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As Venezuela Collapses; Helping Latin American Credit Unions Integrate Immigrants and Refugees into Local Economies

Many of the geopolitical challenges that we see in the news have their roots and their impact at the community level. Credit unions everywhere are community-based organizations. Communities turn to their credit unions to mitigate these challenges — and those credit unions often turn to us to support their capacity to do so.

Today there are 70 million persons displaced from their homes around the world. There are two sides to this coin: the communities from where refugees and immigrants come and the communities to where immigrants and refugees arrive. 

Among the regions affected by refugees are the Latin American countries around the imploding country of Venezuela: 1.5 million refugees to Colombia, 800-thousand refugees to Peru, and 400-thousand refugees to Ecuador.

                                                      
Left: An image from credit union-assisted refugee work in Colombia. RightPeru’s Manuel Rabines Ripalda, former World Council board chairman and director, working on behalf of the Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito del Perú (FENACREP) and World Council.

The initial flow of refugees have assets and resources, but with time and subsequent migrations, refugees arrive with little to no resources and no safety net networks. The latest refugees from Venezuela arrive destitute, malnourished and ill. Initial receptivity wears thin and societal stresses increase. 

Host communities again turn to their credit unions to help integrate the refugees into the local economy. In Colombia, Peru and Ecuador we work with credit unions to settle Venezuelan refugees with legal registration, professional certification, labor skills matching, employment training, financial literacy and asset building accounts. 

Credit unions address the root drivers of instability. We help people earn their livelihood and finance jobs, help settle refugees into communities. Where credit unions can help give refugees a start, economic stability avoids civil conflict later. Thank you for helping us help our Latin American colleagues stabilize their local communities.

Safe travels,

B-

Brian Branch
President & CEO
World Council of Credit Unions



Setting the Framework for Global Digitization in Kuala Lumpur

The global credit union system reached the Vision 2020 target of 260 million members at the end of 2017, three years early. Yet not all credit unions or country systems grew equally. Those credit unions that offered their members robust online and mobile channels grew, while those that did not showed stagnant growth. Smaller country systems that used shared payment platforms showed growth, while others without digital channels lost market share and displayed little growth. The next challenge is not a new number for membership growth, but instead, addressing the channels for feeding membership growth for the future.

Credit Union Resilience Disaster Response Engagement in Puerto Rico

In August, we flew back in to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with our colleagues from California, North Carolina, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas and Colorado to share the lessons learned from credit union responses to disasters around the country. 

Study and Service in Puerto Rico: Launching "Operation Stormbreak"

We will return to Puerto Rico August 1-6, after the World Credit Union Conference (WCUC) July 28-31 in The Bahamas. During WCUC, the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions will launch “Operation Stormbreak” — the establishment of a forward-prepared fund to respond immediately when a natural disaster happens.

Rebuilding Shattered Lives in Kurdistan

We traveled to Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, at the request of former military personnel, to explore a credit union approach for serving refugees. Can credit unions help refugees in the camps find a way to build assets, re-engage in a productive economy, and move from relief dependency to self-sufficiency?

Keeping Families Together: Guatemalan Credit Unions Launch Young Entrepreneurs Fund

Guatemala has one of the highest numbers of small business startups in Central America. Yet only one in seven startups survive the first year of operation. Young entrepreneurs are high risk credit subjects and therefore credit unions have been reluctant to finance them.

2018: End of Year Report

Supporter contributions fund the credit union development programs in the field that the World Council and the Worldwide Foundation carry out. We look at what challenges we have faced, what we have accomplished and what is still underway at year-end 2018. 

Caribbean Hurricane Relief: Dominica Credit Union Rebuilding

Hurricane Maria in 2017 damaged 18,000 of the island’s 23,000 buildings. The island has six credit unions on the island serving 97% of the population. 

Field Engagements Planned for 2019

"Engagement trips are like traveling in a time machine. Sometimes you go to the future. Sometimes you visit the past.” - courtesy of one of the Worldwide Foundation’s engagement participants.

Progress at Busia

Worldwide Foundation continues to support the Busia orphanage with food and school fees. In 2018, after young girls at the orphanage had been harassed by men who tried to break into their dormitory, Worldwide Foundation called for donations to build a protective wall around the orphanage.

Rebuilding for Puerto Rico: Loan Participation Workshop

On the island of Puerto Rico there are 115 state-chartered credit unions (CUs) with 1 million members and $8.1 billion in assets. There are 9 federal chartered credit unions with 85 thousand members and $800 million in assets.

A Deep Dive in Asia

We depend on financial support of credit unions for the work we do. We also depend on the commitment of personal time and voluntary effort of credit union people to make a difference in the lives of many around the world.

Puerto Rico: Preparing for the Next Hurricane Season

In Puerto Rico there are 115 state-chartered credit unions with one-million members and $8.1 billion in assets. There are nine federal-chartered credit unions with 85,000 members and $800 million in assets.

Economic Democracy

We remember that when Poland achieved political democracy, the leadership of the Solidarity trade union movement sent its young leaders abroad to study credit unions and pursue economic democracy as well.

At the Bottom of the Pyramid

In March, we returned to Busia Kenya, to the orphanage that credit unions built. We did basic service work, painting and repairing facilities, planting banana trees, mixing cement and laying tiles. We cooked and entertained the children. Why an orphanage?

Supporting Credit Unions & Orphans in Kenya

There are 6,400 credit unions in Kenya, called SACCOs (Savings and Credit Cooperatives) serving 6.2 million members.

Developing Business Lending in Guatemala

Communities in Guatemala have seen the departure of their youth. “We have no future here: no jobs, no money”, Josué, 12 years old, from San Pedro told us. So, the communities turn to their credit unions for a solution.

Credit Union Relief Knows No Borders

One of the privileges that we enjoy working in the credit union movement is to be part of a global community which reaches out in times of disaster to help each other regardless of borders.

A Deep Dive in Ukraine

We flew into Kiev from Vienna. Others came from the US, Poland and Kenya. After three years of war, our Ukrainian colleagues were relieved to receive outside visitors. 

Colombia: From War to Peace

The conflict in Colombia ran for 50 years. It took place between the military, para military, rebels, guerrillas, narco-traffickers and crime syndicates. 

Recovery in Haiti

We remember the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that destroyed much of Port au Prince, including credit unions. Credit unions provided some of the very first relief in their local communities. Credit unions in the Dominican Republic established a supply line of water and food to credit unions in Haiti.

Working with Youth in Central America

Since 2013, migration north from Central America by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children has put stress on the border and on the political environment. It is the result of a crisis in the communities from which they come: lack of security, lack of an economic future and poor infrastructure.

Supporting Credit Unions in Ukraine

Thank you for your supporter commitment to the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions during 2016. I wanted to share with you some of what we accomplished in 2016 thanks to your support.