06 June 2019
Teachers Mutual Bank Study Tour

Earlier this year Cufa hosted staff from one of our biggest supporters, Teachers Mutual Bank (TMB), over in Cambodia to participate in a study tour. The tour comprised of four days full of activities that varied from cultural and historical activities to visiting our projects and learning about some of the participant's amazing stories.


Teachers Mutual Bank Study Tour


The trip began with learning about the dark history of Cambodia with a visit to the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng (Genocide Museum). This helped everyone gather a greater level of understanding of how Cambodia’s development as a country has been shaped and the need for Cufa’s work. Following a break and lunch, everyone dived straight in with visits to a variety of Cufa’s projects such as the Children’s Financial Literacy classes, a Credit Union Development savings bank visits and seeing a Village Entrepreneur’s business.

The approach from the second and third day was much more hands-on with the TMB team able to get involved in a variety of activities whether it was explaining basic financial concepts, playing traditional games with students or learning how to craft pots with local business owners.

The final day saw the trip winding down before flying back to Australia the following day and included visits to local communities and sites that have been assisted by former Cufa projects. It gave everyone an opportunity to see how Cufa operates and visit some staff.

Every night was accompanied by a delicious dinner at a local restaurant, a cultural experience in itself.


Teachers Mutual Bank Study Tour


Two of our Cufa staff members that accompanied the group throughout the tour were project coordinators Sreyneang Pok and Tola Chhorn. They thoroughly enjoyed hosting staff from TMB and had this to say of the trip.

“I enjoyed showing our guests the Children’s Financial Literacy and Village Entrepreneur programs and as most of our guests had banking backgrounds, the objectives of these two programs is very aligned with their expertise. The Children’s Financial Literacy kids are always very interested to learn about the saving habits of Australian kids and how they save. I feel like the guests could learn a lot from the kids and Village Entrepreneur families.” Sreyneang Pok, Project Coordinator Cufa

“Our guests were very interested in the project activities, they were great listeners, asked many questions and got involved with many of the activities in the community. They were kind enough to share their experiences and skills with local people in the community and we had time to exchange many stories.” – Tola Chhorn, Project Coordinator Cufa

From everyone at Cufa, thank you to the TMB team for being such amazing guests!

If you would like to organise something similar with your workplace please contact us at marketing@cufa.org.au

Stay tuned next month to see what some of the TMB staff thought of the study tour!

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04 June 2019
Developing communities: Program comes to an end

The Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) program was established by Cufa in 2012 as a response to families being left vulnerable by the Cambodian government’s decision to rehabilitate a disused railway track where they had been living. Recently, this program has reached its completion, providing us with an excellent opportunity to reflect upon our work over the years in developing communities.


Developing communities: Program comes to an end


Funded by the Asian Development Bank, SRIRI is one of our most comprehensive and diverse programs. It provides broad-ranging support for families to restart their lives across five resettlement sites, whilst also ensuring the community as a whole is safe, secure and sustainable. The project operations are threefold, exercising each of Cufa’s specialties–employment, education, and economic institutions.

The first stage of the program is the Vocational Placement Strategy (VPS). It addresses employment and vocational training. Participants were assisted by being placed in jobs that matched their skillsets. Individuals were also provided debt relief, loans, and counselling and groups were taught life skills, financial literacy, CV writing and interview skills.

The second stage of SRIRI establishes Self Help Groups (SHG). These provide training and support in financial concepts. Resettlement sites are also linked to economic institutions that encourage participants to begin saving for the future.

The third stage is the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) project which is operated by volunteers in the community to look after the cleanliness and sustainability of the local environment. They are trained by Cufa on how to adequately monitor and repair key elements of the community such as the water supply, drainage, waste management, roads and vegetation.

The overarching goal of SRIRI is to provide displaced community members with all the important tools so they can live sustainably and have improved livelihoods in their new communities.

The results

The program achieved some amazing results from across all five of the sites where it operated. Household incomes were increased, communities were provided a quality education and the O&M project made the communities more liveable. Thousands of people, especially women, were educated in financial literacy, vocational training was provided across the sites imparting crucial skills for people to get jobs and livelihood groups were developed as people got into business. All in all, Cufa has been extremely happy with the development of these communities and with the knowledge that at the culmination of the program these communities will be able to continue to develop and grow.

                The stories

Cufa reported on many success stories throughout the program. Some of these included:


Sok Tho helping create environmental change in Cambodia

Sok Toh

Sok was a participant who became interested in cleaning up her community after suffering from many issues around her house due to a lack of rubbish disposal causing flooding. She became an inspirational figure in her community encouraging others to do the same.

Read more here




Torn Chanteth in his new jobTorn Chanteth

Torn was able to benefit from the VPS program by getting a new job at a local guesthouse. He excelled in his position and shortly afterwards earned himself a promotion.

Read more here



Find out more about Cufa's life-changing programs.

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04 June 2019
Advocacy and Health Podcast

Conversations in Development PodcastA new episode has been released in the Conversations in Development podcast series. The podcast has explored a range of issues from the development field such as voluntourism, urbanisation and faith-related work. The latest episode welcomes Amelia Christie, CEO of RESULTS Australia, to discuss advocacy work and the effect it has on the field of health.

The episode, Advocacy and Health, was released on Monday 27 May and Amelia appears alongside Cufa CEO and podcast host, Dr Peter Mason.


Advocacy has the capacity to have an impact on a massive scale and in the field of health, it can save millions of lives. We speak with Amelia Christie about the power of a grassroots approach and dealing with everyone from volunteers to politicians. We also delve into foreign aid and the growing focus on the Pacific and Amelia teaches a thing or two about tuberculosis and its growing prevalence in our closest neighbour Papua New Guinea.

Amelia Christie is the CEO of RESULTS, an advocacy organisation that informs political decisions by empowering everyday voices to bring an end to poverty. RESULTS trains, supports and inspires volunteers to become skilled advocates and is a partner of ACTION, a global partnership of advocacy organisations working to influence policy and mobilise resources to fight diseases of poverty and achieve equitable access to health. Amelia has also worked with Ministers of Parliament and for both small and large NGOs. She is passionate about human rights and using people power to bring about positive change.


Health and Advocacy podcast


Get up-to-date by listening to Episode 11, Cambodia to Cabramatta: A refugee journey before catching up with the latest episode. Simply search “Conversations in Development” into Apple Podcasts or your favourite streaming service. Episode 12, Advocacy and Health, streaming from Monday 27 May 2019.

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17 April 2019
Cambodia to Cabramatta: A Refugee Journey

Conversations in Development PodcastA new episode has been released in the Conversations in Development podcast series. The podcast has explored a range of issues from the development field such as child labour, urbanisation and microfinance. The latest episode, however, takes a different angle and hosts Veronica Nou, a migrant entrepreneur and refugee advocate, to discuss her refugee journey from Cambodia to Australia.

The episode, Cambodia to Cabramatta: A refugee journey, was released on Monday 15 April and Veronica appears alongside Cufa CEO and podcast host, Dr Peter Mason.


Understanding the drivers behind development issues is imperative to organisations engaging in the field of work. In this episode, Veronica tells us about her journey, how she came to Australia after her family fled the Cambodian Genocide and following Vietnamese occupation. She shares her experiences fleeing the country and arriving in Australia, living in abject poverty through her childhood and becoming a business owner. Now in her spare time, Veronica has set her sights on advocacy work and is a National Convener of the group Mums 4 Refugees, fighting for humane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.


Cambodia to Cabramatta: A refugee journey 1


Veronica Nou is a pharmacist and proprietor of two pharmacies in Western Sydney. Veronica was born in Cambodia during the time of the Khmer Rouge and her family fled the country, arriving in Australia in 1991 by way of refugee camps. After earning a scholarship at a private girl’s school, Veronica overcame a tough start in Australia to complete a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney. She now dedicates her spare time to speaking out about refugee advocacy.

Listen to the latest episode with Veronica or get up to date with the podcast by listening to previous episodes. Simply search “Conversations in Development” into Apple Podcasts or your favourite streaming service. Episode 11, Cambodia to Cabramatta: A refugee journey streaming from Monday 15 April 2019.

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17 April 2019
Foreign Aid: Failure and Effectiveness

People use high-profile aid failures as a weapon to rail against aid expenditure.  Rather than arguing that aid has failed, it might be more useful to critique how it is delivered, who is delivering it and the accountability mechanisms in place.  The mechanism of aid is not at fault, it is the way it is deployed that is sometimes problematic. 

There are many channels of aid delivery, such as through bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements, through intermediary banks such as the Asian Development and the World Bank or through local or international NGOs.  Each of these delivery mechanisms has an agenda and a reason for their engagement.  International or local NGOs may have a humanitarian, philosophical or faith-based rationale for their engagement, whereas bilateral engagement may be for geopolitical purposes.  Regardless of the rationale it is all lumped into the one term of “aid”. 

If we are to explore the concept of aid failure we need to unpack it to understand the location of the failure.  If you have a leaking pipe you don’t necessarily replace all your plumbing, you analyse where the leak is coming from and change out the offending leaking pipe.  Likewise, if there are components of the aid sector that are not working and not achieving the impact that the Australian public as stakeholders demand and deserve, it should be addressed in a similar manner. The Australian public works hard to pay their taxes and need to be assured that the funding that is given for a specific purpose actually achieves the stated objectives, not necessarily because they want economic efficiency but because as a society they believe in helping where they can and don’t like to see the suffering of others.  So if aid is designed to alleviate poverty the Australian public should expect the expenditure of aid dollars to result in tangible impacts.

There are many roads to achieving the goal of alleviating poverty but each is problematic in both implementation and delivery.  As mentioned there are also multiple delivery methods, but likewise, the conditions within the recipient countries are also varied as David Cameron said, there needs to be a “Golden Thread” of a stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law and transparent information

Aid can create dependency, it can create structural power issues and it can be less effective without coordination between the various agencies, governments and civil society.  The perception of failure also occurs when inadequate time has been given to achieving the desired results or when aid is commercialised inappropriately.

Showering of aid on recipient countries can do a lot of harm and manufacture dependence, Malawi is a great example whereby in 2012 they were given 1.17 billion dollars equating to 28% of the country’s gross national income.  This led to corruption within the government and the attempted killings of investigators.  While Malawi still gets substantial aid there is now an attempt to keep it out of the government hands.

In many cases, the flow of aid through governments that are less accountable to their people creates power and economic structures that inhibit the ability of people to help themselves.  The poor don’t pull themselves out of poverty because the ability to do this is not available to them.  For example, the infrastructure in places such as Bougainville and Timor Leste is poor, farmers can produce crops and goods but roads and transport is so poor that they can’t get their products to market. While the latest report on the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation  (GPEDC) argues that with only 51% of aid being channelled through the recipient countries own state systems is a poor result, the question must be asked is it always a good investment? 

The development sector and I include all actors, have a strong desire to do good work, but this is sometimes compromised by the competitive nature of raising and accessing funds.  There is a substantial lack of coordination between aid agencies, governments as well as multi and unilateral agencies. It is not that there isn’t a desire to do better, it’s just hard to do, it is hard to fit together with each actor’s agenda and programs or to modify what has already been planned.  Given the chase for the donor dollar is competitive, be that at an NFP agency level or a multilateral level, the culture of the organisations tend to be very guarded and therefore in any coordination efforts, the sharing of resources or information and the willingness to adapt programs or even agendas becomes problematic. 

Aid also fails when there is inadequate time to achieve results and when assumptions about the people being helped are wrong.  The variables are vast and often the voice of the local people is left out of the decision making. There is an unequal relationship whereby timeframes are agreed to under the duress of not receiving the funding.  The mobilisation and empowerment of civil society are being further compromised by the movement of aid away from civil society to that of the private sector.  The power structures inhibiting people to lift themselves out of poverty are further compounded by corporate interests in keeping wages low and labour rights suppressed.  We now see aid being used to counter the achievement of universal human rights, higher levels of education and access to health care in the name of achieving structural or macro-economic development.

As Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director at Oxfam has argued, “Development cooperation between nations is very important because it is one of the building blocks of shared peace, prosperity and human rights for all.” It is a counter to nationalism, closed borders, hatred and xenophobia. 

Most Australians in one way or another contribute to aid so we need to be active in identifying how we can achieve better results not only from an economic approach, (although we should always strive to achieve the most with our resources) but with an eye on the future. As the World Bank stated, "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." 



Dr Peter Mason is the CEO of Cufa and host of the podcast, Conversations In Development. The podcast explores a range of topics in the development field ranging from child labour to voluntourism and microfinance.

The first episode, Blurring the lines between good intentions and good business,  focuses on the increasingly common business interests associated with foreign aid, blurring the line between philanthropy and financial gain. 

Learn more about this episode and listen today!

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26 March 2019
Sustainable Development: Making a Change for Future Generations

Sustainable development has been defined in many ways but put most simply:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

What are the sustainable development goals?

The 17 sustainable development goals are a set of global goals established by the United Nationals General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. The goals are broad and interdependent, yet each has a separate list of targets to achieve. Achieving all 169 targets would signal to accomplish all 17 goals. The goals cover social, economic and environmental development issues including poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, clean water, sanitation, affordable energy, decent work, inequality, urbanization, global warming, environment, social justice and peace.


Sustainable Development Making a Change for Future Generations sdgs


Why should we concentrate on sustainable development programs?

As sustainable development focuses on creating change for current and future generations it means that there will be fewer people relying on assistance in the long term. Developing programs in which you promote self-determination, a trait that is easily passed on through generations, not only improves the lives of those families but also improves the local community and national economy. Imparting people with education and skills helps reduce reliance on handouts and creates brighter futures for not only current but also future generations.

Why does Cufa do it?

At Cufa we believe in a hand up not a handout. Our vision is for the communities of the Asia-Pacific to be free from poverty through economic development and self-determination. We are committed to achieving this through grassroots programs that focus on education, empowerment, entrepreneurship and financial institutions. Thus, our programs provide a range of ways for people to create better incomes for themselves, breaking free from poverty and helping them and their children to achieve the remaining sustainable development goals.


Sustainable Development Making a Change for Future Generations family boy


How does Cufa do it?

Over 90% of contributions to Cufa go directly into local communities where they are used to build financial institutions like credit unions, giving the most disadvantaged people a safe and affordable place to save their money. Credit union staff and members are then taught vital financial literacy skills, equipping them with the tools to save and handle their finances. Loans and savings groups are also made available at credit unions so that people can start their own small business, with Cufa project officers teaching the crucial business skills for these businesses to become successful.

Imparting these skills, knowledge and financial access provides people with a hand up, not a handout, a livelihood that can be passed on to future generations to break the poverty cycle.

Learn more about Cufa’s programs that foster sustainable development.

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