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  • Writer's pictureKelsie Papenhausen

WFCU Highlights New Recovery Effort for Ukraine at 3rd Annual Cooperative Voices Event at GAC

African credit union officials also address Champions at International Spy Museum

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions’ (WFCU) presented its Champions with news about a new pilot program to help credit unions in Ukraine recover and rebuild after enduring two-plus years of Russia’s full-scale war at its third annual Cooperative Voices event.

Alisa Stetsyshyn, a Ukrainian national who serves as a grant consultant for WFCU, provided details about the $50,000 pilot recently launched in war-torn areas like her hometown of Kharkiv. Located near the Russian border in the far northeast of Ukraine, the country’s second-largest city continues to be devastated by Russian bombing.

Tapping dollars Champions generously donated to WFCU’s Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund, the goal of the pilot is to provide liquidity support to boost lending and implement recovery plans, beginning with Kharkiv Credit Union.

Stetsyshyn showed a video of the credit union, which she captured when visiting Kharkiv in January.

“You can see a lot of the destruction around, but you can also see the hope. And people hope that they will rebuild and go back to a normal life. And this is what the credit union is giving to their members—hope, that they can support them, even in the most difficult times,” said Stetsyshyn.

In a video message, Kharkiv Credit Union CEO Kostiantyn Honcharenko expressed his gratitude for the assistance. 

“We received the funds in late December, and we have already used them to disburse loans, partly to entrepreneurs who are small, but work in the city, provide services and receive income,” said Honcharenko. “And we hope that this will be a big moment for us, for the credit union, while for the residents of the city this will be an additional incentive to see that the city is alive and working.”

Bridge the Gap

Held each year on the eve of America’s Credit Unions’ Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC), WFCU launched Cooperative Voices in 2022 to give Champions a window into how its Bridge the Gap campaign is helping credit unions bridge gaps in four areas: inclusion, leadership, gender and safety.

While the Ukrainians showed how WFCU is bridging the safety gap, other credit union representatives shared their personal stories to illustrate how the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) and WYCUP program are working to bridge the gender and leadership gaps.

Gail Remy-Rajkumar, co-founder of GWLN’s Trinidad and Tobago Sister Society, said the group has been integral in uplifting women in the Caribbean nation.

“We have been having programs to educate our young girls. We’ve had forums for emerging women in Trinidad and Tobago. We’ve also had programs to help establish the importance of cooperative principles,” said Remy-Rajkumar.

Tyler Valentine, President and CEO of StagePoint Federal Credit Union in Wyoming, described how his introduction to the WYCUP program at the 2015 World Credit Union Conference in Denver (USA) led to one of the most consequential leadership journeys of his career.

“In the weeks following WCUC, together with other young leaders from across the region who attended, we formed the Mountain West Young Credit Union Professionals’ Committee, which I chaired for a number of years,” said Valentine. “Young people, we really listened to them and asked what they needed from us, from the association and the credit union, to develop their leadership and allow them to get where they want to go.”

Both Remy-Rakjumar and Valentine urged the continued support of both GWLN and WYCUP.

African representatives say international cooperation pays dividends

Champions were also treated Sunday to remarks by representatives of the African credit union movement on how cooperation with the U.S. credit union system can grow their movement.

George Ombado, Executive Director of the African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Associations (ACCOSCA), brought a large delegation of credit union representatives and government officials that work in the cooperative sector from both Kenya and Botswana.

Ombado emphasized that his own collaboration with the U.S. credit union system through its development educators’ (DE) program directly led to the creation of an African DE movement, which is already paying dividends.

“This is considered the catalyst of credit union growth and development in the continent. Today, we have more than 100 professionals from 26 countries who have gone through this program. If I may be asked, ‘is this a turning point for the continent of Africa and the credit union system?’—my answer would be, affirmatively, ‘yes,’” said Ombado.

WFCU manages the International Credit Union Development Educators (I-CUDE) program and works with Africa DE, as well as DE programs on other continents to award I-CUDE scholarships each year.

Mike Reuter, WFCU Executive Director, said all the examples presented Sunday night show why the generosity of his Champions is so important to the global credit union movement.

“For those who have renewed your support or become a new global champion of World Council of Credit Unions and the Worldwide Foundation, thank you. For those that are with us for the first time, join us in the work of growing our global credit union movement to serve one billion members by 2030,” said Reuter.

WOCCU partners with WFCU to advance that shared vision of expanding financial inclusion to reach one billion members through a vibrant and growing global credit union system. 

In her closing remarks, WOCCU President and CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde appealed to those in attendance to follow the lead of the speakers who shared their stories.

“They are serving that greater purpose we all share of improving lives through credit unions. As we close out the night, I urge you to continue to join us in this effort,” said McCarter LaBorde.

The third annual Cooperative Voices event was presented by TruStage.

To learn more about or to donate to WFCU’s Bridge the Gap campaign, click here

World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development platform for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.

World Council has implemented 300+ technical assistance programs in 90 countries. Worldwide, 82,758 credit unions in 97 countries serve 404 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at


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