Select Encompass supports financial literacy and services for communities in need in Laos
Select Encompass Credit Union is one of ten Australian mutuals which have joined forces to fund a development and poverty alleviation program in Laos. The program is delivered by the Asian Confederation of Credit Unions in conjunction with the Laos government’s Rural Department of Poverty Eradication and involves the creation of credit unions to provide education and financial literacy training to impoverished rural people in northern Laos.
Laos - Real Life Credit Union Experiences – by Choua Va Xiong
Panem – Understanding the Importance of Savings
As a low-income farmer in Luangnamtha province, 54-year old Panem has been a satisfied credit union member for more than 3 years. Before becoming a member, Panem regularly experienced the disappointment of not being able to provide financial support for her children’s education, due to her impoverished circumstance.
Since being introduced to the Khonchan Credit Union in the remote Nalae District of northern Laos, Panem has come to understand the value of regular saving in significantly reducing financial hardship.
For the first time in her life, Panem has been guided by her credit union to save to reach her financial goals. Today, Panem has 1,460,000 kips (AUD$245) in her savings account. Though she is starting small, she believes she is building up momentum for something bigger.
During the three years of her membership, the Khonchan Credit Union has guided Panem toward prudent financial behavior to enable her to avoid financial trouble and ultimately build wealth.
Credit unions have only recently been introduced to northern Laos and the cooperative and self help principles have inspired Panem to encourage younger generations including her grandchildren to become savers. Panem understands that the saving habit should be developed at young age, and she is confidence that credit union participation can help protect her children and raise them from poverty.
Chan – To Save is to Build Wealth for Better Future
The credit union concept was not at all well known among the youth of Luangnamtha province, until a village meeting was convened in 2010 by the Asian Confederation of Credit Unions and the Khonchan Credit Union. One of the attendees was Chan Thippakeo, a government employee at the district advertising office.
Chan learnt that the mission and the work of the credit union is to provide a young independent working woman like herself access to financial service. Born into a family of five and being the oldest child, Chan carries the family responsibility on her back. Her dream, simple enough, is to build a good life where her career can financially support both herself and family members when needed.
This is exactly how credit union has come into Chan’s life. Over 6 years of being a member at her credit union, Chan grew to appreciate the value of regular saving.
“To save is to build wealth, and I’m proud that my effort of saving 50,000 kips (AUD$8.50) monthly has awarded me with a sense of security as well as it has strengthened my capability to financially support my family in case of emergency,” said Chan Thippakeo.
As a happy member, she encouraged her younger siblings who are still students to become members of credit union where they can start developing the habit of thrift at young age, solely to pave way for a future where becoming “financially independent” is possible to achieve.