Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Miriam Valois - Another adventure, the who and the why

I am about to leave for an amazing and rewarding journey with The Canadian Cooperative Association as a volunteer to help support credit unions in Uganda, and I thought it was time again. The Canadian Co-operative Association is a national association for co-operatives in Canada, representing more than nine million co-operative and credit union members from over 2,000 organizations. CCA is very involved internationally and it works with its partner organizations to strengthen credit unions and co-operatives in Asia, Africa, Americas and more. 

It's all about people. In 2012 many Canadian volunteers traveled overseas to share their skills and experience with a host of co-operative partners. Some do this work in their own credit unions, hosting and training credit union managers from around the developing world. Others sign on to deliver technical aid to CCA partner credit unions and co-operatives to help strengthen their capacities to meet the needs of their members. In every case, these activities change the lives for the better on both sides of the relationship.
The strength overseas, as in Canada, is the Canadian Co-operative Movement, and the fact that so many people are willing to volunteer to work hard under circumstances that can be difficult. It is a testimony to the commitment that co-operatives across the country have to this work.

As I mentioned my volunteer work this year is taking me to Northern Uganda where I will be working with 2 credit unions. It is not only about assisting the credit unions and giving them the skills that helps create a strong foundation but learning and remembering what it is to be a grass roots community credit union. As a Canadian credit union sometimes we forget how and why we were established and how vital we were and in many ways still are to our communities. 

The credit unions (Saccos, Savings and credit co-operatives, as they are called in Uganda) are quite often the life blood of the towns and villages they are established in. The people of these communities cannot prosper or slowly move out of poverty without their Sacco. These Sacco's provide a place to safely put the small amount of savings that they are earning. Without this option people would place their money under mattresses or in pots in their homes that are unsecured and easily robbed. Their whole life savings gone in a moment. Members are also able to get small loans that help them plant a crop or to buy a few bricks to start building a home. Little steps can help them stop living hand to mouth and start help feeding their family for a planting season.

This is a little bit about the who and the why of my trip, but I promise that the where and the how will be in my next installment. So please stay tune to hear about the good work, the adventure and the stories along the way.


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