Cufa's Make A Difference Day (aka MAD Day) is usually aligned with the Anti-Poverty Week - a nationwide movement that is committed to raising awareness and helping those living in poverty. This year though we thought why not run it through until the end of October giving people more time to organise some fun.
MAD Day is all about celebrating the difference we can bring to those living in poverty. While the majority of people in the Asia-Pacific region live on just a few dollars a day, companies and individuals across Australia unite to lift these people from poverty and help them build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.
BankFirst got into the spirit and had a loud/colourful shirt day on Friday 18th October and ran a raffle with all money raised going to Cufa for MAD Day. The first prize was a day off work but Cufa was the real winner! Thanks to the team at BankFirst for your support!
Australian international aid and development not-for-profit organisation, Cufa Limited, today announced that it has merged with the Foresters Group, a not-for-profit micro-loan organisation providing emergency finance at a competitive rate for low-income households as a more affordable alternative to high-cost payday lenders.
Cufa, established in 1971 has been providing programs in Asia-Pacific with a focus on development in micro-enterprise, employment, financial literacy and establishing community-led financial institutions ensuring financial inclusion for those excluded from mainstream financial institutions. With the amalgamation of Foresters, Cufa’s CEO Dr Peter Mason explained “it is a union of two like-minded organisations, both having a strong social impact on economically disadvantaged individuals and communities through providing financial services and education with the aim of preventing people plunging into a spiralling cycle of debt.”
It is intended that Foresters will continue to operate under its name as it is well-respected in the market.
Foresters seeks to provide affordable small loans to the high number of households struggling financially due to the high cost of living and low wage growth which has dramatically increased over the years. According to the Australian Senate Report, released in February 2019, about 2.1 million Australians today are under severe or high financial stress living day-to-day, and almost half of Australians are living pay-to-pay with many people not able to afford unexpected financial emergencies. The report further stated that low financial literacy among consumers is an issue and many are unaware or have limited awareness of other product options.
The Report states that payday lenders charge annual interest rates of between 112.1 per cent and 407.6 per cent, with the majority tending to charge the maximum permitted by legislation. Dr Mason confirmed that “Foresters is committed to responsible lending and will continue to provide low-cost, fairer alternative loan products to the disadvantaged than that of the high-cost payday lenders.” The Report supports the provision of alternative financial products such as those that Foresters provides and recognises these could have far reaching benefits for financially stressed Australians and that the provision of these has scope for expansion in Australia. “We will be focussed on growing our product and service suite to provide further options to those who need us, including additional low-cost timely lending solutions, to ease the financial burden and improve their ability to manage financially”, he added.
Cufa’s Chair, Margot Sweeny OAM commented “as an organisation whose vision it is to alleviate poverty through financial education and financial inclusion we felt that this acquisition provides us with the ability to reach out to the many Australians suffering financial hardship and provide a pathway to financial stability”.
Foresters recent past Chair, Mr Paul Keehan said that the Foresters Board welcomed the merger of the two organisations and is confident that together the organisations will work to reduce financial exclusion of vulnerable Australians. He also sees this merger as an example of what should be happening more in the not-for-profit space – organisations with similar purpose joining to provide greater synergies and therefore concentrating more resources to delivering on their purpose.
Dr Peter Mason
0418 481 058
Director of Marketing and Fundraising, Cufa
Cufa is an Australian government-accredited not-for-profit international development agency committed to alleviating poverty across the Asia-Pacific. Cufa currently works in Cambodia, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and the greater Pacific. Cufa creates infinite value by reaching over 4 million people each year through grassroots programs focusing on education, enterprise, employment and economic institutions.
Foresters Group is an Australian for-purpose finance company - a fully integrated investment and finance intermediary that applies the mechanisms of the economy: finance, investment, asset ownership, to help people and communities to help themselves.
Foresters Group was advised by InterFinancial Corporate Finance and McCullough Robertson.
Foresters l www.foresters.org.au l 375 Wickham Tce, Spring Hill, QLD 4000 Australia LinkedIn: Foresters Group
Cufa, with support from the British Embassy in Phnom Penh, has been running a project with the specific focus of strengthening Cambodian women’s voices and encouraging participation within communities.
The project, Women Empowerment and Engagement in Democracy, has been formed through our Credit Union Development project and extensive experience working in rural Cambodia has assisted us in the project’s implementation. It has been delivered across 21 villages in four provinces and measures the participation rates of women in organisations such as credit unions and village committees. The results have seen a higher participation rate and deeper engagement for women within communities. This will enable women to gain skills in areas such as public speaking and create a platform for networking, both within and across rural communities.
The project covers four key topic areas:
- Benefits of community engagement
- Confidence building
- Public speaking
- Women’s networking forums
Romam Ki (pictured right) is a 25-year-old farmer living in the Ratanakiri Province in rural Cambodia with her husband and three children. Cufa spoke with her recently about her experiences in the project so far!
“I was incredibly excited upon hearing that this project was being implemented in my community! I am very appreciative of this female empowerment project and I have been able to learn, along with others in my community, how women’s rights work in a democracy.”
Initially, Romam was extremely scared of public speaking and even writing in a public meeting. She did not feel comfortable in environments of more than 10 people. However, after participating in the project she had an unexpected change in attitude.
Her family told her, “You are a woman, you should stay at home to take care of your family.” Additionally, her husband also asked, “What benefit did you get from the project? How much money will you make? Why are you participating?”
Romam continued to tell people “I want to change my life and build my confidence. From this project, I can learn about the realities of life and develop my opinions and attitudes.”
After participating in various meetings and training with Cufa she began to learn and she highlighted capacity development as an area that she enjoyed, helping her increase her ability, be brave, confident and build experience. She was able to share her knowledge and experience as well. She began to understand more about the problems of women in her community and how to solve them.
One day Romam was selected by the local authority to be a female activist in her community.
“This made me very happy as I was selected for such a position and the project has helped me empower my life.”
She had to say of her involvement, “I would like to thank Cufa Cambodia and the UK Embassy in Phnom Penh for starting this project in my community. I am extremely happy to be increasing my confidence and ability to share knowledge within the community. I hope Cufa will continue to support the community and other women who have not participated in the project.”
As we reported on last month, earlier in the year Cufa hosted some staff members from Teachers Mutual Bank (TMB), one of our biggest supporters, to participate in a study trip. The trip comprised of activities that varied from cultural and historical activities to visiting our projects and meeting some of the participants whose lives have been changed for the better.
The trip was action-packed and started off by learning about some of the history of Cambodia with visits to the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng (Genocide Museum). Once there was a general understanding of the need for Cufa’s work, Cufa staff showed them around some of the projects. These included the Children’s Financial Literacy program where they were able to see classes, a Credit Union Development savings bank visit and seeing a Village Entrepreneur’s business.
The latter days were more hands-on as TMB staff were able to interact with the kids of the Children’s Financial Literacy program, discuss financial concepts and products in the village banks or just listen to some of the amazing stories.
Like all amazing trips, it had to come to an end eventually and all of the Cufa staff involved were grateful to have been able to host the group.
We caught up with some of the TMB staff and this is what they had to say of their time in Cambodia…
Jade Coleman - Business Relationship Manager
"I really wanted to see firsthand how Teachers Mutual Bank’s funds donated to Cufa help and benefit people’s lives in poor communities. Often you hear about it but to see it in real life is a wonderful opportunity and I was so grateful to have been selected by my employer."
Trent Bennett – Systems Accountant
"Because of my accounting background, I found the Credit Union Development project the most fascinating. I was really inspired by the encounters I had with the savings bank staff and volunteers and the follow-up conversations with Cufa staff afterwards. I was impressed by the slow-burn efforts of Cufa in villages to communicate and educate villagers about a radical new concept - placing your savings into the custody of a bank. I’d forgotten how radical that concept is. I was inspired by Cufa’s conviction and the part that these customer-owned savings banks have to play in ending poverty. How audacious to believe that the fortunes of Cambodia and its people can be shaped, one savings account at a time! But it’s begun, and I see signs that it’s working. For me, that was so very inspiring."
Joyce Tuioti – Supervisor - Credit Control
"Cambodia was more beautiful then I had expected. I loved meeting the people and visiting the schools. The tours were very informative and very emotional, but I loved it. The Village Entrepreneur program was the most interesting for me because it showed that people require assistance through sponsorship and donations which makes a real difference in people’s lives. We were happy to see their village in practice and appreciated what they shared with us, things like the pottery, vegetable farms, shops etc."
A unique new episode had been released this week in the Conversations in Development podcast series. The podcast was started by Cufa to discuss a diverse range of topics within the development field such as advocacy, child labour, voluntourism and many more. The series has had a range of expert guests and the next episode features Clare Brown, a human rights lawyer who currently works as the Legal Program Manager at Legal Action Worldwide (LAW).
The episode, Women, Violence and the Law, was released on Monday 24 June as Clare discusses a range of issues facing women in countries like Somalia and Lebanon with the podcasts usual host, Dr Peter Mason.
The regions surrounding Somalia and Lebanon have some of the lowest rates of gender equality in the world. Peter speaks with Clare about her experiences working in the region. They discuss the lived experience, many of the issues that women face and triggers of sexual-based violence, as well as exploring the current climate for legal advocacy work and the overall progress that has been made in these countries.
Clare Brown is an international human rights lawyer and currently works as the Legal Program Manager at Legal Action Worldwide (LAW). Clare has been in this position for almost six years after working as a legal intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Her work sees her based between Kenya and Somalia with travel to South Sudan and Lebanon, developing and implementing creative legal interventions to address human rights violations with a focus on sexual violence and violations committed by security forces.
Catch up by listening to the previous episode, Advocacy and Health, available on Apple Podcasts or your favourite podcast app. Women, Violence and the Law is streaming now!
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned next month to see what some of the TMB staff thought of the study tour!