MADISON, Wis.—Credit union executives from Dominica have been visiting the United States to continue their work with World Council of Credit Unions in rebuilding a credit union community devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The Dominicans also are meeting with member organizations of the Wisconsin CU League and Indiana CU League for training and information exchanges during their visit, according to WOCCU.
Phoenix Belfield, manager of Dominica Cooperative Societies, Ltd., began the week meeting with World Council’s Advocacy team in Washington on IFRS 9 international accounting standards and advocacy strategies for Dominica’s credit unions.
Belfield then traveled on to Madison, where he was joined by three other Dominican credit union colleagues: Aylmer Irish, CEO of National Cooperative Credit Union, Ltd,; Jacqueline Roberts, administrative officer for National Co-operative Credit Union Ltd.’s Castle Bruce/La Plaine branch, and Ericson Robinson - General Manager for West Coast Cooperative Credit Union.
While in Madison, the Dominicans participated in training with World Council leaders on the PEARLS accounting system. They also met with officials from the Wisconsin Credit Union League, UW Credit Union, Blackhaws Community Credit Union to learn about governance, financial best practices, training, and advocacy.
The group will be traveling to Indiana this week for meetings with Indiana league leaders on strategic planning for financial health and member services. The Dominicans also will learn about agricultural lending, services and technology from officials at Interra Credit Union, and discuss product operations and strategic planning with professionals from Afena FCU.
WOCCU said the visit comes after World Council and ICUL members visited Dominica in 2018, one year after Hurricane Maria damaged credit union headquarters and branch locations across the island—"a major blow, since credit unions serve 97% of the island’s population.”
More Than $200,000 Raised
The Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, the charitable arm of the World Council, raised more than $200,000 to rebuild DCSLLL headquarters, as well as 10 credit union branches.
“While the credit unions have been physically repaired, the economic impact is still being felt,” WOCU said. “Infrastructure and economic damages have impacted credit union balance sheets and income. Dominica lost 96% of its GDP in 2018 as banana plantations were destroyed, large amounts of farmland were washed away, and the local university moved to Barbados. Credit union loan performance was significantly impacted as a result.”
WOCCU said the credit unions asked for technical support in working through the impact of the disaster on their financials and in putting in place improved risk-management systems. The credit unions also asked for advice in supporting their members who have lost their means of livelihood and have had to shift to new types of economic activity—such as agriculture.
Much More Work to Be Done
“The money raised through our Disaster Relief Fund allowed us to respond to the physical damage caused by Maria, but both World Council and our state credit union leagues recognize there is much more work to be done to get the island’s credit union system completely back on its feet,” said Worldwide Foundation Executive Director Mike Reuter.