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.
“We want to supply our soap to all districts in Kampong Cham” pointing to the slowly churning barrel of citrus colored soap, Mony described what her microenterprises next stage was. The workshop was abuzz, people alternating between observing and having a go at the different stages of soap production. Several micro-enterprises, all composed of members from different communities, answered the request to attend the workshop. Each village formed their own microenterprise, Mony helped set up the Rung Roeung Soap Community.
For many in their area, the dominant industry of cashew nuts and rubber plantations have come to a halt as ability to export has dropped greatly, leaving many unemployed. In an effort to assist in alleviating rising unemployment, Cufa initiated the program to provide economic opportunities for these communities.
As the workshop is being packed up, Mony asks our project officers to provide further training on other types of soap production, to expand their product line up. Members from the Housewife Soap Community, discuss their plans to expand production as they load crates of their soap, now in recycled plastic water bottles, onto the back of trucks. Though the government has announced a social support program to people who have become unemployed from the pandemic, the limited amount of just 60% of the minimum wage (USD $190 a month) is being received by workers as not enough(David Hutt, 2020). For this reason, we aim to create microenterprises meeting a demand.
Though the cashew and rubber plantations may be quiet for the time being, there is a renewed activity in the community, as a rekindled sense of hope is sparked with this opportunity.
David Hutt, 2020, The Diplomat, ‘Does Cambodia’s Coronavirus Bailout Really Add Up?’, visit here, Viewed on the 30/6/2020.
Dear Members and Supporters of Cufa,
Cufa would like to inform you that in an effort to continue to maximise the amount of funding that Cufa delivers to our programs overseas, it has been decided to change our Auditor from Grant Thornton Level 17/383 Kent St Sydney NSW 2000 to BDO, Level 11/1 Margaret St Sydney NSW 2000.
We are proud to welcome these three new directors onto the board of Cufa Ltd. These new board members have been chosen due to their wisdom and knowledge in key areas relevant to Cufa.
Damon is a government relations and strategic communications specialist with over 20 years’ experience in designing and delivering government relations, strategic communications and social research programs for high profile clients in Australia and internationally. He has experience in Federal Government working for the Finance Minister as well as on multiple federal and state political campaigns. Damon is the owner and Principal of Christmas Jalili, a public affairs, strategic communications and social research advisory consulting private sector organisations and industry groups on issues in business, finance and politics. Prior to that, Damon was also a Partner and Head of the Government Relations Practice at Kreab (formerly Gavin Anderson).
Jo is a senior executive with more than 15 years’ experience working across non-profit and government sectors to build awareness of complex social issues in Australia and South East Asia. Her expertise encompasses media relations, government engagement, fundraising, community development and corporate partnerships. Jo was the CEO of Project Futures, and the International Policy Advisor for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Senior Communications and Partnerships Adviser, World Vision Australia. Jo was a member of the Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Committee.
Amanda Young is an Indigenous woman to the Pacific Islands who has worked extensively across the political, social and economic equity of Indigenous people. A lawyer by trade, she has worked in criminal law, government, commerce and as the CEO of an Australian Indigenous economic charity where her impact led to the first Indigenous financial wellbeing strategy, a world-first Indigenous financial edutech program and a superannuation outreach program which reunited $24 million Indigenous superannuation with its remote and regional owners in a matter of days. This work earned her several award nominations and successes. As an Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity at the London School of Economics, and has attended Harvard and Stanford executive business schools, Amanda’s most recent work is on global regenerative and distributive economies.
Cufa is launching the second season of its Conversations in Development Podcast.
Hosted by Cufa’s CEO, Dr Peter Mason, this season, we will have 8 new exciting episodes that will bring new guests who can share their experience in the development sector.
Unsurprisingly, given recent events, our first episode will focus on one of the toughest challenge’s humanity has faced on the 21th century, the Covid-19 pandemic. Our conversation with our surprise guest will delve deep into the Covid 19 response from NGO’s; how do you ensure safety for your workers and the communities you are in, how long will these effects last, and does the international development and humanitarian sector need to change in response to the challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic.
While you wait, why not check out our first season of Conversations in Development. Our first season was a success, covering fascinating topics such as volunteer tourism, faith and aid, social justice and advocacy, with experts in the field of development like Tim Costello, Chief Advocate of World Vision Australia and Mahir Momand, CEO of Thrive Refugee Enterprise. You can find them here or on Google Podcast and Itunes!