SRI LANKA, INDONESIA, INDIA, THAILAND – When the tsunami swept at least 280,000 persons to their deaths December 26, 2004, the immediate needs were to find loved ones, find food, rebuild homes and only after that try to get back to normal life. Credit unions are a tool to restore normality. The Tsunami Rehabilitation Fund was set up by the Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (ACCU) working with partners in their member countries and anyone willing to help. ACCU established a “Triple Strategy” in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand the four countries worst hit to get credit unions back up and running. Their first goal was to reopen credit unions by rebuilding offices with furniture and accounting facilities. A one-year subsidy for the manger’s salary is part of the plan. The second goal is to help rebuild members’ homes. They are also searching for those people with skills training in all aspects of living such as tailoring to replace lost clothing. The third goal is to help businesses get re-established by providing seed capital where necessary. Often this is used to repair or buy boats or reopen small restaurants or stores. To date some US$232,574.90 has been contributed and US$87,995 dispensed. In Sri Lanka, the Fund is supporting 15 credit unions in the district of Kalutara by building offices, paying managers’ salaries and establishing seed capital for microfinance projects. At the same time the Fund is providing seed capital for microfinance projects in Thailand, Indonesia and India letting members once again earn their livelihoods. The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), which collected some US$475,000, is also helping credit unions rebuild, according to their Worldwide Foundation Funds Manager Valerie Breunig. WOCCU is spending US$4500 per credit union. They are concentrating their work in Sri Lanka. One of the problems that is slowing rebuilding efforts, is many of the skilled builders are working on more lucrative rebuilding projects such as the waterfront hotels. Still they are making progress and credit unions are reopening. However, no matter how well meaning, what can be done is limited. “In Indonesia, our member, the Credit Union Coordination of Indonesia (CUCO) has difficulty of assessing the damage because it is very huge,” Elenita San Roque, ACCU’s Manager of Member Service reported. “In Aceh, we thought organizing credit unions would be the best strategy, however, this might not be the appropriate time to do that since people still need to put their lives together after the devastation.” “We know that life will go on for the survivors of the tsunami. The common efforts of the Asian credit union movement to help credit union members in affected countries rebuild their lives and communities will be necessary in the tasks that remain. The healing and rehabilitation is a long-term process for people and communities. Beyond immediate threats to life, the tsunami may reduce nearly two million people to poverty, unless the massive reconstruction effort to come in the next years specifically aims to reduce poverty,” San Roque said. [email protected]

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