Practicing what we teach – CUFA Timor Leste staff savings club

By Stephanie Brown, Marketing and Communication Manager CUFA And

By Angelo Moniz Jong, CUFA Timor Leste Country Program Manager

CUFA’s mission is to empower communities by giving them access to affordable financial services. All of our projects centre on helping communities, families and individuals break out of poverty by educating and providing the tools to save and manage their money safely and properly. A delightful story has come out of our CUFA Timor Leste Office which shows how CUFA Timor Leste’s staff are practicing what they teach through the CUFA Timor Leste Staff Savings Group.

CUFA Timor Leste’s head office located in the capital, Dili opened in 2008. In 2010, CUFA Timor Leste staff began their own Savings Group open to all staff members to save funds and take out loans.

“We found that many of us needed help making big purchases, such as motorbike and building house, so we thought it was a good idea to save our money together so we can take a loan in big amount to help each other afford what we needed.” CUFA’s Country Program Manager, Angelo Moniz Jong explained of the origins of the group.

“When it started all staff members joined the group and all staff members are still part of the group”, he elaborated.

The Savings Group consists of both compulsory and voluntary savings where each staff member is required to make a contribution to their savings account when their salary is paid. Loans are granted to the staff after approval from a committee.

“We are very flexible when giving loans, even though the member doesn’t have much in their savings we will assess the need for the loan and if it is high we will release the funds for loan. We offer loans up to $1,500.” Mr Moniz Jong explained who is also the Staff Saving Group Coordinator.

Staff member, Bonifacio Tome Tavares who is CUFA’s Credit Union Development Officer, joined the CUFA savings group after two months of working for CUFA Timor Leste. As a new member he learned how to save regularly, saving between $50 and $200 each month. After consultation, Bonifacio was advised to take a loan from the savings group in order to help fund the construction of his house – which he had begun building in early 2013. Bonficaio took a $500 loan which allowed him to purchase cement and other materials for the construction of his new house.

“After repaying the first loan, I took another $400.00 loan from the group to finalise my house and I feel grateful now because I can see my house is almost done and I can now live in it. I will save more money to finalise it step by step”, Bonifacio shared.

Bonifacio is not the only CUFA staff member taking advantage of the benefits of the Staff Savings Group. Office Security Guard, Delio Constantino has worked at CUFA for five years and during that time one of the biggest challenges he has faced with his position is transportation to and from work as he lives far from the office. “To walk it would take me one and half hours and would make me late to work.” So he began saving some money to buy a motorbike. He

didn’t want to take a loan from a broker because he was concerned he wasn’t going to be able to afford the repayments and high interest.

In mid-2012, Delio decided to join the CUFA Staff Savings Group. “I started to save some of my salary into the group. After some time I asked the committee whether I could take a loan in order to purchase a motorbike to get to the office and for some personal needs.” He was granted a loan by the committee and he was able to borrow enough to purchase a motorbike. “The bike is valuable for me and now I can come to the office on time and I can use it for family needs.”

Delio has already repaid 50 percent of the loan and his savings is also increasing. “From this group I learned how to save money even though my salary is small. I also learned how to make financial plans for my household and for my children.” Delio also added “I enjoy being part of the group because it helps me to solve some of my problems and helps me to overcome some challenges that I have faced for a long time.”

Currently, $5,000 is out on loan to the staff members to assist them with achieving their goals and improving their living standards.

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