“Poverty is a question of the heart. Only with a changed heart can you free people from poverty. Only God can change the human heart.”
These are the three basic principles that guide the work of the Center for Community Transformation (CCT) founded and headed by Ruth S. Callanta. The CCT marked its 30th anniversary last April 22 through a virtual meeting.
I learned about the work of the CCT from its founder and president who was my colleague in the faculty of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). Before joining the academe and founding CCT, she served as executive director of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), a social development organization that was established by leading Philippine corporations in the ferment that precede the declaration of martial law nearly 50 years ago.
Having been steeped in social development work for decades, Ruth Callanta’s insights are instructive: “To the committed business person, the business operation is a Christian mission in itself, fulfilling all that Christianity requires: Christ-led, excellent, just, compassionate, and loving the poor and dispossessed.” Indeed, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the “warp and woof of a Christian business, not its unintended effect or by-product. Profitable businesses run ethically and social responsibility are the two faces of the same coin.”
The first motive for CCT’s formation was economic, as it was established to play a role in poverty alleviation. The second motive was social, as economic well-being is incomplete without the provision of social services and social security. The third motive was socio-cultural and political restructuring, in order to enable the poor to attain a measure of self-reliance and self-actualization.
The implementation of CCT’s mission progresses along three phases. Phase one, on economic and evangelical programs, focuses on bringing the good news to the poor and marginalized while enabling them to increase their incomes. Phase two, on social services and social security, delivers social services side by side with discipleship and evangelization. Phase three seeks to attain socio-cultural and political restructuring by strengthening spiritual and social capital.
In the economic sphere, CCT delivers microfinance services, ensures adequate supply of basic food and commodities through a cooperative and continually trains people in entrepreneurship and business development. Education, housing, healthcare and life insurance are the focal points of social services that would bring about social security.
CCT’s socio-cultural and political restructuring framework covers the following: Leadership development, social infrastructure building, partnerships with local and community churches, and community mobilization.
From its second decade onward, CCT’s leadership has creating new organizational structures for addressing the concrete needs of specific sectors served by its ministry.
CCT Tindahan Para sa Bayan was formed as a separate entity to enable it to serve as “the conduit of all products and services produced by both the CCT ministries and their target communities.”
The Kaibigan Maaasahan Multi-Purpose Cooperative serves as the vehicle for training erstwhile street dwellers as informal service workers capable of being employed in construction projects, building maintenance, janitorial services and agribusiness.
The Covenant Community Service Cooperative (CCSC) serves the needs of factory workers through savings and credit assistance from the CCT Credit Cooperative. Now registered as a labor service contractor with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), CCSC provides social safety net programs for factory workers and informal service workers.
In 2012, the CCT’s Visions of Hope Foundation established the Visions of Hope Christian School, Inc. to formalize basic education and early spiritual training for under-privileged children, children-at-risk, orphans, abandoned and neglected children, and children of street dwellers.
In 2016, the CCT incorporated four organizations. CCT Community Fellowship, Inc. was established to consolidate the efforts and activities of fellowship groups that met regularly for Bible study and Sunday services while ensuring the payment of loan amortizations. CCT Ministry Among Tribespeople, Inc. extends assistance to tribal groups and enables them to attain self-sufficiency, an initiative started by CCT in 2001 when it opened a microfinance unit in General Santos City that served Blaan women. CCT Mutual Benefit Association, Inc. began as a benevolence fund for community partners and has since developed into a full-blown life insurance program for the poverty groups being assisted by CCT.
CCT has grown into 14 ministries “serving the urban and rural poor through 170 branches nationwide with more than 1,300 full-staff and more than 10,000 community volunteers that minister to the marginalized according to the custom-fit approaches that address their specific needs.”
To the skeptics who are still unable to fully grasp the significance of the work of CCT as a spiritual undertaking, Ruth Callanta quotes James Gustav Speth, former administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and a leading environmental advocate:
“The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy. And to deal with these, we need a spiritual and cultural transformation … and we scientists don’t know how to do that.”