Photo above pictures a field officer from NWTF, a Whole Planet Foundation microfinance partner, consulting with a NWTF member following Typhoon Yolanda, in Tacloban, Philippines.
Repeating daily affirmations, aloud and silently, has been an important practice for me since I was young, when I began to learn how to not just be aware of my patterns and inner dialogue but to play a conscious role in shaping them. Over the years, I’ve repeated hundreds of phrases at the start and end of my day, like: “I am healthy and make healthy choices”; “I take advantage of all opportunities presented to me”; and “I am receptive to all of life’s surprises.” In 2020, with all its challenges, any elegance my meditations had was lost as these chants instead became curt commands to “dig deep.” I imagine I’m not the only one.
Digging deep, to me, means being decisively grounded as to not lose touch with our authentic selves; connecting to our core values and following through on commitments. It means exemplifying resilience, to make necessary decisions that benefit not just us but our surrounding world.
The loan officers within Whole Planet Foundation’s network of partners have embodied the “digging deep” philosophy and have been an inspiration to me as they’ve prioritized their clients’ wellbeing throughout difficult lockdowns, which have threatened so many livelihoods. In the Asia and Pacific region, we’ve recently heard incredible tales of loan officers acting selflessly to serve their communities, which we celebrated through our 2021 Asia-Pacific Field Officer Awards, which honors winners with certificates and a cash prize.
Take Thi Thuoy Luong’s story for example. Thuy’s team at TYM, Vietnam shared that:
“Thuy was born in a poor agricultural family. She has not been in good health since childhood and, in 2015, she found a lung tumor. She still goes for regular checkups every 6 months. She is now 6 months pregnant and has a son of school age. She travels up to 40 km back and forth from work. Despite her own difficulties, Thuy every day brings beautiful and meaningful support to women in need, with a smile on her face. Not just a loan officer, Thuy is a special friend to clients, especially the vulnerable affected by HIV. Instead of being afraid, she feels it her duty to help them. One example is her client named Lien, a rural woman whose husband was arrested for addiction. Thuy often visits to help care for her old mother and 2 young kids. In the Covid-time, she contributes funds to give clients face masks and hand sanitizer for free. She also trains them with the skills to change their business models to pivot and develop in the new situation that the pandemic has presented.”
Another extraordinary loan officer is Myagmarsuren Nyamsuren of Vision Fund Mongolia, Mongolia. In his own words he says,
“Assessing a client’s second loan application after their first loan helped their business makes me joyful. When I meet these clients, I feel their passion to work and succeed. I see their children smiling and their businesses blooming. In February 2020, there was a Covid-19 case imported to Mongolia followed by a lockdown. Our clients who did business on both sides of the border were suddenly in a tragedy and their businesses stopped. In these situations, I’ve felt honored to take immediate actions to contact clients on the phone to determine their income and to reschedule their loans to keep clients and companies a float.”
Finally, there’s Samim Uddin of Support, Bangladesh. Since joining Support 1 year ago, his team shared that shared a memory from this past year:
“A sudden flood occurred in the Padma river depleting some of the char areas (semi‐permanent sandbanks where villages are precariously set up). One of these was in Khidirpur, which had previously faced a series of tragedies in the past 2 decades. During this flood, SUPPORT’s beneficiaries had to disperse to different locations across the regions. Samim took it upon himself to ensure the services were still available to his clients. Hence, he travelled through these areas in waist deep water and provided the relevant financial support for their sustainability and also provided other lifesaving products such as medicines. He also travelled to the different locations where his clients had relocated.”
Recognizing their unending commitment to their clients, Thuy, Myagmarsuren and Samim were 3 of the 12 field officers awarded for Whole Planet Foundation’s 2021 Field Officer award for Asia and the Pacific. The other 9 following incredible community leaders included:
- Nur Aunun Latifah of Komida, Indonesia
- Thi Xuyen Quang of ACE, Vietnam
- Sanath J.D. Gedara of BMIC, Sri Lanka
- Isaac Rai, Renew, Bhutan
- Hla T. Daw Mya Win, BRAC, Myanmar
- Vinyu Boonyay, SED, Thailand
- Chin Hin, Chamreoun, Cambodia
- Sarmila Khanal, Kalpavriksha, Nepal
- Prabha Rana Kshetry, NULBSL, Nepal
Congratulations to all 2021 Field Officer Award recipients and thank you for “digging deep”, serving others even in the most difficult times.