As our roads begin to fill up with honking horns of a morning as people return to the office a monastery in Yet Chaung Village remains tranquil. Though Myanmar’s schools are closed, the monastery’s silence is broken occasionally by the sound of children flipping through their Mg Mg the Kyat book. Eager to begin to operate our workshops, Cufa Myanmar has begun to use the local monastery as a place to host our lessons in Financial Literacy and Credit Union Development.
The sound of the bells are interrupted by the children as they form a circle to play one of the program's educational games, a reprieve from the stress that Covid-19 has caused. In a country that is continuing to see its cases grow, a tension sits in the air about when the virus will come to their area. Our project officers are noticing that the children practice better hygiene practices than before the lockdown, something that will prove beneficial post the lockdown. As the children play a game about what they just learnt, the opportunity to learn and play, and for a brief moment forget about it with your friends, is the least that Cufa could do.
In the same monastery the next day, a group of young, entrepreneurial women listen attentively to a Cufa volunteer discussing the best practices for operating their business during Covid-19. Their children would have been in the same monastery the day before, and much like them, the women are eager to return to their lessons. These women are a part of the Cufa Credit Union Development Program, aimed at assisting communities to develop their own community banks. These women have been working with Cufa for sometime, and so we are delighted to share that these women have put into practice their training over the course of the lockdown. Spurred on by the difficult economic circumstances, many have begun to tighten their budgets and look to use their communities credit union to their advantage.
Cufa’s Credit Union Development and Children Financial Literacy Programs having been operating in Myanmar 2016 and 2018 respectively has seen significant positive responses. In Myanmar alone, we have been able to reach over 2,000 students across 22 schools through our CFL programs. Our CUD program continues to grow, with over 30 Credit Unions being maintained across over 2,250 members involved.
The monastery returns to the sound of bells and chimes as the women leave, the sounds of horns intermittently break the sounds of the nearby forest, heralding a slow return to normalcy.
Published Yesterday, Waking the Asian Pacific Cooperative Potential is an academic look into how mutual firms and credit unions have had meaningful change in the Asia Pacific Region. Cufa's CEO, Dr Peter Mason, has contributed an insightful piece on the history of our long term partner organisation, Teachers Mutual Bank.
Dr.Mason’s look takes us through the beginning of the Credit Union movement following the end of the second World War, one of these was the Hornsby Teachers Credit Union, which began in the early 1960’s. Their growth started due to ‘local financial institutions not meeting the needs of the community, due to not only access, but the types of financial products that these institutions offer, perceived unaffordability of interest rates, or financial products that do not meet social needs.’. As they developed, they held a core philosophy of ‘teachers helping teachers’, and their early days reflected that, the early members beginning by recruiting new members during their lunch breaks. The Hornsby Teachers Credit Union became the NSW Teachers Credit Union in 1967, and thanks to automatic payroll deductions, they grew rapidly.
The NSW Teachers Credit Union was one of many credit unions during the height of the 70s, at their peak numbering 833 in total. These credit unions pioneered the first 24 hour Automatic Telling Machines in Australia, and continued to grow into the 80s, and by 1991 they had grown to over 64,000 members and provided over $1 billion dollars in loans to their members.
The book takes an analytical approach to the Asian Co-operative Model, as well as Agricultural Co-operatives, Credit Co-operatives and Worker Co-operatives. Though not written as a coffee table book, it definitely is a book to keep your eye out for if you are keen to understand the intricate and rich history of the Asia-Pacific Co-operative environment.
Naing is an eight-year-old boy who lives in a small rural village in a region of southwest Myanmar where villagers usually spend their time farming crops and raising animals. Like many of the local villagers,
Naing’s father is a farmer and his mother, a housewife. Naing attended his first Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) training session run by Cufa in 2019. He found that the lessons interesting and attended sessions regularly to learn more. It was after his fifth CFL lesson that Naing decided not to buy any more toys as he was sure it was wasting his money.
In late December 2019, Cufa held its first Children’s Financial Literacy Study Tour ceremony in Tha Yet Chaung Village. At the CFL Study Tour ceremony, committee and savings members of Tha Yet Chaung Village Bank demonstrated
how the village savings bank operated. A question and answer session was also run to interact with participants and make it interesting and fun. Naing participated in the Q&A session and answered the questions correctly and received a piggy bank, for which he was very excited about. In addition, participants took part in other activities like painting a box for savings and using the CFL Tablet for games which they played with their friends.
The CFL Study Tour took around 5 hours to run and a Cufa CFL Project Officer will run these study tours which will be conducted quarterly. A total of 199 people including 84 boys and 67 girls participated in this first CFL Study Tour.
Naing said that the study tour gave other children, not only the students like himself, as well as parents and teachers to become more aware of the benefits of saving money and the interest that can be earned from saving through their local village savings bank.
Jue Jue is a 9-year-old girl who lives in a village in Myanmar. A year ago she attended her first Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) session and this set the way for Jue Jue to start a strong savings habit, though she did find it difficult at the start she was determined to save money every day.
Jue Jue had a passion for power ranger toys and she used to spend much of her pocket money on these toy as she loved to play with them, as any 9-year-old would. Whenever she had finished her homework, she was usually playing with power rangers as she felt happy while she was playing with the colorful toys. She was always thinking to buy a new one even though she had already owned many toys that was until she attended her first CFL session.
Jue Jue who is a very bright student found the lessons interesting and she attended them regularly even though some of her friends tried to get her to come and play. The more she attended and learnt through each lesson, the more her financial knowledge was broadened. After she had attended five sessions, she decided not to buy toys anymore as she was sure it was a waste of her money. Jue Jue made up her mind to open an account at her village-owned savings bank and she managed to save some money every day. Jue Jue no longer asks her parents for her school materials and stationery. Whatever she needs, she knows she can buy it by spending her savings. To date, Jue Jue has been able to buy for herself with her savings a backpack and basic school materials including an exercise book, pencil and ballpoint pen. She has now set her saving goals with a goal to save every day so she can spend her savings to support her at university.
Jue Jue says, “I share my financial knowledge to my family members and friends. I want them to know how to spend money and how to save money.” She persuades the other people to learn CFL lessons and to save money.
Photo: Jue Jue and her mother happily looking at her savings book.
Khin Thaung, 58 years old joined his village savings bank in 2017 after Cufa staff in Myanmar delivered financial training sessions in his village and has been happy with this decision as he has now built a strong savings habit.
Khin lives with his wife, their two sons and daughter, her husband and their young son. He has been a farmer since he was 22 years old, cultivating rice and betel. His plantation provided profits but Khin did not understand how to save regularly or the benefits of doing so. It was not until Khin was exposed to the Cufa financial knowledge sessions that he knew how to save his money. He opened an account at his local village savings bank and began saving regularly.
Khin said “whenever I check my savings book, I am happy to see my savings and the interest, and it forces me to keep saving”. By attending the Cufa financial sessions, Khin learnt about the benefits of saving money, how to set savings goals and how to calculate interest on his savings. Khin added “the knowledge I learnt helped me build a strong saving habit and I now add money regularly to my savings”.
Khin has shared his newfound financial knowledge and first-hand experience with his friends and neighbours. He has encouraged them to open saving accounts at their local village saving bank. “Having a local savings bank in the village where we live makes us more interested in the bank operations," Khin says. "Moreover, we can share our stories about our village saving bank when we meet our friends from other villages”.
Khin attended at the financial sessions regularly, and he had learnt community audit skills, financial co-operative principles, leadership skills, how to record ledger books, how to calculate savings interest and loan interest. Khin said that a benefit of attending the sessions together with other local villagers was that they became friends and together they would discuss the growth of their businesses.
Khin said that another benefit for members of the local village savings bank is “we can apply loan if we need in our business if we have already made our regular saving bank at least for six months". Khin said that he was approved for a loan that he applied for at his savings bank to help him extend his betel planation fields to increase his income.
Khin has now repaid his loan and he and his family are enjoying increased profits from his rice paddy and betel plantation. Khin now knows the benefits of saving money at a village saving bank and he will continue regularly putting aside some of his income at his village savings bank for future needs.
Main Photo: Kin Thaung, his wife and grandson at their Betel Plantation.
Read more about Cufa’s CUD Program at www.cufa.org.au/our-programs/credit-union-development/
It has been thirteen months Sandar Nan joined the Shwe Taung Kyar Village Saving Bank in Kyar Chaung Village, Myanmar. Early in 2018, Cufa project officers from its Myanmar office came to Sandar’s village and began running financial knowledge sessions as part of its successful Credit Union Development (CUD) Program. Sandar attended the sessions and soon learnt about saving money and the benefits of such before then she did not know or understand what this could mean for her.
Sandar is 32 years old and lives with her parents, her father who is a planter and her mother, a housewife, and her younger brother and sister. She has been interested in agribusiness since she was 21 years old and for the past 11 years Sandar has been cultivating papaya and guava plants and generates profits from her plantation through the sale of her products. Sandar wanted to save some of her money but she just didn’t know how to start. It was not until Cufa came to her village to teach and share financial knowledge and understanding was the “savings seed” planted.
Sandar now knew what she had to do. She opened an account at her village bank and started saving some of her money that she earned from her agribusiness. By attending the Cufa financial knowledge sessions Sandar learnt how to calculate the interest on her savings and how to set savings goals. Sandar said that the feeling of happiness that she felt when she looked at her savings book encouraged to continue saving. In a short period, Sandar had built a strong savings habit and regularly deposited money in her account from her business earnings.
Not only did the sessions teach Sandar about savings but she continued to attend sessions regularly and learnt community audit skills, financial co-operative principles, leadership skills, how to record ledger books, how to calculate savings and loan interest. Sandar shared her new-found knowledge with her friends and neighbours and encouraged them to open accounts at the village savings bank. Through the sessions Sandar and other villagers became friends and would often discuss their business and the growth of such. They would also share the value of their village savings bank provides with friends from other villages.
The village savings bank provides members with the ability to apply for a loan. They must have made regular deposits to their account for at least 6 months to be able to submit a loan application. Sandar was able to apply for a loan which was approved as she had developed a strong savings habit. This loan enabled Sandar to grow her business through purchasing additional plants. She was able to repay her loan to her village bank through the additional profits she generated. Cufa planted the savings seed and Sandar cultivated it and continues to reap the benefits from the financial knowledge she gained through the Cufa program.
Read more about Cufa’s CUD Program at www.cufa.org.au/our-programs
Chit Su is 8 years old and lives with her mother, father and brother in Myanmar. Her father is a farmer and though he doesn’t earn much to support his family, her parents give her some pocket money every day so that she can buy some good food to eat at school. But Chit Su would spend all her pocket money on buying dolls as like any other young girl she loved playing with them. Whenever she was free from her homework, she was usually playing with her dolls as she felt happy while she was playing them. She was always thinking of buying a new one even though she had already owned many dolls. Then just over one year ago Chit Su attended at her first Cufa financial literacy session and she has not bought another doll or toy since.
Chit Su is a very bright student and often stands first in her class. Her interest was sparked at her very first financial literacy lesson, after which she decided to attend the Cufa Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) training sessions whenever the CFL teacher came to her village. To date she has attended financial literacy sessions 18 times and has acquired a lot of financial knowledge from Cufa booklet that is provided to each program participant.
Chit Su was so interested in the sessions and learning about savings and how to spend money that often she would choose to attend a session rather than play with her friends. It was on the day that she learnt about “saving money”, that Chit Su made up her mind to open a savings account at her village saving bank to enable her to save her pocket money regularly. The sessions also taught Chit Su about the difference of spending money on wants versus needs. Now Chit Su is content playing with the dolls and toys she already has rather than buying new ones with her pocket money.
The program has also taught Chit Su about developing short and long-term savings goals. Chit Su has set a long-term savings goal of funding her university education and this is now what she is saving regularly towards.
To read more about Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy Program go to www.cufa.org.au/our-programs
55 year old, U Htay Thein, a rice paddy farmer, lives with his wife and daughter in San Pya Lauk Lay Chaung Village in Myanmar. For the past 53 years, Htay while he knew a little about saving as an individual he didn’t know or understand the power of saving money as a community group and the positive impact that this a good savings habit could have on his life and that of his family. He didn’t even know really why he should save and what to save for. His local community had no financial institution that could serve them because they wouldn’t qualify for a bank account due to the lack of financial literacy. Today Htay, realises the importance of developing good savings habits and the importance of a community-owned savings bank, thanks to the Cufa Credit Union Development Program. This program supports and trains members of a community to form member-owned financial institutions.
It was in July 2017 that Htay became a member of his village-owned credit union and attended training sessions provided by the local Cufa staff. The training provided Htay with an understanding of how to save, the benefits of saving and other basic financial concepts. As a member of the bank’s Self-Help Group (SHG) which are established to increase financial inclusion, Htay now talks to other interested villagers about his experience, the benefits of developing good saving habits and the importance of such for every household. Htay says that the SHG also helps build trust amongst each other as many of the villagers at the start didn’t believe that they could save together. The benefits generated from a community saving together include such things as access to emergency loans, productive loans and interest on savings.
Two years on and Htay says that it gives him and his family so much pleasure to open their savings book and see the amount they are saving plus interest and now they have a better outlook for their future.
Financial access and inclusion for the poor is core to alleviating poverty.
Read more about Cufa’s CUD Programs at www.cufa.org.au.
For detail about Corporate Partnerships to support our CUD Programs please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Khin Thandar is 8 years old and lives with her mother, father and brother in Myanmar. Khin would spend any money she had on buying snacks and dolls at the small local shops near their house. It wasn’t until she attended Cufa Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) Program sessions being run in her village that she realised that she was wasting her money. Today, Khin is making regular savings at her local community-owned savings bank and has set savings goals, a great start at such a young age.
Khin said that it was after the first CFL lesson that she attended did she realise that she could make a change. Through the program children, like Khin, are taught financial literacy in their classroom with lessons every two to three months. The program encourages them to develop lifelong savings habits at a young age and also connects them with a savings account at their community-owned bank. Cufa uses a custom designed and developed app on a limited number of tablets to make the lessons fun for the children and reinforce the key messages and skills developed throughout the program.
Since starting the program, Khin said she has changed and rather than spending any money she has received, she now has built a strong savings habit and makes sure that she saves some of her money every day. Khin has shared her learnings with her parents and friends so that they can understand the benefit of saving for the future as well. Khin now understands the value of money and how building a strong savings habit will provide her and her family with a better future.
To read more about the Cufa Children’s Financial Literacy Program go to www.cufa.org.au
To find out more about Corporate Partnership for supporting a CFL Program please email email@example.com
In Cambodia, burning waste remains common practice, particularly in rural areas, due to the lack of dumpsites or waste collection services. In particular, the Sihanoukville Province in southwest Cambodia known for its beaches, tropical islands and the mangrove jungles of Ream National Park, has experienced a dramatic increase in the amount of plastic waste (main image) mainly due to the significant economic development and population growth in recent years. In liaison with the local communities and government, Cufa scoped and designed a Recycling Plastic Livelihoods Project to help address this issue with the project commencing on 1 July 2019.
Over the past 3 years, Cufa has partnered with communities in Sihanoukville Province through the running of its Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) project. This project focussed on assisting displaced families by linking them to employment opportunities; providing financial skills and access to local financial institutions and helping effectively integrate them into these new communities as well as providing training on how to adequately monitor and repair key elements of the community such as the water supply, drainage, waste management, roads, and vegetation. It is through this past experience that Cufa developed a sound understanding of the increasing environmental issues that the locals were facing due to the rapid economic development. And as a result of which the Recycling Plastics Livelihood Project evolved.
The Recycling Plastics Project is designed to improve the livelihoods, economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for rural communities in the Sihanoukville Province with a strong focus on developing female entrepreneurs. Project participants will learn how to use specialist machinery to recycle plastic waste so that they it can be remodelled into items that can be sold. These technical skills will be enhanced with participants receiving business and financial skills training and support to enable them to establish a sustainable business with the added benefits of bringing the concept of recycling to rural communities, increasing awareness on how to manage plastic waste and more broadly, cleaning-up the environment.
The Recycling Plastics Livelihoods Project will also be implemented across five villages in the township of Taik Kyi in Myanmar. The project will be adapted to local conditions however there will still be a strong focus on aspiring female entrepreneurs through community social enterprises specialising in recycling and reusing plastic waste while improving the environment.
Image: Waste collection in a local village in Myanmar.
We’ll keep you updated as the project progresses.