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Chiles CUs spearhead earthquake recovery
SANTIAGO, Chile (3/5/10)--The massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Chile Feb. 27 has displaced 1.5 million people and is estimated to have claimed more than 700 lives. Chile's financial cooperatives, assisted by the country's largest credit union, have undertaken efforts to assist their members with emergency relief despite the fact that many credit unions and their branches were damaged or destroyed.
Click to view larger image Chile's Feb. 27 earthquake seriously damaged a branch office of COOPEUCH CU south of the city of Concepcion.
Click to view larger image Chile's earthquake caused significant damage, as seen in this shot taken from the doorway of a COOPEUCH CU branch. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
COOPEUCH, Chile's largest credit union and Latin America's second largest financial cooperative, is collecting funds through its charitable foundation, Fundación COOPEUCH, to help credit unions and their members affected by the quake nationwide rebuild their homes and businesses. World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) will make a donation to the credit union foundation from its own disaster relief funds and invites interested individuals and credit unions to contribute funds for Chilean credit union rebuilding and relief. WOCCU staff members are trying to assess earthquake damage to the country's credit unions but have struggled with communication issues, according to Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. "It is difficult to get information for regions affected by the earthquake because communications capabilities have been destroyed in many parts of the country," Branch said. "But we are encouraged by the fact that COOPEUCH has assumed such a strong leadership role even with many of its own branches damaged or destroyed." Santiago-based COOPEUCH, which has 85 branches that serve 417,000 members nationwide and holds US$1.8 billion in assets, is still collecting information from its damaged branch offices in and near Concepción, 70 miles from the earthquake's epicenter. COOPEUCH is one of Chile's five federally regulated credit unions, part of a movement that also includes dozens of smaller, unregulated institutions from which WOCCU has been unable to collect data. Funds collected through Fundación COOPEUCH will be used to assist all credit unions in rebuilding. The credit union is postponing member dues, minimizing credit card payments and offering reconstruction loans to help members cope with the crisis. In addition, the foundation is helping plan a telethon in Chile to raise a goal of 15 billion Chilean pesos (about US$29.1 million) to finance the construction of 30,000 houses for people whose homes were destroyed by the earthquake. Those interested in making a contribution to Chile's earthquake relief efforts can send their donation via check, credit card or wire to:

Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions

5710 Mineral Point Road

Madison, WI 53705, USA

Donations may be made online with a credit card. Use the resource link..For wire transfer information, contact Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, 608-395-2055 or vbreunig@woccu.org. Please indicate that your donation is for "Chile Disaster Relief."
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