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Caribbean CU succeeds with non-traditional services
MAIMON, Dominican Republic (5/6/11)--Cooperativa de Ahorros y Créditos Maimón Inc. celebrated its 20th year of service last week with workshops, social gatherings and sporting events in the mountainous central valley town of Maimón, Dominican Republic. The credit union has flourished by offering non-traditional services to its members. The credit union has not only provided financial services, it has changed the social fabric of everyday life, said the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). The credit union has established itself in the community by adding value through more than just financial services, offering vocational training programs to hundreds of young adults, fortifying municipal water systems, providing two ambulances and offering the only comprehensive funeral services in town.
Click to view larger image Visitors from the Wisconsin Credit Union League gather outside Maimón credit union’s main branch office in the Dominican Republic. The twin pines, a widely used symbol of cooperatives throughout Latin America and other parts of the world, is prominently displayed outside.
Click to view larger image Wisconsin Credit Union League President/CEO, Brett Thompson (left), accompanies Virginio Rafael Gerardo (right), president/CEO of World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) member organization in the Dominican Republic, on a visit to Maimón credit union through WOCCU’s International Partnerships Program. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
“Maimón credit union has gone far above and beyond the call of duty in terms of service to members and the community,” said Pete Crear, WOCCU president/CEO, who along with the WOCCU board of directors visited the credit union in April. “This credit union provides a shining example of how non-traditional services can play a pivotal role in community development and improve the lives of members.” The credit union’s investments in the community have impacted on the quality of life there. It provides vocational training to young people who might not otherwise have the means to prepare to enter the work force or start their own businesses. It built a water tower to bring running water to residents. It owns and operates a funeral home adjacent to its offices and has a hearse. A funeral insurance plan for members and their families helps ease the financial and logistical burden of a death so the family can focus on mourning. Through four branch offices in the Monseñor Nouel province, Maimón also offers financial products and services, including youth savings and financial literacy programs, a savings incentive program and supplemental group health insurance. Its 43,000 members represent more than 60% of local residents, and assets total about US$52 million. It is currently planning a fifth branch office for the capital city of Santo Domingo. “What makes Maimón credit union truly great is its social engagement to benefit the community,” said Ramón Antonio Diaz Guzmán, Maimón credit union board president. “All types of people in the region, especially those most in need, come to our institution to address small but systemic problems. Maimón credit union will continue to leave footprints in the hearts of our members and the community.” Virginio Rafael Gerardo, president/CEO of Asociación de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Crédito (AIRAC), WOCCU’s member organization in the Dominican Republic, organized the board of directors’ visit to the credit union. He said Maimon’s level of discipline makes it a top performer in the indicators AIRAC measures. It was recently recognized as “Credit Union of the Year.” “For [AIRAC], Maimón credit union has a philosophical importance because it demonstrates the true meaning of the credit union difference through its ability to address the basic needs of the community,” Gerardo said. “This helps show government officials that credit unions are a viable resource for human development, and they can take that into consideration when determining regulatory treatment.” AIRAC maintains connections within the global credit union movement through a partnership with the Wisconsin Credit Union League (WCUL), facilitated by WOCCU’s International Partnerships Program. During a 2009 visit, representatives from AIRAC, WCUL and WOCCU met with the country’s central bank, the Superintendency of Banks and the Institute for Cooperatives to work on modernizing regulations and oversight procedures to better address the country’s credit union structure. Pedro Silverio, CEO of the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, asked AIRAC to submit comments to the current bill before it was introduced to Congress later that year. Brett Thompson, WCUL president/CEO, worked with the international team to draft comments for submission. Through their combined efforts, AIRAC influenced regulatory change for its country’s credit unions. Thompson and his WCUL colleagues also visited Maimón credit union and saw how the credit union served more than just the financial needs of its members, going beyond its membership to invest in community-wide infrastructure. “Maimón is engaged in possibly the purest form of credit unionism that one could imagine and serves as a great reminder to those of us in the U.S. of what our mission is all about,” Thompson said. WCUL is planning another visit to the Dominican Republic in October to run an advocacy and regulatory education program for credit unions. AIRAC will facilitate several week-long study tours in November for member credit union managers to work on risk management and loan processing issues at Wisconsin credit unions.
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