Guest blog: Judith Rozen is a MyBnk volunteer and coordinator with Jerusalem Interest-Free Microfinancial Fund – a UK charity helping poor communities set up their own business with loans and advice in the Middle East territory.
I followed MyBnk’s path since its beginning, always intrigued by the innovation and dynamism of its project. By coming to volunteer here, I hoped to contribute to its brilliant prospects, together with exploring a different field of microfinance.
41 % of Jerusalem’s population live below the poverty line, twice the national average. These Jerusalemites are 21% Ultra-Orthodox Jews and 35% Arabs, two communities who tend to have low employment rates – some of them are very educated, others less, but they all have bring innovative projects to their local market and community. Small businesses include beauty salons, kindergartens, pastry classes, after-school tutorial classes. Just like Lily did with Bangladeshi women, I am highly inspired by their knowledge and determination. They teach me much more than I help them.
Yet, their lack of financial and economic knowledge compared to their perseverance, sometimes restrains higher efficiency.
At MyBnk I found a very different charity: a whole office with computers and frontline staff vs. field work and local and international meetings in Jerusalem.
MyBnk focuses on spreading financial and entrepreneurship awareness and education as soon as possible with 11 to 25 year olds, while JIMF gives opportunities to ‘late comers’ and long financially excluded people. This is crucial in a world where the financialisation of society is omnipresent. Citizens should hold the respective knowledge to enable themselves to make everyday decisions, build their future and understand more global trends.
The truth is that children today hold expensive objects and are also much more aware of money that most like to think. That is a major pinpoint from MyBnk which conveys youth tailored programmes and delivers financial education, and enterprise know-how in a strikingly engaging and fun manner.
The power of financial education to change lives is preeminent and needed because it is extremely empowering in many aspects of life. I always saw it in Jerusalemite women but also instantly in young people. Entering the sessions from the diverse MyBnk programs was a fabulous experience of witnessing immediate impact and change, these teenagers eyes were shining and their smile growing steadily by the end of the session.
Empowerment was definitely in the air. I enjoyed doing research and integrating into the office dynamism. I was also given the opportunity to unravel the mysteries of structural management and organised campaigns, such as the recent inclusion of financial education into England’s National Curriculum. Nevertheless, my important lesson, both on professional and personal level, was that I am not made for sitting days in front of a computer!
I can confirm the MyBnk factor is INDEED contagious and spreading rapidly across the globe. Thanks to all the team for this wonderful welcoming and best wishes to MyBnk in the future!