Philippines: Caritas launches consumer brand to help poor

Caritas Manila has launched a consumer goods brand and plans to use profits from the sales to support Church social-action programs to help poor Filipinos.

The goods, which range from soap to rice, soy sauce and vinegar, carry the 'Caritas Manna' brand. The merchandise is produced or packaged by five impoverished communities in the city.

Four companies also have asked to join the program as suppliers, says Father Mario Castillo, Caritas director of livelihood projects. These companies will offer products including coffee, canned sardines, seasoning and fruit juice at cost.

The consumer goods program is part of Caritas Manila's multi-faceted approach to poverty alleviation, Caritas executive director Father Anton Pascual announced at the  launch yesterday.  More than 100 guests and cooperative members attended the event.

Anyone who buys 'Caritas Manna' brand products will know they are helping Caritas programs aimed at helping the poor, Father Pascual added. He said these programs include scholarships and leadership formation.

Caritas Manila, the lead Catholic agency for social services and development in the archdiocese, also provides technical assistance to social service and development ministries in the five other dioceses in Metro Manila.

Customer purchases will also support livelihood ventures, health and nutrition programs in parishes, prisoners' programs and programs for crisis and disaster responses.

Father Castillo said the goods would be sold in some of the 20 parish cooperatives that offer goods to poor families at low prices.

"The basic goods will carry the Caritas Manna label to show that we stand behind the quality of the products," the Vincentian priest told UCA News.

Caritas also offers inducements to cooperatives and customers to stock and buy the goods. "We offer a 1 percent refund on the product to the customer and a 5 percent incentive bonus to the cooperative," Father Castillo said.

Other products that carry the Caritas Manna brand include bread, noodles, sugar, salt, bottled water, laundry detergent, bath soap, shampoo and hair conditioner.

Plans are underway add small household goods such as pillows and sponges to the list.

Caritas Manna is the agency's fourth program in three years aimed at alleviating poverty among Metro Manila residents. Others include Segunda Mana (secondhand) stores, where 20 percent of the products are old stock donated by department stores to Caritas and the rest are used or unused goods from private donations.

Two years ago Caritas started programs in microfinance for urban poor people and Caritas Labora, a job placement data bank to help them get full-time and temporary service jobs.

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