On September 13th Liz Harpur, Chair of Core Credit Union travelled to The Gambia, along with six volunteers, from credit unions around Ireland, to participate in the ILCU Foundation Governance Volunteer Programme.
The ILCU Foundation, the international arm of the Irish credit union movement, provides financial and technical support to develop strong, sustainable and secure credit union movements in low-income countries. The purpose of Liz’s visit was to allow her and the other volunteers to share their credit union knowledge and experience with their counterparts in The Gambian credit union movement. It was a tightly packed week-long visit which involved a good deal of travelling to get there and back. Throughout the week Liz and her fellow volunteers visited eight credit unions, including both work-based and community credit unions, and even attended a credit union AGM. The volunteers visited the work-based credit unions of the Gambia Armed Forces, Gambia Police Force, Medical Services and Banjul International Airport. The visits allowed Liz and the group to meet with the staff and volunteers and learn about the success of the credit unions, the challenges facing them and understand the context that the credit unions operate in. It was also fantastic to meet some members and hear about how people in The Gambia are improving their livelihoods as a result of being a credit union member.
Following the various credit union visits Liz and the volunteer group hosted a workshop which focused on the following topics: governance, compliance and loan delinquency. There was 25 participants with a mix of board members and staff from various credit unions. It was a very engaging and interactive day with lots of learning and exchanging of ideas from all involved. The participants in the workshop were very grateful to get the opportunity to work closely with Liz and the other volunteers. The feedback was very positive and the participants noted they learned a great deal and would have liked another day working alongside our volunteers. Liz and her fellow volunteers remarked how committed those involved in their credit unions are to making it a success and to ensure it improves the livelihoods of the members.