Hurricane Maria in 2017 damaged 18,000 of the island’s 23,000 buildings. The island has six credit unions on the island serving 97% of the population.
All six credit unions and the league building sustained damages to their buildings. Many lost roofs, water damage destroyed floors and wires, windows and doors were destroyed and computers were damaged.
Worldwide Foundation issued a call for funds assistance to help repair and rebuild credit unions in Dominica. Clean up and rebuilding began before year end and continues now on the league building. Today credit unions are largely repaired.
Yet it takes longer to work out the economic impact on members and its subsequent impact on the credit union. Infrastructure and economy damage has impacted the credit union balance sheets and income. Dominica lost 96% of its GDP in 2018 as banana plantations were destroyed, large amounts of farmland were washed away and the local university moved to Barbados. Credit unions’ loan performance was significantly impacted.
The credit unions asked for technical support in working through the impact of the disaster on their financials and in putting in place improved risk management systems. The credit unions also asked for advice in supporting their members who have lost their means of livelihood and have had to shift to new types of economic activity such as agriculture.
Ironically, in the same moment when credit unions are working through the hurricane impact on their loan portfolios and helping members overcome their reversals, the regulator has increased demands for increased reserves and loan risk analysis and AML/CFT controls.
In September, we took a group of volunteers from Indiana credit unions which are active in agricultural lending. The group assessed the credit unions and engaged with the Dominica credit unions on how to monitor and manage their risks and in how to engage in increased agricultural lending.
The group continues to work with the Dominica credit unions to help them with loan collections capital rebuilding planning, risk management systems, regulatory compliance systems and agricultural lending.
The third day of planning was canceled as tropical storm Kirk brushed the island. We had an insight into the trauma inflicted by the previous two hurricanes as the prime minister called for citizens to stay home off the roads and we were left alone in the hotel by hotel staff who hurried home to be with their families. The next morning the island shook with a small earth tremor as we flew out, north towards home.
Talent, Time and Treasure: This is what it takes as our friend, Paul, says. We are a small organization at World Council but we have a global network of credit union professionals and volunteers. We are grateful for your financial support, without which we could not help rebuild these credit unions. We are also grateful for the volunteer work and time that you contribute to help our credit union colleague round the world.
President & CEO
World Council of Credit Unions