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MADISON, Wis. – With 97 representatives from the World Council of Credit Unions dispatched around the globe working on a number of international development projects, all are safe and missions will go on despite the downturn in foreign travel as the Iraqi war continues. This according to WOCCU officials who are watching movement in countries throughout Europe, Asia and worldwide. “We’re looking at this on a country by country basis,” said Kim Johnston, WOCCU marketing communication specialist. “Our staff needs to travel extensively for development work, and for the time being, nothing has been cancelled.” Johnston added that at press time “quite a few (staffers) are in the air traveling” to other parts of the world. WOCCU representatives are currently serving in 18 countries. Two weeks prior to the start of the war, WOCCU experienced a scare in the Philippines when a bomb attack at the Davao City airport killed more than 20 people and injured 148. WOCCU staff were not affected by the attack, Johnston said. WOCCU-Philippines project and staff were advised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to stay in their current locations. Due to the outreach of the project it requires staff to travel extensively, which can be difficult in even normal circumstances. In February, WOCCU representatives traveled to the Philippines after receiving $3.5 million from the USAID/Philippines mission to conduct a second credit union development project over a three- year period. The project will strengthen the financial sustainability of credit unions and expand their outreach in two new areas, including a predominantly Muslim region of Mindanao. Mindanao is already in full operation and will work with 10 to 15 credit unions. To increase Muslim membership, project staff will complete diversity training, and draft policies and procedures friendly to that culture. In February, U.S. Ambassador John Herbst paid a visit to Tayanch Credit Union in Namangan, Uzbekistan, as part of a review of ongoing projects funded by USAID and the Asian Development Bank there. The credit union is one of five credit unions in WOCCU’s Rural Savings and Credit Union Development project to establish a legislative and regulatory framework for credit unions there. Herbst met with the credit union’s chairperson, executive director, borrowers, and depositors to discuss the role of the credit union in strengthening the economy of Namangan. Last April, Uzbekistan passed a law promoting the creation of credit unions throughout the country. Johnston said travel to Philippines, Uzbekistan and other regions has not been scaled back. -

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