Afghanistan - Meet Enzar
When Enzar Gull lost both legs, his left arm and two fingers in a landmine, he had to find a new way to support his wife and two children. So he turned to the one skill he knew well: gardening.
Enzar used his knowledge as a former hospital gardener to convert his small plot of land into a plant nursery, but he needed money for fertilizer. In his small village, he could only borrow from business people who charged very high interest rates, which would leave him with very little income.
When Enzar heard about a local credit union supported by WOCCU, he joined and applied for a loan at a much more affordable rate. No longer at the mercy of usurious lenders, he received the credit he needed to buy fertilizer. His income instantly doubled, and he has since applied for a second, larger loan to expand his business. "Business is good and my family's future is brighter than ever," Enzar said.
Colombia - Meet Delmar
Delmar Luz Cordoba and her husband once farmed their family land in Chocó, the Colombian state bordering Panama. When right-wing paramilitary troops threatened to kill Cordoba's husband nine years ago, the couple gathered their six children and fled south to Pereira, a small city on the edge of the country's vast coffee fields. With no land to farm and no experience in urban living, the family turned to local social service agencies for help.
Through a Catholic-run charity, Cordoba learned about COOPLAROSA, a credit union that had helped other desplazados, or "displaced ones." Cordoba joined the credit union and has since received several small loans, enabling her to open a tiny shop that sells food products, toiletries and cosmetics. "COOPLAROSA has never turned me down," Cordoba said. "Without their help, we never would have survived."
Haiti - Meet Pierre
Pierre Durandisse is a church pastor and farmer who cultivates several small plots of corn, peas and cassava, a tropical root vegetable. When the earthquake struck in January, his church collapsed and he watched from his yard as his house suffered the same fate. Pierre now sleeps under the trees and holds services in a makeshift shelter. Thankfully, he had already harvested his crop by the time the earthquake struck, and though he had lost his home and his church, he still had his small business. With his local credit union one of the few enterprises still operating in post-earthquake Haiti, Pierre was able to deposit money from the crop he had harvested just before the disaster.
Kenya - Meet Benadette
Benadette, a widow and mother of five, has been a volunteer early childhood teacher at Busia Compassionate Centre since 2003. She teaches 27 six-year-olds in a small, concrete floor classroom with little furniture and fewer books. Though she struggles personally to make ends meet as a volunteer, Benadette said the children are quite bright, and she loves teaching them. The orphans have received school scholarships through the local credit union, and they started a garden project with WOCCU's guidance to ensure they have regular, nutritious food while learning farming skills and responsibility.
Mexico - Meet Reina and Rofina
Reina Hernandez, 24, and Rofina Cruz Martinez, 29, are a part of an isolated indigenous community in Mexico. The remoteness of their village, in addition to speaking Spanish as a second language, made working outside the home nearly impossible until five years ago when a newly constructed road provided their community access to a nearby credit union. Through the credit union, the community was able to secure a loan to build a food distribution center to serve the surrounding villages.
Now, Reina and Rofina work at the center, helping distribute beans, rice and sugar. According to Reina, "Before [the distribution center was built] we had nowhere to work. Now we can bring in a consistent cash flow." With the help of savings and loan services from the credit union, Reina and Rofina have created stability for themselves and their family's future. Their credit union, Caja Zongolica, is a member of WOCCU's program in Mexico.
Sri Lanka - Meet Jothaline
When U.A. Jothaline, 62, visits the Women's Coop, she often brings along the fruits of her labors for friends at the branch office, located in a small, darkened room adjacent to the volunteer treasurer's house.
Jothaline and her family raise cattle and farm a four-acre rice paddy and one acre of vegetables. It's an enterprise the three have maintained for more than 30 years. Compared to many of her neighbors, Jothaline is a prosperous entrepreneur, success she attributes in part to her seven years of membership at the Women's Coop.
Loans have been essential in helping Jothaline survive rough periods, including the inevitable blight that attacks the area's rice crops. Jothaline's role as part of a women's borrowing group has enabled her to prosper and even establish a small savings account.