Teachers Mutual Bank’s Senior Credit Assessor Bev Graham’s first overseas trip was a baptism of fire in more ways than one. For Bev, a seasoned Bank employee of over 19 years, being selected for the cooperative’s recent study tour to Cambodia was “like winning the lottery.”
“I was so excited when I was told, I burst into tears,” said Bev, who works in Teachers Mutual Bank’s Parramatta office. While Bev and her study tour colleagues were expecting a hectic schedule of classroom visits, teaching and meeting Village Entrepreneurs, they weren’t so prepared for the 42-degree heat.
“Even the local people said it was extreme,” recalled Bev.
Bev, a mother and grandmother, was astounded at the motivation of the teachers and the excitement of the children. “We were only in the classrooms for a few hours, and it was smothering. Imagine spending a whole day in that heat.”
Bev grew up in the small town of Temora in rural NSW – approximately 90 kilometres from Wagga – so she’s well versed in the difficulties families encounter in a time of crisis. “My passion is to give back to the community in an endeavour to make life more comfortable for those who find themselves in situations out of their control, whether it be financial, personal or medical,” she explained.
With this in mind she also contributes her time to organisations like Stewart House and Ronald McDonald House, both helping those living in regional and rural areas.
The other commitment close to her heart is CUFA. The close Teachers Mutual Bank-CUFA partnership is built on our mutual commitment to education and sustainability. But Bev’s CUFA connection goes even deeper: she met her husband Owen at a CUFA Development Education (DE) program in 2002.
“Since the DE program I have always been passionate about the work that CUFA does and have always imagined how fantastic it would be to visit some of these areas.”
She and Owen are now looking forward to travelling to more projects in the future. On her recent Cambodia trip, Bev was profoundly struck by the stark contrast between life in Australia and Cambodia. “What we take for granted – things like running water, electricity, a fan, a computer or printer in the classroom – they have none of this,” she explained.
“One Village Entrepreneur we visited had to walk several kilometres each day just to get fresh water for her family.
“Now, thanks to her business, she has been able to install a water pump at home. She was so grateful to the program, and so proud of what she had achieved.”
To see this pride among all the VE’s they visited was another aspect that struck Bev and the group deeply.
“We visited VE’s in various stages of their business development,” she explained. “Those that had been operating a while had made remarkable changes for their family and to their homes.”
Even more heartening for Bev was the fact that the majority of VEs – 72% to be exact – are women. “The men are out working other jobs – or at least seeking work,” she explained. “But even if they do have work, many of them are earning the princely sum of just $1 a day. They aren’t able to support their family on that.
“That’s why the VE program makes such a huge difference to families.”
Like all visitors to CUFA’s VE program, once back home Bev was keen to communicate how simple it is to help individuals in the community – and how, in the true spirit of the cooperative society, those individuals then go on to support the whole village with increased financial literacy, role modelling, mentoring and boosting savings in their local savings bank.
“I came back with even more sense of purpose,” said Bev. “To see how happy these people were – even though they had so little – was an inspiration. I never heard one child say they wanted the latest iPad or gadget. It was all about saving to buy a new ruler or school uniform and – for every one of them – about going to University one day.
“What a bonus: I got my first overseas trip plus the chance to witness firsthand the work CUFA does, and the difference the money from the Bank and staff make to these families.”
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