#ProjectInspire: Funding students' dreams through SINAG
MANILA, Philippines — This semester, more than 300 tertiary educational institutions have increased its tuition and other school fees after receiving go signal from the Commission on Higher Education. The tuition hike, reasonable or not, has provided more barriers for Filipino students to attain higher education and consequently, a more secure future.
While the government and private organizations have been providing ways to support a number of unprivileged but deserving students to college, non-profit groups like SINAG Microfunds has proven that it doesn’t take a giant to help fund dreams.
SINAG Microfunds is last year’s only Philippine team to the grand finals of Project Inspire, a competition for social enterprises to financially empower women in Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa organized by the Singapore Committee for UN Women and Mastercard.
It won the People’s Choice Award with its pitch SINAG Store, a design store run by their beneficiaries from their student loan program.
SINAG works by lending disadvantaged students for tuition. The students have to repay in a span of 6 months to one year to extend the fund to more students.
It currently has 35 students in its program, most of them from the University of the Philippines, but it has extended to students from other universities in and outside Manila.
Besides providing loans, SINAG empowers its students by meeting them regularly, and creating a support network among the beneficiaries. During the break, it also provides its kids job opportunities to help with their finances.
Its pitch concept, the SINAG Store, is soon to launch and to start conducting workshops among its 20 students on entrepreneurship, skills training, and sustainability. Once the store is launched, its profits will be pooled for funding non-tuition needs of the SINAG students.
Beyond the business itself, SINAG aims to connect students to mentors who are actual businessmen and entrepreneurs.
“We really want to expand their networks. That’s one thing that’s also missing when you come from a lower socio-economic background. You have less access to professional networks,” said Sheena Jamora, SINAG’s Executive Director. She founded the organization with 6 other UP alumni.
Jamora represented the organization in Singapore for the final leg of Project Inspire 2014. She shared that the pitch and workshop prompted the finalists to think about their own projects’ sustainability.
“Good intentions are not enough,” Jamora pointed out.
“You should also think about how it will work in the long term because you’re trying to solve big systemic problems so if you’re really going to make a dent on it, you need your project to last for several years.”
For this year’s competition, Jamora urged Filipino changemakers to not miss the chance to join Project Inspire.
“When you start your own social enterprise, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the size of the problem you want to solve. But if you join Project Inspire, you get to meet so many in every corner of the world who are trying to overcome the same challenges. And if some have done it well, you can do it also if you try hard enough.” — Rappler.com
Project Inspire 2015 application is open until July 1. Visit its website to know more on how to change the world and improve the lives of women in your community. To support SINAG Microfunds, you can check out its website to know how you can help fund the dreams of more students. You can also volunteer as mentor to guide the students in their first entrepreneurship venture.
Fatima Gaw is a volunteer country ambassador for the Philippines for Project Inspire 2015. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for application inquiries.