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Crosshaven-Carrigaline Credit Union’s Chairman Sean Volunteering In Africa

Member Of ILCU FoundationTeam Supporting Credit Unions In Gambia.

Writes Leo McMahon

Crosshaven and Carrigaline Credit Union chairman Sean Roberts is Africa bound this weekend as one of seven volunteers with the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) Foundation to share knowledge and expertise with counterparts in the Gambia.

A resident of Ferndale, Carrigaline, Sean taught for 38 years at CSN College of Further Education, Tramore Road, Cork up to 2017 but has devoted many hours of his spare time for over two decades with his local Credit Union on its supervisory committee, the board and for the past three as Chairman. He is also a long serving member of Carrigaline Singers. He and his wife Marie, a nurse with Bridge Medical Practice, Carrigaline, have two sons John and Kevin and a daughter, Louise.

The Irish volunteers, accompanied by ILCU Foundation staff, set off this Friday, September 13th for a one week assignmentand will participate in the Governance Volunteer Programme.

Seán Roberts, Chairperson of Crosshaven Carrigaline Credit Union, 9th September 2019. Photo Siobhán Russell

On arrival, Sean and his colleagues will call to the head office of the National Association of Co-operatives and Credit Unions Gambia (NACCUG) to get an overview. They will then visit a number of community and workplace credit unions in urban and rural areas and in meetings with staff and volunteers, see the challenges being faced. The trip will conclude with a workshop at the NACCUG’s training centre.

It will be a busy week with lots of travelling and not always on paved roads but will enable the Irish delegation to see at first hand the work that the ILCU Foundation supports based on the worldwide credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people’.

The other Irish credit union volunteers are Christine Barretto and Marie McBryan, HSS; Aldo Selvi, St. Dominic’s, Waterford; Geraldine Gilsenan, Drogheda; Frances Cross, Enniscorthy and Elizabeth Harper, Core.

The Gambia is a small country in West Africa surrounded almost entirely by Senegal except for its Atlantic coastline. At just over two million, it is one of the continent’s most densely populated nations with an economy that relies on tourism and agriculture with peanuts and cashew nuts the main exports. Well over 50% of people, mainly in rural areas, live below the poverty line.

The ILCU has been supporting the credit union movement in The Gambia since the 1990s and some are twinned. There are currently around 70 credit unions with over 70,000 members in the African state and the main reasons for borrowing are education, agriculture and small businesses. In many rural areas, the credit union is the only financial service. On average, the interest rate on borrowing from a bank in The Gambia is 23% compared with 15% for credit unions.

The Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the ILCU, was established in the early 1980s with the aim of ‘alleviating poverty in developing countries by supporting credit unions, their representative bodies and other co-op type organisations as a means for socio-economic development through the provision of financial and technical assistance’

The Foundation is grateful for the support it has received for over 30 years from Irish credit unions and its members.

Mallow born Sean Roberts of Crosshaven-Carrigaline Credit Union, which has 14,000 members, is one of those. He told The Carrigdhoun Newspaper: ‘I had been hearing about these trips at presentations by the Foundation at AGM’s, including one by Ted O’Sullivan of Douglas Credit Union. It’s a very worthwhile effort and historically it’s payback time because when Irish credit unions were setting up over 60 years ago, they got great help from colleagues in the USA and Canada so therefore, the ILCU Foundation has been glad to do the same for the past 30 years or more.’

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