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<p>GENEVA, Switzerland – When writer Sylvia Petter left Australia in 1969, she knew nothing about credit unions. Living first in Vienna, then in Switzerland, and finally France, her credit union knowledge didn’t increase. None of these countries have credit unions, although they all have co-operative banks founded or outgrowths from the same Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen who was responsible for founding credit unions in Germany. Today she knows a lot about them, and is a big fan of CUs. Petter came to writing late in life. In 1993 she had reached a point in her career when earning a MBA seemed appropriate, but she wondered what good would it do being 50 years old with a new degree. Than one day she found a magazine for writers and was entranced. A new passion took control of her life. Writing. Although she is completely trilingual in French, German and English Petter chose English as her writing language, rediscovering her childhood tongue. She found the Geneva Writers Group for anglophones. Their members work has been published around the world. Petter started slowly, but soon found her work appearing in The European and other publications. Two of her short stories were read on BBC World Radio. She also joined an on-line writers group, called Boot Camp for the discipline required and headed by English writer Alex Keegan. The writers were required to produce a story a week for a year with heavy critiquing responsibilities. Writers get used to rejections and she has had her share. However, when one of her stories was accepted for an anthology called Valentine’s Day she was thrilled. Other stories in the collection were by well-known writers like Joyce Carol Oates, but it was Petter’s writing that The Economist chose to review favorably. She started attending workshops followed by a six-month mentor program with Australian writer Timothy Findley through Humber University in Canada. That brought her first novel Tillensia, almost to completion, but her agent wanted more. Last year she won a grant from the Australian government to work with top editor Harrison Ford (not the actor), on Tillensia. Her agent is hopeful on its placement. At the same time she found a publisher for her collection of short stories, Past Present. The stories, which have received, limited, but positive reviews are available on Amazon.com. Petter, who works full time and is the breadwinner for her family, started work on her second novel, Gift of Gab. Combined with a new job within International Telecommunications Union, which is a Geneva, Switzerland UN organization, a daughter who just passed her Bac (the French equivalent of a high school diploma) and who wants to go to college in Australia, she found herself bogged down. She looked back to Humber University for assistance. Peter Carey, the Austalian writer who has twice won the Booker Prize, England’s equivalent to the Pulitzer, was available to help her out. Petter phoned the school. “Of course,” she was told. Carey would love to work with her. Now she had to finance the program, which cost Canadian $2000. Unfortunately, Swiss or French banks don’t have the type of loans that would help, but Petter learned that the UN had a credit union. Although she was skeptical not knowing much about credit unions, Petter joined United Nations FCU, mainly to have a “Writing Account” and her own share drafts. Although the United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU) is based in New York, they had opened two officers in Geneva in April 2000, one in the ITU building and one in The International Labour Organization megalith. Petter thought she would ask for a loan and went in to talk to Peggy Brenet, the member service representative.. Brenet told Petter that she not only qualified for the loan, but she could get it at the educational loan rate of 9%. Petter was stunned. She thought of her ITU work as income producing. Although she has earned some money from her writing, that is secondary. She also thought her writing as not being related to education because it isn’t her income source. No matter. Manager Khalid Gherzeddine and Brenet pushed the loan through and within 24 hours, Petter had her tuition. Petter was stunned again. Loans through Swiss banks are long drawn out processes. Banks are user-hostile, far different from Gherzeddine and Brenet who pride themselves on providing the best service possible to their new members. The two branch offices now service about 1,600 members. They rely on word of mouth advertising to get new members in. The UN has major agencies within one square mile, from which they can draw members: World Health Organization, The Human Rights Commission, The World Intellectual Property Organization, ITU, ILO and of course the UN complex, itself. UN FCU has $1.3 billion in assets and more than 42,000 members worldwide. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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