As COVID-19 began threatening the city of Coban in central Guatemala, the team at Cooperativa Coban sat down to map out a plan focused on protecting employee health and wages, while providing the community with needed supplies and protective equipment to get them through the pandemic.
Strategy sessions between Cooperativa Coban’s Board of Directors and General Manager produced the concept of “ni uno menos”—or “not one less.” That meant every decision, action and commitment made by the credit union going forward would be made to ensure no employees would be terminated or see their wages reduced.
The credit union also made a commitment to safety. As a result, all high-risk employees were asked to stay home, with the assurance they would still be paid. Low-risk employees remained on the frontline to serve members. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection for those workers who remained, the credit union established health and safety protocols that included routine cleaning and fumigation programs.
With employees protected and secure, Cooperativa Coban then set out to help local communities get through the crisis. The credit union implemented a number of outreach programs.
Cooperativa Coban delivered 150 bags of basic food supplies, each containing enough to feed four-to-five people for two weeks. The decision was made to reach people and communities which had received no other aid and were in the greatest need. That meant providing supplies to people who were not credit union members and to areas where Cooperativa Coban has no interests beyond providing for people’s well-being.
The credit union provided roughly US $8,000 in donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) to first responders—including police, firefighters and frontline hospital workers. The PPE that was purchased included gloves, protective glasses, sanitizer, alcohol, alcohol wet wipes and disposable gowns.
Entrepreneurs and local businesses
Cooperativa Coban also started the “let’s support local trade” campaign, which included:
- creating a new, safe location where street vendors—forced off the streets due to the pandemic—could continue selling their goods.
- creating an online platform where people could buy those goods, so they didn’t have to pay with cash.
- developing financing offers to businesses in need of cash.
Knowing more needs to be done, Cooperativa Coban plans more deliveries of food and personal protective equipment. The credit union is also working on developing more financial products for local businesses that will need additional capital during and after the crisis.
Cooperativa Coban is part of Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito de Guatemala (FENACOAC), World Council’s direct member organization in Guatemala. FENACOAC is also a World Council partner in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Cooperative Development Program.