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Dominicans visit US in effort to rebuild the island’s credit unions
Monday, April 15, 2019 6:40 AM

WWOC Dominicans in Madison

Delegation receives training, discusses strategies with World Council, state credit union leagues

Credit union executives from Dominica are in the U.S. to continue their work with World Council of Credit Unions in rebuilding a system devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The Dominicans also are meeting with the Wisconsin Credit Union League and the Indiana Credit Union League for training and information exchanges during their visit.

Phoenix Belfield, manager of Dominica Cooperative Societies League Limited (DCSLL), began the week meeting with the World Council’s Advocacy team in Washington, D.C. on IFRS 9 international accounting standards and advocacy strategies for Dominica’s credit unions.

Belfield then traveled on to Madison, where he was joined by three other Dominican credit union colleagues: Aylmer Irish, CEO of National Co-operative Credit Union Limited, Jacqueline Roberts, administrative officer for National Co-operative Credit Union Limited’s Castle Bruce/La Plaine branch, and Ericson Robinson, general manager for West Coast Cooperative Credit Union.

While in Madison, the Dominicans participated in training with World Council leaders on the PEARLS accounting system. They also met with officials from the Wisconsin Credit Union League, the UW Credit Union, and the Blackhawk Community Credit Union to learn about governance, financial best practices, training, and advocacy.

The group will travel to Indiana next week for meetings with Indiana Credit Union League leaders on strategic planning for financial health and member services. The Dominicans also will learn about agricultural lending, services, and technology from officials at Interra Credit Union and discuss product operations and strategic planning with professionals from Afena Federal Credit Union.

The visit comes after the World Council and ICUL members visited Dominica in 2018, one year after Hurricane Maria damaged credit union headquarters and branch locations across the island—a major blow, since credit unions serve 97 percent of the island’s population.

The Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions—the charitable arm of the World Council—raised over $200,000 to rebuild DCSLLL headquarters, as well as 10 credit union branches.

While the credit unions have been physically repaired, the economic impact is still being felt. Infrastructure and economic damages have impacted credit union balance sheets and income. Dominica lost 96 percent of its GDP in 2018 as banana plantations were destroyed, large amounts of farmland were washed away, and the local university moved to Barbados. Credit union loan performance was significantly impacted as a result.

The credit unions asked for technical support in working through the impact of the disaster on their financials and in putting in place improved risk-management systems. They also asked for advice in supporting their members who have lost their means of livelihood and have had to shift to new types of economic activity—such as agriculture.

“The money raised through our Disaster Relief Fund allowed us to respond to the physical damage caused by Maria, but both World Council and our state credit union leagues recognize there is much more work to be done to get the island’s credit union system completely back on its feet,” said Worldwide Foundation Executive Director Mike Reuter.

About the World Council of Credit Unions
The World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development platform for credit unions. The World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. The World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.

The World Council has implemented over 300 technical assistance programs in 89 countries. Worldwide, 89,026 credit unions in 117 countries serve 260 million people.

Source: World Council of Credit Unions