(Editor's note: Thursday, October 18 is International Credit Union Day. To mark the occasion, CUaware Podcast host Phil Kadzielawski (Coastal CU) and Courtney Jackson (CCUL) interviewed Terri Hendrix (Carolina Foothills FCU) and Dr. Troy Hall (South Carolina Federal CU) about a trip Hall & Hendrix took to Asia recently. The trip was part of a cross-cultural program being piloted by Credit Union Development Educators across the world.)
International Credit Union Day (ICU Day) happens on the third Thursday of October each year. The purpose of ICU Day is to celebrate the spirit of the global credit union movement. The day is recognized to reflect upon the credit union movement's history, promote its achievements, recognize the hard work, and share member experiences.
This purpose is especially meaningful this year for Terri Hendrix (Carolina Foothills FCU VP of business development & community engagement) and Dr. Troy Hall (South Carolina Federal CU chief strategy officer). The pair traveled to Asia in September with Credit Union Development Educators (DEs) as part of a program that promotes cultural learning and international exchange.
The two-week journey included stops in Bangkok, Thailand, as well as Cebu and Manila in the Philippines. Hall and Hendrix participated in activities that included meetings with fellow cooperators and credit union employees, and visits with people impacted by poverty in order to share food assistance.
|World DE participants received a cross-cultural experience as they traveled from Thailand to the Philippines. Part of the program included visits to historical sites, local marketplaces, and group activities like elephant rides.
The group of a dozen or so DEs also took time out for fun activities aimed at team building and raising cultural awareness. These events were focused on the Bangkok leg of the journey. Hendrix and Hall participated in activities like riding an elephant, snorkeling with whale sharks and visiting a "floating market".
The emphasis changed in Cebu and Manila, as the group met with credit union staff, and took rice buckets with food supplies to older citizens who live in extreme poverty. Hendrix noted that the slum the group visited was surrounded by a 10-foot cinder block wall topped by concertina wire.
Hendrix had a memorable interaction with one woman in particular, who is 106 years old. "She couldn't really walk," Hendrix recalled. "She did lean up off her pallet. She thanked us, she was grateful for it. We talked with her on a human level about (how) we do care for you, we're here and there are people in this world who care about your well-being."
|During the visit to Cebu, Philippines, World DE participants fulfilled their "Rice Bucket Challenge," an act of charity that provided nutritional kits to those living in impoverished areas of the city.
Another highlight of visiting this part of Cebu was seeing "sari-sari" stores located at the very front of private homes. Common throughout the Philippines, sari-saris are very small stores offering convenience items and are owned by individuals and families. "It's micro-enterprise at its best," Hendrix shared.
Hall notes that these types of exchanges help him to see common connecting points amid what on the surface may be profound differences in culture. "When we start to understand (what it's like) in someone else's shoes, to understand someone else's path, then we are in a much better place to have a likeness of mind and we might be able to move to a space of peace."
The space of peace Hall referenced fuels his desire to continue these exchanges abroad, and it reminds him that by connecting "people, purpose and passion," he is also learning valuable lessons to bring back to South Carolina Federal.
Hendrix agreed and cites a key observation she made about a program run by a credit union in the Philippines that she plans to bring back to the Upstate. This credit union had a "saver of the year" program that had successfully engaged parents, children and teachers. Reflecting on this program, Hendrix saw a connection point to a Carolina Foothills in-school branch that has been trying to raise the engagement level of parents.
Hendrix notes in visiting the school and learning about the saver of the year program, she thought "that's something we can try at Cleveland Academy and see if we can't get these kids turned on to the cooperative model, to building their own personal wealth and to breaking the cycle of poverty."
Hall has a long and successful track record in developing young people at South Carolina Federal and through the CUaware Protégé Mentor program. He notes that his big takeaway from the Philippines trip is further connecting DEs across the world in order to provide educational and human development opportunities. This mentoring project, called DE TEACH global, is underway through the partnership of a credit union employee in the Philippines and Dr. Troy in South Carolina.
These experiences and opportunities for connection with the credit union movement also remind Hall and Hendrix of a very simple truth: credit union folks care. "If you don't have a passion for helping people, you don't belong in the credit union movement," shared Hall. Hendrix agreed, adding, "We have a deep passion for helping human kind." That reality, or "universal language" as Hendrix put it, connects everyone on International Credit Union Day!