Two years ago, Daw Myat Kay Khaing joined Shwe Myanmar Village Saving Bank, a community-owned bank set up in Tha Yet Chaung Village with the Cufa Female Financial Empowerment program. She lives with four other family members and ten years ago started a small shop at the front of their house. Unfortunately, without any financial education, Daw Myat Kay Khaing struggled to make any profit or save any of this income.
When Cufa project officers first came to her village Daw Myat Kay Khaing was cautious at first but after engaging with the program she started to learn a lot. She opened a savings account with her local community-owned bank started by Cufa and realized the importance of some of the skills being taught. After this, she started to save some of her money and it made her very happy to look at the progress in her savings book.
Cufa’s financial literacy lessons helped her understand concepts like calculating the interest on her savings and learning how to set savings goals and about the benefits of saving. As she learnt, Daw Myat Kay Khaing developed stronger saving habits and began making contributions more regularly. She encouraged many of her friends to also join the program and open up savings accounts saying, “Having a community-owned bank in our village helps teach everyone how to calculate our interest on savings and loans. Moreover, we can share knowledge about our bank when we meet friends from other villages.”
As Daw Myat Kay Khaing attended more financial literacy lessons, she and other villagers exchanged more stories about their businesses. Together they learnt about auditing, financial cooperatives, leadership skills, bookkeeping and more. Their businesses began to grow as they learnt more and their community-owned bank was there for them. After six months making regular savings deposits, Daw Myat Kay Khaing was eligible to take a loan out and did so happily with the aim of improving her business.
Daw Myat Kay Khaing was able to grow her business with the loan and begin earning extra money. After a short time, she had already repaid the loan and was thrilled with her progress. She had to say of the program, “I now know about the benefits of saving money at a bank and I have decided to make regular contributions to my savings account. Thank you Cufa!”
Noeun Bunny married his wife Pork Srey Nic in 2015. Like many young couples, they dreamed of starting a family. It wasn’t long before this dream came true and now they have a young daughter. To support his young family, Noeun worked in a garment factory for years. This was until he was selected to participate in Cufa’s LEED program and become a business owner.
Noeun’s previous work in the garment factory taught him a range of sewing and craft skills. However, the job involved extremely long hours, it was very far from home and the factory had very poor management. He wanted to be able to better care for his young child and be able to spend more time at home. For this reason, Noeun decided to open his own business and become a tailor.
Since receiving the support of Cufa’s LEED program, Noeun has attended capacity building training, micro-enterprise development training and received one-on-one consultations from Cufa project officers on how to improve his business. After developing a business plan, gaining training in marketing strategy and microfinance, Noeun’s business has rapidly increased.
Noeun has been able to purchase new sewing equipment and has a larger range of materials including branded materials. Thanks to all this training and the beneficial changes that have been made, Noeun believes his business has tripled and this has led to him increasing the financial support he can provide for his family.
“It is a good location, I have more confidence in managing my business and the future looks great for me and my family!” said Noeun.
Through many of his new business skills, Noeun has been able to manage his daily expenses, reinvest profits and even save some of his income, which is amounting to around 10,000 Cambodian Riels a day or $3.50. He has even been able to invest in a small second business farming chickens. The improvements in the living conditions of his family are evident and many of his neighbours often ask him how he gained such success.
Noeun credits much of the success as a business owner to the support he received through the program, primarily in building his business skill set and buying new materials.
Pyae Phyoe Mg is a ten-year-old boy living in Inn Yat Gyi Village in rural Myanmar. His father is a farmer and his mother doesn’t work as she cares for their household. Even though Pyae Phyoe Mg’s family does not have a daily income his parents still manage to supply him with a small amount of pocket money. Prae Phyoe Mg never gave too much thought to his family’s financial situation and spent his pocket money on toys and snacks. This was until he joined Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program and began developing important savings habits.
Two years ago when school returned for the year, Pyae Phyoe Mg noticed many of his friends had new school bags. He really wanted to get a new bag, however, his parents could not afford it and hoped he could continue to use his old bag. He was disappointed but started to understand the value of money and its uses.
A year later Pyae Phyoe Mg attended his first Children’s Financial Literacy lesson. As soon as he starting learning about the program he wanted to know more and more. He found the lessons interesting and engaging and it helped him understand different ways that he could spend or save his money. After learning about financial literacy Pyae Phyoe Mg decided to start buying fewer toys with his pocket money as he didn’t think he should spend such a large portion of his money on them. He opened a savings account at his local community-owned bank and began to save money.
After a while, Pyae Phyoe Mg was becoming less reliant on asking his parents to help him as he had a small amount of money saved and a better financial education. Now, one year after joining the program Pyae Phyoe Mg is saving money regularly and has set his sights on one day going to university, with his savings helping him along the way.
In describing the impact the program had had on him he said, “I like sharing my financial knowledge with my family and friends. I want them to know how to spend money and how to save money. The lessons are what everyone should learn to create a brighter future for all. I have no doubt about that.”
Pyae Phyoe Mg is continuously encouraging his friends to attend the lessons and discussing what he has learnt with his parents, spreading the savings habits he has gained.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has taught over 100,000 disadvantaged students across Cambodia and Myanmar about developing improved savings habits in a fun and engaging way.
Chaem Han is a 40-year-old father of three living in Kampong Chhnang Province, Cambodia. Unfortunately, Chaem was forced to drop out of school during grade six. This was because of a deteriorating family and financial situation and he started to work as a labourer building houses. Chaem has continued this work intermittently while farming rice and after he met his wife and started a family he decided to start a business.
Chaem’s business, a barbershop, began in an old hut and was not initially doing well. This was until in 2018 when Chaem was selected to participate in and gain support and training from Cufa’s LEED program.
Since his involvement in the program began, he has attended capacity building training, micro-enterprise training and received consultations to improve his business. After developing a business plan with the help of Cufa staff, Chaem was trained on market strategy and provided materials and equipment for his barbershop.
Chaem has set his prices at 2500 riels ($0.88) for children and 3000 riels ($1.05) for adults. His customers have been coming from both inside his village and from surrounding villages. His success has been steadily increasing from two to three customers up to six a day now.
In addition, using the business skills Chaem has picked up from the program he has recently opened a second business cleaning motorbikes. This can earn him up to 10,000 riels a day on top of what he earns as a barber and he has been using the budgeting skills he learnt from the program to better care for his family finances.
As his business has increased his income and improved his living conditions his neighbours have been asking him about his business success and where to learn the necessary skills. Chaem is now full of confidence after learning life-changing skills in the program and is looking at building another, larger business in the future – a grocery store.
Chaem had to say of the program, “Thank you so much to Cufa for the significant support, not just with material and equipment but also for the business skills.”
Cufa’s Female Financial Empowerment program was started in Myanmar using concepts from our Credit Union Development program. The aim of the program is to develop the financial education of women in rural areas and provide the tools to empower them. This can be through support, financial services and business skills.
Recently we caught up with an entrepreneur from the program to discuss how she is going. This is how it went!
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from?
“Hi. My name is Ma Thin Thin Oo and I live in Patauk Tan village in Myanmar with my husband and daughter. I recently turned 27 and I earn our main income through the grocery store that I own.”
What was your situation like before you joined the program?
“Well before Cufa even arrived in my village I didn’t know about the important role that savings played in so many parts of people’s lives! I just had no idea why I should be saving and what I would be saving for.”
What sort of activities were you involved in when you joined the program?
“I joined the program at my local community-owned bank and began attending the self-help groups. In these, I learnt about financial literacy and began to start saving money which I put into my new account. I was given a passbook which let me track my saving and interest. It makes me happy whenever I open it and see how well I have done!”
How have you benefitted from the program?
“Now I am very clear on how to save and things like interest and profits. I can easily explain it to others and recently I got a loan from my community-owned bank to use to improve my store. This has also helped me improve my profits.”
When did you really notice the program having a bigger impact on your life?
“In March 2018 when the community-owned bank started I noticed with other villagers the benefits as we had a place to save our money and we feel a part of it as it is community-owned.”
Have you been able to give back to the program at all?
“Aside from developing my skills and work ethic, I have helped and supported other villagers. I also convey the great news and achievements of the community-owned bank to other villagers who want to know more about the benefits of savings.”
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experiences?
“This program has been able to help everyone in our village providing systematic training sessions on topics like saving product development, loan product development, saving mobilization and more. By attending more of the training sessions held by Cufa staff I have a better and better understanding of financial topics and this is very helpful for my household. Thank you Cufa!”
Across Cambodia, there are hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities. These people are of differing ages and genders and could have acquired a disability from birth, as a result of a medical issue such as polio or from the civil war or a landmine. These disabilities cause a multitude of issues for these people such as getting a job or obtaining an education. Services for these people are few and far between and thus, many resort to begging to feed themselves and their family.
Sokhorn Kreung is a 46-year-old single mother of 2 orphaned children. She contracted polio when she was young and lost the use of her legs. About 4 years ago, after Sokhorn took in 2 orphaned children she decided to use her savings to start a business selling grocery products and snacks. The business was very small but helped her avoid begging for money on the streets.
Not long after at a community meeting, she raised how she was struggling with the cost of living and couldn’t afford school supplies for her children. She was concerned about being able to provide food for her family every day as borrowing money at high interest rates and paying for medical supplies for her children had crippled her financially.
Sokhorn’s wish was granted and she was directed towards Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program where she gained sponsorship for her business. This provided her with the finance to improve, fixing her stall and expanding her product range and learning new business skills that would stay with her long past her completion of the program. She said of her involvement, “I am really glad that my business has now improved and I have more profit to support my family.”
Cufa holds training sessions and business consultations once a quarter, along with one-on-one assistance being made available. Sokhorn has learnt a lot from the training as she said, “Previously I had no idea how to market my business to customers. Now I know many ways in which I can do this. Things like customer service skills, keeping my stall clean and bookkeeping have given me much success."
Now, Sokhorn has been able to purchase new school uniforms, stationery and pay for the study that her children have undertaken. In addition, she can now afford medicine and also does not need to take a loan out to buy rice which she sometimes did before.
Finally, Sokhorn had to say of the program, “Many thanks for the support. I will always work hard and do my best to care for my business. I now look forward to the future as I can further improve my life and provide for my children.”
Find out more about how Cufa is changing lives through the Village Entrepreneur program.