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
As Myanmar continues to experience hardship due to the effects of Covid-19, as well as political instability, Cufa’s field officers recently met with Thawda, a 46-year-old mother of four, whose knowledge of regularly saving provided by Cufa, has led her to mobilise members of her community to grow her local Village Savings Bank.
Before attending the financial literacy training as part of the Myanmar CUD Project, Thawda says “I did not think savings played an important role for community development and I did not know how to save systematically with community people”. However, since 2016 Thawda has been committed to regularly deposit small savings to her Village Savings Bank, hoping to grow her savings and obtain interest.
Among other benefits, her Village Savings Bank allows its members to apply for loans and easily withdraw money from their savings. These simple withdrawals, however, cannot be provided by the local government and private banks, and because of Thawda’s saving performance, she was able to obtain a loan to expand her grocery shop and manage daily cash in/out.
Recently, Thawda along with some of her fellow villagers discussed the impact of their Village Savings Banks and agreed that their Village Savings Bank needs to become self-sustainable and effective, as their local government support has been delayed.
“As I now understand more about savings and how it benefits members of my community to become self-sustainable, I have mobilised seven people to become members in our Village Savings Bank.”
Recently, we met with Nan Thein, a mother of two, who previously to implementing the CUD program in rural communities in Myanmar, had no access to finance and limited financial knowledge, resulting in limited resources to overcome intergenerational poverty.
Financial access has been historically difficult for remote communities in Myanmar. More recently, the instability and COVID-19 lockdown measures continue have added additional pressures. Accessing finance such as loans and basic cash withdrawals have become more dire. Customers with commercial banks need to queue as early as 4am to withdraw money, often for several days and may not be able to withdraw due to limited funds in commercial banks due to the high demand of cash withdrawals.
Having access to a community savings bank developed using a grassroots approach, members such as Nan continue to access loans to own a grocery shop. Nan has been depositing small savings since 2016, her savings have increased which she has enjoyed watching and remained in a safe community-owned and operated financial institution. “I’m very happy, as I got into the habit of saving money regularly, along with my villagers, supporting each other and building trust”.
Cufa’s systematic training sessions have equipped Nan with increased financial knowledge and strong savings habits and budgeting which today, have enabled her to successfully borrow USD $500 to put towards having her own grocery shop.
For Wah, school is her favourite place, getting to see her friends and play games. School, however, isn’t all fun and games, as the lessons she learns in class set her up for life. Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy Program add to her current learning plan, giving her the skills she needs for her future. Along with her classmates, she learns about the ways in which just saving a small amount a day can give her big returns in the future. Thoughts of a bicycle or a new toy no doubt come to the mind of Wah when she learns about savings.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy Program have made an immediate impact on Wah and her classmates. “As soon as I attended the CFL Program, I realized that I should not waste my money on buying snacks anymore, as I have now learnt to save money and the benefits of long-term savings”
Wah, along her classmates, feel the commitment to pass on this knowledge to their communities. Among these, her father who Wah constantly encourages to save for their family’s future.
You're probably aware of the evolving situation in Myanmar which is taking a turn for the worse since its inception on February the first. We’ve needed to put the safety of our staff members and the communities we work with first.
Using a wait and see approach, we’ve suspended the project activities for the Children’s Financial Literacy Program and Livelihoods Program. For the DigiCUD Program, we’ll continue to progress the development of the online banking platform which is carried out remotely using Internet. We expect there’ll be some time before we’re able to return to the classrooms and to the communities we work with in Myanmar. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.
A Hooded Treepie chirping announces the start of a beautiful morning in Kyar Chaung. Khin, along with his wife Suu, they prepare for another productive day in their vegetable garden. Luckily, their home has been blessed with enough land to harvest vegetables in their own backyard. Despite his flourishing micro-business in selling vegetables of all kinds, Khin did not regularly budget and build his savings. It was after Cufa worked with his local community that he started to save more. A testimony to his nature is that what really peaked Khin’s interest in saving was that his savings could help his community.
“After getting some training delivered by Cufa, I made up my mind try to save money regularly because I understand my money can help to other villagers”
After finding out about Cufa’s DigiCud, Khin, along with members of his village, Khin started receiving training. Beyond the benefits of savings, Khin now feels an enormous sense of pride, as he knows his money in the savings bank will benefit the community.
Looking back over 2020 in Myanmar, Cufa has tackled the challenges of COVID-19, whilst laying the groundwork for our new DigiCUD program and continuing our transformational Child Financial Literacy and Credit Union Development Programs. As the time of writing, Myanmar's COVID-19 outbreak has reached over 100,000 confirmed cases, resulting in a lockdown in the country’s largest city of Yangon where the Cufa office is based. Cufa’s staff and partnering rural communities have worked together to ensure our programs could continue, despite the challenges of the pandemic.
As schools closed to prevent the spread of the virus, Cufa’s staff feared that many students would miss out on participating in the CFL Program. Determined to conduct the CFL Program, our staff did not give up and provided 2,939 students with the program's five lessons, usually conducted during school time, by conducting home visits. These visits involve our project officers visiting the homes of villages, delivering the lessons and advising the parents as well in ways they can help the child out as well.
Cufa, engaged by the United Nations Development Program, has created female-owned enterprises with a focus on agricultural and fishery sector-based business in Shan State and Mandalay Region. Through the Project, Cufa provided capacity building training to aspiring and established MSME entrepreneurs in areas including marketing skills, business plan, leadership, and financial management skills. In response to COVID-19 and at the request of UNDP, Cufa rapidly created and integrated training modules on digitising operations and digital marketing skills for participants. To ensure all entrepreneurs were able to receive their training amid the pandemic and the adaptation to virtual training, Cufa provided training aids and subsidies.
2021 marks Cufa’s 50th year of working to alleviate poverty in the Asia-Pacific Region. Cufa is looking forward to developing new and innovative programs to ensure that we can continue to empower marginalised people and communities with the tools to lift themselves out of intergenerational poverty.
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Ohn San, UNDP Project participant.
The workshop is filled slowly, as the trainees discuss the weekend, the weather and the lockdown measures currently affecting Myanmar’s Yangon District. The workshop, the first day of what is set up to be a groundbreaking project, will see these participants become competent in the operation and maintenance of Cufa’s new DigiCUD program. They are Cufa’s Myanmar staff members, with prior experience in our Credit Union Development Program.
We mentioned in the last newsletter about how Thura, one of Cufa’s existing CUD members interacts with his local credit union, now we are progressing to project implementation, with training commencing designed to take our staff through everything on the BanQin mobile application. This sophisticated and secure application was designed in house by BanQin, a sister company to Bank-Genie, a South East Asia focused telecommunications company. Their expertise in the South East Asian area has meant that they are keenly aware of the context and conditions that are unique to the region. BanQin’s company mission is to improve the lives of the vulnerable and disadvantaged by enabling, through mobile banking initiatives, social mobility, poverty reduction and access to banking for those who do not already have their own bank accounts. In a recent interview with NextGen Core Banking Solutions, Dr Peter Mason, Cufa’s CEO, details how for several years, Cufa has been looking for a mobile banking solution, and it was not until now, that Cufa has been confident with a product.
Now, even though Cufa and Bank Genie share common goals, what does it actually mean for Thura, and more importantly the Rural Burmese who remain unable to access vital banking and financial services? What it delivers for our current and future credit union members is a complete mobile banking service, enabling them to complete transactions, with sophisticated security system, whilst also enabling features like credit scoring to enable further financial services. Each credit union offers their own financial loan and savings products, tailored to their community needs, all available on phones that can be purchased at an affordable price.
For the members of our credit unions in Myanmar, the ability to see their bank balance grow in their hands with the training that Cufa provides enables them to watch their savings grow in their hands, or request a loan application far away from their home.