Dignitaries of the international credit union movement convened last week at the Russian Embassy to the United States in Washington, DC for World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) annual WOCCU Supporters' Reception. Led by Pete Crear, World Council chief executive officer, the meeting featured addresses by Gary Plank, World Council board chair, and Mary Cunningham, chair of the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). The topics of their speeches ranged from development work in Ecuador to Russia's new membership in the World Council.
Crear opened by introducing WOCCU board members Mark Bailey, Melvin Edwards, Ron Hance, Barry Jolette, Wayne Nygren, Catherine Roberts and Plank. He then welcomed Vadim Kalinichev, director general of the Russian Credit Union League, which joined WOCCU this year. After thanking the evening's host, Ambassador Yuri Ushakov, he presented Dr. Vadim Grishin, the embassy representative, with a gift from WOCCU.
Of WOCCU's 14 current projects, Plank focused on Ecuador, giving a personal account of what he experienced on his visit there. He described sitting in on the weekly meeting of a "solidarity group" in the small town of El Quinche. Lacking the money to become individual credit union members, 25 women banded together to form the group and joined the credit union together.
Plank told the story of one woman who used a credit union loan to purchase livestock, making her more self-sufficient and allowing her to generate savings, which she had never before managed. "Seeing firsthand the impact of WOCCU's work in Ecuador is a reminder of the transformative power of credit unions," said Plank in conclusion. "The pride of these women as they become individual members of the credit union is something I will never forget."
Mary Cunningham, chair of NCUF, spoke next, on the importance of philanthropy in keeping development programs alive. She described the successful fundraising collaboration of NCUF and WOCCU in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, calling their partnership "natural." She added that the two organizations are currently studying ways to increase support for development of the entire credit union system.
The International Development Fund (IDF) launched at last summer's International Credit Union Conference in Rome shows great potential, explained Cunningham, having already grown from $3.8 million to $6 million. But much more is still needed, and WOCCU and NCUF have announced a joint campaign to double that amount. Cunningham closed by presenting Crear and Plank with a check from IDF income of $26,695.
Closing the speaker's portion of the reception, Mark Bailey, WOCCU board member and director of Dunshaughlin Credit Union in Ireland, invited Supporters to the 2006 World Credit Union Conference in Dublin, Ireland, which will be held July 27-30.
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.