For Wah, school is her favourite place, getting to see her friends and play games. School, however, isn’t all fun and games, as the lessons she learns in class set her up for life. Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy Program add to her current learning plan, giving her the skills she needs for her future. Along with her classmates, she learns about the ways in which just saving a small amount a day can give her big returns in the future. Thoughts of a bicycle or a new toy no doubt come to the mind of Wah when she learns about savings.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy Program have made an immediate impact on Wah and her classmates. “As soon as I attended the CFL Program, I realized that I should not waste my money on buying snacks anymore, as I have now learnt to save money and the benefits of long-term savings”
Wah, along her classmates, feel the commitment to pass on this knowledge to their communities. Among these, her father who Wah constantly encourages to save for their family’s future.
A Hooded Treepie chirping announces the start of a beautiful morning in Kyar Chaung. Khin, along with his wife Suu, they prepare for another productive day in their vegetable garden. Luckily, their home has been blessed with enough land to harvest vegetables in their own backyard. Despite his flourishing micro-business in selling vegetables of all kinds, Khin did not regularly budget and build his savings. It was after Cufa worked with his local community that he started to save more. A testimony to his nature is that what really peaked Khin’s interest in saving was that his savings could help his community.
“After getting some training delivered by Cufa, I made up my mind try to save money regularly because I understand my money can help to other villagers”
After finding out about Cufa’s DigiCud, Khin, along with members of his village, Khin started receiving training. Beyond the benefits of savings, Khin now feels an enormous sense of pride, as he knows his money in the savings bank will benefit the community.
The impact from Covid-19 to the Cambodian economy is evident, the road leading the nation’s capital remains quiet these days. Like many in Australia in 2020, Sreypov has been working from home but has been having a different experience to the rest of us. Her clothing shop, which she operates out from the front of her house, gives her the opportunity to tackle the housework whilst supporting her family financially. Before joining the Village Entrepreneur Program, Sreypov struggled to provide enough food for her family, needing to borrow from a private lender to send her children to school. After talking it over with a community member in the local government, Sreypov decided to join the Village Entrepreneur Program.
Over the year since joining the Village Entrepreneur Program, Sreypov has seen her daily income double, meaning she can send her children to school and provide them the nutrition they need to excel in life. She has already expanded her selection of clothing sold and is already looking to acquire a loan from her local credit union to increase the range even further.
The pandemic, however, has been felt in her community, and she has needed to adapt her marketing to suit a more de-generalised customer base. The customers who came on through the trucks have all but dried up, but Sreypov is not phased. Her years training and relationship with the local credit union has meant that she has saved up enough to offset the losses.
Teacher's Mutual Bank Limited (TMBL), a long-time supporter of Cufa, recently undertook a workplace fundraiser for Cufa, that not only raised money, but was a fun and creative activity for the TMBL team. Due to the added challenge of a global pandemic that forced everyone to work from home they needed to create an engaging and fun activity that everyone could participate in. TMBL has done workplace fundraisers for the last several years, hosting events such as sausage sizzles, movie nights and pie your boss in the face.
The staff at TMBL figured out a creative solution they would put together dry cookie mix jars. A dry cookie mix jar, for those unaware, is what it says on the box. It's all you need to make cookies, with exception of the wet ingredients such as egg, vanilla extract and butter.
It's a testimony to the team that they were able to solve this logistical challenge, working with staff across the country to produce over 100 jars! Those 100 jars, plus a raffle that they generously put together, was able to raise $1,906.
This donation means a lot to Cufa. It is not just about the monetary value, it’s the effort that the TMBL team put into preparing the jars, reaching out to their colleagues and organising the logistics. We appreciate that the team, during a stressful pandemic, were thinking of those less able to help themselves. Cufa and the communities it partners with thanks the TMBL team for all their hard work and commitment during this difficult time.
Looking back over 2020 in Myanmar, Cufa has tackled the challenges of COVID-19, whilst laying the groundwork for our new DigiCUD program and continuing our transformational Child Financial Literacy and Credit Union Development Programs. As the time of writing, Myanmar's COVID-19 outbreak has reached over 100,000 confirmed cases, resulting in a lockdown in the country’s largest city of Yangon where the Cufa office is based. Cufa’s staff and partnering rural communities have worked together to ensure our programs could continue, despite the challenges of the pandemic.
As schools closed to prevent the spread of the virus, Cufa’s staff feared that many students would miss out on participating in the CFL Program. Determined to conduct the CFL Program, our staff did not give up and provided 2,939 students with the program's five lessons, usually conducted during school time, by conducting home visits. These visits involve our project officers visiting the homes of villages, delivering the lessons and advising the parents as well in ways they can help the child out as well.
Cufa, engaged by the United Nations Development Program, has created female-owned enterprises with a focus on agricultural and fishery sector-based business in Shan State and Mandalay Region. Through the Project, Cufa provided capacity building training to aspiring and established MSME entrepreneurs in areas including marketing skills, business plan, leadership, and financial management skills. In response to COVID-19 and at the request of UNDP, Cufa rapidly created and integrated training modules on digitising operations and digital marketing skills for participants. To ensure all entrepreneurs were able to receive their training amid the pandemic and the adaptation to virtual training, Cufa provided training aids and subsidies.
2021 marks Cufa’s 50th year of working to alleviate poverty in the Asia-Pacific Region. Cufa is looking forward to developing new and innovative programs to ensure that we can continue to empower marginalised people and communities with the tools to lift themselves out of intergenerational poverty.
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Ohn San, UNDP Project participant.
For us here at Cufa, 2020 was a year of adaption and success in the face of adversity. In February, much like the rest of the world, Cufa’s work was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Cambodia, our Project Officers were quick to adapt to a rapidly changing and unpredictable global environment.
According to DFAT in October, Cambodia has managed to protect its citizen from the worst health impacts of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the pandemic has impacted Cambodia's most important economic sectors: garments, tourism, and construction. The World Bank estimated that before COVID-19, these sectors accounted for more than 70 per cent of the country’s GDP annual growth. Cambodia is at risk of re-entrenching intergenerational poverty due to the economic shocks and the high rates of indebtedness caused by microfinance institutions.
When schools closed in March, we rapidly adapted our Children’s Financial Literacy Program to be safely delivered to children in their homes. We turned to conduct home visits, with 808 home visits conducted, ensuring that the financial literacy classes could continue. This allowed for the opportunity to further engage families in financial education and encouraging parents to motivate their children.
Community members in Kampong Cham alerted Cufa to the demands for greater access to soap and washing powder. In response, Cufa pivoted the first stream of the Recycling Plastics Livelihoods Project for the community social enterprises to instead produce liquid hand soap. The adapted COVID-19 Livelihoods Response Program has facilitated community social enterprises, of which 67% of members are women, to produce and sell 2,940 litres of liquid hand soap. CSEs have made a total profit of USD 1,038.35.
As 2021 marks Cufa's 50th year of work, Cufa looks forward to continuing to work with rural communities, Cufa-supported credit unions and schools to continue and expand its footprint.