We need more credit unions involved in efforts in Ukraine

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The day Russia invaded Ukraine, we started contacting Ukrainian credit unions, WOCCU leaders and other credit union-related organizations with possible ties to Ukraine or Russia for comments on the status of credit unions in this region of the world.

We understand that our audience of credit union executives is incredibly focused on what’s happening in the United States and not really interested in what’s happening beyond US borders. But this particular problem felt very different and heavy to us.

For the record, WOCCU responded to an email I sent requesting comment within the hour with this quote from WOCCU President/CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde:

“The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of our member credit union associations in Ukraine, as well as the individual credit unions and members they serve. We stand ready to support the Ukrainian National Association of Credit Unions (UNASCU) and the All-Ukrainian Association of Credit Unions and are in regular communication with them during this crisis.

About 30 minutes later, CUNA and WOCCU released a joint statement of support for Ukrainian credit unions.

The joint statement included a quote from CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle and the same quote from LaBorde. None of this was unusual.

What struck me as unusual was an additional quote placed at the bottom of LaBorde’s emailed statement that read, “WOCCU is an apolitical organization focused on promoting financial inclusion through cooperatives. around the world, all of which share the same goal of maximizing economic benefits. of their members. »

OK, WOCCU said they are apolitical. A weird thing to clarify at this point, but OK.

At the time, I felt a little discouraged by this apolitical statement and wondered if we would hear much more from WOCCU about the military atrocities already reported in Ukraine. The apolitical position did not last long.

Four days later, WOCCU and the World Foundation for Credit Unions (WFCU) launched their campaign in support of Ukrainian credit unions, and on March 4, WOCCU officially condemned the Russian invasion and suspended “all commitments and activities with Russia in all its entities and initiatives”. .”

I appreciated that WOCCU apparently saw what was and is happening in Ukraine as absolutely political, and that steps needed to be taken to push back support for Russia in any way, regardless of the situation. extent of these pushbacks.

In emails with WOCCU officials, we learned that LaBorde and VP of International Advocacy Andrew Price pulled out of the Russian Credit Union League conference, where they were scheduled to speak on Zoom during of the conference in Moscow. WOCCU has also canceled a scholarship it gave to a youngster in Moscow which would have covered all expenses for the person to attend the WOCCU conference in Scotland later this year.

I feel bad for this person who lost the scholarship and for the millions of other Russians who are experiencing economic and social ramifications because of the actions of one man. Unfortunately, these are actions that need to take place. Actions have consequences, even if the person for whom these actions are intended still has who knows how much money is hidden and a 700 million dollar yacht may be docked in Italy at the moment.

Like WOCCU and its launch of the “Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund,” other credit union officials across the country have announced their support for Ukraine since Russia began its invasion.

So far, examples of support range from statements to grassroots efforts to raise funds for humanitarian aid.

NAFCU Chairman/CEO Dan Berger said: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not just an attack on innocent lives and a clear violation of the country’s sovereignty, but a direct threat for democracy around the world. NAFCU supports the Ukrainian American Credit Union Association – the 12 Ukrainian American credit unions and their more than 100,000 members – who have family, friends and colleagues in their home country.

CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle said, “American credit unions stand united with the Ukrainian American Credit Union Association and express our deep desires for peace in Ukraine. The threat of escalating violence would further destabilize the country and displace millions more. We pray for a speedy end to hostilities in the region.

The Polish and Slavic Federal Fund (PSFCU) has opened a special account at the credit union into which everyone can deposit donations. PSFCU officials said, “We encourage everyone to join us in this humanitarian effort. The total amount of funds raised will be sent to local charities providing direct assistance to Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

PSFCU has asked anyone willing to help to send a check payable to the John Paul II Foundation with “Donation for Ukrainian Refugees” in the memo to the following address:

Federal Polish and Slavic Credit Union, Ukrainian Refugee Relief Fund, 9 Law Drive, Fairfield, NJ 07004.

The Oklahoma City-based WEOKIE Federal Credit Union donated $5,000 to the Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund. WEOKIE President and CEO Jeff Carpenter said, “We are honored to have this opportunity to support them as they fight for their freedom and to keep the credit union movement going. We will continue to send our thoughts and prayers for their safety and eventual victory in this war. »

The Los Angeles-based California Credit Union also partnered with WFCU by donating $100,000 to the Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund. UC California President/CEO Steve O’Connell said, “We have seen this tragic and unnecessary crisis unfold in Ukraine along with the rest of the world, and our hearts are with the brave people of Ukraine and all those who are affected by this senseless violence. Our partnership with the WFCU is a way to support our family of Ukrainian credit unions and the affected citizens and communities, and we encourage everyone to support this very important humanitarian cause.

We Florida Financial Credit Union in Margate, Florida donated $25,000 to the displacement fund. “We are honored to support the efforts of our other financial institutions to provide much-needed assistance to Ukraine’s credit union system,” said Chairman and CEO Robert Ramirez.

A coalition of Oregon credit unions has raised more than $67,000 to support the Displacement Fund and Oregon-based Mercy Corps, a group of humanitarians currently on the ground in Ukraine, Poland and Romania . Aaron Goff, President and CEO of Clackamas Federal Credit Union in Milwaukie, Oregon, joined in the fundraising efforts and said, “It is critical that the global community speak out against the atrocities that are happening in Ukraine. Oregon Credit Unions joins with credit unions around the world to support the people of Ukraine.

Clackamas FCU and 14 other credit unions in the area are participating in fundraising efforts.

The Northwest Credit Union Foundation also contributed an additional $10,000 to the Ukrainian Displacement Fund.

There are other examples of support and fundraising around our credit union system, and I encourage you to seek out these incredibly helpful opportunities on behalf of your credit union.

From our reports so far, it appears that donating directly to the Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund may provide the most direct, efficient, and quickest relief.

It has been encouraging to see these fundraising announcements arrive. It has been heartbreaking to watch the Russian military cause death and destruction in a meaningless war led by a person whose country plagued Ukraine for over 100 years in atrocities that cannot be compared to the Holocaust, if not much worse.

What can US-based credit unions do? Join the growing number of credit unions listed above who have taken a stand. Being apolitical is not an option here.

Michael Ogden

Michael Ogden is editor of CU Times. He can be reached at [email protected]

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