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CUs create prosthetic hands for Afghanistan
A poster promoting the Credit Union Helping Hands program will appear in Afghanistan's Islamic investment and finance cooperatives once the program to provide prosthetic hands for disabled conflict victims begins operations there. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
KABUL, Afghanistan (1/19/12)--A group of U.S. credit unions and supporting organizations have teamed up to create prosthetic hands to help some Afghanistan conflict victims begin the recovery process. Years of armed conflict have left many Afghan civilians disabled and finding it difficult to support themselves and their families.

With World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) assistance, the group will soon distribute the prosthetics through Afghanistan's Islamic investment and finance cooperatives (IIFCs), or credit unions.

The Credit Union Helping Hands program, launched by the CU Philanthropy Group (CUPG), has been assembling and distributing prosthetic hands for those in need through Rotary International for three years. The group works with the Islamic Investment and Finance Cooperative Group, the Afghan trade association established by World Council to support IIFC growth and development, to plan the delivery of prosthetic hands in northern Afghanistan. Victims who register with IIFCs will receive the hands free and do not need to be IIFC members.

"The goal of credit unions is to foster economic empowerment and growth for their members, thereby helping strengthen the communities in which they live," said Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO. He noted that IIFCs "have found yet another way to help meet what for some members is their most critical need."

CUPG's consulting services' past credit union clients have assembled the prosthetic hands as part of teambuilding and process-improvement exercises with the firm, said Frank Hackney, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based philanthropy and consulting group. Participants from about 25 credit unions already have assembled as many as 100 hands.

"The credit unions get a great learning experience with a powerful philanthropic component that the employees love," Hackney said.

Last year, Rotary International arranged for several IIFC volunteers, members of social organizations from across Afghanistan, to travel to Ahmedabad, India, for prosthetic-fitting training sessions. Credit union consulting firm DDJ Myers financed the trip. Those volunteers will train others throughout Afghanistan to fit the prosthetic hands on their recipients.

"The primary value of the hands is that they enable the user to grasp," Hackney said. "The ability to grasp allows recipients to hold tools or utensils, steer a bike or an automobile and, in many cases, increases their ability to work."

The first shipment of 50 hands will be sent during first quarter, once the initial demand has been determined, Hackney said.

For more information about the Credit Union Helping Hands program, contact Frank Hackney at fmhackney@cuphilanthropygroup.org or 866-918-8969.
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