26 November 2018
How Chek Changed His Life With Cement Stairways

As a man who could not read or write and lacked the critical skills to find employment, Chek Chin was struggling to make ends meet with his family. Basic necessities like food, healthcare and his children’s education were an ongoing struggle until he found out about Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program.

It all started when he noticed his neighbour’s chicken farming business excelling. His neighbour was a participant in Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program. This led Chek to go to his local community-owned bank to sign up for sponsorship.

Initially, Chek started off the program by setting up a chicken farm. However, once he had developed his chicken farm, he started a second business building and selling cement stairways. This business was very successful because of the large amount of raised houses in Cambodia.


How Chek Changed His Life With Cement Stairways


Recently, Chek was determined to have a sustainable business by Cufa project officers. Throughout the program, Cufa project officers gave Chek assistance and guidance, with quarterly field trips to see successful businesses, one-on-one support and more. Thanks to this, Chek not only was able to learn how to make good quality stairs and effectively farm chickens but also gained a strong understanding of market assessments, business admin and chicken food production.

Chek now has a quarterly income of $943.74 but that did not come without challenges. Throughout the program, his biggest challenge was the competition from other local chicken farms. However, starting a second business to differentiate helped his income. Additionally, consistently promoting his business and maintaining customer relationships meant that this issue was easily overcome.

He had to say to his sponsor, “Many thanks, I appreciate your kind support. My businesses have developed well and I now have a great workplace. I now have enough cement stairways, chickens and materials to sustain my family and businesses in the long-term.”

Want to assist someone like Chek? Find out how you can contribute this holiday season.

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26 November 2018
Improved Savings Habits: Sam’s Story

Sam Pholirak is a young boy living in Cambodia who had not developed very good spending habits. He often asked his parents for money to take to school and spent it on toys, snacks and other small items without knowing how hard his parents worked to make their money. After attending Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program he has improved savings habits and gained a better appreciation for the hard work of his parents.

Sam lives in Boeng Village, Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia with his family – his parents, two siblings and aunt. He is currently studying in Grade 7 at the local secondary school and his put little thought towards his future. His parents work as farmers, growing rice, chickens and pigs, earning enough to save a small amount each month.

He did not know the value of money and wasn’t aware of needing it for emergencies. Sam’s aunt had previously given him 4000 riels ($1.36) a week to take to school. She said “I am now 56 and am beginning to develop health problems so I cannot work as much. I am on the committee for our local community-owned bank so could suggest for him to open a bank account.”

2015 was when Sam first received his Children’s Financial Literacy education. He asked his mother if she could buy him a piggy bank to start using to commit to his savings. It wasn’t long before Sam had saved up enough money to buy himself a bicycle. “After I learnt about savings at school and showed my aunt the lesson book she was very encouraging and now I have saved for a bike,” Sam said.


Improved Savings Habits Sams Story (2)


His mother continues to give her children 2000 riel ($0.68) to take to school as pocket money.  She encourages them to save as much as they can. “I want Sam to finish university, so I always encourage him to study hard. I hope the money he saves every day will help him to achieve this goal,” she describes.

Sam is now very optimistic about the future. His ability to create savings goals and knowledge of financial literacy has given him more independence and increased his interest in his education.

Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program teaches disadvantaged students across Cambodia and Myanmar about developing improved savings habits in a fun and engaging way.

Find out more about the program here.

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29 October 2018
Team Makes Field Trip in Myanmar

Cufa’s team has recently made a field trip in Myanmar to Pa Tauk Tan Village in Taik Kyi Township to visit and assist participants of our Credit Union Development project.

The program is initially set up within a community signing people up to a community-owned bank to gain financial access. Following this, the program looks at increasing the member’s financial education. This is achieved via a range of methods such as bookkeeping training and learning about loans and interest.

Once the program is established, smaller livelihood projects are delivered to improve the living standard of the local communities. All of the pictured participants below are members of their local community-owned bank. They are working in Roselle fields picking and packaging it to be sent to the markets for sale.

The Cufa team members field trip in Myanmar provided a learning experience for both themselves and the participants. They assisted and encouraged participants to build a deeper engagement with the program. At the same time, they gained a better understanding of the living conditions of the participants and their types of work.


Team Makes Field Trip in Myanmar interacting


The program fosters independence within disadvantaged communities. It provides the tools for people to break the cycle of poverty through businesses and financial access. The program makes a life-changing difference by encouraging locals to work hard, spend wisely and by encouraging them to learn.

Roselle is an extremely common farming plant in rural Myanmar. It is the most widely eaten and popular vegetable in the country. Its uses vary but the most popular include in curries and soups. Other uses of roselle include the making of jam and tea from the flowers and in salads as the leaves are used as a spicy equivalent to spinach.

The Credit Union Development program targets disadvantaged communities in the rural areas of Cambodia and Myanmar. It provides financial access and education and consequently makes a massive difference to the lives of people within these communities.

Find out more about Cufa is providing financial access with the Credit Union Development program.

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19 September 2018
Financial Empowerment for Women in Myanmar

The Female Financial Empowerment program was started in Myanmar using concepts from our Credit Union Development program. The aim of the program is to develop financial empowerment for women in rural areas and provide essential financial services.

Women in rural villages are empowered through support and education, this comes in the form of self-help groups. Participants are also provided access to financial services such as loans and savings account and taught business skills.

The program is currently operating in three rural villages in Myanmar, Tha Yet Chaung, Suk Su and Ywar Tan Shae Sout Win Gyi.

We recently spoke with Daw Kyi Pyar about her experience gaining financial empowerment in the program.


financial empowerment for women Daw Kyi Pyar


Daw Kyi, tell us a bit about yourself? I am 38 years old, living in Tha Yet Chaung Village with my husband and my young son.

What was your situation like before you joined the program? I didn’t know much about the importance of money before Cufa came to my village. I didn’t know why I should be saving and what I should be saving for.

How has your life changed since you joined the program? Since I joined my local community-owned bank in 2016 I have been constantly saving. I was able to take out a loan and use it for my business – a grocery store. I am now seeing the benefits as the profits from my store have been increasing steadily.

How else are you getting involved? I have attended all the training sessions provided by Cufa staff. They teach about savings, loans and more. It makes finance easy to understand for most households.  On top of this, I convey the good news about my self-help group to my village and help explain to other villagers the benefits of savings.

Thanks for sharing with us Daw Kyi!

The Female Financial Empowerment program provides an opportunity for women in rural areas to collaborate and access a support group. Subsequently, financial empowerment for women is built through access to financial services, education and support but primarily also by coming together as a collective.

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19 September 2018
Improved Livelihood: Catching up with Saren

Saren LivelihoodPreviously in the year, we spoke with Saren Koh from our Livelihood Enhancement for Economic Development (LEED) program in Cambodia. We recently caught up with Saren to see how she was progressing in the program.

Saren is a 31-year-old mother of 2 living in Krampong Chnang province. Initially, like many in Cambodia, Saren primarily worked as a farmer. However, with an initial loan of $200, she was able to start her own welding business primarily focused on roofing. Over time she developed more skills from the LEED program for her business and this has allowed her to expand. She now does welding for a larger amount of customers building roofs, doors, balconies, frames and much more.

We asked Saren a few questions about how LEED is improving her livelihood!

How have you been improving your business? We have built relationships and networked with relatives, villagers and other businesses. We saw the market demand and plan to continue to expand networking with builders both inside and outside our community.

What progress has your business made? Our income has been increased by a large amount. Welding iron is a great business as there are many people that need your services. People like villagers, builders and even schools need items like roofs, doors and windows.

How has your life changed for you and your family? We have had a significant change in our lives. I have better business skills, more income and have built confidence in doing business. My family has also benefitted greatly as we are much more involved in the community now and I can send my children to school.


Saren working livelihood


The LEED program strengthens the economic development and improves the lives of disadvantaged Cambodians, particularly women and those with disabilities. This is achieved through education, vocational training and financial inclusion.

Cufa project officers provide training through theory and real practice for business skills and development. Participants are also provided financial literacy lessons and connected to a community-owned bank for financial services. This is all done with the aim of successfully improving the livelihood of villagers across rural Cambodia.

Find out more about Cufa's LEED program.

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20 August 2018
Engineer in Cambodia: Samnang’s Savings Goal

Samnang Sum is studying in grade six at Udom Sorya Primary School in Takeo province, regional Cambodia. As a participant of Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) program, Samnang has been able to change his financial habits. He has opened a savings account and is making contributions with a goal. He is aiming to support his education and become an engineer in Cambodia.

Samnang is the oldest son in a family of five. As the oldest, he does most of the housework. These duties include taking care of the animals and cleaning when his parents are not home. Due to this, his father, who works as a local vet, gives him 1500 Riels ($0.50 AUD) a day to take to school.

Initially, before Samnang was taught by the CFL program, he liked spending this money on snacks and toys, without thinking about how hard his parents worked to provide him with this money.

The CFL program taught Samnang about managing his savings and developing a short and long-term goal. It also assisted in him opening a savings account with his local village savings bank. Cufa project officers use a variety of mediums to teach financial literacy ranging from workbooks and tablets in school to home visits to reinforce the lessons and check the progress.

Due to the CFL program, Samnang has been much more attentive to his savings. He better understands the value of money and how hard his parents work to earn for their family. Consequently, he has been able to save around $200 USD in his savings account over the past 2 years. Now Samnang has made his long-term savings goal to save up enough money to pay for a tertiary education to become an engineer in Cambodia!


Engineer in Cambodia Samnang and his moneybox


Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has taught over 90,000 children since its inception. In the past 3 years, 66% of participants have been actively saving. Since the CFL program started in 2008, the average monthly savings from each child has increased by 236% from $0.89 to $2.99.

Find out more about the program here.

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