Vietnam’s TYM: Sowing seeds of hope


Last month, I visited Vietnam with my wife and her high school friends.  My purpose was not just to enjoy their delightful company, but to see how much Vietnam has changed since I lived there many years ago.  I was an expat in Vietnam in the 1990s, at the height of the Đoi Moi  renewal campaign, when the country was transitioning from a centralized to a socialist-oriented market economy. I saw first-hand how the business and agricultural reforms they adopted led to economic growth.

In 1992, while working for a consortium of Catholic NGOs, the Cooperation Internationale pour le Developpement et la Solidarite (CIDSE) as credit advisor and representative for southern provinces of Vietnam, I was stationed in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Later on, I became the credit advisor for the Indochina Region, covering Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. My task was to promote development by strengthening local mass-based organizations in the implementation and strengthening of credit and savings programs for women. I worked closely with the Vietnam Women’s Union (VWU) in Hanoi, HCMC WU, Hue WU, and Soc Trang WU, HCMC Labor Union and, VACVINA Gardeners’ Organization in HCMC, among others.

I lived in Vietnam for almost four years.  The cultural immersion while working with the women’s union towards empowering the most vulnerable was a very memorable experience. I eventually returned home, but for the next ten years, I continued to do consultancy work for Vietnam with several organizations like Catholic Relief Services, Danish Red Cross, and Oxfam America. From 2009-2012, I served intermittently as the mission leader of an Asian Development Bank project, working with the State Bank of Vietnam to promote microfinance and enable microfinance institutions (MFIs) to be licensed as formal financial organizations.

The Tinh Thuong One-Member Limited Liability Microfinance Institution was initially established by the VWU in 1992 as TYM or Affectionate Fund to implement the government’s poverty alleviation program.  I had the privilege of helping them set up this microfinance program for women. TYM expanded over time, and became a separate entity from VWU in 1998.  In 2006, it became a revenue-generating non-profit organization, and in 2010, it transformed into the Tinh Thuong One-Member Limited Liability Microfinance Institution – the first licensed MFI in Vietnam.

TYM’s mission is to improve the quality of life of low-income individuals, with priority given to women, through microfinance products and services. While credit is the main service, TYM also provides many savings products to help women accumulate assets and sustainable resources. Diverse social services are also provided to members, their families, and communities.

I was very happy to reunite with TYM’s first Director, the very hard working Mdme. Do Thi Tan, together with Ms. Pham Hoai Giang, who used to head the VWU’s International Department.   We had a very nice time catching up and reminiscing about TYM’s early years.

I met TYM’s management team over dinner, hosted by its current Director, Ms. Pham Thi Thuy Linh, who reported that their outreach is now at 206,000 clients, served through 22 branches all over Vietnam. Their total loan portfolio is now more than VND2,700 billion (USD114 million) with a near perfect repayment rate. They embarked on digitalization to enhance operational efficiency and offer greater convenience to clients.

“TYM was recognized as one of the Top 3 performing financial service providers in Asia by 60 Decibels. This award reaffirms our commitment to excellence and innovation in the financial inclusion sector, ” says Thuy Linh with pride.

I was elated to find out that TYM is contributing to seven out  the 17 Social Development Goals (SDG): SDG 1 (poverty reduction), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), and SDG 13 (climate action).  In 2023, TYM disbursed US$201 million in loans, supported 58 rural facilities; benefitted over 11,000 women from their social and cultural initiatives; and provided 373 scholarships and capacity-building programs to more than 5,000 women.  TYM promotes gender equality since 100 percent of its beneficiaries and 80 percent of its staff are women.  It promoted economic growth by disbursing US$77 million loans for business and job creation. It promoted financial inclusion by penetrating about 79 percent of rural areas.

Kudos to my friends in TYM, and your continuing efforts to transform lives! Development workers like us are like gardeners, planting tiny seeds of hope, praying that our efforts will reach fertile ground and flourish. There are no guarantees that the seeds we have sown will take root.  But we persevere, because, like any good planter, we nurture hope.
‘Hope makes the world go round,’ as the saying goes.  My recent visit to Vietnam is another testament to the transforming power of hope.

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“Sowing seeds of hope gives you the opportunity for a harvest of light.” – Kathryn Lang

(Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip is a poverty eradication advocate. He is the founder of the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually-Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI).)


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