COLOMBO, Sri Lanka-The World Council of Credit Unions has sent a two-man team to help assess the damage to credit unions in Sri Lanka and provide assistance. WOCCU-Uzbekistan Project Director Normunds Mizis and John Ikeda, project development manager, met with credit union representatives in the capital city of Colombo to learn more about the damage following the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami off the coat of Indonesia in December. SANASA, the country's credit union federation had members with branches in nearly every affected area. SANASA and SANASA development bank-a central liquidity facility for the credit unions-acted quickly to provide relief to members. SANASA had a two-part disaster mitigation strategy in place. "We are not jumping into large scale humanitarian relief like the Red Cross," SANASA Development Bank Chairman Dr. P.A. Kiriwandeniya said. "We have an obligation to our members as fellow human beings." SANASA released 1.5 million rupees (US $15,000) from an emergency fund, as well as other contributions, to purchase relief supplies. Several North American credit unions also donated toward reconstruction with some of the largest donations ($100,000) coming from the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES) and CUNA Mutual Group. Contributions were also obtained from Sri Lankan credit union members further inland, funding the transport of over 200 truckloads of food, water, clothing and medicine. While a full damage report could be some time coming, at least 200 credit unions are estimated to have been completely destroyed. J.K. Reginold, regional program coordinator for SANASA's credit unions in the remote Northern and Eastern regions of the country, said very little information is available from that region, as it is partially controlled by the separatist LTTE army. Reginold was one of the hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans impacted by the tsunami, losing his house and several members of his extended family. "The water came at us, roaring from the sea. It seeped up from the ground and was everywhere," he said. "I ran, and only narrowly escaped with my life." -

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