Congressional Staff Trip to Explore Credit Unions in Mexico Concludes
During a visit to the Michocan project in a rural part of Mexico, U.S. congressional staffers hold ceramics that the women make and sell.
MORELIA, Mexico – The first-of-its-kind
Congressional staff trip – organized and co-
sponsored by the World Council of Credit Unions,
Inc. (WOCCU), the Credit Union National
Association (CUNA), and the Arizona, California
and Texas credit unions leagues – wrapped up here
Friday evening after a day in the field meeting
poor microentreprise credit union members.
Upon arrival in Tarecuato, a small community
three hours by car from Morelia, the group was
greeted by credit union members involved in the
WOCCU Michoacán project – the vast majority
indigenous women who sew elaborate traditional
dresses and aprons to be sold both within and
outside their community. Each member of the
group, together for four months and meeting every
eight days, saves 30 to 70 pesos (around $3 to $7
U.S. dollars) per month. Pooling their money,
group members can then apply for loans. Before
WOCCU and the credit union that adopted this
group came to their community, group members told
the Congressional and league delegation, the only
access to loans was through local loan sharks who
charged very high interest rates. Now they
borrow at reasonable rates and are accumulating
savings, as well.
"This trip has been one of the best
have had to see the real impact that credit
unions can have on peoples' lives. It really
showed our group a comprehensive look at how
credit unions impact peoples lives, from the
legislative process in Washington, DC all the way
to the most remote, poor regions of Mexico where
people are for the first time gaining access to
financial services" says Michael Considine,
deputy legislative director and senior
legislative assistant for international trade,
investment, and development for US Senator Chuck
Considine, one of six Congressional staff
on the trip – including representatives from the
offices of Rep. John Carter (R-TX), Rep. Joe
Crowley (D-NY), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Rep.
Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
and Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ), echoed the reflections
of a number of trip participants, saying that he
will "tell anybody who will listen" about his
experience in Mexico.
Among the many topics discussed during the
was the "credit union difference" and how it
extends to credit unions around the
world. "Things start clicking when you're able
to understand on a more basic level how credit
unions work," says WOCCU Governmental Affairs
Manager Molly Schar. "The not-for-profit,
democratically controlled, cooperative structure
of credit unions is consistent anywhere you go.
Understanding how credit unions start and grow
and help people internationally is actually a
very good way to better understand the work of
credit unions in the U.S."
The WOCCU Michoacán project was one of three
credit union development projects visited by the
delegation. Earlier in the week, the group
visited Caja Popular Mexicana, Mexico's largest
credit union partnered with the California and
Texas credit union leagues through WOCCU's
International Partnership Program, and Caja
Libertad, the second-largest credit union in the
country and the international partner of the
Arizona Credit Union System.
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 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.
Phone: (608) 395-2000