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BREMERTON, Wash. – Carol Schillios seems to collect small credit unions in rural villages of foreign developing countries that need her expertise like some people collect antique furniture. This 5’4″ blonde dynamo primarily works in Africa – Mali, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Uganda & Malawi; Asia – Philippines, Indonesia; and Eastern Europe – Moldova and the Ukraine. Never mind that danger might exist; if she sees a job to be done, she’s off and flying. Mostly as a volunteer, at that. No wonder she’s been honored with numerous national awards as an entrepreneur volunteer. China and Australia have also benefited from her special skills. Other volunteer assignments for the World Council of Credit Unions have included representing United States credit unions at the notable United Nations Women’s Conference in Beijing, China and teaching strategic planning and business development at the Directors Institute for the Australian boards of directors. Her forte is integrating credit union philosophy into credit union operations, strategic planning and education. “My next goal is to work in the refugee camps in Pakistan to hopefully bring micro-credit and small business development to refugees in preparation for their repatriation,” said Schillios, president of Schillios Consulting Group in Edmonds, Wash. About five months ago, she received word that the tiny Ndiaw Ndiaw CU in Senegal that only has about 250 members, had its cash funds of US$2,000 stolen. Thieves had broken into the treasurer’s house and stolen their safe containing their members’ money. Of course, there was no insurance. Why would Schillios immediately commit herself to rescue them, offering her own money if necessary? “In 1994 my first volunteer assignment for the World Council of Credit Unions’ People-to-People program was to teach strategic planning. Because of my ability to speak French, I was sent to Senegal, West Africa (she also speaks the more native languages of the rural villages, such as Wolof and Arabic, and has translated her training materials to all three languages). The rural village Ndiaw Ndiaw was selected to serve as the model credit union. We would use a real life situation to train the Senegal Credit Union League field agents in the strategic process. The by-product would be a strategic plan for the Ndiaw Ndiaw village credit union. It was a small credit union, but played a huge economic and educational role in the village.” There were other reasons Schillios felt committed to recoup the much needed funds for Ndiaw Ndiaw. “The village pump had broken down and the women traveled about 16 miles to fetch water several times a week,” she said. “The village fields had not yielded a peanut crop for two years because of the draught. The credit union also was instrumental in funding other income generating activities to meet the food and shelter needs of its members.” At a later workshop for some Bremerton, Wash.-area CUs, the attendees, after hearing about the Ndiaw Ndiaw loss of funds, decided along with Schillios that together they could make a difference. A fundraising plan was soon developed. In late March, Schillios facilitated for free a two-day credit union philosophy workshop for 50 CU employees. Schillios led them through the nine credit union operating principles, examined case studies of community development and, of course, they debated the pros and cons of the premise, “Credit union philosophy is no longer relevant.” Their upcoming commitments to assist Ndiaw Ndiaw CU would prove that statement irrelevant. Credit unions in the Bremerton area also decided to sponsor numerous fundraising activities. Kim House, regional branch manager at Peninsula Community FCU and Kristine Cowan, assistant vice president at Kitsap Community FCU, were the “fearless leaders of this venture,” according to Schillios, who is well-known in Washington for her charisma in motivating enthusiastic workers. Peninsula Community FCU’s tellers dressed up in Schillios’ African fabrics, which generated interest from members, some of whom didn’t buy the hot dogs and baked goods being sold, but just stuffed $20 in the collection jars. Kitsap Community FCU raised $400 at an evening Bunko party. One of their branch managers dressed up in a rabbit suit and took photos of the Easter Bunny with members’ kids. A class of 25 third graders visited Peninsula FCU and contributed $50. The Bremerton radio station promoted events free and local press provided colored half-page coverage of the events. Subway and Safeway donated sandwiches at the workshop, a chips distributor contributed snacks and Coca-Cola donated soft drinks. Along with Schillios’ donated $3,000 fee, they raised more than $6,000, with money still flowing in. “At a time when Americans are being criticized worldwide, the raising of these funds for a rural village in Africa demonstrates the real generosity of the human spirit,” she said. Schillios philosophizes thus: “Worldwide peace and understanding begins with the individual and their willingness to reach out in both prosperous and troubled times. It is my belief we CAN change the world – one person at a time – and that is my goal in linking people through cooperative initiatives such as this. “The monies raised in this project represent more than just a replacement of stolen member savings. This is a practical demonstration of the philosophy of credit unions that brought members, employees and the local community together and inspired people’s generosity.” Schillios hand delivered the collected funds to the rural African village in July. “The villagers and I danced into the night to celebrate the kindness of the human spirit.” -

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