Vulnerable families in Asia find pathways out of poverty with financial education supported by StarKids and World Vision.

The largest city in Myanmar, one of south-east Asia’s least urbanised countries, Yangon has experienced rapid population growth in recent years and is set to have up to 16 million residents by 2055.

But as more rural families are drawn to the city in search of a better life, finding well-paid work can be elusive. This is especially true in the industrial township of Dagon Seikkan in this city’s east.

Many families here struggle to survive on low incomes from casual labour, petty trading or factory work. They are often forced to turn to high-interest loans and then become trapped in a neverending cycle of debt.

In urban communities like this across Asia, World Vision is working with StarKids’ support to help vulnerable families improve their incomes and strengthen their ability to manage money so they can meet their children’s needs in the long term.

Savings groups are a cornerstone of this work. These groups of around 15 community members come together to save money and learn basic financial skills. Each member can take out a loan from their group’s pooled savings, which they pay back at a low interest rate.

Saving money seemed like an impossible task when Daw Aye first joined her local savings group. She was earning less than $6.50 a day selling betel nut from a small roadside shop, barely enough to care for her five-year-old daughter.

But she managed to scrape together about $2 to make her first deposit. After three months, she applied for her first loan of around $35 to stock her shop with a wide range of snacks. After paying back this loan, she took out another for $100 to expand the shop further.

Now Daw Aye saves up to $20 a month and her shop brings in more than double the profit. “I would like to thank World Vision for teaching us this practice,” she says. “I encourage other people in my neighbourhood to participate in the savings group too.”