In 2005, Fr. Oliver McCrossan began the “Pedaling to Live Program” to aid pedicab drivers in Ozamiz City, the Philippines. With the generous support of our Columban benefactors and friends, the program was an amazing success from the very beginning.
Many of the pedicab drivers now own their own vehicles instead of renting with more paying off their loans each year. They have been able to open savings accounts in the cooperative bank to help them in times of need. The wives of the drivers have started supplementary livelihood projects such as sari-sari stores, small restaurants and laundry service. The children of the drivers are provided with school supplies, uniforms, vitamins and medicine while graduates of our scholarship program have found gainful employment.
Building on the success of the “Pedaling to Live Program,” Fr. McCrossan has launched the “Pedaling to Live Housing Program” to assist the drivers and their families with their housing needs. Most of the families do not own their own houses; they rent their dwellings for $1 dollar a day. The rented house is usually made from bamboo with just one room which is used for sleeping, cooking and eating. The houses have no indoor toilet facilities. Due to the unsanitary living conditions, the children often are sick. In addition, many families live close to the sea, and their homes take a battering from high waves whenever there is a storm or typhoon.
Fr. McCrossan has acquired a piece of land where they can build a safe and sanitary community. Through the “Pedaling to Live Housing Program,” drivers who have successfully paid off their pedicab loans can apply to purchase a house in the community. Each house will consist of two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and an indoor toilet. The materials will be wood and hollow blocks with galvanized metal for roofing. All the materials will be sourced locally. The cost of materials per house is $1,500 including $660 for labor which will be provided locally. The drivers themselves will provide 80% of the labor required to build their own houses.
To repay the house loan, the beneficiary will pay $20 a month which is well below the $30-$31 they pay currently in rent. With the repayment schedule, the house will be paid off fully in just over six years. While the beneficiaries are carefully selected based on strict criteria, if payments are not made for three consecutive months, the occupancy will be terminated. With the income generated from the loan repayments, another piece of land will be acquired for another community.
Fr. McCrossan and the other managers of the project will help organize the beneficiaries to form a solid community. There will be an area for an organic vegetable garden in addition to a fish pond and an area for chickens and ducks. It will be an environmentally friendly village with the aim of living lightly on the earth. There are already mature trees growing on the site, and more trees will be planted along the perimeter. There is a waste management plan for the project.
I am pleased to belong to the community that has grown among our drivers, their families and the staff of our cooperative program. I am proud of our drivers who provide a cheap and pollution free transport service for the poor of Ozamiz City. I admire and respect their daily struggle to feed their families and their support for one another. I am pleased that their living standards have improved as a result of the project. I feel that I am a small bridge or a small link in the chain binding us all together on this planet, linking our Columban supporters around the world with our people here in the Philippines. The ties that bind us together are concern for all of life. I feel that I have been invited and called by God. It’s not just a job for me; it’s a way of living.
It is the generous prayerful and financial support of our benefactors and friends that allows us to live out God’s call, to be changed by the people with whom we live. Your support of this project won’t just build houses. Your assistance will help build a faith community where individuals and families will find support and strength, a true shelter from the storms of life. It is with deep gratitude for all you have done and continue to do for Columban mission that I invite you to support Fr. McCrossan’s “Pedaling to Live Housing Program.”
Gratefully yours in Christ,
Fr. Arturo Aguilar