SANTIAGO, Chile — The massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Chile Feb. 27 has displaced 1.5 million people and is estimated to have claimed more than 700 lives. Chile's financial cooperatives, with the assistance of the country's largest credit union, have undertaken efforts to assist their members with emergency relief despite the fact that many credit unions and their branches were damaged or destroyed.
COOPEUCH, Chile's largest credit union and Latin America's second largest financial cooperative, is collecting funds through its charitable foundation, Fundación COOPEUCH, to help credit unions and their members affected by the quake nationwide rebuild their homes and businesses. World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) will make a donation to the credit union foundation from its own disaster relief funds and invites interested individuals and credit unions to contribute funds for Chilean credit union rebuilding and relief.
WOCCU staff members have been trying to assess earthquake damage to the country's credit unions but have struggled with communication issues, according to Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and COO.
"It is difficult to get information for regions affected by the earthquake because communications capabilities have been destroyed in many parts of the country," Branch said. "But we are encouraged by the fact that COOPEUCH has assumed such a strong leadership role even with many of its own branches damaged or destroyed."
Santiago-based COOPEUCH, which has 85 branches that serve 417,000 members nationwide and holds US$1.8 billion in assets, is still collecting information from its damaged branch offices in and near Concepción, 70 miles from the earthquake's epicenter. COOPEUCH is one of Chile's five federally regulated credit unions, part of a movement that also includes dozens of smaller, unregulated institutions from which WOCCU has been unable to collect data.
Funds collected through Fundación COOPEUCH will be used to assist all credit unions in rebuilding. The credit union is postponing member dues, minimizing credit card payments and offering reconstruction loans to help members cope with the crisis. In addition, the foundation is helping plan a telethon in Chile to raise a goal of 15 billion Chilean pesos (about US$29.1 million) to finance the construction of 30,000 houses for people whose homes were destroyed by the earthquake.
Those interested in making a contribution to Chile's earthquake relief efforts can send their donation via check, credit card or wire to:
Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, 5710 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705, USA
Donations may be made online with a credit card at www.woccu.org/give. For wire transfer information, contact Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, +1-608-395-2055 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate that your donation is for "Chile Disaster Relief."
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 105 countries serve 217 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.