By Jyl Leann De Jesus Caneda, Edited by Verene Cheong
As a veteran leader, Maria B Amri, who is on the Board of Directors at the TCC Credit Co-operative (TCC), has been dedicated to giving back to her community and serving the needs of others.
Maria makes it her mission to do good in the community. She mentions that people are interconnected in one way or another. She hopes to contribute by being the bridge between people and co-operatives so that the co-operative movement may flourish and thrive through deepened collaborations and relationships.
Maria started volunteering as an advocate ambassador for TCC in 1989. Her role entailed promoting TCC’s services and persuading new members to join the co-operative then. Maria's genuine and down-to-earth personality makes people feel comfortable around her and ease her naturally into the role to rally colleagues and members together.
Maria had initially struggled to explain what co-operatives are to others, but it did not take long for the curious soul to understand and appreciation the co-operative model. She was most interested in how co-operatives center around the principle of “members helping members”.
She believes in cultivating good relationships with her TCC members, ensuring they are well engaged. At TCC, she tapped on opportunities to widen her knowledge about global co-operative operations. "I had opportunities to go overseas and learn from international co-operators. The co-operative societies' work is amazing. Although small in size, some co-operatives curate their community-based activities, which I was astonished to learn about. And that spurred me to do even more (with my members) in Singapore". She describes her co-operative journey as a "tremendous learning experience".
Maria’s mother has been a huge inspiration in her life and she now motivates herself to inspire people around her by making a difference.
"Anything given to you, be it big or small, you have got to do it meaningfully and passionately," says Maria, reminiscing on her mother’s advice to her. She shared that women often have to juggle and take on many important roles. She admires their emotional, physical and mental strength to carry the responsibilities while at the same time being a role model to those around them.
Maria's sincerity in her words and actions signifies the strength of an inspirational woman. Moreover, she puts in extra effort, time and energy to being a support pillar to many women in her work and social circles as she can empathise with the roles and responsibilities women have to undertake in society.
One day, one of her friends invited her to volunteer for a cause in support of vulnerable and marginalised female teenagers. “The stories behind each of these teenagers inspired me to become a role model they need and to help guide the girls to learn and make informed decisions."
Besides volunteering her time to help vulnerable groups of women, Maria also spends time with fellow women co-operators within the company. She hosts regular activities with them; some of these include a day trip to Malaysia or a health and beauty workshop.
Throughout her co-operative journey, Maria is proud to see the women's participation grown in co-operatives and witness their progression into leadership roles. "To me, women inclusivity means respecting people from all walks of life and valuing them for who they are as an individual or a group," she explained.
Maria was one of the 50 outstanding women recognised for their contributions at the Co-operative Movement Night event in 2022. Maria has some advice for young girls - firstly, being confident is the secret to thrive in a competitive society. "Confidence is not rooted in any job or career status but embedded in the value you see yourself in".
Secondly, be genuine and sincere. "You will never know how you might change people's thoughts with your authenticity,” elaborated Maria.
Finally, she encourages young hearts to keep learning and caring for themselves. "When you learn, there is nothing to lose, but there will always be something to gain", she adds. "You have to love and take care of yourself too. Being in a competitive society can be exhausting. So, give yourself some love and attention. Don't be afraid to speak your mind yet be respectful to others."
She hopes other girls can find a cause and purpose as she did, and make the most out of their choices, "Make positive decisions based on what you want and love. Then, when you find it, take action."
Jyl Leann De Jesus Caneda was an intern for the Singapore National Co-operative Federation. She has a diploma in Community Development from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She relishes volunteering and enjoys meeting new people. Her proactive contributions to the social and co-operative sector are driven by her desire for social good.