BUYING is the new way of giving. The concept may not be all that original but the program title for the campaign is inspired.
“Segunda Mana” is a take-off from the very literal translation in Filipino of “second hand”—segunda mano—used goods, previously owned, sometimes euphemistically referred to as “pre-loved.”
But then “mana” adds a unique dimension to the phrase, as it translates into inheritance or legacy, definitely a precious possession passed on from one person to another in an act of generous sharing.
It’s exactly the spirit that Caritas Manila hopes to stir and sustain for the donations-in-kind campaign it has launched and the Charity Stores it has introduced around the metro.
Caritas Manila, the social services and development arm of the Archdiocese of Manila which organizes and implements various programs for the poor and the marginalized, is behind the Segunda Mana Charity Stores that have opened over the past year in various malls. The Charity Stores offer discounted prices for the various goods and items they have received through the Segunda Mana campaign.
The charity works both ways. Individuals, families and corporate donors send in donations in kind—anything and everything from clothes, toys, books, furniture and appliances. The goods in turn are sold at the Charity Stores primarily to help low income families have access to the goods at low prices, but also to convert the goods into cash that will fund the Caritas programs.
The concept is not original, acknowledges Ramon Reyes, store operations coordinator, as other charity organizations abroad such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army have been doing this for years. The model that Fr. Anton Pascual, Caritas Manila’s executive director, has decided to adopt, however, is The Beautiful Store, which today has about a hundred outlets throughout Korea.
“Actually, Caritas had already been holding charity bazaars or rummage sales in the past,” Reyes recounts, but these were mostly tiangge-style operations under tents on church grounds during Sunday services, or at the Caritas Manila compound in Pandacan. From 2007 to 2008, the activity became more regular as quarterly charity sales were launched at Caritas.
Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 was a turning point of sorts. Caritas was swamped with donations of clothes, shoes and other personal items, many of which the flood victims no longer needed, or at least did not need as much as food, sleeping mats and blankets. But these were good items—some slightly used or even brand new since they were donated by clothing manufacturing companies.
“Food was the more urgent need, so we had to find a way to convert those goods to cash in order to buy food,” Reyes explains. “But we also wanted our buyers to be able to get the clothes at very low, almost charity prices, as this was also our way of helping them.” Also, as a livelihood incentive, some clothes were sold in bulk, “sako-sako (by sack),” so that wholesale buyers could sell them at retail prices and make a tidy profit for their efforts.
That was how it basically worked in the beginning, but word-of-mouth advertising got the cycle going, with most of the buyers coming from the Pandacan area. Eventually, with sales from the Charity Stores picking up and more people coming to shop for “segunda mana” bargains, Caritas needed to find new outlets for the goods.
The main store is at the auditorium within the Caritas compound, which Segunda Mana has taken over, spilling out onto the garden beyond and the parking lot in front of the main building. In April 2010, the first Segunda Mana Charity Store mall outlet opened at the Makati Cinema Square in Makati. Sales were brisk and thus pressure was on to expand operations. Early this year, two other outlets were launched: at the Harrison Plaza Mall in Manila last March and at the Victory Mall in Caloocan in April. Another store is opening by the end of May at the Star Mall on EDSA in Mandaluyong.
Many of the Charity Store customers are repeat buyers, and have become the best marketing representatives for Segunda Mana.
Purisima Albasin, barangay chair of Brgy. 830 in Pandacan, comes almost daily to check out the items at Caritas and refers to herself as the “Queen of the Charity Store.” She has bought a whole range of items—from furniture to small appliances to clothes and shoes, for her family and her barangay constituents. Asked if she personally wears or uses what she buys, she points to the blouse she has on, as the Caritas sales staff chime in that she is the “image model of Segunda Mana.”
“Best buys” at the Charity Store depend on who’s buying. A- and B-market buyers come for the furniture, small appliances or electronics, collectibles and miscellaneous “finds.” C- and D- buyers check out clothes and shoes—notably for children—and toys.
“But from A to D, they seem to know when it’s a real bargain, and we know they get them here because we see them coming back again and again,” says Gilda I. Cortez, Segunda Mana program head. Mostly, these are the brand-new items which have been donated by clothing or shoe manufacturers or unsold stock from department stores, and sold at around half of the regular price.
Home and office furniture and appliances are donated by companies that have refurbished their offices or families that want to clear their homes of things they no longer use or need. For those who request it, a certificate of donation may be issued, which they can use for tax deduction.
Most of the donations come from individuals and families—around 70 percent, Cortez reveals—which works well for Caritas’ aim not just to receive goods and convert them to cash through rummage sales, but to teach the real values of charity: give to share; buy, also to share. It’s a new way of making blessings go round.
What Segunda Mana—the campaign as well as the charity store outlets—aims to teach is stewardship. The things we have and own are God’s blessings and gifts; we care for them while they are with us. And when the time comes that we no longer need or use them, then we share these gifts so that others may experience the blessings too.