An interview with CUFA’s Village Entrepreneur Coordinator in Timor-Leste, Mariazinha Da Costa Silva.
CUFA is delighted to welcome our new Village Entrepreneur Coordinator in Timor-Leste. We decided to find out more about her job and her insights into the Village Entrepreneur Program. She gave us a straight-from-the-heart account of her experiences. Go on and read what she has to say:
What inspired you about the Village Entrepreneur Program?
What I like the most about this program’s is how I have the opportunity to help people by sharing my knowledge and experience in whatever capacity I can. I truly believe that everyone who has the ability to support people should do so. We can all help one another, and I hope I can help people lift themselves out of poverty with my work at CUFA. I also love the diversity of business ideas: some people want to farm chickens, others run small grocery kiosks, and others are street-side hair-dressers.
What do you think the Village Entrepreneur brings to the community?
I truly feel the community doesn’t need big things. People just need someone to give them hope, provide clear goals and offer the chance to build capacity, develop knowledge, and grow skills in business development, management and technical know-how. These kinds of skills are like a long-term investment in the lives of people. They provide concrete and appropriate ways to take control of their life. Just to give you an example, through this Village Entrepreneur Program, CUFA has been able to support people who were previously living on less than $2 per day, grow their businesses through investment, training and setting sustainability goals. The impact of the program is huge. It doesn’t just reach the micro-business owner, it also allows them to increase the household income so that children can go to school and people can access healthcare. Ultimately the entire community benefits as all members have a greater opportunity to participate.
What have you learnt so far, by being a part of this program?
I have learnt a few things about how I can directly help people address the worries of their lives: money, affordable health care, education for their children, and supporting their families. There are a lot of times I wonder how I can best help people, and then I realise that I can offer them my knowledge and experience. I try and show them how they can save money and through this saving, how they can start planning their new business, and finally, how they can change their future by changing what they do now. I have also learnt that people are very resilient and when given an opportunity, will build a better life for themselves and their families. The generosity of donors in Australia and beyond is wonderful. We could not do this work in Timor-Leste without their support.
What exactly are you teaching?
My job involves giving ideas on how they can start and sustain their own business. The most important points I stress on before I advise them to start the business are:
- What’s your dream? What would you love to do?
- Be clear with your plan for your business.
- Where are you going to run the business from?
- Prepare the tools that you are going to use for the business.
- How much money do you have?
- What kind of support do you need?
- I help them think of ways they can make their businesses a success in the future.
After I help them achieve all the things that they have listed down, the next thing is financial literacy training. We need everyone to know the difference between income, expenses and profit, as well as other financial terms. When they are clear with these things then they have a greater chance of achieving their business goals. Further down the track, the program includes training in customer service, marketing, distribution, negotiation with suppliers, and animal husbandry if that is appropriate. We also pair current Entrepreneurs with graduates from the program so that the knowledge is shared between people. Collaboration and knowledge sharing are at the core of what we do.
How has the Village Entrepreneur Program changed people’s lives?
Though business investment, experience and the knowledge that we share with the entrepreneurs, people can lift themselves out of poverty. The simple explanation is that to achieve our dreams we need to have a clear goal about the kind of business we want to run, we have to be clear with our plan and of course, know that there’s a solution for everything. The stories I have heard about people changing their lives through successful businesses are truly inspiring. I look forward to many years of working with people to develop new enterprises.
If you’d like to invest in a Village Entrepreneur in Timor-Leste, Cambodia or Myanmar, please visit the Village Entrepreneur site.