For Wah, school is her favourite place, getting to see her friends and play games. School, however, isn’t all fun and games, as the lessons she learns in class set her up for life. Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy Program add to her current learning plan, giving her the skills she needs for her future. Along with her classmates, she learns about the ways in which just saving a small amount a day can give her big returns in the future. Thoughts of a bicycle or a new toy no doubt come to the mind of Wah when she learns about savings.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy Program have made an immediate impact on Wah and her classmates. “As soon as I attended the CFL Program, I realized that I should not waste my money on buying snacks anymore, as I have now learnt to save money and the benefits of long-term savings”
Wah, along her classmates, feel the commitment to pass on this knowledge to their communities. Among these, her father who Wah constantly encourages to save for their family’s future.
A Hooded Treepie chirping announces the start of a beautiful morning in Kyar Chaung. Khin, along with his wife Suu, they prepare for another productive day in their vegetable garden. Luckily, their home has been blessed with enough land to harvest vegetables in their own backyard. Despite his flourishing micro-business in selling vegetables of all kinds, Khin did not regularly budget and build his savings. It was after Cufa worked with his local community that he started to save more. A testimony to his nature is that what really peaked Khin’s interest in saving was that his savings could help his community.
“After getting some training delivered by Cufa, I made up my mind try to save money regularly because I understand my money can help to other villagers”
After finding out about Cufa’s DigiCud, Khin, along with members of his village, Khin started receiving training. Beyond the benefits of savings, Khin now feels an enormous sense of pride, as he knows his money in the savings bank will benefit the community.
The impact from Covid-19 to the Cambodian economy is evident, the road leading the nation’s capital remains quiet these days. Like many in Australia in 2020, Sreypov has been working from home but has been having a different experience to the rest of us. Her clothing shop, which she operates out from the front of her house, gives her the opportunity to tackle the housework whilst supporting her family financially. Before joining the Village Entrepreneur Program, Sreypov struggled to provide enough food for her family, needing to borrow from a private lender to send her children to school. After talking it over with a community member in the local government, Sreypov decided to join the Village Entrepreneur Program.
Over the year since joining the Village Entrepreneur Program, Sreypov has seen her daily income double, meaning she can send her children to school and provide them the nutrition they need to excel in life. She has already expanded her selection of clothing sold and is already looking to acquire a loan from her local credit union to increase the range even further.
The pandemic, however, has been felt in her community, and she has needed to adapt her marketing to suit a more de-generalised customer base. The customers who came on through the trucks have all but dried up, but Sreypov is not phased. Her years training and relationship with the local credit union has meant that she has saved up enough to offset the losses.
Teacher's Mutual Bank Limited (TMBL), a long-time supporter of Cufa, recently undertook a workplace fundraiser for Cufa, that not only raised money, but was a fun and creative activity for the TMBL team. Due to the added challenge of a global pandemic that forced everyone to work from home they needed to create an engaging and fun activity that everyone could participate in. TMBL has done workplace fundraisers for the last several years, hosting events such as sausage sizzles, movie nights and pie your boss in the face.
The staff at TMBL figured out a creative solution they would put together dry cookie mix jars. A dry cookie mix jar, for those unaware, is what it says on the box. It's all you need to make cookies, with exception of the wet ingredients such as egg, vanilla extract and butter.
It's a testimony to the team that they were able to solve this logistical challenge, working with staff across the country to produce over 100 jars! Those 100 jars, plus a raffle that they generously put together, was able to raise $1,906.
This donation means a lot to Cufa. It is not just about the monetary value, it’s the effort that the TMBL team put into preparing the jars, reaching out to their colleagues and organising the logistics. We appreciate that the team, during a stressful pandemic, were thinking of those less able to help themselves. Cufa and the communities it partners with thanks the TMBL team for all their hard work and commitment during this difficult time.
Looking back over 2020 in Myanmar, Cufa has tackled the challenges of COVID-19, whilst laying the groundwork for our new DigiCUD program and continuing our transformational Child Financial Literacy and Credit Union Development Programs. As the time of writing, Myanmar's COVID-19 outbreak has reached over 100,000 confirmed cases, resulting in a lockdown in the country’s largest city of Yangon where the Cufa office is based. Cufa’s staff and partnering rural communities have worked together to ensure our programs could continue, despite the challenges of the pandemic.
As schools closed to prevent the spread of the virus, Cufa’s staff feared that many students would miss out on participating in the CFL Program. Determined to conduct the CFL Program, our staff did not give up and provided 2,939 students with the program's five lessons, usually conducted during school time, by conducting home visits. These visits involve our project officers visiting the homes of villages, delivering the lessons and advising the parents as well in ways they can help the child out as well.
Cufa, engaged by the United Nations Development Program, has created female-owned enterprises with a focus on agricultural and fishery sector-based business in Shan State and Mandalay Region. Through the Project, Cufa provided capacity building training to aspiring and established MSME entrepreneurs in areas including marketing skills, business plan, leadership, and financial management skills. In response to COVID-19 and at the request of UNDP, Cufa rapidly created and integrated training modules on digitising operations and digital marketing skills for participants. To ensure all entrepreneurs were able to receive their training amid the pandemic and the adaptation to virtual training, Cufa provided training aids and subsidies.
2021 marks Cufa’s 50th year of working to alleviate poverty in the Asia-Pacific Region. Cufa is looking forward to developing new and innovative programs to ensure that we can continue to empower marginalised people and communities with the tools to lift themselves out of intergenerational poverty.
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Ohn San, UNDP Project participant.
For us here at Cufa, 2020 was a year of adaption and success in the face of adversity. In February, much like the rest of the world, Cufa’s work was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Cambodia, our Project Officers were quick to adapt to a rapidly changing and unpredictable global environment.
According to DFAT in October, Cambodia has managed to protect its citizen from the worst health impacts of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the pandemic has impacted Cambodia's most important economic sectors: garments, tourism, and construction. The World Bank estimated that before COVID-19, these sectors accounted for more than 70 per cent of the country’s GDP annual growth. Cambodia is at risk of re-entrenching intergenerational poverty due to the economic shocks and the high rates of indebtedness caused by microfinance institutions.
When schools closed in March, we rapidly adapted our Children’s Financial Literacy Program to be safely delivered to children in their homes. We turned to conduct home visits, with 808 home visits conducted, ensuring that the financial literacy classes could continue. This allowed for the opportunity to further engage families in financial education and encouraging parents to motivate their children.
Community members in Kampong Cham alerted Cufa to the demands for greater access to soap and washing powder. In response, Cufa pivoted the first stream of the Recycling Plastics Livelihoods Project for the community social enterprises to instead produce liquid hand soap. The adapted COVID-19 Livelihoods Response Program has facilitated community social enterprises, of which 67% of members are women, to produce and sell 2,940 litres of liquid hand soap. CSEs have made a total profit of USD 1,038.35.
As 2021 marks Cufa's 50th year of work, Cufa looks forward to continuing to work with rural communities, Cufa-supported credit unions and schools to continue and expand its footprint.
Living as a farmer in rural Cambodia often means that locals need to work in multiple businesses to support their family. La Neang is a 39 year old Cambodian mother with 2 children. La is a rice farmer and her husband is working as local construction worker which earns them less than $0.50 per family member per a day to support their family. La has been participating in Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program for over 2 years, farming chickens behind her house, and with the support of her Australian Community Investor (CI), her business has been able to gradually grow and develop as she has acquired and applied new skills through the program.
Before participating in the program, La was raising her chickens in a small area only partially fenced and suffered some issues which greatly impacted here ability to sustain her business. Some of the issues she faced included her chickens dying due to illness and chickens being stolen or taken by animals due to not being fully enclosed.
Once an Australian CI elected to support La, she was able to participate in the Village Entrepreneur program. The Cufa run program over the few years has taught her new skills and knowledge to improve her business and her earning capacity. This included how to look after her chickens with providing a strong fully fenced coop; making good quality feed and providing a clean water supply to prevent disease and loss. She has also learnt business skills including how
to attract more customers and compete with others in the marketplace. Through the program La has been able to develop her business and increase her chicken product range. La said “I am now happy that I am able to raise my chickens in a safe space surrounded by a secure, strong wire fence, keep my baby chicks healthier, and my production is increasing”. La has improved her breeding program and she is now raising about 70 chickens whereas previously it was only about 20 chickens. With the increase in her business profit, La said she has used it to afford to support her children education and family’s healthcare, purchase furniture and save $2.50 per month to ensure they have a better life in the future. To ensure the sustainability of her farm in the future, La has a plan to expand the farming areas and coop size, construct more special coops for baby chickens and learn more technical and business skills. “I and my family would like to say big thanks to my community investor for the kind support, without the support, my business would not be improved like this, and we hope that the business will more benefit as income for my family”, La added.
Foresters Community Finance is an ethical lender that not only provides fast and affordable loans to people in need of assistance, they also provide loans to many small businesses.
Foresters offers two loan products specifically to assist small businesses. The Enterprise Loan is available to any type of small business needing finance to start-up or for established businesses to take their business to the next level. Whereas QuicksART, is a micro-loan designed specifically for individual artists and small-scale cultural enterprises. QuicksART loans are the first step in the ladder of loan financing for the cultural sector and Foresters encourage individuals and enterprises to consider these loans within a mixed income portfolio of grants, donations, sponsorship and earned income.
Over the years Foresters has provided loans to social not-for-profit enterprises that support the community and/or benefit the environment. Recent examples include providing micro-finance loans to a specialist sporting club to purchase new rowing sculls; various businesses providing services for the disabled including schools, dancing groups, circus troupes; and local community stores.
Foresters believes in lending responsibly an amount that they can afford to pay; to help small businesses grow and become financially successful, therefore benefiting the whole community. There is a single loan establishment fee, which can be capitalised into the loan balance. There are no hidden monthly costs or early exit fees.
Foresters mission is to lend responsibly so that all customers are treated fairly with only products that are suited to their needs and individual situation.
To find out more or to apply for a small business loan visit foresters.org.au/enterprise-loans
Naing is an eight-year-old boy who lives in a small rural village in a region of southwest Myanmar where villagers usually spend their time farming crops and raising animals. Like many of the local villagers,
Naing’s father is a farmer and his mother, a housewife. Naing attended his first Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) training session run by Cufa in 2019. He found that the lessons interesting and attended sessions regularly to learn more. It was after his fifth CFL lesson that Naing decided not to buy any more toys as he was sure it was wasting his money.
In late December 2019, Cufa held its first Children’s Financial Literacy Study Tour ceremony in Tha Yet Chaung Village. At the CFL Study Tour ceremony, committee and savings members of Tha Yet Chaung Village Bank demonstrated
how the village savings bank operated. A question and answer session was also run to interact with participants and make it interesting and fun. Naing participated in the Q&A session and answered the questions correctly and received a piggy bank, for which he was very excited about. In addition, participants took part in other activities like painting a box for savings and using the CFL Tablet for games which they played with their friends.
The CFL Study Tour took around 5 hours to run and a Cufa CFL Project Officer will run these study tours which will be conducted quarterly. A total of 199 people including 84 boys and 67 girls participated in this first CFL Study Tour.
Naing said that the study tour gave other children, not only the students like himself, as well as parents and teachers to become more aware of the benefits of saving money and the interest that can be earned from saving through their local village savings bank.