“If you are late for a meeting, you are charged 200 Kyats (~20 cents); if you forget your name tag – 200 K; for any ‘side talking’, you are charged 200K. If you leave the meeting early = 500 K!”
These are just some of the rules and regulations the children of Myitta Lin Yaung (“Shining Love”) Child Savings Group have enforced on their own groups.
A child Savings group is a small group of about 20 members that meet regularly to save (typically their ‘pocket’ money) in small regular amounts. As a result, children begin to learn the value of money, how to save, and how to look out for others through the use of a generic ‘social fund’. In Adult Savings groups they also can take ‘loans’ from the group’s collective savings. The group leader stands there confidently presenting their group’s objectives, rules and penalties, process, savings total, social fund total, group benefits, and their future plan.
Arriving at Thayet Chaung Development Program in Myanmar on Sunday morning, I wasn’t expecting to see much that day. However, little did I know that there were two Child Savings Groups waiting to share their experiences with me. I was blown away by the confidence and empowerment of these two active groups, both of which are already implementing their 2nd one-year cycle of savings! This an impressive achievement in itself and indicates that all members value being part of the group and can sustainably function. This might not seem like a huge achievement, but some adult savings groups don’t even get to the 2nd cycle!
They all expressed their desire to even continue into a third cycle. So far, they have managed to collectively save a 423, 000 K (~AU $380) with their social fund total of 30, 200 K (~A$30).
The 20 – 25 members are led by an Executive Committee made up of 2 leaders, 3 Key holders for the box, a Treasurer, and a Bookkeeper. They meet twice a month and decide themselves how much each share will cost (eg. 500 K/AU 47 cents) and how much each will donate towards a social fund (eg. 200K/ AU19 cents). The social fund is spent on activities that benefit other vulnerable children and helps to teach them about caring for others and serving their community.
According to the children, being part of this group means they get the chance to, “buy something they want, have respect for timelines, know the value of money, know how to manage money, practice saving, contribute to others, know discipline, have unity, improve calculations, form Income Generating Activities themselves, and help others.”
One girl expressed, “Before the Savings Group, I did not know who to manage money effectively. But after the Savings group I know how manage and was able to buy my own uniform!”
Another girl Hnia Ei Hyho in the other group called “Know Yourself” stood up confidently and spoke for about eight mins about how excited she was to be part of the group – and that even the Monks recognised and respected them (Monks are the highest most respect religious leader of the area).
She exclaimed though giggles and smiles “The monk saw our group and recognised our good work so that’s why the monk asked us to help him for the religious affairs/ceremonies or to help fix a road. In the earlier times, children were neglected and not participating in social affairs, but because of the unity this group, the elder people and monks recognise us and request a role to play in religious festivals (such as serving guests), even the Township Authority gives some money to our social fund”.
Some future plans for these groups include: “To tell other children, keep having good saving practice, help other children manage money; share experience, expand and make other groups”
Another group explained that they would like to “continue to save; contribute to social fund; involve in social affairs (eg. Community clearing, support religious ceremonies), use savings for investment for income generation (for example, Use investment to buy imports (eg. Rice, groceries) and sell to parents for profit – then use it for vulnerable children.”
I asked if they would be able to continue without World Vision, to which they answered with a unified “Yes!” They explained that World Vision’s support is technical and material (money box, keys, pass book, shirts, calculator) and so when World Vision programs begin to phase out, they can use their social fund to help buy these things for other groups to start up.
I asked about their parents, and at least six of them had parents who were also involved in an Adult Village Savings Loans Association – because the children had told them about it.
When children like these show initiation, passion and dedication for their own development and have heart to serve those who are vulnerable in their community, its easy to find yourself reflecting that you’ve just met the future leaders of the country.