Elkanah Odembo, Kenya's ambassador to the United States, thanked credit unions for their support of his country during a reception at the Kenyan Embassy in Washington, D.C. Photo by Larry Glatt.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Kenya's ambassador to the United States, Elkanah Odembo, recognized 60 U.S. credit union representatives during a reception at the Kenyan Embassy in Washington, D.C., last week for their work to improve Kenya's economic stability in a region hit hard by post-election violence in 2007. With a new presidential election on the horizon in Kenya, Odembo expressed his appreciation for the partnership between credit unions in Kenya and in the United States and for the difference they make in Kenyans' lives.
Soon after ethnic clashes left more than a thousand people dead following the 2007 presidential election, World Council of Credit Unions began providing assistance to Busia Compassionate Centre, an orphanage in western Kenya, through the support of the international credit union community. World Council initially worked with the orphanage as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded program in western Kenya that extended local credit union financing to small farmers, families and caretakers affected by HIV/AIDS.
When the program ended in 2010, World Council and the global credit union movement continued to support Busia Compassionate Centre. Credit unions financed educational scholarships and taught caretakers and orphans how to grow crops and raise animals to provide better nutrition and a source of income. As part of the effort to move the orphanage to a position of self-sustainability, credit unions have supported construction of a safer and more secure facility for the orphanage.
Among 60 credit union representatives and Busia Compassionate Centre Supporters at the reception included (from left) Jeff York, CoastHills Federal Credit Union CEO; Brian Branch, World Council president and CEO; and Bill Cheney, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) president and CEO. Photo by Larry Glatt.
"I was touched when I visited the orphanage just over a year ago, playing Santa Claus for the kids," said Bruce Foulke, president and CEO of American Heritage Federal Credit Union, which raised funds and donated items for the orphanage. "When I came back, I shared photos and stories with my staff, and they immediately embraced the opportunity to help the kids there."
The orphanage's local volunteers and children have also started a credit union to bring much-needed financial services to the Busia community. Donations from the international credit union system have helped subsidize start-up costs and provide tools and methodologies to establish the credit union. The credit union has been registered and is one of two digital credit unions operating in Kenya today, whereby members can access their accounts via cellphone technology.
"Through our work with Kenya's savings and credit cooperatives, we were able to provide a sense of hope and security for people deeply affected by the post-election violence," said Brian Branch, World Council president and CEO. "From the seeds of this work sprouted our partnership with the Busia Compassionate Centre, which has grown into a promising foundation for economic stability and growth in western Kenya. Millions of Kenyans streamed to the polls on Monday to cast their votes for a new president, and we are hopeful that this election will mark an era of greater prosperity for the country."
The Global Women's Leadership Network, a World Council initiative, is organizing an engagement program to Kenya, May 25 to June 4, 2013, to help launch the Busia Compassionate Centre's credit union. Participants will learn about the Kenyan credit union system and life in rural Kenya as well as conduct credit union staff and board trainings. Visit www.CUwomen.org/engagementprograms to learn more and to register for the program.
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.