As a man who could not read or write and lacked the critical skills to find employment, Chek Chin was struggling to make ends meet with his family. Basic necessities like food, healthcare and his children’s education were an ongoing struggle until he found out about Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program.
It all started when he noticed his neighbour’s chicken farming business excelling. His neighbour was a participant in Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program. This led Chek to go to his local community-owned bank to sign up for sponsorship.
Initially, Chek started off the program by setting up a chicken farm. However, once he had developed his chicken farm, he started a second business building and selling cement stairways. This business was very successful because of the large amount of raised houses in Cambodia.
Recently, Chek was determined to have a sustainable business by Cufa project officers. Throughout the program, Cufa project officers gave Chek assistance and guidance, with quarterly field trips to see successful businesses, one-on-one support and more. Thanks to this, Chek not only was able to learn how to make good quality stairs and effectively farm chickens but also gained a strong understanding of market assessments, business admin and chicken food production.
Chek now has a quarterly income of $943.74 but that did not come without challenges. Throughout the program, his biggest challenge was the competition from other local chicken farms. However, starting a second business to differentiate helped his income. Additionally, consistently promoting his business and maintaining customer relationships meant that this issue was easily overcome.
He had to say to his sponsor, “Many thanks, I appreciate your kind support. My businesses have developed well and I now have a great workplace. I now have enough cement stairways, chickens and materials to sustain my family and businesses in the long-term.”
At the beginning of November, Cufa held a small business workshop event in Roka Village, Svay Rieng province, Cambodia. The event hosted participants that included, women and people with disabilities. The participants strengthened their capacity to share knowledge about key successful business methods. It also gave them the opportunity to discuss and learn about each other's personal achievements. Consequently, it has provided local communities with the chance to expand their rural business development knowledge.
The workshop was part of Cufa’s LEED program that focuses on increasing the incomes of rural community members through small business development. It provides education in both areas of business skills development and agricultural activities.
LEED project officer Chanthy Chhoeun hosted the day. He spent a large portion of it working through the main points. These were:
- Identifying the largest challenges of businesses and their solutions
- Discussing the key points that have helped successful businesses to excel
- How to manage a budget for a small business
The day also had a visit from a guest speaker, Mey Moa. Mey started his own business, a grocery store, in 2014 with minimal experience and a small loan. He inspired the crowd with his story and explained how he had recently opened a second business, a beauty salon. Mey was able to change his life and is now a very well respected and successful businessman in his village. Thus, much of his success he says is thanks to working hard, developing his business skills and showing solidarity with his family.
After the event participants left with their knowledge improved in multiple areas of business management and development. It was a very helpful forum to share experiences and ask questions. Moreover, many participants were excited to start putting into practice some of the skills including developing a business plan and budget. There will be many extremely busy businesses in the near future with harvesting season around the corner.
Chanthy said of the event, “It was great they could learn how to start a small business with small capital and develop many skills. It has also been important to discuss how to operate your business together as husband and wife.”
Sam Pholirak is a young boy living in Cambodia who had not developed very good spending habits. He often asked his parents for money to take to school and spent it on toys, snacks and other small items without knowing how hard his parents worked to make their money. After attending Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program he has improved savings habits and gained a better appreciation for the hard work of his parents.
Sam lives in Boeng Village, Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia with his family – his parents, two siblings and aunt. He is currently studying in Grade 7 at the local secondary school and his put little thought towards his future. His parents work as farmers, growing rice, chickens and pigs, earning enough to save a small amount each month.
He did not know the value of money and wasn’t aware of needing it for emergencies. Sam’s aunt had previously given him 4000 riels ($1.36) a week to take to school. She said “I am now 56 and am beginning to develop health problems so I cannot work as much. I am on the committee for our local community-owned bank so could suggest for him to open a bank account.”
2015 was when Sam first received his Children’s Financial Literacy education. He asked his mother if she could buy him a piggy bank to start using to commit to his savings. It wasn’t long before Sam had saved up enough money to buy himself a bicycle. “After I learnt about savings at school and showed my aunt the lesson book she was very encouraging and now I have saved for a bike,” Sam said.
His mother continues to give her children 2000 riel ($0.68) to take to school as pocket money. She encourages them to save as much as they can. “I want Sam to finish university, so I always encourage him to study hard. I hope the money he saves every day will help him to achieve this goal,” she describes.
Sam is now very optimistic about the future. His ability to create savings goals and knowledge of financial literacy has given him more independence and increased his interest in his education.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program teaches disadvantaged students across Cambodia and Myanmar about developing improved savings habits in a fun and engaging way.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has recently reached the milestone of teaching over 100,000 students.
The program was first started in 2008 as a fun and engaging way to teach financial education to disadvantaged students. Cufa has been able to grow the program immensely in the past few years. It has expanded from Cambodia to Myanmar, growing the number of children reached. Cufa has also worked together with Teachers Mutual Bank and CPA Australia to develop the program further with CPA Australia helping develop the Count4Kids app.
The program encourages students to set both short and long-term goals and hence, we continue to witness a multitude of success stories such as Samnang, who maintains aspirations of studying to become an engineer in Cambodia.
The growing success of the program has seen 66% of participants actively saving over the past 3 years. Alongside this, there has been a 236% increase in savings per child over that same time period. In the past 1.75 years, Cufa has educated over 22,500 students with over 1000 lessons. As a result, the growth and development of the program is constantly increasing.
Read about the vast impact that the program and Cufa’s work has on children in our recent Social Return on Investment report.
The success of the program doesn’t stop with the children educated. The student's families also benefit from their participation in the program as they are provided access to community-owned banks. Consequently, they can gain financial services like a savings account and access to finance in the form of business loans.
Over 100,000 students have been imparted the tools to develop lifelong savings habits at a young age thanks to the program. Therefore, many have been able to steer clear of poverty using these financial tools. We hope to reach many more to provide this opportunity in the future!
Find out more about the amazing Children’s Financial Literacy program.
Previously in the year, we spoke with Saren Koh from our Livelihood Enhancement for Economic Development (LEED) program in Cambodia. We recently caught up with Saren to see how she was progressing in the program.
Saren is a 31-year-old mother of 2 living in Krampong Chnang province. Initially, like many in Cambodia, Saren primarily worked as a farmer. However, with an initial loan of $200, she was able to start her own welding business primarily focused on roofing. Over time she developed more skills from the LEED program for her business and this has allowed her to expand. She now does welding for a larger amount of customers building roofs, doors, balconies, frames and much more.
We asked Saren a few questions about how LEED is improving her livelihood!
How have you been improving your business? We have built relationships and networked with relatives, villagers and other businesses. We saw the market demand and plan to continue to expand networking with builders both inside and outside our community.
What progress has your business made? Our income has been increased by a large amount. Welding iron is a great business as there are many people that need your services. People like villagers, builders and even schools need items like roofs, doors and windows.
How has your life changed for you and your family? We have had a significant change in our lives. I have better business skills, more income and have built confidence in doing business. My family has also benefitted greatly as we are much more involved in the community now and I can send my children to school.
The LEED program strengthens the economic development and improves the lives of disadvantaged Cambodians, particularly women and those with disabilities. This is achieved through education, vocational training and financial inclusion.
Cufa project officers provide training through theory and real practice for business skills and development. Participants are also provided financial literacy lessons and connected to a community-owned bank for financial services. This is all done with the aim of successfully improving the livelihood of villagers across rural Cambodia.
Find out more about Cufa's LEED program.
Samnang Sum is studying in grade six at Udom Sorya Primary School in Takeo province, regional Cambodia. As a participant of Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) program, Samnang has been able to change his financial habits. He has opened a savings account and is making contributions with a goal. He is aiming to support his education and become an engineer in Cambodia.
Samnang is the oldest son in a family of five. As the oldest, he does most of the housework. These duties include taking care of the animals and cleaning when his parents are not home. Due to this, his father, who works as a local vet, gives him 1500 Riels ($0.50 AUD) a day to take to school.
Initially, before Samnang was taught by the CFL program, he liked spending this money on snacks and toys, without thinking about how hard his parents worked to provide him with this money.
The CFL program taught Samnang about managing his savings and developing a short and long-term goal. It also assisted in him opening a savings account with his local village savings bank. Cufa project officers use a variety of mediums to teach financial literacy ranging from workbooks and tablets in school to home visits to reinforce the lessons and check the progress.
Due to the CFL program, Samnang has been much more attentive to his savings. He better understands the value of money and how hard his parents work to earn for their family. Consequently, he has been able to save around $200 USD in his savings account over the past 2 years. Now Samnang has made his long-term savings goal to save up enough money to pay for a tertiary education to become an engineer in Cambodia!
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has taught over 90,000 children since its inception. In the past 3 years, 66% of participants have been actively saving. Since the CFL program started in 2008, the average monthly savings from each child has increased by 236% from $0.89 to $2.99.
Cufa is extremely excited to begin a new project in rural Cambodia with the aim of empowering women. The project will be funded by the British Embassy in Phnom Penh with the specific focus of strengthening Cambodian women’s voices and encouraging participation within communities.
The project covers four key topic areas:
- Benefits of community engagement
- Confidence Building
- Public Speaking
- Women’s Networking Forums
The community relationships that Cufa has formed through our Credit Union Development program and extensive experience working in rural Cambodia will assist us in the project’s implementation. It will be delivered across 21 villages in four provinces and measure the participation rates of women in organisations such as credit unions and village committees. The results will see a higher participation rate and deeper engagement for women within communities. This will enable women to gain skills in areas such as public speaking and create a platform for networking, both within and across rural communities.
We will keep you updated with the project as it unfolds!
Sok Toh is a participant of our Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) project. She was living in one of the affected households that were moved from a rehabilitated railway area in Cambodia. Sok now lives in one of the resettlement communities outside of Phnom Penh and recently began her quest for environmental change in Cambodia.
Previously, the community suffered from a plethora of waste management issues. A majority of these were caused by a lack of knowledge about how to care for the community.
Cufa started working within this community at the end of last year, implementing the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) part of our SRIRI project. This involved waste management campaigns informing people about good hygiene practices and how to correctly dispose of waste, encouraging the use of local landfills. Similarly, waste collection services were implemented and the negative implications of poor waste management were outlined.
Members of the community are invited to join the O&M committee so that everyone can contribute to making a difference to their local community. In the beginning, Sok did not join as she did not see the benefits. However, after a few months, she came back. She had started seeing that the reduced amount of waste meant less flooding in her house. Once she understood the benefits she became extremely involved, attending O&M training and building a new drain near her house
Flooding around her house has now been severely reduced thanks to a reduction in litter and the upgraded drainage. Sok now spends her spare time collecting plastic bottles around her community. She also sells them to make extra money, maintaining this is just a bonus on top of a clean community.
Sok has become an encouraging figure within the community, inspiring others to work towards environmental change in Cambodia!
In March 2016, Sokhney Kean was given the opportunity to join Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program and start her own chicken farm. The program helps participants set up their own business. This involves a constructing business plan, becoming members of a local village bank, and providing regular training and support.
We asked Sokhney a few questions about her Village Entrepreneur journey so far and this is what she had to say!
What made you join the Village Entrepreneur program? "It was very tough being a widow and having limited education and skills. I have two sons as well. I just wanted to support them and also fix up our house so it doesn’t flood every rainy season."
How have you benefitted from the program? "I have learnt more skills to run a successful microbusiness. The biggest benefit is that I can now better support my son’s education. I recently purchased two new bikes for them to ride to school and new school uniforms. I am now adding more soil around my house and building new walls to prevent flooding."
What are your plans for the future? "I would like to connect a public power line to my house to provide electricity for my family."
Do you have any last words? "Yes. I am very appreciative of the support. My business has really developed and it has helped me support my family. I just want to say thank you to my Community Investor."
To find out more or support a Village Entrepreneur: ve.org.au
As a participant of Cufa’s Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) program, Torn Chanteth was affected by the Cambodian government’s decision to rehabilitate a disused railway track where he had been living. He now lives in one of the newly established neighbourhoods around Phnom Penh.
Due to Torn’s family situation, he was unable to finish his education and found himself working night shifts for low wages.
In February of this year, Torn applied with Cufa’s Vocational Placement Strategy (VPS) staff for employment assistance. He was given an interview with a guesthouse for the position of receptionist assistant. They immediately hired him and he was even promoted to a full-time receptionist in July!
This change has had a profound impact on Torn's life as he is now better equipped to support his wife and child financially and can begin paying off his loan. His manager has also been very happy with his performance and expanded his duties within the workplace.
Torn acknowledges that the help of the VPS staff has changed his life. He told Cufa, “I would like to thank the VPS staff. They provided the opportunity for myself and other affected participants to find jobs.” Torn would encourage anyone else in his community to seek assistance from the team.
Cufa works throughout the Asia-Pacific, focusing on education, employment, enterprise and developing economic institutions. The assistance that is provided throughout disadvantaged communities gives people a hand up, not a handout.