Hundreds of Venezuelan refugees living in Colombia can now access savings and loans through a World Council of Credit Unions (Woccu) programme.
Developed in the Colombian departments of La Guajira and Arauca, Woccu’s pilot project is funded through a donation from the Financial Center First Credit Union.
Another Woccu project in the Venezuelan-border region has seen more than 250,000 Colombian residents gaining access to financial services. The pilot uses some of the same methodologies while bringing together both Colombians and Venezuelans.
As part of the pilot, Woccu has been establishing self-managed local savings and credit groups to promote financial inclusion in the region. This sees people organise themselves voluntarily and meet periodically to invest their savings in a group fund, which members can access for loans.
A total of 25 savings and credit groups have been established under the pilot, serving more than 400 Venezuelans and Colombians.
Woccu says the pilot has led to greater financial inclusion and education, as well as social cohesion among Venezuelans and Colombians.
Melvin Mogollon, a microentrepreneur, is a member of the “Los Luchadores” savings group in La Guajira. He came to Colombia in 2018 and is now one of the one million Venezuelans to have settled here.
“It is a new beginning that will allow us to fulfil many dreams despite not being in our country. The financial education has opened the doors for us to save,” he said about the pilot project.
Oscar Guzman, Woccu’s regional director for Latin America, added: “We see these savings and credit groups as a great first step for their members. As a second step, we worked with field promoters from two financial institutions – allowing them into the groups to help the people ‘graduate’ and gain access to Colombia’s formal financial system.
“This will ensure the availability of more and better financial services, and the sustainability of the pilot efforts.”