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ROME, Italy -Pete Crear introduced himself to the World Council of Credit Union’s members by giving them a “35-day report”, the length of time he has been on the job as CEO. Some 1,100-plus delegates from 41 countries listened as he told a bit about his history in the movement as well as the importance of “giving back.” The 2005 Conference is the first of its kind combining the Leadership Conference with other programs. After the introduction Crear turned to the serious work of the organization. “Everyone deserves to have a financial institution,” he said. Some 40,000 credit unions exist in the world servicing 136 million people and representing $825 billion in assets. But numbers are only a small part of the story, according to Crear. Credit unions are very different. Some countries have only one credit union servicing their entire country. This is the case in Montserrat, Bermuda, Macedonia and the Seychelles which is very different from the U.S. with thousands of credit unions. However, they are all under one umbrella, he said, with a similar goal of helping their members. He talked of WOCCU raising $750,000 for the tsunami victims, but he pointed out that in Sri Lanka, even before the aid agencies arrived, local credit unions had mobilized bringing shelter and food to the victims. Crear discussed IRnet, the remittance network that allows immigrants to send money home at lower costs. If the remittances did not exist from workers such as in the U.S. to the third world, the people at home would be among those living on $1 a day. Some 73% of the people receiving this money from migrant workers are women, Crear said. The remittance program has not only put millions into the pockets of the poor, it has started a trend to lower transmission costs from other financial institutions. Crear said he believes in “quality credit unions for everyone.” WOCCU has projects in 15 countries including Afghanistan, which is still unsafe. Crear says if they waited until each place was safe they would do far less work. What concerns him most is the funding issue. The United States Agency for International Development has been reducing its funding for organizations like WOCCU in favor of for-profit organizations with large projects like roads. WOCCU doesn’t build roads, Crear said. One of the challenges he faces is finding suitable replacement funding, and he encouraged everyone there to be a supporter, which is a minimum of a $1,000 contribution. He pledged that “The ability to affect social change cannot and will not be abandoned.” Only two out of every 100 people in the world belong to credit unions. There are too many countries without credit unions. Crear knows there is much work to be done to change this and he believes he has the passion to do it. Crear said when he decided to retire he considered doing some part time work. He even thought of doing some projects for WOCCU, but he was surprised when the post of CEO became available. It was an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up or at least trying for. He submitted his resume, was interviewed and when the position was offered he knew he would take it. As he said, “It felt right.” [email protected]

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