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.
With the release of Cufa’s 50th History book, we want to highlight some fascinating and key moments from Cufa’s history. Whilst we have some great stories from our work in Bougainville, Cambodia or Myanmar, we want to share a little-known part of Cufa’s history. In 1993, the World Conference on Credit Unions invited Cufa to look into reviving the dormant Credit Union movement in Russia. Having recently transitioned from the Soviet Union, there was renewed interest in Credit Unions to provide local financial stability.
Cufa assembled a team from Australian Credit Unions to visit the Kuzbass region in Siberia, one of the largest coal mining regions in the world. The representatives visited mines and factories, speaking with workers and residents about the effectiveness of credit unions. Following this, Cufa invited representatives from the communities they visited to come to Australia and visit four member coal and related industries Credit Unions in NSW
The relationship between Cufa and the Russian Credit Unions continued, with records showing that Cufa and the Russian Credit Unions continued to have a colorful dialogue, following returning to Australia, including a friendly debate over whether Australian or Russian alcohol was better.
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.
In 2018, Cufa launched “Conversations in Development”, a Podcast where experts in the development sector share and discuss their experiences working with NGOs, government entities or as independent consultants.
Currently, Conversations in Development has released 24 episodes in 3 series. On Monday 20th of September, we will release the 4th Series of our Podcast. For this series, we will want to navigate through the experiences of practitioners in the field and create a practitioner’s guide to our listeners interested to know the challenging but rewarding experiences of working in Development.
In the first episode, our host and CEO Peter Mason speaks with Cory Steinhauer, an expert in impact management, delivering education in areas of conflict such as Afghanistan and South Sudan.
In the meantime, check our 3 series on the Conversations in Development website or your favourite Podcast app.
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.
In our 50th year, we reflect on our work with indigenous communities in Australia. In 1973, Cufa became involved with the Walgett Community Credit Union in NSW to develop credit unions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
In 1974, Cufa provided an interest free loan of $4,000, worth $33,928 today, to allow the credit union to purchase a mobile office to facilitate the collection of funds. By 1979, Cufa continued delivering training on credit union functions and administrations to indigenous communities by endorsing campaigns to other credit unions in the Sydney Metropolitan Area alongside the State Government Employees Credit Union (SGECU).
Following the devastating cyclone Tracy, Cufa provided $391, worth $3,316 today, to assist members of Northern Suburbs Credit Union, then located in Rapid Creek, one of the most devastated areas by the cyclone. In the coming years, Cufa would also commit to provide travel funding for young Australian credit union members to attend youth forums and Australian credit union educational forums.
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.