Representatives from the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) visited Paraguay May 22-28 as part of the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU's) International Partnerships Program.
The travelers met with the Paraguayan credit union association, Central de Cooperativas del Area Nacional (CENCOPAN), to learn about the country's credit unions and share their knowledge and experience, focusing on share insurance, political advocacy and the cooperative difference.
Mark D. Cummins, president/CEO of MnCUN; Dick Nesvold, president/CEO of SouthPoint FCU, Sleepy Eye, Minn.; and Jeff Schwalen, president/CEO of Hiway FCU, St. Paul, Minn., participated in this international exchange, which included credit union visits, lobbying and education
The visit was part of a series of collaborative activities between MnCUN and CENCOPAN, which began in 2004 when the trade associations partnered through WOCCU. The relationship between Minnesota and Paraguay is one of 23 international partnerships in WOCCU's International Partnerships Program.
This year, Cummins, Nesvold and Schwalen were invited to attend CENCOPAN's ninth annual International Seminar, which coincided with the organization's 17th anniversary. The event featured speakers from the U.S., Canada, Germany, Brazil and Ecuador, who provided insight on topics pertinent to Paraguayan credit unions.
Schwalen and Nesvold co-presented a session on "The History of Deposit Insurance in the U.S.," and Cummins provided the trade association perspective during his "Building Non-Dues Revenue" presentation.
The Minnesota delegation also visited four credit unions that serve as "multi-purpose" cooperatives. In addition to financial services, thecredit unions provide other services to their members. For example, Cooperativa Coronel Oviedo Ltda. is a credit union that provides members with low-cost medical services. It runs a pharmacy that offers the lowest prices in the city and has built an ethanol factory to serve the city's farmers.
"It was truly an inspiration to see the impact that these ‘multi-purpose' cooperatives have in the communities by providing diverse services that directly improve the quality of life for their members," Schwalen said.
The group also spent time discussing credit union issues with national politicians. The goal of the visits was to demonstrate the international support behind CENCOPAN's efforts to expand its services to members.
The Minnesota delegation stressed the influential role cooperatives play in building and strengthening nations. It emphasized the importance of deposit insurance and its role in stabilizing the credit union system and building confidence among members.
MnCUN and CENCOPAN will continue their international exchange in November when Paraguayan representatives will visit Minnesota credit unions.
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