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Movement mobilizes to assist damaged CUs in Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (2/4/10)--World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and its program partners in Haiti, with assistance from the Dominican Republic's credit union movement, have mobilized to collect and deliver emergency supplies to Haiti's damaged and destroyed credit unions, known as caisse populaires.
Click to view larger image Credit union workers retrieve forms from the crumbled remains of KOTELAM's Magoire Ambrose branch office. (Photo by Christian Kober).
Click to view larger image The office of CLEF credit union in Leogane was completely destroyed by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. (Photo by Christian Kober. Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions).
Credit unions left standing have used their existing network to help displaced members of damaged institutions access their accounts with biometric identification cards and receive much-needed remittances. Federation Le Levier, a US$52 million asset network of 16 credit unions serving 300,000 Haitians nationwide, is helping frontline institutions that serve poor and low-income populations push crucial resources out to their members. Le Levier credit unions lost five staff members in the earthquake, and eight of the member institutions were damaged. Three of the credit unions--KOTELAM, CLEF and CPSA--lost key offices from which they serve an aggregate 50,000 members. KOTELAM, the largest credit union in Port-au-Prince, suffered severe damage to its headquarters, credit office and a branch office. In nearby Leogane, CLEF collapsed entirely, and looters took safes and equipment from both CLEF and Port-au-Prince-based CPSA. Le Levier and its member credit unions are key partners of the Haiti Integrated Finance for Value Chains and Enterprises (HIFIVE) program, which began in June. The program--designed to encourage a dynamic Haitian economy by increasing the availability of financial products and services--is now working to rapidly mobilize initiatives to support economic recovery following the earthquake. HIFIVE is implemented by WOCCU under the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) FIELD-Support Leader with Associates (LWA) cooperative agreement managed by the Academy for Educational Development (AED) and funded by USAID. Haiti's credit unions also are being assisted by the Asociación de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Crédito (AIRAC), which is the Dominican Republic's credit union association and a WOCCU member. AIRAC is securing tents and food supplies for Pétionville-based Le Levier staff members--some without homes--who are working around the clock with a damaged office building to rebuild the federation's network systems. Supported by USAID/Haiti, Le Levier's investment last year in biometric ID cards and inter-institutional connectivity among its members is helping facilitate recovery. At the time of the earthquake, members already had mobilized total savings of $35 million and had a credit portfolio of $30 million. The ID cards permit members from each of the 16 affiliated credit unions access to their accounts at any other member institution. Credit unions in the same geographic zone are also sharing facilities to accommodate member institutions that no longer have buildings. Though destroyed in the earthquake, KOTELAM is creating a special office to aid members who have lost their records and identification. Rural credit unions that were structurally unaffected are providing teller space and responding to the high demand for liquidity. WOCCU this week is coordinating a meeting with its microfinance partners, including Le Levier and other financial service providers in Haiti, to share information, review damage assessments, coordinate financial and technical assistance, discuss financial sector priorities for providing relief and rebuilding and consider longer term priorities in view of Haiti's situation. The coordination of these institutions through both formal and informal networks will be crucial for restoring much-needed financial services to the people of Haiti, WOCCU said. To support WOCCU's relief efforts on behalf of Haiti's credit unions and their members, make payments via check, credit card or wire to:

Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions Inc.

5710 Mineral Point Road

Madison, WI 53705 USA

Donations may be made online with a credit card at www.woccu.org/give. For wire transfer information, contact: Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, 608-395-2055 or vbreunig@woccu.org. Please indicate that the donation is for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. U.S. credit unions can also support WOCCU's relief efforts by donating through the National Credit Union Foundation's CUAid system at www.CUAid.coop.
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