Stories of Change

Tun Tun Win, Tin Tin Htay and one of their children at home in Myanmar.

A savings group tripled a family’s income in Myanmar

Ko Tun Tun Win and his wife Ma Tin Tin Htay work hard to make ends meet for their five children who are between 4 and 16 years old. Ko Tun Tun owns a small boat that he uses to ferry up to three people at a time around his community’s waterways. Ma Tin Tin sells betel nut, a seed from a tropical palm that is popular in southeast Asia. They used to make about a dollar a day between their two incomes. 

Like so many parents worldwide, Ko Tun Tun and Ma Tin Tin spend most or all of their income to pay for their basic needs. Expenses for food, transportation, education for the children and healthcare for the family piled up, and then there wasn’t much left. They were eager to expand their livelihoods to earn larger incomes, but they didn’t have the resources to get started. “We wanted to buy more items to sell at the betel nut shop, and I wanted to dry dock my boat for minor repairs,” Ko Tun Tun says. “But I did not have the money.”

Traditionally, getting a loan to expand the business or repair the boat would have required going to a private moneylender. And going to a private moneylender meant steep interest rates that likely would have put the family in debt. They didn’t see it as a viable option.

That’s where a CWS program came in. Ko Tun Tun and Ma Tin Tin were invited to join a community meeting to learn about a Village Savings and Loan Association that CWS was supporting in their community. They learned that if they joined the group, they would be expected to contribute about $1.25 each month into a combined fund. As the fund grew, its managers–who are their neighbors and friends–could approve loans of up to $65 at only five percent interest that would be paid back in three months. 

Ko Tun Tun saw his opportunity, and joined the group. As quickly as his savings allowed, he took out a $40 loan to repair his boat and a $25 loan to expand Ma Tin Tin’s betel nut business. Now, the couple regularly earns about $3.25 each day–more than triple what they were earning before the loans! They have already set aside $46 to pay back the original loan. Then they will start dreaming and planning for how they can further expand their livelihoods and make even more improvements. 

As Ko Tun Tun says, “The most important lesson we learned from the savings group is that 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 realize.”