As you might know, due to the spread of Covid-19, the Village Entrepreneur program has been disrupted on multiple occasions, resulting in our Cambodian staff pivoting to the use of video lessons, phone and online communication.
Recently, as the Cambodian government allows the resume of travel around some parts of the country, the Cufa staff travelled to the Kampong Chhnang and Takeo provinces. As part of the quarterly monitoring and evaluation, Cufa surveyed business progress and provided financial and technical training to the Village Entrepreneurs. During this visit, our staff was able to meet face-to-face with 24 recipients and share new skills in the areas of agriculture and bookkeeping. Our staff also had the opportunity to engage with the community and discussed their situation during the pandemic. In general, they expressed their satisfaction to be able to attend group trainings again and share business ideas with other Village Entrepreneurs. Many of the community members found that not only do the group meetings allow the interaction among businesses, but also reinforces their sense of community to lift themselves out of intergenerational poverty.
Once travel to all provinces where we operate the Village Entrepreneur program is allowed, Cufa will recommence face-to-face consultation and training. To protect individuals from the pandemic, our staff will continue applying social distancing measures and hand sanitation.
As some of you know, the continuing lockdown measures implemented around regional Cambodia have disrupted the businesses of our Village Entrepreneurs. Although our Cufa staff is able to provide training online and via telephone, the display of products and livestock to clients has been challenging for our VEs.
As a result, some of our VEs are now promoting their products online. Among these is Samnang Sok, husband and father of two children, whose business was greatly impacted by Covid. Since 2018, Samnang has been an active VE member, receiving financial support to expand his vegetable farm thanks to his Community Investor in Australia. During the pandemic in 2020, Samnang, along with many of his fellow VEs, was able to rapidly adapt to the pandemic through sanitation methods and social distancing, but as 2021 brought a higher number of Covid cases to Cambodia, the recent lockdown measures threatened his sales.
Thanks to the marketing skills provided by our Cambodian staff, Samnang now promotes all his products on social media, ensuring he can maintain a constant engagement with his clients, whilst also providing social distancing, packaging, and home delivery. Throughout these challenging times, Cufa will continue providing training and support to all our VEs, maximising their profits and lifting them and their families out of poverty.
We are proud to announce that thanks to the hard work of Greg Patmore and Mark Westcott, Cufa now has a definitive and comprehensive history of us!
The book details the 50 years of Cufa’s development, from our origins in 1971 to our modern programs in the Asia-Pacific region. It covers our long history with Credit Unions here in Australia and abroad, and how Cufa has become what it is today. Thanks to the diligent research done by Greg Patmore and Mark Westcott, the book offers in depth insights into the inner management of Cufa at key moments. Patmore and Westcott, with their deep knowledge of the Credit Union Movement, provide a robust history of the Australian, and at points global, Credit Union Movement.
Complete with images from across our 50 year history, the book tells not only Cufa’s story, but the wider story of the community minded spirit of the Credit Unions and the transformation of the industry from 1971 to 2021.
If you are interested in purchasing one, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week, Cufa Cambodia had the pleasure to welcome the delegates from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to Khtouy Boun, one of the Credit Unions(CU) established by Cufa through DFAT’s financial assistance.
During their visit, the delegates had the opportunity to meet with CU members, who expressed how the access to low interest loans for their businesses has created a positive outcome in their community. Up to this date, the Khtouy Boun CU has a total deposit of USD $10,554.88 in savings, resulting in a monthly interest of 1.5% and 2.5% for loans. Further to this, each member has access to receive loans that double their amount of saving deposited into the CU. As our staff continued demonstrating the achievements done by Cufa, they were proud to report that 50% of our members are female, including children who have started their financial journey from an early age.
After the visit to Khtouy Boun, our staff shared the achievements of another ANCP funded project in regional Cambodia, the Livelihoods Program. This program, unlike all others, has seen an enormous change in the past 15 months due to Covid-19. From liquid-soap making, to recycling, our staff shared the approach implemented to mitigate the risks of the pandemic, as well as the impact on the environment.
DFAT’s visit provides a bigger picture of the challenges, but also innovation that Covid has brought to our programs. Cufa along with DFAT’s assistance, will continue providing life-changing programs to the Asia-Pacific region.
While the Village Entrepreneur Program often lasts about 3 years until a VE becomes self-sustainable, the spread of Covid-19 and the lockdown measures have prevented our Cufa Officers from visiting these provinces. Nonetheless, as the program continues, so do our staff. Through video calls, phone calls and emails, our local staff have been successful in maintaining contact with our VE, whilst also providing the necessary technical and financial support.
Recently, our local staff spoke with Vun Vorn, a mother of 5 who commenced her VE journey as a grocery seller in June 2020. After a difficult year, our staff discussed some of Vun’s achievements during her first year as a VE. Among one of her most surprising successes, Vun only had an income of about $28 per week, which she had to split among her 5 children for clothing, education, food and home expenses. As her business grew and her sales increased, Vun now earns around $100 per week and expected to grow even more in the coming years.
“Previously, my husband and I struggled to pay the education of 2 of our children who are in high school. Now, despite the pandemic, we can provide for their education at home, as they’re currently taking online classes”
As Vun continues to proactively save and budget her profits to expand her business, Cufa is eager to keep providing support to all VEs by all means possible and hopes to have the possibility to visit these communities once travel is permitted.
In May 2020, our Livelihoods program pivoted to meet high demands for sanitation products, due to the unexpected turn of events brought by Covid-19. Since then, Community Soap Enterprises such as the Rung Roeung Soap Community have made their goals clear; to produce and sell affordable dishwashing and laundry soap to people in remote villages, whose access to liquid soap is difficult due to high costs; and to generate income and jobs to support their community members during the pandemic.
As part of Cufa’s commitment to the environment, we encouraged our Community Soap Enterprises members to recycle plastic bottles, often littered around the community. This initiative resulted in the Rung Roeung Soap Community reusing bottles, reducing costs, and maximizing profits.
“My team and I collected these bottles, clean and ensure they are for hygiene and quality standards for reuse. By recycling these bottles, not only do we reduce costs or purchasing new bottles for use, but also, we are taking care of the environment, particularly in our community” - Mr. Choun
Despite recent lockdown measures being implemented in various provinces of Cambodia, Cufa remains committed to equip and provide assistance to its recipients with our grassroots approach to alleviating poverty.
2021 marks Cufa’s 50th year, and to commemorate this, Cufa has worked with two knowledgeable scholars from Sydney University to write the history of Cufa, our work, and the wider Australian Credit Union community. Cufa’s history has been masterfully brought together by using sources from Cufa’s own historical archives, the scholar’s in-depth knowledge, and the Australian Mutual History Archives in Sydney. This collaboration has enabled Cufa and our colleagues to uncover some truly interesting moments in Cufa’s history. From our time in the Russian region of Kuzbass following the collapse of the Soviet Union to our early work in developing Credit Unions in post-war South Korea.
One interesting piece of history we would love to share with you has been the long connection that Cufa has had with Cambodia. Starting in 1998, Cufa worked with CARE Cambodia to encourage rural-based activities to increase women’s influence in financial decision-making, with Cufa leading a field team in Battambang.
Our next foray into Cambodia began when we used our previous work with CARE Cambodia to establish the Cambodian Community Savings Federation in June 2003. Since then, Cufa has worked in Cambodia in the areas of Children’s Financial Literacy, building Institutional trust and capacity building on our programs in Cambodia. Even today, we are continuing to expand our programs with our latest Soap Livelihoods Improvement Program having begun during the COVID-19 Crisis in 2020.