In November 2018, Foresters Community Finance first heard from Bryan. Bryan had recently retired and was seeking a loan for rental bond as he moved to better accommodation in far north Queensland. As many people know rental bond is quite a significant amount for a person to have on hand and for Bryan applying for a loan with Foresters made it easier for him to live better. Bryan started with a $1,400 rental bond loan.
Bryan is a respected member of the community and is highly in tune with his budget, how to calculate loans and interest rates. He runs a personal ledger of all his spending, income and repayment timings. Bryan also lends very small amounts out to family and friends in need.
Shortly after taking out the loan, Bryan was diagnosed with cancer and spent several months undergoing chemo treatment. During the times he was in hospital for treatment, Bryan would arrange with Foresters to delay his loan repayments, however each time he would promptly catch up with them once out of hospital.
Bryan would also arrange with his housekeeper to make his loan repayments and pay for other expenses. Unfortunately, in trusting this person to do the right thing he gave them $400 to pay off his loan and sadly this person went on a vacation with that money. Bryan learnt the hard way that he should only pay us directly. Bryan then arranged with us to extend the loan until such time that he could complete the loan.
After some great news on his cancer treatment success and some 12 months later, Bryan renovated his kitchen and also took the opportunity to renew all his small and other appliances. This time Foresters assisted Bryan with a No Fee and No Interest loan.
Shortly into this new loan Bryan’s illness returned. To avoid repayment issues, Bryan changed to a better bank account and arranged for the loan to remain in good standing, without reliance or ability of others to access that bank account for withdrawals.
Foresters Community Finance has been providing support to those in need for over 100 years. Bryan is one of many the customers that Foresters is able to provide with no or low interest loans to help them during times of need.
The Foresters and Cufa teams wish Bryan a speedy recovery.
Cufa acquired Foresters in mid-2019.
In the September issue of Cufa Voice we brought to you the launch of our new Recycling Plastics Livelihood Project in Cambodia south-west Sihanoukville Province. This project is designed to improve the livelihoods, economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for rural communities in the Sihanoukville Province with a strong focus on developing female entrepreneurs and
Chea Vanny is one community member in the province who is very interested in actively participating in this project.
Chea is 36 years old single mother of a 5-year-old boy, living with her parents in a village in the Sihanoukville province. Chea was widowed when her son was 6 months old. As a widow, Chea has had to focus on taking care of her young son and so she couldn’t work in the factory or casino like some of her neighbours. Her sister and parents currently support the cost of her son's education.? After Chea was introduced to our Recycling Plastics program, she was very interested and thought it would provide potential for her to generate an income so she did not have to rely on her family members for assistance. Chea said that not only would it provide a means of financial support for her and her son but she said “I want to learn how to recycle the plastic as today there is a lot of plastic everywhere along the public road and on the lake near my house”.
Project participants, like Chea, will learn how to use specialist machinery to recycle plastic waste so that it can be remodelled into items that can be sold. These technical skills will be enhanced with participants receiving business and financial skills training and support to enable them to establish a sustainable business with the added benefits of bringing the concept of recycling to rural communities, increasing awareness on how to manage plastic waste and more broadly, cleaning-up the environment.
Foresters Community Finance recently expanded its loans product suite with the launch of it’s new product – FreshPath. FreshPath offers cash loans of up to $4,000 for the times when people need extra cash fast for whatever reason.
Foresters launched FreshPath cash loans as a cost-effective alternative to the high-interest loans offered by pay-day lenders, where annual interest rates charged are often between 112% and 407.6%, with the majority tending to be at the higher end permissible under law. The difference with a FreshPath Cash Loan is the low establishment and monthly fees, along with the commitment and core belief that all lending should be responsible, fair and ethical.
The application process is quick and easy and all online. The cash loans are paid directly into a nominated bank account for fast and easy access as needed.
Cufa acquired Foresters, a long-standing a not-for-profit micro-loan organisation in July 2019. Cufa CEO, Dr Peter Mason then said about the amalgamation: “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.” Both organisations have a principle of helping people help themselves. Foresters is also a Certified B Corporation which means that it uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
Jue Jue is a 9-year-old girl who lives in a village in Myanmar. A year ago she attended her first Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) session and this set the way for Jue Jue to start a strong savings habit, though she did find it difficult at the start she was determined to save money every day.
Jue Jue had a passion for power ranger toys and she used to spend much of her pocket money on these toy as she loved to play with them, as any 9-year-old would. Whenever she had finished her homework, she was usually playing with power rangers as she felt happy while she was playing with the colorful toys. She was always thinking to buy a new one even though she had already owned many toys that was until she attended her first CFL session.
Jue Jue who is a very bright student found the lessons interesting and she attended them regularly even though some of her friends tried to get her to come and play. The more she attended and learnt through each lesson, the more her financial knowledge was broadened. After she had attended five sessions, she decided not to buy toys anymore as she was sure it was a waste of her money. Jue Jue made up her mind to open an account at her village-owned savings bank and she managed to save some money every day. Jue Jue no longer asks her parents for her school materials and stationery. Whatever she needs, she knows she can buy it by spending her savings. To date, Jue Jue has been able to buy for herself with her savings a backpack and basic school materials including an exercise book, pencil and ballpoint pen. She has now set her saving goals with a goal to save every day so she can spend her savings to support her at university.
Jue Jue says, “I share my financial knowledge to my family members and friends. I want them to know how to spend money and how to save money.” She persuades the other people to learn CFL lessons and to save money.
Photo: Jue Jue and her mother happily looking at her savings book.
Redundancy is a word with negative connotations, but not according to Weh Yeoh who says all charities should be aiming to make themselves redundant. If charities focused more on solving problems rather than addressing symptoms, they would create a space for local people to create solutions to their own problems.
In this Conversations in Development podcast, Weh and Dr Peter Mason, CEO Cufa, discuss whether it is practical to have a clear exit plan from the outset of a charitable enterprise in a country, and whether it is always possible to completely solve a problem and move on.
Photo: Dr Peter Mason, Cufa CEO with Weh Yeoh.
About Weh Yeoh
Weh Yeoh is the founder of OIC Cambodia, established for the 600,000 Cambodians with communication and swallowing disabilities. According to Weh, OIC is one of a handful of charities in the world working towards its own exit. OIC will exit Cambodia in 2030, when there are 100 Cambodian speech therapists integrated into the public sector. Weh is also the co-founder of Umbo, an initiative to improve access to services for children in rural and remote communities. He has been featured on TEDx, The Huffington Post and The Sydney Morning Herald. Find out more about Weh’s work at wehyeoh.com.
This podcast is brought to you by Cufa, an international development agency alleviating poverty across the Asia Pacific .
To hear more topical discussions about issues in the foreign aid and development sector go to http://www.conversationsindevelopment.com.au/
This year Teachers Mutual Bank managers were set a step challenge to see who could walk the most steps across the week and staff paid to guess which manager would win. There were some impressive results with 35 managers walking over 3 million steps, equivalent to walking from Sydney to Townsville! One manager walked over 38,000 steps in 1 day and the winner walked a total of 173,000 steps for the week. TMB staff celebrated with morning tea festivities and games including Prize Pong on 21st November.
Khin Thaung, 58 years old joined his village savings bank in 2017 after Cufa staff in Myanmar delivered financial training sessions in his village and has been happy with this decision as he has now built a strong savings habit.
Khin lives with his wife, their two sons and daughter, her husband and their young son. He has been a farmer since he was 22 years old, cultivating rice and betel. His plantation provided profits but Khin did not understand how to save regularly or the benefits of doing so. It was not until Khin was exposed to the Cufa financial knowledge sessions that he knew how to save his money. He opened an account at his local village savings bank and began saving regularly.
Khin said “whenever I check my savings book, I am happy to see my savings and the interest, and it forces me to keep saving”. By attending the Cufa financial sessions, Khin learnt about the benefits of saving money, how to set savings goals and how to calculate interest on his savings. Khin added “the knowledge I learnt helped me build a strong saving habit and I now add money regularly to my savings”.
Khin has shared his newfound financial knowledge and first-hand experience with his friends and neighbours. He has encouraged them to open saving accounts at their local village saving bank. “Having a local savings bank in the village where we live makes us more interested in the bank operations," Khin says. "Moreover, we can share our stories about our village saving bank when we meet our friends from other villages”.
Khin attended at the financial sessions regularly, and he had learnt community audit skills, financial co-operative principles, leadership skills, how to record ledger books, how to calculate savings interest and loan interest. Khin said that a benefit of attending the sessions together with other local villagers was that they became friends and together they would discuss the growth of their businesses.
Khin said that another benefit for members of the local village savings bank is “we can apply loan if we need in our business if we have already made our regular saving bank at least for six months". Khin said that he was approved for a loan that he applied for at his savings bank to help him extend his betel planation fields to increase his income.
Khin has now repaid his loan and he and his family are enjoying increased profits from his rice paddy and betel plantation. Khin now knows the benefits of saving money at a village saving bank and he will continue regularly putting aside some of his income at his village savings bank for future needs.
Main Photo: Kin Thaung, his wife and grandson at their Betel Plantation.
Read more about Cufa’s CUD Program at www.cufa.org.au/our-programs/credit-union-development/
When Thida was 10 years old she spent her money on toys, junk food, and other things that she wanted. She did not know how the value of money and did not understand the need to save for any emergency needs in the future. This was before attending the Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program during the 2012-13 school year which laid the foundation for her future goals.
Today, Thida is 17 years old and lives with her parents, 2 sisters in Cambodia. She is the youngest daughter and her father works in the construction industry and her mother grows vegetables and raises chickens. Thida is now a first year university student at University studying a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in English Literature with a career goal of becoming an English teacher.
Thida says “the knowledge I received from the program 7 years ago when I was in grade 6 at primary school had a significant impact on me and it prepared me to set and strive to achieve higher goals from my small savings that I had then started.”
“After attending the Cufa program during school, I started saving her money in a piggy bank which I had asked my mother to buy it for me”, Thida said. “I set my savings goals, and first saved to pay for study materials, my school uniform and a bicycle”, she added.
Thida always hoped to continue to study at university when she was at primary school because her uncle was studying at university at that time. Thida said she really wanted to thank Cufa and the donors that supported the CFL project in Cambodia as the CFL program provided her with the money management skills when she was young laying the foundation that allowed her to develop a strong habit of saving and managing her money well.
Nowadays, she still saving money in her piggy bank but only 500 riels (18c AUD) a day as she spends more money now on her university needs.
Many children, like Thida, in poor communities in Cambodia can’t save the money for their school fees due to the low income of their family household but what they can do and useful for the family is saving the money to buy their school materials and uniform.
Read more about Cufa’s programs at cufa.org.au/our-programs/
Savatt Pann is 48 years old and a father of six children. He lost his right hand and left eye in 1984 during the Cambodian war near the border of Thailand. He used to feel guilty as his family had to live in a small palm leaf house as it was difficult for him to find better paying work due to his education and disability Around 4 years ago Savatt has started to raise some pigs, earning a small amount of money to contribute to supporting his family.
It was in 2016 that Cufa staff in Cambodia identified Savatt as being eligible to participate in its Village Entrepreneur (VE) program. This program is designed to provide essential education and business skills, support, and guidance participants need to run and build a profitable micro-business. More importantly, this program enables them to provide essential services to their families such as healthcare, education for their children, sanitation, electricity and water; services that were not affordable for them before joining the program. The Australian public select an individual Village Entrepreneur to support at a cost of $39 per month to help them build their own micro-business and become financially sustainable within three years. Savatt said that when he was selected that he was committed to the program and did not want to disappoint. He said that he would try his best to change his business his family’s standard of living.
Savatt said that through the program he has learnt many skills in business management and farming activities. “I am more able now to looking after the health of my pigs. I can make good feed for them and prevent them from getting sick by using bacteria killing liquid and I have built a better, bigger pig pen which I regularly clean”, he said.
Savatt said his pig farming business had contributed to being able to change his family’s livings conditions. Recently, he has used the profits to build a new house, install a sanitary toilet and improve other household items. He also said he has been able to afford to support his younger children’s education. He added “I have recently purchased good stationeries, new bicycles, and uniforms for my kids, and I am saving up in my account to support their studies in higher education and also to ensure good healthcare for my family members”.
Savatt’s goal is to have a regular income to support his family and ensure his children can get a higher education. To make this happen, he decided to expand his small pig farming business and using the farming and business management skills learnt and his business profit Savatt has now started duck and cow farming so that he could earn more money to support his family.
Savatt said “I will never stop my farming businesses, I like them, and wanted to see them keep growing. I will also purchase a few cows to raise so I can sell them for profits and also get cow manure for my rice field.”
Savatt said he is very pleased to be in the program because he could obtain the skills he needed to grow and expand his business. He added, “I want to thank my Australian supporter and wish them good health and successful work.”
To make a real life changing impact today visit ve.org.au and select a Village Entrepreneur to support.