Sun 9 Mar: Mt Madjaas, here we come!
The team rose early today and began trekking along the Wasay. Between palm trees and across streams buoyed by flowing waterfalls, they made their way to Bantang River where they set up camp. It’s not easy trekking the jungle—the humidity, the creepy crawlies, the tough terrain, need we go on?—but Team Good Return are doing it to make a difference to the lives of those living in poverty. Go team!
Sat 8 Mar: International Women’s Day and trekking
What a way to celebrate International Women’s Day—trekking the Philippines with Good Return to fight poverty and empower women in developing countries to build equity, run successful businesses and manage their income. Today Team Good Return transferred to Barangay Flores for an orientation, before setting off on the first leg of the #TrekToEndPoverty. They reached Banderahan Camp by nightfall for their first night under the stars.
Fri 7 Mar: Camp Alfredo team building with SECDEP staff
Today we awake in the beautiful and tranquil Camp Alfredo surrounded by lush green vegetation, tropical fruit trees, zip lines and high ropes courses making it an ideal location for our team building day with the SECDEP staff. The 65 staff members arrive by 8am and we have breakfast together before proceeding with the days activities. We start off with a SECDEP staff member and Good Return team member Kate Jordan addressing the group on leadership, followed by a ice breaker game of unraveling a human tangled circle without letting go of one another’s hands, this making the six new acquainted groups comfortable with what amazing race activities lie ahead. The amazing race consisted of six check points, with a question at each that needed to be answered correctly in order to proceed to the next check point. If the questions were incorrectly answered, consequences were enforced. Consequences ranged from catching a chicken that had your teams colour tied to its leg to reaching a score above 80 in karaoke. The red team with Good Return members Richard and Lisa dominated the challenge – finishing at least 10 minutes ahead of the 2nd placed team! After the amazing race a member for each team spoke about what they learnt from the activity. Most people mentioned the importance of identifying and recognising individuals strengths and working together as a teams to utilise their skills, whether it be catching fish or harvesting cashew nuts each person had something unique to bring to the table. After lunch our group braved the highflying zip line and bouncing canopy bridge and said our last goodbyes to our new found friends before heading back to the wharf for our boat transfer to Iloilo.
Thu 6 Mar: Iloilo to Guimaras
This morning we leave the mainland of Panay Island and travel by boat to the nearby Guimaras island, famous for having the sweetest mangos in the world. Upon arrival to Guimaras the group excitedly awaits their first experience in one of the main forms of transport in the Philippines a jeepney. We load into the back of the jeepney and travel to Alaguisc Centre where we are kindly greeted by the local women with a mango necklace. Today the borrowers are undertaking a financial literacy and mentoring session. The SECDEP trainer used flow charts to explain asset building and budgeting the ‘learning, earning, yearning years’, she also goes through an array of scenarios devising difficult but relevant situations the borrowers may find themselves in and the obstacles they need to overcome to continue to save for their future. We are extremely pleased by the comprehensive training the borrowers receive. We leave the Alaguisc Centre and head to Balcon Maravilla Centre. The women at this centre bear a beautiful flower necklace for our arrival and have made a exquisite traditional feast which is customary to use our hands and banana peels as a plate to eat. Everyone was a little nervous to begin with as they didn’t know how exactly to eat without a plate but within a few minutes of starting out feast we make an unanimous decision that this is the best meal we have had so far! After lunch we sit in on our final borrowers financial training session and listen to a discussion on cash flow, asset building and business and family visions. Each borrower is asked to draw their visions in their financial diary and explain their long and short term goals and how they hope to achieve them. We listen to a few heart felt and inspiring stories before setting off on our island hoping tour. After being on the go for 4 days, the island hopping tour is our first chance to relax and take in the spectacular surrounding scenery. We sail through crystal clear waters, past enchanting white sand beaches and jagged rock formations before stopping in at an isolated cove for a snorkel and swim. After our swim we head to another island for a quick stop and then onto a fisheries breeding farm, where they had the biggest blue grouper anyone had ever seen! Finally our day ended at Camp Alfredo with a few celebratory drinks and a couple of hours of entertaining karaoke.
Wed 5 Mar: Anilao and Passi Branch Centre and Community Visit
Today our journey continues along narrow rickety roads, past sugarcane and rice plantations to the agriculture communities of Anilao and Passi. Our minibus was almost too big to fit under the draping power lines but our skilled driver Charlo carefully navigated his way through. At our first community visit we divided into five groups to make it easier to converse with the local women. We shared stories and gained insight into one another’s way of life. By midday it was time to leave and we headed to the next village where a feast cooked by the local women on their fuel efficient stoves awaited. After lunch we were fortunate enough to sit in on a borrowers meeting. They took us through the loan and repayment process and we heard a few stories on what members used their loans for. Interestingly enough the majority of women, similar to those at yesterday’s village, primarily focus on their children’s education. When women spoke of their child’s college achievements, tears of joy glistened in their eyes and pride echoed in their voices. Their stories touched our hearts and empowered our minds, reiterating the importance of the work Good Return does and why we took on this challenge—to be the change you want to see in the world. Our final stop was with a charming group of nomadic women. We sung, chatted and laughed until the sun went down. They demonstrated how the fuel efficient stove and solar lights worked and Richard, Kate and Debra were so impressed that ended up purchasing a solar light each! Lastly, the team headed back to Iloilo for dinner and we settled in for the night.
Tue 4 Mar: Project Visit in Iloilo
What an incredible first day our team has had. We spent the morning with Good Return and SECDEP (St Elizabeth Community Development Program) local staff learning about microfinance programs available to women on Panay island. After breakfast we jumped into our van, weaving our way through the organised chaos of Iloilo City. Once out of the main city centre, the traffic becomes more sparse, coconut trees and bamboo houses line the black sand beaches and fishing catchments protrude from the calm turquoise ocean. Our first stop is the UNESCO listed Miagao church followed by lunch at the charming and colourful Garinfarm. Garinfarm Pilgrimage… After lunch, we headed to Barangay Igsoligue to meet some of the local women enrolled in the Good Return and SECDEP programs. The women had prepared a delicious feast for us and had made signs that hung from the gates and bridge welcoming us to their humble village. We sat together and they shared their stories, hopes and dreams. All of the women spoke with a strong focus on education, most allocating their loan money to further their children’s schooling. Some emphasised the importance of starting up small businesses or building sustainable crops. It was great to see each of them encouraging and empowering one another’s ideas and working together as a team. Everyone left on a high, commenting on the generosity and hospitality shown to us today. This was truly an amazing experience, one the group will never forget!
Mon 3 Mar: Departure
This morning the team headed on their way to the Philippines! An anxious yet excited group posed for one last shot before they left Sydney Airport! About Good Return’s Trek to End Poverty An inspired team of fundraising adventurers are visiting the Philippines to take on a 4-day trek to the summit of Mount Madjaas, towering at 2,113 metres above sea level. During their adventure they will discover the natural delights of this island nation, whilst experiencing the warm and welcoming Filipino culture. Our team are taking part in this challenge to raise money for Good Return, who are focused on fighting poverty through the innovative means of combining loans and education. By teaching those in need to read and write and how money works, they have a chance to make a successful livelihood for their families. As part of their adventure, the team will meet and work with the women that their fundraising will benefit, to see firsthand Good Return’s microfinance and education programs in action.
Read more adventure stories or visit the Inspired Adventures Calendar and find a Charity Challenge perfect for you.