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PAB Lending to Invest in Microbusiness Ventures in Dominican Republic and Philippines
woman seated at table writing

By Sister Marilín Llanes, OP
Portfolio Manager of PAB Community Impact Investments

The Ecumenical Church Loan Fund (ECLOF) International is a Swiss non-profit microfinance institution with a mission-driven compass, serving low-income micro entrepreneurs and farmers in 12 developing countries. Since 2018, ECLOF International has been a loan recipient of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) community impact Investment initiative.  

The ECLOF International Hub is committed to empowering low-income people to create, manage, and own their own businesses, especially with a focus on gender inclusion and equality. Two stories featured in this article are prime examples of ECLOF’s engagement. 

Lidia and the Rainbow School

- Article courtesy of the ECLOF Dominica website

In the Dominican Republic near the Santo Domingo area, ECLOF Dominica serves mainly women engaging in urban and rural businesses. Besides loans, ECLOF Dominica provides business education and financial literacy training to its clients. 

In the community of El Toro de Guerra, at the periphery of Santo Domingo, 28-year-old Lidia de la Cruz runs “Escuelita Arco Iris” (Rainbow School) for children in the community who need help with homework and their lessons. The children would not be able to do so at home due to their family’s lack of time or knowledge to assist them. Lidia welcomes 25 to 30 children ages 4 to 11 every day.

With consecutive loans from ECLOF Dominica over the last four years, Lidia has set up a small classroom with basic equipment: a few desks and chairs. Beyond school knowledge, Lidia teaches children social values and how to interact with each other. She motivates them and accompanies them in their self-development.

Characterized by perseverance and a desire to serve her community, Lidia has been supporting children since the age of 12. Although she never attended college, she took her knowledge from school and continued learning on her own without the benefit of formal education. Lidia wishes eventually to go to university to improve the quality of her teaching to her young pupils and her own children in the future.

Lidia won second place as Educational Microenterprise of the Year in the CITI Micro Business Award 2013 sponsored by Citibank. More importantly, the people of El Toro de Guerra describe Lidia as playing the role of the sun that hits the rain to brighten the lives of her small neighbors with a beautiful rainbow every day. 

Victor’s Motto: “There is Money in Farming”

- Article courtesy of the ECLOF Philippines website

Victor in his mixed field

Victor, 38, is a proud farmer and role model for the next generation of farmers on the Filipino island of Palawan. It wasn’t always easy for him. As a teenager, he steered clear of farming and instead trained as a mechanical engineer. But when his father passed away in 2014, Victor decided to give farming a try on the family’s 1.7 hectares (4.2 acres) of land. 

Victor started attending specialized agricultural training sessions and events organized by ECLOF Philippines. He was also invited to showcase his work and represent his hometown in Manila. Next, he took a big leap to apply for first loan of $220 to develop his farm, despite initial reservation against borrowing money.

In the following seven years, he diversified his father’s monoculture rice field into a mixed field for livestock, fruit, and vegetables. This model proved so successful that Victor turned it into a training center for other farmers that is accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). In April 2022, it was awarded as a learning site for capacity building of the farmers in their communities. 

A teacher, standing, speaks to five seated adults at the training school for farmers in the Philippines

The entrepreneurial stories of Lidia and Victor offer hope and opportunity for the present and future generations of business seekers in the Dominican Republic and Philippines.  


Feature photo at top: A woman from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic seated at a table writing

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Phone: (517) 266-3523 | Email: