During the past few years, credit unions such as the $62 million, 10,200-member Healthcare Systems FCU in Falls Church, Va., and the $257 million, 22,000-member Dominion CU in Richmond, Va., have participated in team-building events to support CU Helping Hands, a charitable program launched by the CU Philanthropy Group to assist amputees in war-torn countries.
Through the program, executives and staff at about 20 credit unions have assembled more than 180 prosthetic hands, which have been distributed through Afghanistan’s Islamic Investment and Finance Cooperatives to victims of land mines and other atrocities of war, said Frank Hackney, founder of CU Philanthropy Group, a nonprofit organization, and The Conference Group LLC, a consultancy firm in Washington, D.C.
Hackney incorporates the prosthetic assembly program into staff development events he organizes for credit unions. During the team-building sessions, credit union directors, executives and staffers assemble prosthetic hands, test them for functionality and decorate delivery bags, which include a picture of the three-person assembly team.
“Each prosthetic hand has about 30 parts that must be assembled so it’s not a simple task,” he explained. “Putting them together and testing them requires patience, communication and coordination, which are essential skills for strong teams. What begins as a very challenging and highly effective team development and process improvement event quickly shifts to a powerful embodiment of what it means to truly serve a customer’s needs.”
The prosthetic hands are basic devices that are not surgically attached, but they allow amputees to accomplish simple, yet vital tasks such as eating, writing and working. Devices assembled through CU Helping Hands are donated to amputees that are screened by IIFCs, but they don’t have to be IIFC members, Hackney said.
The program was launched in 2009 at the $158 million OAS Staff Federal Credit Union in Washington, as part of a staff development initiative.
Carlos Calderon, CEO of the 5,200-member OAS FCU, said the team-building exercise helped build camaraderie among colleagues and reinforce the credit union’s goals.
He launched CU Helping Hands by partnering with the Ellen Meadows Prosthetic Hand Foundation in Vallejo, Calif., which provides the device components, and Odyssey Teams, a Chico, Calif.-based firm that conceived the Helping Hands program.
To expand the program into Afghanistan, Hackney approached WOCCU.
“At the time, the World Council had a number of efforts underway to help earthquake victims in Haiti, but a representative with the council pointed us in the direction of the emerging IIFCs in Afghanistan,” he said. “The CU Philanthropy Group saw that the Afghan IIFCs are aligned with the whole credit union philosophy of lifting people up.”
Bill Hawkins, president and CEO of Healthcare Systems FCU, said that participating in a CU Helping Hands event was an eye-opening experience for staff.
“What started as a group team building exercise prior to our annual Holiday Party ended up being so much more," he said. The atmosphere of that year’s party was overflowing with gratitude for so many of the things we take for granted.”