CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Know your culture to stretch your money

HONG KONG (SE): CARD MRI Hong Kong continues to add to its impressive list of achievements in the area of enhancing the understanding of money matters among the vast migrant worker community in the city.

At a simple graduation ceremony held at the Diocese Centre in the Mid-Levels on October 23 certificates were presented to a further 190 people who had completed the basic financial literacy course, as well as to some who have taken one of either of the two follow up programmes addressing skills training and entrepreneurship.

But amidst the excitement of receiving recognition for achievement, the services of one of the foundation driving forces in the establishment of CARD in Hong Kong was honoured, as Edna Aquino announced that after seven years she is stepping down from her official position as an adviser.

Aquino and her husband, Alex, were part of the foundation technical advising team when CARD first began preparing to establish itself in Hong Kong in 2009.

With other Filipino professionals in the city, they put together a team to begin a basic training course in financial literacy that would be available to all migrant workers without cost.

By the time the formal registration and launch took place at the Canossian Sacred Heart School on 7 August 2011, the first two batches were ready to graduate, but Aquino had her eyes on a further development.

She firmly believes that money exists only within the context of culture and, most importantly, within sub-cultures, and the way in which professional people think about money is not necessarily related to the way in which migrant workers think about it or use it.

Aquino insists that the better you understand your culture and the way you have been conditioned to think about things the further you can stretch your income.

In short, she wanted to develop a special training in personal discipline that could realistically assist people with taking responsibility for their own lives beyond the staggering from payday to payday syndrome.

Peer mentoring was seen as the way forward and CARD struck gold in its earliest days finding some highly talented volunteers from the first two batches who were prepared to take an active role in redesigning both the content of the courses and the manner of their presentation.

Aquino was not in a rush to become big, but she was in a rush to become solid and while CARD did run some basic courses over the next couple of years, it mainly concentrated on training its new trainers.

There are now two batches of trainer graduates, giving the organisation a formidable group of some 25 people capable of running basic financial literacy days with another group about to come online.

They have made it possible to conduct multiple courses at various venues around the city on a regular basis and, although the early days brought only a trickle of graduates, recently this has increased radically and October 23 saw the 1,999th person presented with a certificate.

But while Aquino may be stepping down from her position in the CARD hierarchy, she is far from severing all contact.

She told the Sunday Examiner that there is still much to be done in the area of connecting the sub-culture of migrant workers in Hong Kong with the cultural backgrounds they come out of, which vary greatly between rural and urban, as well as among ethnic cultural groupings.

She is currently involved in research into the cultural aspects of developing supportive infrastructure for farming communities in Bicol and strongly believes that the same attitudes she has encountered in Hong Kong are present in those communities as well.

Her dedication now is to continue feeding the results of her research into the Hong Kong experience.

CARD is the biggest micro-credit organisation in The Philippines and graduation from a course in Hong Kong entitles a person to become a member and qualify to take advantage of its wide variety of services when they eventually go home for good.

But more than that, it also offers membership in a big and healthy family in Hong Kong, the spirit of which was well demonstrated in the singing of the organisation’s song and taking of the pledge of membership at the graduation afternoon.

The course has always been strongly supported by the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong and the current consul general, Bernardita Catalla, has made the conference room at her offices available for the next CARD training course on November 20.

It is run on a first come first serve basis.  Bookings can be made through the two numbers listed the box below.

It could well be a day that changes your life.


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