Earlier this year Cufa hosted staff from one of our biggest supporters, Teachers Mutual Bank (TMB), over in Cambodia to participate in a study tour. The tour comprised of four days full of activities that varied from cultural and historical activities to visiting our projects and learning about some of the participant's amazing stories.
The trip began with learning about the dark history of Cambodia with a visit to the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng (Genocide Museum). This helped everyone gather a greater level of understanding of how Cambodia’s development as a country has been shaped and the need for Cufa’s work. Following a break and lunch, everyone dived straight in with visits to a variety of Cufa’s projects such as the Children’s Financial Literacy classes, a Credit Union Development savings bank visits and seeing a Village Entrepreneur’s business.
The approach from the second and third day was much more hands-on with the TMB team able to get involved in a variety of activities whether it was explaining basic financial concepts, playing traditional games with students or learning how to craft pots with local business owners.
The final day saw the trip winding down before flying back to Australia the following day and included visits to local communities and sites that have been assisted by former Cufa projects. It gave everyone an opportunity to see how Cufa operates and visit some staff.
Every night was accompanied by a delicious dinner at a local restaurant, a cultural experience in itself.
Two of our Cufa staff members that accompanied the group throughout the tour were project coordinators Sreyneang Pok and Tola Chhorn. They thoroughly enjoyed hosting staff from TMB and had this to say of the trip.
“I enjoyed showing our guests the Children’s Financial Literacy and Village Entrepreneur programs and as most of our guests had banking backgrounds, the objectives of these two programs is very aligned with their expertise. The Children’s Financial Literacy kids are always very interested to learn about the saving habits of Australian kids and how they save. I feel like the guests could learn a lot from the kids and Village Entrepreneur families.” Sreyneang Pok, Project Coordinator Cufa
“Our guests were very interested in the project activities, they were great listeners, asked many questions and got involved with many of the activities in the community. They were kind enough to share their experiences and skills with local people in the community and we had time to exchange many stories.” – Tola Chhorn, Project Coordinator Cufa
From everyone at Cufa, thank you to the TMB team for being such amazing guests!
If you would like to organise something similar with your workplace please contact us at email@example.com
Stay tuned next month to see what some of the TMB staff thought of the study tour!
The Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) program was established by Cufa in 2012 as a response to families being left vulnerable by the Cambodian government’s decision to rehabilitate a disused railway track where they had been living. Recently, this program has reached its completion, providing us with an excellent opportunity to reflect upon our work over the years in developing communities.
Funded by the Asian Development Bank, SRIRI is one of our most comprehensive and diverse programs. It provides broad-ranging support for families to restart their lives across five resettlement sites, whilst also ensuring the community as a whole is safe, secure and sustainable. The project operations are threefold, exercising each of Cufa’s specialties–employment, education, and economic institutions.
The first stage of the program is the Vocational Placement Strategy (VPS). It addresses employment and vocational training. Participants were assisted by being placed in jobs that matched their skillsets. Individuals were also provided debt relief, loans, and counselling and groups were taught life skills, financial literacy, CV writing and interview skills.
The second stage of SRIRI establishes Self Help Groups (SHG). These provide training and support in financial concepts. Resettlement sites are also linked to economic institutions that encourage participants to begin saving for the future.
The third stage is the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) project which is operated by volunteers in the community to look after the cleanliness and sustainability of the local environment. They are trained by Cufa on how to adequately monitor and repair key elements of the community such as the water supply, drainage, waste management, roads and vegetation.
The overarching goal of SRIRI is to provide displaced community members with all the important tools so they can live sustainably and have improved livelihoods in their new communities.
The program achieved some amazing results from across all five of the sites where it operated. Household incomes were increased, communities were provided a quality education and the O&M project made the communities more liveable. Thousands of people, especially women, were educated in financial literacy, vocational training was provided across the sites imparting crucial skills for people to get jobs and livelihood groups were developed as people got into business. All in all, Cufa has been extremely happy with the development of these communities and with the knowledge that at the culmination of the program these communities will be able to continue to develop and grow.
Cufa reported on many success stories throughout the program. Some of these included:
Sok was a participant who became interested in cleaning up her community after suffering from many issues around her house due to a lack of rubbish disposal causing flooding. She became an inspirational figure in her community encouraging others to do the same.
Torn was able to benefit from the VPS program by getting a new job at a local guesthouse. He excelled in his position and shortly afterwards earned himself a promotion.
Noeun Bunny married his wife Pork Srey Nic in 2015. Like many young couples, they dreamed of starting a family. It wasn’t long before this dream came true and now they have a young daughter. To support his young family, Noeun worked in a garment factory for years. This was until he was selected to participate in Cufa’s LEED program and become a business owner.
Noeun’s previous work in the garment factory taught him a range of sewing and craft skills. However, the job involved extremely long hours, it was very far from home and the factory had very poor management. He wanted to be able to better care for his young child and be able to spend more time at home. For this reason, Noeun decided to open his own business and become a tailor.
Since receiving the support of Cufa’s LEED program, Noeun has attended capacity building training, micro-enterprise development training and received one-on-one consultations from Cufa project officers on how to improve his business. After developing a business plan, gaining training in marketing strategy and microfinance, Noeun’s business has rapidly increased.
Noeun has been able to purchase new sewing equipment and has a larger range of materials including branded materials. Thanks to all this training and the beneficial changes that have been made, Noeun believes his business has tripled and this has led to him increasing the financial support he can provide for his family.
“It is a good location, I have more confidence in managing my business and the future looks great for me and my family!” said Noeun.
Through many of his new business skills, Noeun has been able to manage his daily expenses, reinvest profits and even save some of his income, which is amounting to around 10,000 Cambodian Riels a day or $3.50. He has even been able to invest in a small second business farming chickens. The improvements in the living conditions of his family are evident and many of his neighbours often ask him how he gained such success.
Noeun credits much of the success as a business owner to the support he received through the program, primarily in building his business skill set and buying new materials.
Chaem Han is a 40-year-old father of three living in Kampong Chhnang Province, Cambodia. Unfortunately, Chaem was forced to drop out of school during grade six. This was because of a deteriorating family and financial situation and he started to work as a labourer building houses. Chaem has continued this work intermittently while farming rice and after he met his wife and started a family he decided to start a business.
Chaem’s business, a barbershop, began in an old hut and was not initially doing well. This was until in 2018 when Chaem was selected to participate in and gain support and training from Cufa’s LEED program.
Since his involvement in the program began, he has attended capacity building training, micro-enterprise training and received consultations to improve his business. After developing a business plan with the help of Cufa staff, Chaem was trained on market strategy and provided materials and equipment for his barbershop.
Chaem has set his prices at 2500 riels ($0.88) for children and 3000 riels ($1.05) for adults. His customers have been coming from both inside his village and from surrounding villages. His success has been steadily increasing from two to three customers up to six a day now.
In addition, using the business skills Chaem has picked up from the program he has recently opened a second business cleaning motorbikes. This can earn him up to 10,000 riels a day on top of what he earns as a barber and he has been using the budgeting skills he learnt from the program to better care for his family finances.
As his business has increased his income and improved his living conditions his neighbours have been asking him about his business success and where to learn the necessary skills. Chaem is now full of confidence after learning life-changing skills in the program and is looking at building another, larger business in the future – a grocery store.
Chaem had to say of the program, “Thank you so much to Cufa for the significant support, not just with material and equipment but also for the business skills.”
Sustainable development has been defined in many ways but put most simply:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
What are the sustainable development goals?
The 17 sustainable development goals are a set of global goals established by the United Nationals General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. The goals are broad and interdependent, yet each has a separate list of targets to achieve. Achieving all 169 targets would signal to accomplish all 17 goals. The goals cover social, economic and environmental development issues including poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, clean water, sanitation, affordable energy, decent work, inequality, urbanization, global warming, environment, social justice and peace.
Why should we concentrate on sustainable development programs?
As sustainable development focuses on creating change for current and future generations it means that there will be fewer people relying on assistance in the long term. Developing programs in which you promote self-determination, a trait that is easily passed on through generations, not only improves the lives of those families but also improves the local community and national economy. Imparting people with education and skills helps reduce reliance on handouts and creates brighter futures for not only current but also future generations.
Why does Cufa do it?
At Cufa we believe in a hand up not a handout. Our vision is for the communities of the Asia-Pacific to be free from poverty through economic development and self-determination. We are committed to achieving this through grassroots programs that focus on education, empowerment, entrepreneurship and financial institutions. Thus, our programs provide a range of ways for people to create better incomes for themselves, breaking free from poverty and helping them and their children to achieve the remaining sustainable development goals.
How does Cufa do it?
Over 90% of contributions to Cufa go directly into local communities where they are used to build financial institutions like credit unions, giving the most disadvantaged people a safe and affordable place to save their money. Credit union staff and members are then taught vital financial literacy skills, equipping them with the tools to save and handle their finances. Loans and savings groups are also made available at credit unions so that people can start their own small business, with Cufa project officers teaching the crucial business skills for these businesses to become successful.
Imparting these skills, knowledge and financial access provides people with a hand up, not a handout, a livelihood that can be passed on to future generations to break the poverty cycle.
Across Cambodia, there are hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities. These people are of differing ages and genders and could have acquired a disability from birth, as a result of a medical issue such as polio or from the civil war or a landmine. These disabilities cause a multitude of issues for these people such as getting a job or obtaining an education. Services for these people are few and far between and thus, many resort to begging to feed themselves and their family.
Sokhorn Kreung is a 46-year-old single mother of 2 orphaned children. She contracted polio when she was young and lost the use of her legs. About 4 years ago, after Sokhorn took in 2 orphaned children she decided to use her savings to start a business selling grocery products and snacks. The business was very small but helped her avoid begging for money on the streets.
Not long after at a community meeting, she raised how she was struggling with the cost of living and couldn’t afford school supplies for her children. She was concerned about being able to provide food for her family every day as borrowing money at high interest rates and paying for medical supplies for her children had crippled her financially.
Sokhorn’s wish was granted and she was directed towards Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program where she gained sponsorship for her business. This provided her with the finance to improve, fixing her stall and expanding her product range and learning new business skills that would stay with her long past her completion of the program. She said of her involvement, “I am really glad that my business has now improved and I have more profit to support my family.”
Cufa holds training sessions and business consultations once a quarter, along with one-on-one assistance being made available. Sokhorn has learnt a lot from the training as she said, “Previously I had no idea how to market my business to customers. Now I know many ways in which I can do this. Things like customer service skills, keeping my stall clean and bookkeeping have given me much success."
Now, Sokhorn has been able to purchase new school uniforms, stationery and pay for the study that her children have undertaken. In addition, she can now afford medicine and also does not need to take a loan out to buy rice which she sometimes did before.
Finally, Sokhorn had to say of the program, “Many thanks for the support. I will always work hard and do my best to care for my business. I now look forward to the future as I can further improve my life and provide for my children.”
Find out more about how Cufa is changing lives through the Village Entrepreneur program.
Financial literacy is the combination of financial, credit and debt management and the knowledge that assists us in making fiscally responsible decisions. A financial education can differ from country to country but includes an understanding of how a bank account works, what credit means and how to use it and most importantly how to avoid debt.
Why is financial literacy so important?
The importance of financial literacy cannot be understated as it develops our ability to negotiate the financial landscape, manage risks and avoid financial pitfalls. Generally, less-educated and low-income consumers tend to be less financially literate and countries where the rate of poverty is quite high, for example, Cambodia tend to have very low financial literacy rates. Thus, if you do not know how to save money, make a financial plan, understand credit and many more financial skills, it will be very difficult for you and your children to break the poverty cycle.
Why does Cufa do it?
Cufa believes that a quality financial literacy to be one of four core pillars in empowering people to break the poverty cycle, not only for themselves but also for their children and their children. For many people, their means of finding a way out of poverty are limited by their incomplete understanding of basic financial concepts and ideas.
Financial education is not just important for helping save for the future, it also helps effectively understand and make better financial decisions. This prevents people from obtaining unsustainable debts that can often push people further into poverty due to the lack of income generation and financial education.
How do we do it?
Many of Cufa’s programs educate participants about financial literacy. Lessons are provided and delivered through a variety of different mediums for the most effective knowledge retention. Due to this, a strong basis for localised economic development is created and provides people with the tools to lift themselves from poverty.
Cufa teaches financial literacy with the aim to educate all members of communities, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. The knowledge and impact of a financial education can, therefore, be passed on for future generations.
Some of the programs
Though most of Cufa’s programs have an element of financial literacy, the three main programs are:
- Children’s Financial Literacy: Teaching disadvantaged students financial literacy in a fun and engaging way
- Female Financial Empowerment: Providing women in Myanmar the tools to manage their finances and build a successful business
- Credit Union Development: Enabling extremely rural communities to gain financial access and education in order to build their income capacity
Financial inclusion is where individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs and are delivered in a sustainable way. Financial inclusion for women is a key enabler in reducing poverty and boosting prosperity. Here at Cufa, we focus on the most disadvantaged rural communities where we find women need the most assistance and thus, many of our programs focus on providing them financial products, training and education, forming the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
What is financial Inclusion and how does it help women?
Obtaining access to a bank account is the first step towards financial inclusion. This access facilitates day-to-day living and helps both families and businesses plan for the future. As an account holder, people are more likely to begin using other services like loans and insurance, expanding their earning potential by investing in business, education and risk management. Great strides have been made worldwide with 1.2 billion people gaining a bank account since 2011 and now 69% of adults have a bank account. However, there are still over 1 billion women that are unbanked.
Why is it important to empower women with financial inclusion?
Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make vast contributions to economies whether it is in business, agriculture, as entrepreneurs or in unpaid work such as care at home. Basically, when more women work, economies grow. It is estimated that gender gaps can cost an economy over 15% of GDP.
How does Cufa provide women with financial inclusion?
Many of Cufa’s programs focus on empowering women. The Female Financial Empowerment program in Myanmar has a sole focus on providing financial inclusion for women through support, financial services and business skills. Members gain access to a savings account and microfinance and are taught financial literacy and a variety of business skills alongside a leadership skills workshop.
Pisey Chhom is a fifteen year old girl living in Svay Rieng province. She has been lucky enough to learn a range of financial literacy skills in a fun and engaging way through Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program. Pisey hopes she can use her knowledge from the program to help her achieve her goal of reaching university!
She is part of a large family with two brothers and a sister along with her parents who work selling groceries in their store. Pisey is currently studying in grade eleven at her local high school which is a ten minute bicycle ride from her house. The dream Pisey currently has is to become an engineer and thus she is studying all science related subjects as part of her education.
Previously, Pisey paid little attention to saving her money. She received a small allowance of 1000 riels ($0.35) a day to take to school. This would usually be spent on snacks or toys as Pisey have any savings goals. She started working with her parents in their store and began to notice how hard they would work. In addition to working at the stall, her parents also sold much of their produce at the markets including the chickens and pigs that they farm.
Four years ago Pisey joined the Children’s Financial Literacy program and learnt a range of savings skills that will help her later in life. She asked her mother to buy her a piggy bank which she started using religiously. Now Pisey earns more money thanks to her work tutoring younger students and busking. She is able to use the savings skills that she learnt from Cufa project officers and has been able to save up for some new stationery and study material for school and even a bicycle.
“My father encouraged me to save after reading the program workbooks and even empowered me by opening an account with our local credit union to help.” Pisey described. She now has over $650 saved in this account and everyone in the family has opened one.
Pisey’s father had to say of her journey, “I hope the money she saves every day will help her to study and in reaching university and achieving her big dream.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has taught over 100,000 disadvantaged students across Cambodia and Myanmar about developing improved savings habits in a fun and engaging way.
Cufa’s LEED program teaches disadvantaged rural villagers business skills, with a focus on businesses for people with disabilities. Thanks to the program, Meun Ith has been able to build a successful motorbike repairs business completely changing his life.
Meun grew up in rural Cambodia and stopped studying at a young age to help his parents work. Unfortunately, when Meun was young a tree fell on him, breaking his leg and leaving him with a lifelong disability. He now lives in Kompong Chhang province, central Cambodia with his wife and two sons.
Due to his limited education, Meun was working as a mechanic earning a modest income. He had the opportunity to learn some skills in this position, however, he lacked the crucial business knowledge to make more money from these skills.
Meun started his small motorbike repair business in April 2018. He did this with a small plot of land and an initial investment of $500. While first starting his business he encountered many challenges such as having no budget and lacking the proper electronic tools.
Meun joined Cufa’s LEED program shortly after and was selected as a target beneficiary for the program. This allowed him to receive special training and business consultation. Hence, Meun was able to develop a business work plan and gain skills in many business concepts. He also received new electronic tools from the program. The business began to grow very quickly due to this help, as did Meun’s confidence.
Currently, Meun is earning around $8 a day from his business, managing to save around $3 of this. Moreover, he has been able to budget wisely for his daily expenses like food, but his most important cost is his son's education. His improving business has led to a much better living standard. Looking towards the future, Meun would like to extend his store and start selling beverages as well for extra income.
He had to say, “I want to thank Cufa so much for providing significant support to my business in the community”