Querétaro, Mexico-Six Congressional staff members visited Caja Libertad Wednesday, completing the third day of a week-long fact- finding tour of credit union development projects. 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 union leagues, the trip is the first of its kind to explore international credit union development projects.
Caja Libertad, Mexico's second largest credit union with more than 500,000 members, is headquartered here. After touring its headquarter offices and receiving briefings by top credit union officials, the group proceeded to two local branches to visit with branch staff and credit union members. Caja Libertad participates in WOCCU's International Partnership Program and is partnered with the Arizona Credit Union System. In October 2004, league representatives attended the launching of the first non-bank ATM system in Mexico.
The group was welcomed to Mexico Monday upon arrival in nearby León by representatives of Caja Libertad and Caja Popular Mexicana, the largest Mexican credit union and a USAID-funded WOCCU project. The group visited Caja Popular Mexicana headquarters and a branch offices Tuesday, learning how the credit union serves people unserved by banks and targeted by predatory lenders, and hearing from members about remittances received by credit union members from family living in the U.S.
"This has been a real learning experience for everyone," says WOCCU Governmental Affairs Manager Molly Schar. "It would be impossible to see what we have seen here and not be affected. For the Congressional staff members with whom we work on a regular basis, this is an invaluable opportunity to understand how WOCCU implements its credit union development projects and to hear stories of how the lives of people here have been changed by their credit unions. For the rest of us, it's been a strong reminder of the universal credit union philosophy of 'people helping people.'"
WOCCU has five projects total in Mexico, three of which the group will see this week. After traveling to Morelia Thursday, the group will spend Friday visiting rural credit union savings groups as part of the WOCCU Michoacán project and will return to the U.S. Saturday. The Michoacán project works with credit unions to improve their financial management by instituting financial disciplines, improving credit analysis and implementing business planning in order to reach out to the very poor to facilitate access to financial services and foster a culture of savings.
The group represents staff members from the offices of Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), Rep. Grace Napolitano (D- Calif.) and Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.).
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, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.