Thursday, February 3, 2011
We made our presentation to the Auction Holding Employees SACCO this morning. They are a pretty healthy SACCO with good leadership at both the board and management levels so it’s difficult in some ways to make many suggestions. But that being said, our observations and suggestions were very well accepted, and it was sad to say good bye to these wonderful people.
|Erin & Grace|
Grace gave us a beautiful memento of Africa which I will always cherish, and then it was time to go. I can’t wait to see the future updates on how this SACCO has progressed. After Auction Holdings, we managed to steal a couple minutes to visit Fodya one last time and wished Rita and Brian the best for themselves, their families and their SACCO.
This afternoon we will re-joined with our other Malawi teammates at MUSCCO. As we were already in Lilongwe, we were able to have an extra day with our SACCO which was very nice. I’m really looking forward to hearing about their own adventures and stories, and perhaps sharing a few of my own.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
We started our day at Auction Holdings Employees SACCO. They are a “common-bond” SACCO, which means that they serve employees of Auction Holdings Limited, but also employees several tobacco processing plants. “Common-bond” is a safe way for a closed bond SACCO or Credit Union to begin expanding its membership base, without being completely open-bond.
Auction Holdings is in the process of moving to a computerized banking system, which is being implemented there and at 5 other SACCOs in the country. It’s a very exciting time as currently most SACCOs are completely paper-based which can be very time consuming to many different employees from tellers right up to managers. We started the day with Patrick who is the SACCO accountant. In addition to managing the current paper-based accounting, he also supervises the two tellers. Like the employees of Fodya SACCO, much of Patrick’s day is spent reconciling entries and struggling to keep up with increased workload Auction Holding’s increase in membership has brought.
We were able to speak with the SACCO Manager, Grace, who had actually visited my part of Canada through the CCA Women’s Mentorship Program! Grace was able to spend time with the fine folks at Valley Credit Union in Nova Scotia and I think they would be proud of the influence they have had on Grace’s management. Grace recognizes the need for increased marketing and the importance of a concise strategic plan. It was easy to tell that the SACCO board has tremendous faith in Grace as a manager and I only hope that we have such a positive influence on their SACCO.
I was also fortunate to speak with Auction Holdings SACCO’s newest employee, their IT person Macdonald. Macdonald is tasked with guiding Auction Holdings Employees SACCO through the transition from paper-based to a computerized banking system. The amount of preparation and enhancements to the SACCO’s infrastructure is more than significant but Macdonald seems willing and able to take on these challenges. It was also nice to just talk with another IT geek, though I think Erin was getting a little bored!
My favourite part of our SACCO visits has been speaking with the members. It is such a rewarding experience to hear their stories of how the SACCO has impacted them and hear them speak about their thoughts regarding what the SACCO is doing great and what they might change if they could. I believe the true measure of how a SACCO or Credit Union is doing is not just assets or profit, but also the opinion of the members who use its services. In all these cases Auction Holdings seem to be doing very well.
We wrapped up the day with Mike and David from the board taking Erin and I as well as the staff out to an “asian fusion” (Erin’s term, not mine) restaurant called “Blue Ginger”. It was a great evening and it was a lot of fun to talk about Canadian weather and culture from their perspective. From explaining how we move around in -30 Celsius temperatures to whether Canadians are “all from the same tribe” to “Why we day ‘Hi’ to everyone”, it was a lot of fun to share a bit more of Canada with our wonderful hosts.
As we were leaving, it struck me that I am really starting to appreciate the people of Malawi. There is a true sense of pride they have in being, and remaining a peaceful country. As Canadians, we feel overall that we are a friendly nation, but I think we pale in comparison to the openness and kindness in the face of adversity that so many Malawians display.
It’s not hard to see why Malawi truly is “The Warm Heart of Africa”!
Until next time,
Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday was actually was a pretty early morning as we wanted to catch Laurie and share some breakfast before she and Dickson from MUSCCO headed south to Blantyre.
Afterwards I grabbed a rare nap and spent some time catching up on my blog. I took a quick dip in the pool and got ready for the rest of the day.
After a late lunch we decided to walk to find a local private school where a friend of mine who has been here previously said there was some Ultimate Frisbee going on. It was a long walk (when you are not sure where you are going) but we managed to get there eventually. The challenge is that on a map all the streets are named but in real life most of them are not as people don’t refer to them anyway. The residences in the area had high fences and guard dogs etc. but that afternoon it was pretty quiet. About 100 metres from the site someone stopped and offered me us a ride, but since I didn’t know where on the campus I was going it was a good idea regardless.
Once we got there, I threw on my shoes and jumped on the field. It was +30 and VERY muggy but it was cool to play with some locals and ex-pats from 8 or 9 different countries. Once the games came to a wind-sucking and sweaty end, we took a tour of the school. It was a slightly informal tour as the gate we came in was locked so we wondered around looking for an exit.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
On Saturday, Erin and I decided to travel east to Lake Malawi, just outside of the town of Salima. It was an interesting start as the driver picked up his friend to come along with us, but we’ve learned to ‘go with the flow’ and it was nice to have another person sitting in the back of the car who could point out little points of interest.
When we asked to be taken to Lake Malawi, we really didn’t know beyond that we'd see "the lake". We were actually taken to a Sunbird resort, and since we were staying at a Sunbird hotel in Lilongwe were given full access to the grounds.
The one downside is the water itself. Even though we saw Americans and locals splashing in the waves, Erin and I were good little Canadians and stayed on the beach as we were told not to go swimming in the lake by our doctors. It was relaxing nonetheless and I was a bit tired as we headed back into town.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Our first 'Report Presentation"
We finished our last day at Fodya SACCO. We were met by a smiling Oscar, as well three of the other four board members: Gilder, Wilson and Frederick. One of the toughest part of presenting is when you are not sure what exactly sure what your audiences expectations are. However once we got started things rolled along smoothly. We gave our praise for a job well done to date, and gave our observations and experiences pertaining to several areas such as Security, Membership, Lending and Technology. Fodya is a fairly young and fairly small SACCO, but they have a lot of good ideas, complimented by a strong board and wonderful employees. Sometimes as a small SACCO or Credit Union with big ideas, the most important thing is to map out where you want to go, but then also assess what the steps are along the way as sometimes the ultimate destination can seem a frustratingly long ways off.
We were able to get a preview of the interim software that the Alliance One IT guy (who is also a loyal member) created for Brian and Rita and I have to say I was impressed! I really feel it will help free up the time they need to get out and promote their SACCO, as both have great ideas to increase their membership.
We presented Oscar, the board president with our CCA certificate of participation, and I gave him a copy of OMISTA Credit Union’s Annual Report as well as a ball cap. I think he was happier with the cap as he didn’t even take it off for the pictures!
|Erin & I with the Fodya Board of Directors|
(left to right) Wilson, Gilder, Oscar and Frederick
|Fodya director and E.Eng|
We were bought lunch at the manager’s cafeteria and I have to say the food was pretty decent. We asked Frederick what should someone new to Malawi do experience some local culture, as we have been in town all week and would like to see a bit more of this beautiful country. He was very excited to point out a few points of interest which I hope we will get over the next week. We are hoping to visit Lake Malawi this weekend, and catch a popular Malawi band called “The Black Missionaries” who perform reggae in both English and local Chichewa!
As it is the off-season, we were able to tour a part of the huge tobacco refinery with Frederick, who is an Electrical Engineer there. He told me he got his degree at a technology college here in Malawi, and that he is very proud to be an important part of his company’s plant. He said he was even more proud to be on the board of Fodya as he feels he is able to really help its members save money and build a financial future because otherwise they would not be able to.
Good Bye to Fodya! We'll miss you!
|Brian and Erin inside Fodya SACCO|