Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Surprises WFCU Champions at Cooperative Voices Event
Attendees of Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions’ (WFCU) 2nd annual Cooperative Voices event Sunday got a surprise when Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States, gave a speech in which she thanked WFCU and World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) for the support they have provided to Ukrainian credit unions during Russia’s year-long war in her home country.
The ambassador’s address to more than 200 attendees came nearly one year to the day after WFCU launched the Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund at its inaugural Cooperative Voices event on February 27, 2022, just three days after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
«And we really value it (the Fund). It’s remarkable how quick you were able to make the decision, create the Fund and then raise $1.8 million, right away, to be put to such good use to help people in Ukraine in a way to sustain themselves and continue doing what they want to do,» said Ambassador Markarova. «I think in the whole area of financial services and the whole financial universe, credit unions represent what is in both yours and our constitutions: by the people, for the people.»
Mike Reuter, Executive Director of the Worldwide Foundation, shared the same grateful reaction as many in the audience.
«To have the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States make time in her extremely busy schedule to come to our event is a testament to the generosity of all our Champions who have donated nearly $2 million to date to support Ukrainian credit unions struggling to continue operations during the war. We are beyond humbled by her words and actions,» said Reuter.
Alisa Stetsyshyn, a Ukrainian national who serves as a consultant for the USAID/WOCCU Credit for Agriculture Producers (CAP) Project in Ukraine, spoke about how WFCU’s work has bridged both safety and financial inclusion gaps for credit unions in her home country-work she has seen firsthand.
«Thanks to your donations, over 1,200 Ukrainian farmers who are members of credit unions either got their loans compensated partially or they got coupons for free diesel fuel, which was in scarce supply at the time. And thanks to that, they can continue their operations and continue running their agricultural businesses,» said Stetsyshyn.
Anatoli Murha, who serves as Chair of the Ukrainian American Credit Union Association (UACUA), also thanked WFCU Champions for their support.
To date, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions has disbursed more than $600,000 from its Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund to assist credit unions, their members and their communities that are struggling during wartime.
Bridge the Gap
Cooperative Voices was launched in 2022 to give Champions a window into how WFCU’s Bridge the Gap campaign is helping credit unions bridge gaps in four areas: inclusion, leadership, gender and safety.
Along with Alisa Stetsyshyn, women from two other countries also spoke Sunday on the different ways they have personally seen WFCU bridge those gaps for credit unions and their members.
Esther Rajadurai, an Australian member of the World Young Credit Union Professionals (WYCUP) program, shared her experience on how WYCUP is bridging a leadership gap worldwide by encouraging the growth of emerging leaders like herself.
«I’m really grateful to be here, and I’m once again thankful to the Foundation, the Council and the WYCUP Program for this amazing opportunity,» said Rajadurai.
Finally, Triza Magreta, General Manager of Mudi SACCO and a Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) Sister Society leader from Malawi, talked about the way she has personally seen GWLN bridge gender gaps for credit union women.
«Most women in Malawi, we are in lower positions, and to see someone heading a SACCO, we call them savings and credit cooperatives, it wasn’t an easy thing. Less than 10% (of women) were in those positions,» said Magreta. «With my involvement in Global Women’s Leadership Network, and also the knowledge acquired from the development educator programs, I changed the SACCO and I proved wrong those who said a woman couldn’t change those situations.»
Elissa McCarter LaBorde, President and CEO of World Council of Credit Unions, rounded out the evening’s celebration by telling credit union leaders that WOCCU and WFCU need more spokespersons who can amplify the voices heard Sunday night.
«I can say that my most significant moments have been when I have witnessed firsthand that power and the leverage that we can have with this network of people working for a common purpose,» said McCarter LaBorde.
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.