CUFA Staff’s Myanmar Journey

Written by Volodymyr Vasylenkov, Corporate Liaison Manager, CUFA

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – a famous saying of the ancient philosopher. “Even the longest and most difficult ventures have a starting point” is another one…

Myanmar’s new journey began in 2011.

I took mine a few months ago – part of the CUFA’s quest in helping rural people of Myanmar to break free of poverty.

This is a typical village in the rural area of the Yangon region.

Any men? Yes, but most of them are working in the field – morning to night earning around $1.25 a day to feed their families. 1 dollar 25 cents.

The lowest Opal fare in Sydney is $2.10. The price of the return trip, $4.20, is more than a villager in Myanmar will get in 2-3 hard-working days in the field. Now, does that mean that $4,20 will change a life? I would argue NO. Will $42 change a life? I would again say NO.

Giving money has never changed lives, for better. Teaching how to use it, providing the skills, knowledge and resources to earn and save it is what makes the impact.

This became a part of yet another CUFA program in Myanmar – the development of community-owned savings groups. And this is where I went to visit.

The people that you see in this picture live in extreme poverty. And this is not just an emotional talk – it is the term used by the World Bank to describe someone living on an average of $1.90 a day.

The people I’ve met cannot take out loans nor even approach micro-enterprise organizations.

Why? They are just too poor – they have no collateral and no guarantees. But what they do have is their will, hope and trust, if one earns it. It has been a great privilege to witness the level of trust CUFA has managed to establish with rural communities of Myanmar.

But what generates trust? Being consistent in delivering your promises? Being honest and faithful? Or perhaps fighting through the mud to deliver the important knowledge of your projects?

This is Amy, CUFA Project Officer. And no, it is not her day-off. This photo was taken during a usual visit to one of the communities enrolled into the program.

This dedication means a lot to CUFA, to me and, most importantly, to the people in the villages we work with.

Dedication creates trust, too.

This is another photo I took during my visit – of the rice fields that lie between one of the villages and the closest town.

This means that when the fields are flooded – the village is isolated for months…

I have seen many approaches in my life but the one that impresses me the most is the one I saw in the trip. The approach that groups every villager together, teaches them to use their own advantages (and challenges!) to the benefit of their community and empowers them to start a savings group and work miracles for the futures of their children. This is where CUFA stands. This is where the difference is made.

The culture of Myanmar and the beauty of Yangon are unbelievable!

with the Shwedagon Pagoda

and fantastic places to see. The people are extremely kind and hospitable.

Burmese people are the type of people who will give you everything they’ve got even when they’ve got none.

After I came back, people have been asking me: “What did you like the most about Myanmar?”. I answer: “People”.

There is a saying that “business IS people”, but I believe that “business is FOR people and WITH people”. CUFA is working FOR people in the Asia-Pacific region and provides opportunities for businesses in Australia to start their own journeys in helping people in real need. Businesses like yours. And if you want to learn more about CUFA and share the needs of YOUR business – let’s meet. We are just a few bus stops away…

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