Madison, WI—Fresh from summiting Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro February 24-28 as part of the Kilimanjaro Initiative Climb to benefit at-risk youth, World Council of Credit Unions-sponsored climber Jeff Healy has a greater sense of the power in "people helping people."
Healy, marketing manager of Teachers Plus Credit Union in Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada, joined a group of 32 at-risk youth, United Nations employees, credit union professionals and development workers from around the world for the climb. The annual climb, which links young participants to the Outward Bound program, benefits at-risk youth through community development projects.
"The climb fulfilled the 'yes you can do it' part for youth, but then came the 'helping them do it' part," Healy said. He saw the fruits of the program when he met with youth who had participated in it the previous two years. Healy explained: "It wasn't just people going on climb; it really changed lives."
He shared Bernard's story, a fellow climber who was formerly a gang member in the slums and now employs 12 people at a metal shop. He is working for a loan to get a lathe for the shop, which would allow him to hire more employees. "That $3,000 will employ probably 20 people," Healy pointed out.
Healy joined a small group of people including Kilimanjaro Initiative founder, Tim Challen, and United Nations Federal Credit Union CEO Mike Connery on a visit to Korogocho slum near Nairobi's city dump at the end of the trip. There Challen discussed a youth lending idea with an Italian priest who had been living in Korogocho and developing youth programs there for three years.
"I'd seen what I thought was poverty, and then we went to the slum," Healy recalled. "There was a twisted maze of streets, rivers of sewage... There was a physical reaction to it, not just logical or emotional. It literally took me days to be able to think about it without getting upset." He was shocked to learn that close to half of Nairobi's population lived in slums and later discovered that one of the "outgoing, smart, fun" youth on the climb lived in Korogocho.
The trip challenged Healy to reexamine his own involvement in community service beyond his backyard. In the coming year, he hopes to expand the charitable focus of his small credit union and look at how a little money can make a world of difference to someone an ocean away.
"People helping people is what it's all about," said World Council CEO Pete Crear. "We are proud to support an international community working together and helping one another." Healy applied for the Kilimanjaro Initiative Climb sponsorship through the Credit Union Central of Canada.
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.