World Credit Union Conference closes with honours

The World Credit Union conference wrapped up in Ottawa on Wedesday with awards for both veteran leaders and young co-operators.

Pat Fay tells a story about once  meeting a young mother in Ethiopia who travelled 20 kilometres in the heat  to deposit the equivalent of 60 cents in her credit union account.  When asked why she made the journey, she said she wanted to put money aside for her child's future needs. According to Fay, who chairs the Irish League of Credit Unions International Development Foundation, it was an encounter that "confirmed to me the humanity of credit unions."

Fay was one of three veteran credit union leaders presented with the Distinguished Service Award by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) at the closing ceremony of the World Credit Union Conference on Wednesday. Also honoured were Pete Crear, WOCCU's former president and CEO; and Melvin Edwards, a native of St. Kitts and Nevis who formerly chaired both WOCCU and the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions.

Wednesday's awards ceremony ended four days of  presentations, discussions, networking and celebration by nearly 2,400 credit union leaders from 60 countries.  Despite temperatures that soared above 30 degress Celsius, atypical for Ottawa even in summer, participants seemed to appreciate the beauty of Canada's capital city and the hospitality of their Canadian hosts.  The heat was a frequent topic of conversation throughout the week and participants were delighted to spend their time in the air-conditioned convention centre.  At the closing event, WOCCU board member Yvonne Ridguard Harris even quipped that she and her fellow Caribbean delegates were responsible for bringing the hot weather to Ottawa. 

Credit union veterans were not the only ones who received awards on Wednesday. Five young co-operators from Canada, Brazil, the United States and the United Kingdom were awarded WYCUP  (World Council's Credit Union Young People program) scholarships, which will cover the cost of their participation in the 2014 World Conference, to take place in Gold Coast, Australia. And one of the WYCUP winners, Benjamin Janzen of Canada's Mennonite Savings and Credit Union, also won the National Credit Union Young Leaders Award from Credit Union Central of Canada.

Canadian Central also honoured two credit unions — one for community economic development and one for innovation.  Vancouver-based Vancity, Canada's largest credit union, received the National Credit Union Award for Community Economic Development for its Resilient Capital Program, which gives investors an opportunity to invest in social enterprises.  North Peace Savings and Credit Union, located in northern British Columbia, won the National Credit Union Innovation Award for its Virtual Technology Connects the North program, which allows members in remote communities to deal with their credit union via personal teller machines and video conferencing technology,

In accepting his Distinguished Service Award, Pete Crear challenged participants to talk more about the significance of credit unions when they return home from Ottawa.

"Credit unions have such great stories to tell, and we don't tell them,  But we should tell them," he said. 

Judging from  the enthusiasm generated by the World Credit Union Conference, they won't have much trouble meeting Crear's challenge. 





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