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Walesa highlights World CU Conference opening
GDANSK, Poland (7/17/12)--Lech Walesa, former head of Poland's Solidarity party and the Nobel Peace Prize winner who led his country to freedom from communist suppression, called on the global credit union movement to start its own revolution, working at the local level on behalf of its members, during the opening ceremonies Sunday at the World Credit Union Conference in Gdańsk, Poland.

Walesa said he hopes to be the "last of the big revolutionaries" to carry the world into the 21st century. The conference is presented by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).

Lech Walesa, former president of Poland, closed the World Credit Union Conference opening ceremonies Sunday in Gdańsk, Poland.
Poland was one of 50 countries represented at the International Parade of Flags, which opened the World Credit Union Conference.
World Council of Credit Unions Chair Manuel Rabines emphasized credit unions' reason for being during his opening address to the World Credit Union Conference.
World Council of Credit Unions First Vice Chair Grzegorz Bierecki, Poland's credit union trade group president/CEO and former member of the Solidarity Party, thanked participants in the World Credit Union Conference for the help they have given Polish credit unions, which have become some of the most successful in the world.  (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
"In order to lead the world into the 21st century, we need to reach for values," Walesa told a capacity crowd at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Hall. "There is great service that you can provide in helping us achieve this revolution, and you have already started it by joining us this year in Gdańsk."

Walesa was one of three dignitaries to welcome conference participants, a crowd of nearly 1,400 attendees from 50 countries. The capacity crowd caused registration to close a week before the conference began Sunday.

Welcoming comments were given by WOCCU Chair Manuel Rabines, general manager of Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito del Perú (FENACREP), the trade association serving Peru's credit unions. A credit union revolution begins and ends in its ability to serve members, he said.

"We hope each of you will make a difference in the lives of your members by offering quality services," Rabines said. "We hope that you never forget that this is your reason for being."

The conference is co-hosted by the National Association of Co-operative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU), Poland's credit union trade group. WOCCU First Vice Chair Grzegorz Bierecki, NACSCU president/CEO, offered participants a lesson in Polish credit union history, in which the global credit union movement played an integral part.

"Twenty years ago, six young men dedicated themselves to reviving the Polish credit union movement from nothing," Bierecki said. "This year's conference gives us the opportunity to thank so many of you for the help you have given to our credit unions. It is proof that solidarity will prevail."

Prior to Sunday's opening, the conference hosted several other events, including the fourth annual forum sponsored by the Global Women's Leadership Network on Sunday. Seventy women credit union leaders worldwide gathered to network and hear from various speakers, including branding expert Jiao Zhang, partner with the U.S. firm Attune, and international development professional Gabriela Zapata, consultant with the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor.

The Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions' Golf Outing on Saturday raised nearly $100,000 to support the network and WOCCU programs that benefit women and their families in emerging countries.

Participants in WOCCU's Young Credit Union People (WYCUP) program also held its networking and educational session Sunday afternoon, the first of several sessions devoted to meeting the needs of credit union professionals and volunteers age 35 years and under. The 37 participants heard from WYCUP alumnus Grzegorz Buczkowski, now president of the Co-operative Savings and Credit Union Mutual Insurance Society in Poland, on leadership challenges and lessons learned with the credit union movement.

The World Credit Union Conference concludes Wednesday with a closing reception at the historic Gdańsk shipyards, where the Solidarity movement won Poland's freedom from communism in 1990.
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