cycle of poverty for her and her family. In fact, Arlene is now adding an extension onto the house she is rebuilding.

Rebuilding homes and lives after a natural disaster is never easy, but the flame of the human spirit is not easily extinguished by water and wind. With help from organizations like Wisconsin Microfinance, those affected can build off a base of support and harness that same spirit of resilience to transform an otherwise bleak situation into one that offers hope and real change.