As anyone reading this article probably knows, the core of the credit union industry is founded on the idea of “people helping people.” One example is the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run® in Washington DC which raises funds for local Children's Hospitals across the United States , while also bringing the industry national exposure. However, have you ever thought about the global impact of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run®? Since credit unions began sponsoring the race in 2002, winners have come all around the world, including Kenya , Russia , and Romania .
The credit union mission of “people helping people” extends beyond our local communities to communities around the world. World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is the leading international trade association and development agency for credit unions worldwide. Operating under its vision of “Quality Credit Unions for Everyone,” WOCCU promotes the sustainable development of credit unions to empower people around the world to grow through access to high quality, affordable financial services.
WOCCU's work has touched the lives of those in Kenya, Russia, and Romania:
Credit unions in Kenya are known as savings and credit co-operatives (SACCOs). They comprise the largest network of SACCOs in Africa , with 3,000 institutions serving more than 3 million people in the country. WOCCU's programs in Kenya support sustainable credit union growth, build local technical capacity to assist SACCOs and mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS through education programs and financial services that meet the needs of affected communities. In recent years, World Council has helped Kenya's SACCOs facilitate an HIV/AIDS peer-to-peer education program through a large teachers' SACCO, offer agriculture-related products to help farmers achieve more profitable production and provide money transfer services so that Kenyans working in the United States can send money to loved ones through SACCOs in Kenya.
With more than 1,000 institutions serving more than 500,000 members, the Russian credit union and cooperative movement is growing. WOCCU, the Louisiana Credit Union League, the Russian League and several Russian regional groups, have partnered to develop the Training Center of the Russian League, which delivers credit union-specific educational programs to institutions throughout Russia . Financial education eventually will be offered through 17 courses that comprise Moscow State University 's Credit Union Leadership Program. In both cases, program materials are based on training and tools developed by WOCCU. In September 2007, WOCCU convened its Eastern European Congress in Moscow , followed by the Russia Engagement Program, a week-long educational excursion among Russian credit unions for a small group of leaders from the worldwide credit union movement.
Credit unions in Romania began making a come back after the demise of Communist rule in December 1989 when government restraints on their abilities to serve members with more than minimal loans was lifted. Known as casele de ajutor reciproc (mutual assistance societies) since 1949, the CARs (pronounced “char-ays”) expanded their services in post-Communist Romania . By 1996, WOCCU was working with the National Union of Employees Mutual Aid Houses in Romania and territorial unions to help a group of CARs introduce market-driven savings and lending services and the transition from social fund share accounts to voluntary savings and deposit services. The program has remained relatively stable and continues to grow in the number of institutions and members served.
Bringing It Home
In many ways, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run ® is a reminder of the credit union industry's efforts of “people helping people” locally, nationally, and worldwide. There are a variety of ways that your credit union can participate in this event. To learn more about how you can make an impact, visit www.miracleday.org for more information.