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The AMF DE Scholarship winners share their impressions

The Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (ACCU) has recently organised its 32nd Development Education (DE) Course in Bangkok, Thailand. The course runs as a residential education workshop over five days with approximately 60 hours of structured learning in place and gives participants the opportunity to develop leadership, presentation and communication skills while gaining an appreciation of Credit Unions and how they are making a difference in people’s lives all over the world.


The program shares the unique experience and culture of Development Educators extending to every part of the Asia Pacific and Africa (Australia, Bangladesh, Fiji, Philippines, Taiwan ROC, Timor-Leste, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Korea, Kenya, UK, USA, and Lao PDR).


Since 1999, ACCU has certified 1,034 Development Educators. They have performed exceptionally well in their presentations, developed self-confidence, and widened their understanding of the global credit union system and issues.


The Australian Mutuals Foundation has offered three scholarships this year to employees from the co-operative sector, covering the cost of flights, accommodation, meals and workshop fees and materials.


The lucky scholarship recipients this year were Therese Nguyen (Australian Mutual Bank), James Manton (Regional Australia Bank) and Prasiddha Rai (Family First Bank).

“I have been very blessed to be able to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. I have ventured into a world where the moral compass is about bettering the lives of others, enriching the community, the importance of ethical values and the need to nurture our planet. With a compass dial of such magnitude how could we ever be lost? We can't, won't and should not...

This is why it is paramount to keep our co-operatives alive for we play a significant role in improving the lives of others, our members, the communities and for generations to come. Uniting together with a common purpose, with one vision in making the world a better place. It is embedded in me that without our members there is no us.


I highly recommend this DE Program. I have walked away with a wealth of knowledge, built warm connections, gained humble confidence and a deeper appreciation and understanding of the roles we will all play in enriching the lives of others, our members, the world, our planet.


I wanted to extend my deepest gratitude to Australian Mutuals Foundation, Australian Mutual Bank Ltd and ACCU for making a huge difference to my life.” said Therese.


James was equally impressed with the experience: “The groups we were placed in during the program encouraged a wide range of cultures and backgrounds to work in a collaborative space which made the content highly engaging and eye-opening. The variety of perspectives from my teammates was vast with those ranging from backgrounds of BOD & CEO to consultants and accounts to myself as a customer advisor. Most of my teammates were from the Philippines with some also from Nepal, Thailand & Indonesia. I found our discourse on the subjects above to be extremely open, honest, diverse and change positive. There wasn’t an hour that passed where I hadn’t learned something completely new or deepened my understanding on a subject. An added appreciation and thanks to the extensive insight and amazing support from our mentors; Adam Milbank, Paul Dawson, Kamon Kiattisirikumpon & Ranjith Hettiarachchi.

In addition to the structured program, two important elements made this journey a life-changing experience for me. Our forged friendships & the Thai culture.


Before the program, Adam Milbank was kind enough to organize a bicycle tour around Bangkok for myself and the other two people attending from Australia; Prasiddha (FFCU) & Therese (AMB). Over the course of the journey, we have all become very close friends and will have shared memories and stories to reflect on in the future. I also consider many of the others at the course great friends, with many invitations to the Philippines & Nepal and many good laughs over a couple of drinks at our networking nights.


The cultural experience of our journey is something that, for me, was un-paralleled as a learning tool in understanding what our development education was all about. Seeing the unbelievable income disparity in Bangkok and hearing similar from my international group mates, drew me closer as to why as a sector we are so mission driven for our members over private banking.


My key takeaway from this DE journey is that even as purely financial institutions here in Australia, we must endeavour for one thing above all, to improve the lives of our members. Particularly in my mind, the most disadvantaged among us. Speaking to and assisting our members every day I can see not only a large income and wealth disparity between our members, but also large disparity in financial literacy and social outcomes.


Living through Australian poverty myself as a child and seeing members of my family still experience this daily reality, I now see what a difference the COOP, CU & even distant MB movement can have on the lives of the most vulnerable. In this age of disaster and calamity, the more we can advocate for and service those in our organization who are experiencing financial disadvantages and/or lack of financial education, the more we can improve the lives of the people we service. With this, we can sooner take full advantage of our unique CSR offering and positioning as not only Regional Australia Bank, but as a mutual bank.”


Prasid was also thrilled to have been shortlisted for the scholarship and is very proud of his new DE certification: “I am honoured and delighted to have been chosen to participate DE program at Thailand along with two other participants (James and Therese) from Australia.I didn’t just enjoy it, I loved it. I love the networking opportunities. I love meeting like-minded people and I love how the program supported our wonderful mutual sector industries through providing insightful trainings to participants from different countries and different cultural backgrounds. And yes, talking about participants, it was a perfect example of diversity with different age groups, genders, cultures, ethnics, and different roles. We shared to learn and learned to share. On top of that, I made very good friends from Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia which I can count on for whole life.

I would like to express sincere thanks and appreciate the contribution to AMF, our mentors Paul and Adam who made the whole journey memorable and fruitful and other mentors/facilitators from ACCU; Leni, Ranjit and Kamon. There wasn’t a single moment where I didn't get the chance to deepen my knowledge, enhance my leadership learnings, sharpen my presentation skills and understanding of cultural values.


It was an intense practical workshop including group activities focused on improving communication, team working, and leadership skills. The workshop ended after a critical feedback session with the team members, showing how other members perceived my actions throughout the workshop.


Even though it was eight hours long, I am glad that I did attend it. Because at the end of the day, I learned many lifelong lessons from it. I learned about the practicality of implementing inclusive education and how it requires so much input from different stakeholders in order for it to be effective. I enjoyed learning about functionality and objectives of credit unions through the eyes of different people and sharing information about my experiences here in Australia.


Overall, I had a positive experience, I engaged in numerous activities planned by them that significantly contributed to my learning curve. I would highly recommend future participants make the most out of such program supported by AMF. DE program has changed me both personally and professionally to act ethically, mutually and advocate the main objectives of credit unions “improving lives of members”. Not to forget, we graduated from the program, and we are now certified Development Educators.”


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