JIMANI, Dominican Republic (1/22/10)--The future of Haiti's credit unions lies not only in recovery from the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, but in the global credit union movement's ability to help Haiti's 175 financial cooperatives rise to higher levels of member service. That was the message from Greta Greathouse, head of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) operations in Haiti, during a phone interview Wednesday.
World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) staffers Brian Branch, left, and Dave Richardson load critical supplies that Greta Greathouse, center, will take back to WOCCU's project staff in earthquake-devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions).
"Keep your eyes on Haiti," said Greathouse, chief of party for the Haiti Integrated Financing for Value Chains and Enterprises (HIFIVE) program, a $34.4 million multipartner program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. "There will be a lot of opportunities for credit unions around the world to participate in rebuilding Haiti's financial services sectors," she said. Greathouse had driven to Jimani on the Haiti/Dominican Republic border to meet WOCCU executives and collect much-needed supplies for her staff of 16, all of whom had survived the earthquake. Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Dave Richardson, WOCCU senior manager in charge of the Haiti program, met Greathouse at COOPRENE credit union at the border, thanks to the assistance of the Asociación de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Crédito (AIRAC), WOCCU's member organization in the Dominican Republic. “The images you see on TV are surreal, but they do not do justice to Haiti’s devastation,” said Virginio Rafael Gerardo, executive director of AIRAC. “Even though the Dominican Republic is a poor country, we will do all that we can to help.” AIRAC provided logistical support, transportation, security and US$1,000 worth of critical supplies to WOCCU's Haiti staff. The Credit Union National Association provided the satellite phones that Branch and Richardson brought with them to the Dominican Republic. Haiti's credit unions were already reaching out to provide financial services to the country's rural poor, said Greathouse. Those efforts will become even more critical in light of the earthquake's devastation. "Credit unions play an incredibly important role, particularly in rural areas," said Greathouse. "It's always been our goal to extend those services, and that's something that WOCCU members have been very good at supporting." To hear the entire audio interview with Greathouse, use the resource link. Also, on Thursday, WOCCU's international charitable arm, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, in conjunction with its U.S. counterpart, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), said the movement is continuing to send funds to aid credit unions in Haiti. U.S. credit unions can contribute online through NCUF's CUAid disaster relief fund at www.CUAid.coop. A total of $324,166 had been raised by 3 p.m. CT Thursday, said Valerie Breunig, executive director of the Worldwide Foundation. That includes $170,156 from U.S. credit unions contributing via CUAid.coop. Jill Stevenson, communications and marketing coordinator at NCUF, said U.S. credit unions can post the CUAid.coop on their own websites to facilitate donations. Members would need only to click the link. "We're getting all kinds of questions from credit unions about how they can raise money," she told News Now
. To support Haiti's credit unions and members through the international credit union disaster fund, make payments, via check, credit card or wire to:
Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions Inc.
5710 Mineral Point Road
Madison, WI 53705, USA
Donations also can be made online with a credit card at www.woccu.org/give. For wire transfer information, contact Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions at 608-395-2055 or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
. Please indicate the donation is designated for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund.