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JOHANNESBURG and EAST LONDON, South Africa – It’s been a few years in the making but the credit unions here will soon have a direct link to hands-on training from mentors in the U.S. thanks to the African-American Credit Union Coalition AACUC Chairman Hubert Hoosman and Vice Chairwoman Helen Godfrey met with World Council of Credit Unions officials last December to discuss an earmark of funding to bolster the South African movement, which currently serves 10,622 members through 25 credit unions. Working through WOCCU’s African Development Fund, the $1 million earmark will help find residents there who will train as managers for a three-month period starting in December. Jesus Chavez, WOCCU-South Africa project director, will monitor the trainees’ progress during that time. After that period, the management trainees will travel to the United States in early 2004, where mentor credit unions will train them in all operational aspects over a six-month period. So far, four U.S. credit unions have committed to the mentorship and all expenses, housing and a living stipend will be provided for, said Godfrey, who is also president/CEO of Shreveport Federal Credit Union. The South African mentee list should be complete by November. Godfrey spent three weeks in South Africa in May 2003 mentoring several credit unions on such operational issues as marketing on a shoestring and building member loyalty. She also successfully helped one management team open its field of membership to an entire local company. Representatives from 17 credit unions attended the marketing presentations. “I was able to put my CEO hat on and offer real-life, sound options that will help move credit unions to the next level,” Godfrey said. “I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to present them with everything but more importantly, to inspire them to come up with their own ideas.” In Godfrey’s home state of Louisiana, the credit union league has also established and fostered relationships with South African managers. Anne Cochran, president/CEO of the Louisiana Credit Union League has hosted five credit union managers, one intern from the Malawi and South Africa Leagues, including the latter’s managing director, who visited the U.S. in Nov. 2002 for a week-long tour. Godfrey said she was able to understand the unique needs of the South African credit unions, many of them having small operations. Under her tenure, Shreveport FCU went from $1.9 million in assets to more than $55 million today. “Just because your resources are limited, find those that are within your grasp – for instance, there were no church-based credit unions (in South Africa),” Godfrey said. “I encouraged them to talk with the pastors to encourage their congregations to join to a credit union.” -

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