Credit co-operatives worldwide celebrated International Cooperative Union Day on October 20, aiming to declare that co-ops are the choice for a secure financial future.
For its part, the NATCCO Network organized its celebration centering on the financial future of the younger generation. Thus, the theme: “Youth in Co-ops: A Way to Power our Financial Future!”
Giving their testimonies were NATCCO’s Youth Committee members: Sophia Marydel Gaboy of Sacred Heart Savings Cooperative in Ilocos Sur, and NATCCO Youth Board Representative Ernie John Cajes from Panabo Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Panabo City.
Cajes introduced the NATCCO Youth Committee members from each island region. Cajes what “empowerment” truly meant: “Youth empowerment is a process wherein we enable youth to make informed decisions in life . . . molding to be the leaders of innovation we want them to be.”
He related his experiences as a boy: “Co-ops should prepare young people for leadership roles. I joined Panabo MPC in 2010 and became active in 2012. I signed up because I found the coin bank cute and my Mom supported me, and that is how I developed the savings habit. Innocent as I was, the co-op rationalized my decision. The savings account is actually mine . . . from my conscious effort to save, and I invited friends and relatives!”
Mark Steven Juanillo of Lamac Cooperative in Cebu is a Grade 3 student in Lamac Elementary School gave is extraordinary experience: “I am a member of Aflatoun Program. Because of this, I know how to save money everyday. Because I know how to save, I don’t ask money from my parents. Proud are my parents of me.”
Cooperative Development Authority Board Member, Vidal Villanueva summed it all up when he said during the online celebration attended by 100 young co-operators nationwide: “We need to start training the youth in financial literacy. The younger generation will be more equipped with the right tools, our young people will live better lives. And that should be done through our cooperatives! It will build their sense of being resilient.”
Also attending the online celebration was Leni San Roque, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (AACCU), who said: “CUs are not after the money of the members. CUs aim to build the lives of the members and as finance institutions, we do that by making them financially independent so that they can stand on their own two feet.”
But she says there is still much to be done, inspite of the success of the Aflatoun Program: “Aflatoun has reached 1.4 million young people, but only 27% are ‘savers’. We look at the combined youth savings of Php 426 Million, but when we look at the number of young people who save, it’s only 1,052 average per person who saved! That is regardless of the number of years they have been in the program.”
In conclusion, she said: “The young people are receiving money from their parents. We really need to develop the discipline of saving. We recognize the efforts of cooperatives in training and financial counseling to members but we want to see the impact.”
The Aflatoun Program is being implemented by NATCCO in cooperation with 158 co-ops. These co-ops partner with local schools, training teachers how to integrate financial literacy in the curriculum and encouraging kids how to save in the co-operative. The local co-operatives serve as depository of the kids’ savings.
GRAPHIC: Princeton Edward Mangaring
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