Parents of five children ages four to 16, Ko Tun Tun Win and his wife Ma Tin Tin Htay work hard to make ends meet. Ko Tun Tun owns a small boat that he uses to ferry one to three people at a time, around his communities’ waterways, and Ma Tin Tin sells betel nut, a seed from a tropical palm that is popular in southeast Asia. Like couples with children worldwide, Tun Tun and Tin Tin use most of their income to pay for daily food and transportation, plus education for the children and health care for the whole family. Also like most parents, they are eager to improve their lives with improved livelihoods.
For example, Ko Tun Tun told us, “We wanted to buy more items to sell at the betel nut shop and I wanted to dry dock my boat for minor repairs. But I did not have money”. Since local money lenders charge high monthly interest rates, he did not see this as an option. Luckily, a different option came when they were invited to a meeting to learn about a Village Savings and Loan Association that CWS was supporting in their village. Through the group, they learned, they could save about $1.25 each month in a pooled fund. And, as the fund grew, the fund managers, who are their neighbors and friends, could approve loans up to $65 at 5 percent interest and with payback in three months.
When he heard this news, Ko Tun Tun joined the savings group and, as quickly as his savings allowed, he took a loan to repair his boat ($40) and expand the betel nut business ($25). Combined, the boat repairs and higher betel nut inventory allow him and Tin Tin to earn about $3.25 a day as regular income. Already the young couple have set aside $46 to pay back the original loan. After that, they are sure to dream and plan for even more improvements. And, as Tun Tun remarked, “The most important lesson learned from the savings group is we now have good savings habits that we didn’t have in the past. We all appreciate CWS for such a helpful idea that we never knew we could have”.
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