By Argie C. Aguja

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic is not only a public health crisis; it has also severely affected the economy and financial markets across the world. In third-world nations like ours, the impact is felt especially hard in impoverished areas and poor communities in the countryside. Even those with stable employment, like civil servants and public school teachers, are feeling the crunch, as the pandemic has strained their already meager finances.

And because the government has been dealing with quite a lot of concerns lately, some segments from the private sector have started initiatives to address both the financial and health concerns of those marginalized sectors and rural communities.

In response to the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sun Life Financial-Philippines Foundation, Inc. (Sun Life Foundation), the philanthropy arm of Sun Life Philippines, has initiated Rise Brighter PH, a program that promotes both financial security and health. 

Two-pronged approach

The Baranggay Health Station established in Brgy. Looc, Nasugbu, Batangas

Rise Brighter PH has a two-pronged approach: Sun Pera-Aralan 2020 which is a financial management program catering to public school teachers, and the establishment of Sun Life Barangay Health Stations that will serve as accessible sources of primary health care in poor and rural municipalities. Each program aims to benefit 125,000 individuals within the next five years.

“As Sun Life Philippines marks its 125th anniversary this year, Rise Brighter PH is our way of honoring our lifetime partnership with the Filipino people and letting them know that we remain at their side in these trying times. We have seen Filipinos rise above trials many times over, and we are confident that together, we will prevail,” shares Sun Life Philippines CEO and country head Benedict Sison, who also sits as chairman of Sun Life Foundation.

Personal finance for teachers 

For the program’s financial literacy component, the Sun Pera-Aralan 2020 uses the Peso Sobre tool to make saving a habit among public school teachers. In doing so, they can extend their salary until the next payday, and eventually lessen indebtedness. A Facebook community will gather shared experiences and inspiration from teachers enrolled in the program. Volunteer Sun Life advisors will also be on hand for consultations. An initial batch of 10,224 public school teachers has shown measurable success in terms of improved finances. Sun Pera-Aralan was implemented early this year in public schools in cooperation with AHA Behavioral Design, Inc. and the Department of Education (DepEd).

Boosting health care in rural areas 

To address the health-care needs of rural communities, Sun Life established Barangay Health Stations. Each unit provides primary services like immunizations, consultations, follow-ups, and health lectures to benefit the immediate community. Barangay health workers and health cluster leaders manning the station will also be given adequate training, aside from having a community-based health and wellness program. A total of eight Sun Life Barangay Health Stations will be constructed across Batangas within the year. 

“The Sun Life Foundation’s projects are anchored on our company’s purpose, which is to help Filipinos achieve lifetime financial security and live healthier lives. We earnestly hope that helping fulfill these needs, Rise Brighter PH will empower beneficiaries in their journey towards recovery. Moreover, may it give them hope that despite the challenges we’re currently facing, a brighter future is still on the horizon,” shares Sun Life of Canada (Philippines), Inc. and Sun Life Foundation president Alex Narciso.