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Mica reports on quake-damaged Haitian CUs
WASHINGTON (4/28/10)--Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Dan Mica returned April 22 from a World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) field-engagement program in Haiti, where the credit union delegation met with credit unions and their members suffering from the effects of the Jan. 12 earthquake. Mica and the group studied the credit union movement in Haiti and discussed how WOCCU and the global credit union community can best help the country rebuild, using strengths inherent in credit unions’ financial cooperative structure.
Dan Mica, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association, (right) meets Bozil Jean Sanon, director of Mamev CU, Gressier, Haiti. Mamev is operating out of a tent supplied by the credit union system, and Mamev's staff have received tents, allowing them to get back to work after the earthquake earlier this year. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
“The deterioration was beyond what TV could show,” Mica told News Now upon his return. “I looked down every street I came upon and saw rubble on all sides of the streets. I saw miles and miles of tents and tent cities, and people selling scraps they had scavenged, such as bed frames, batteries and auto parts. Schools consist of blackboards placed on stands inside tents with the sides up, located on what used to be sports fields. Kids, still dressed in school uniforms, walk home, stepping over rubble. “It was one of the most depressing sights I have ever seen--balanced by the human spirit--people trying to get their lives to go on,” he continued. “There was poverty and need beyond everything you can imagine. There was an overwhelming sense of human disaster. I’m not an emotional person, but it was very moving.” Fourteen participants representing major credit union organizations and WOCCU leaders participated in the intensive experience led by Pete Crear, WOCCU president/CEO. The delegation first gathered in Miami for a pre-visit briefing from WOCCU staff and a Haitian microfinance leader. Discussion topics included the economic impact of Haitian emigration, financial literacy work and the impact of Haiti’s underdeveloped financial infrastructure. While in Haiti, the delegation visited three credit unions, known as “caisses populaires.” The credit unions’ buildings were destroyed so they operate out of office tents donated by WOCCU. WOCCU Haiti program director Greta Greathouse, who led the delegation’s program, now also leads the credit union disaster relief and rebuilding effort. WOCCU has been working with Haiti’s credit unions since July, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development through the Academy for Educational Development. Mica and the other participants toured damaged credit unions in Port-au-Prince and in the earthquake epicenter of Leogane, hearing first-hand how the earthquake affected credit union operations, as well as the staff and members of the credit unions. The visit has helped focus credit union leaders on what to do to help Haiti’s credit unions. “I will soon send a letter to our credit union system looking for 150 volunteer credit unions, each to partner with one credit union in Haiti to send it supplies, equipment or money once a quarter,” Mica said. “The need is astronomical. Credit unions can’t do nearly enough to help the earthquake situation overall. But the least we can do is help credit unions there directly. Also, WOCCU will set up a stabilizations fund to help.” Will Haiti’s credit unions survive? Mica said he believes they will. “People there need credit unions more than ever right now,” he said. “People were coming and going to credit union tents wherever we went. I have no doubt they will survive. This is going to be a very long long-term situation. “People on that island benefit tremendously from the presence of credit unions,” he concluded. “If they weren’t down there, we’d go down there and set them up.”
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