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I’m a financial literacy book—borrow me

HONG KONG (SE): There are different ways of reading books and there are different types of books as well. At least from school days, we are all familiar with borrowing a book from the library, but there are new types of libraries as well, and one of them has shelves stacked with human volumes.

Yes, we can borrow a human book. And unlike the paper variety, it comes to us, equipped with all sorts of interesting things that can help us learn about realities that have been quite foreign to us.

This is called peer mentoring. It is the most powerful form of learning that exists. It is one person talking to another and sharing not just their knowledge, but life experiences in everyday conversational talk laced with emotion, humour and drama.

Financial literacy sounds like it might be above our heads, but when it is presented on a peer mentoring basis, where one migrant worker talks to another about their everyday experiences with money, mysteries become clearer.

That is exactly what CARD MRI Hong Kong does in its financial literacy courses.

But while being a human book and peer mentoring sound simple, they are not. Doing it well is a highly sophisticated skill and the mentors at CARD do it extremely well, because they train extremely hard.

On January 10 and 17, a combined total of 28 migrant workers, who had attended a basic education day and then joined a mentor training course, went before the judges at the Diocese Centre in Caine Road after a 12-month preparation period.

Thirty had completed the course, but two were unable to come on the day because of work commitments.

Working in groups of four, they took on the challenge of presenting a chapter from their book of life on one basic concept of financial literacy; with the topic, methodology and content all up to themselves to decide.

While standing in front of a panel of mentors who will judge the performance, as well as representatives from the CARD headquarters in Laguna, The Philippines, is quite a daunting task, all managed to acquit themselves well, as they presented their material in skit, drama, role play and conversation.

Each group had to outline for the judges what they intended to communicate, how they intended to do it and the methodology they would employ. Then comes the fateful moment, as the mentors ask questions and the people from head office decide if the performance was sufficiently credible to move onto the next training stage.

But in what proved to be an enlightening and entertaining afternoon, all showed they had learned well, prepared meticulously and presented with aplomb sufficient to get the green light.

They will now move to the next stage of their training, which involves observing the experienced mentors at work on basic training days and making presentations under supervision with more experienced peers over a 12-month period.

They will then face the judges for a second time and, if their first attempt is any guide, pass cum laude to become fully-fledged mentors capable of flying solo to share their knowledge and experience, as well as their painstakingly acquired expertise with their fellow migrant workers.

CARD is a fine example of what people can achieve if they are given the opportunity and coaxed in the right way. 

Nearly 2,000 migrant workers in Hong Kong who have borrowed books from CARD’s human library at financial literacy days can attest to the value of the vistas they opened up for them.