KABUL, Afghanistan — Years of armed conflict have left many Afghan civilians disabled
and finding it difficult supporting themselves and their families. In response, a group of U.S. credit unions and supporting organizations have come together to create prosthetic hands to help some conflict victims begin the recovery process. With World Council of Credit Unions' assistance, the group will soon be distributing the prosthetics through Afghanistan's Islamic investment and finance cooperatives (IIFCs), or credit unions.
The Credit Union Helping Hands program, launched by the CU Philanthropy Group (CUPG), has been assembling and distributing prosthetic hands for those in need through Rotary International for three years. The group is working with the Islamic Investment and Finance Cooperative Group, the Afghan trade association established by World Council to support IIFC growth and development, to plan the delivery of prosthetic hands to those in need in northern Afghanistan. Victims who register with IIFCs will receive the hands free-of-charge and do not need to be IIFC members.
"The goal of credit unions is to foster economic empowerment and growth for their members, thereby helping strengthen the communities in which they live," said Brian Branch, World Council president and CEO. "We are pleased that IIFCs in Afghanistan have found yet another way to help meet what for some members is their most critical need."
Past credit union clients of CUPG's consulting services have assembled the prosthetic hands as part of teambuilding and process improvement exercises with the firm, according to Frank Hackney, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based philanthropy and consulting group. Participants from about 25 credit unions have already assembled as many as 100 hands.
"The credit unions get a great learning experience with a powerful philanthropic component that the employees love," Hackney said.
Last year, Rotary International arranged for several IIFC volunteers, members of social organizations from across Afghanistan, to travel to Ahmedabad, India, for prosthetic-fitting training sessions. Credit union consulting firm DDJ Myers financed the trip. Those volunteers, in turn, will train other volunteers throughout Afghanistan to fit the prosthetic hands on their recipients.
"The primary value of the hands is that they enable the user to grasp," Hackney said. "The ability to grasp allows recipients to hold tools or utensils, steer a bike or an automobile and, in many cases, increases their ability to work."
An initial shipment of 50 hands will be shipped during the first quarter of 2012 once the initial demand has been determined, Hackney said.
For more information about the Credit Union Helping Hands program, contact Frank Hackney at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-866-918-8969.
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.