Seemingly prescient in light of events to come, Columbia Business School's International Development Club hosted a group of fifteen students and representatives from The Ayala Foundation and PinoyME Foundation to discuss development opportunities in the Philippines on September 24, 2009. Two days later, Typhoon Ketsana ripped through the Philippines, dumping roughly 455 mm of rain in a six-hour span. Ketsana claimed nearly 250 lives, displaced over 450,000 residents, and had an estimated economic toll of more than $100 million. In the wake of such natural disasters, development work takes on a fundamentally critical role in supporting underprivileged populations. CBS students discussed these issues with Victoria Garchitorena, head of the Ayala Foundation and a leader of the Philippine non-governmental organization (NGO) sector, and Ronna Reyes Sieh, CEO of RRS Advisors, an advocate of microfinance group PinoyME, and a Columbia Business School graduate.
Ms. Garchitorena is the President of Ayala Foundation USA (AF USA) and used examples of the group's successful initiatives to demonstrate the impact NGOs can have in poor countries such as the Philippines. Ayala Foundation USA creates opportunities for Filipinos in the United States to help their homeland by facilitating meaningful contributions to social development initiatives. The foundation was founded in 2000, soon after the Philippine government shut down U.S. military facilities in the Philippines, prompting the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to drastically reduce assistance to the country. The foundation initially focused on encouraging open-ended donations from the Diaspora in the United States, but quickly moved to a method of targeted donation. AF USA identifies strategic development projects with a proven track record and allows U.S. donors to focus their contributions on projects they find most meaningful.