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Many of the developing countries served by the World Council of Credit Union have felt the impact of the global economic downturn. In countries like Colombia economic struggles are nothing new. But thanks to the credit unions, there is an opportunity for hope to blossom.Credit unions in Colombia are working hard to help members survive the global recession’s impacts. As in developed countries, credit union members in Colombia are losing their jobs and withdrawing savings to help them get by until they can find work. Many members are self-employed microentrepreneurs. The credit unions provide them with vocational training in business activities to help them generate added revenues and more efficiently run their businesses. Still, members have struggled with lower sales from faltering markets. As a result, credit unions in Colombia are providing a larger number of smaller loans to help their members survive.Colombia is one of the largest exporters of roses to the U.S. In Octavio, CoopTenjo credit union provides financing for groups of small growers like Maria Carmenza Canaster, who grows her flowers for export. Valentine’s Day usually guarantees good sales for Maria. Due to the global economic turmoil, this year’s sales were down and the grower was not able to meet all of her family’s financial needs. CoopTenjo provided Maria, a single working woman supporting a daughter and two granddaughters, with a loan to consolidate her debts at a lower interest rate. Maria hopes for greater success in selling her roses for Mother’s Day.The economic downturn is only one factor at work in Villavicencio, where support from Coopgente credit union offers a future to thousands of refugees from Colombia’s conflict-torn rural areas. With WOCCU’s help, Coopgente has aggressively expanded its branch-office network and microenterprise lending to slum communities where the refugees settle. Thanks to credit union support, refugee families can establish homes and small businesses to generate income.In developed countries, you do not have to look far to find someone affected by the global recession. In developing countries, it’s a rare person who isn’t under financial duress. And it is through credit unions that we at WOCCU see these needs being addressed.

Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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