After only two years of borrowing, most members of Tau Yew Mai�s Soc San 2 branch have pulled themselves out of poverty, according to an internal evaluation recently completed. Of 399 member households surveyed, 344 were earning more than 50,000 Vietnamese Dong (US$4.6) per month, which is equivalent of 40 kg of rice and puts the family above the official poverty line.
Families reported that the weekly repayment, coupled with the fact that an overwhelming number of borrowers invested in raising pigs, which return an income only after months, stimulated all members of the family to search for additional ways to earn money. "All family members tried to earn more money and each member should have an earning job. Sometimes there were difficulties in earning enough for the repayment, but they tried their best and this developed the family."
Some 268 members invested their increased earnings into improving their houses and installing toilets and bathrooms. More than half also bought "mosquito nets, blankets, beds, furniture and TVs or radios", as well as bicycles and production machinery, like rice huskers and water pumps.
At a husbands� meeting held 1st May, men expressed their support for the changes they noticed in their wives since joining the program. One husband said: "since my wife became a Fund member, she discusses with me everything, not only family and children matters, but also bigger things like the village, commune concerns, with soft but persuasive words."
Soc San 2 is Tau Yu Mai�s second branch, started in May, 1995, with funding from CIDSE. It works in 5 communes. The average monthly income of its 1,325 members at entry was only 27,000 Dong (US$2.5).
Soc San 2 members use their center funds for educational expenses for their childrens' schooling and for the new year festivities � a time when poor families usually run up debts to moneylenders. In mid-1996, TYM Board initiated a Mutual Fund, to which each member contributes 200 Dong per week, and which makes payments on the death of any family member.
It is in the special center welfare funds that TYM members show their initiative and solidarity. These are creations of the centers themselves, usually by doing paid work as a group. The fund is used to help sick members or families facing an emergency. But it is also used for having fun. At "candle nights" these previously disregarded women invite local dignitaries and exchange flowers and gifts.
Soc San 2 aims to fill all its existing 42 centers and reach 1,500 members by the end of the year. It has made good progress despite staff problems. Staff have two major complaints - poor living conditions at the branch office and lengthy travel time by bicycle. As a result, they have lost a number of trained staff and had to replace them with new recruits without adequate training. Branch management is asking for a more accessible field staff motorbike loan and better housing in order to retain good staff.
Source: Credit for the Poor, the Newsletter of CASHPOR Inc, December 1997