Wednesday, May 19, 2010

CaribDE Day Six – Tuesday, 18th May 2010

Posted by Dorwin Manzano, CUDE 2008

It’s my pleasure to blog from the beautiful sunny isle of St. Lucia on the final day of the historic and first ever, CaribDE Programme May 2010.

This morning’s breakfast lived up to the excellent standard that the hardworking and dedicated Nuns established over the period. Certainly, participants were well fortified to present their Case Studies in a cogent, convincing and compelling manner.

All four (4) groups made sterling presentations capturing key developmental issues in the various scenarios and were well received by participants. There was strong evidence of research, teamwork and other key strategies employed by participants. Convincing arguments were advanced for:

(i) the merits and strategies for serving a youth market.
(ii) the merger of a Credit Union which comprises of indigenous Caribs in the Island of Dominica with another leading Credit Union in the Island.
(iii) the importance of establishing a robust succession plan for CEO’s of Credit Unions at the very early stage .
(iv) the benefits of establishing a National Branding Campaign for Credit Unions, whereby all credit union advertising is done through one medium and not by the various credit unions. The objective was for all credit unions to speak with one voice. It was resolved that National Branding was worth pursuing.

Keynote Graduation address by Melvin Edwards
The Keynote Graduation address was delivered by Melvin Edwards, who is a past Chairman of World Council of Credit Unions Incorporated (WOCCU) and a graduate of the 2009 DE Class. The title of his address was “First Class”. He charged graduates to sharply defend and uphold the Co-operative Principles and Philosophies and to develop ways and means to correct and expunge the myths that have been promulgated about Credit Union Best Practices, Philosophies and Principles.

The presentation of Certificates took place on the beautiful lawn garden adjacent to the dining area. The pure, fresh, natural and environmental facade provided a special compliment to the entire ceremony. Twenty Four (24) new people earned the right to be called “Development Educator” and joined the ranks of DEs around the world who dedicate themselves to the promotion and practices of credit union ideals, social responsibility, credit union and community development, and the credit union philosophy of People Helping People.

Fund Raising Auction
The Live and Silent Auction was conducted by the Right Honourable Bob Schumacher who did an outstanding job. Approximately 25-30 items were auctioned. The high point of the auction is the sale of a Mini Bat which was purchased for $10 EC by Craig Stapleton and was auctioned for the mega price of $3000EC (just over $1,000 U.S!) The bidding for the Mini Bat was very competitive and was driven by the fact that it was labelled with the name CaribDE 2010 and had the signatures of all participants of the Programme.

Closing Party
The CaribDE 2010 culminated with a signature event of a party in true Caribbean style. We actually formed a music band led by guitarists David Marquez of Trinidad and Tobago and Bert Mullings of the Bahamas. It was sweet moments of calypsos from the Might Sparrow, Lord Kitchener, Arrow and other famous Caribbean Icons. By the unanimous vote the most popular song was “Good morning Mr. Walker” which was sung at least four times, led by Bob Schumacher who is now a certified Caribbean Calypsonian. The curtains came down at 11:55 p.m. with everyone hugging and greeting each other saying and singing sweet songs of good bye, au revoir, hasta luego... What a marvellous way to bring the curtains down on this historic and memorable event…

CaribDE 2010, what a fantastic experience!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CaribDE Day Five – Monday, 17th May 2010

Posted by Debbie Wege, CUDE 1993

Even from the sequestered confines of our remote, non-air-conditioned, highly-humid Abbey, one cannot deny the beauty of this Island. The sweetness of Caribbean air after a night of warm tropical rain fills your waking breaths as you step outside on the veranda between the dorm area and main hall. I am not sure there is a better way to start one’s day, even when you know the long hours that this day brings with it…

Today began with time for participants to finalize their project ideas for presentations by the mentors. As you will see when you read these there are some great things that will be happening in the Caribbean. From partnering with other credit unions, starting youth programs that truly engage the youth (including TV programming), and teaching the cu philosophy and principles and more…

Then we went out into shade of the lawn area under the beautiful Caribbean Samaan Tree and all collectively agreed that the outdoor air was considerably cooler than the hot & humid room we had been sweating in for the last 4 days… all breathed a welcomed cooler sigh of relief… Tom led the group in a team building exercise that tested and successfully stretched and expanded our ability to trust the group as a whole. Leaving us all feeling a little more connected. Then each person was paired up to share what this past week has meant to them and rotated till all had shared with each other. It was obvious by the volume and smiles that each have had positive aspects they can take away from this week together. This was followed by time for more personal reflection to put down these thoughts in a letter to themselves which will be mailed to them in six months.

Then came the assignment of the Final Case Studies… drum roll please…

As each received their case study with apprehensive anticipation, some were already claiming the time they wanted to end by… never a good idea…

Each gave their case study the seriousness needed to think it through and come up with their presentation, even through the heat. Big thanks to Bob Schumacher and Melvin Edwards for making a run for much needed (and up until this point, non-existent) caffeinated sodas!! Blessing for the local gas station that sold coke products!!!

Tomorrow is the big day for presentations and some will do this a little more rested than others, but all will do it with hard work, determination from a week filled with expanded awareness, deepened understanding, and broader perspectives. Stay tuned…

And may I add, even in midst of the rain, the warmth never leaves – ahh the magic of the Caribbean Islands…

Monday, May 17, 2010

CaribDE Day Four – Sunday, 16th May 2010

Posted by Bob Schumacher, CUDE 2001

Sunday at DE is strange at DE, to say the least! But add to that the fact that we are at a Benedictine Abbey and you can exponentially add to that affect. Let me start with the fact that breakfast had to be moved to an earlier time as all would be at Mass in the Chapel next to our meeting room. Many of our Carib folks went right from early breakfast to early Mass.

Melvin Edwards and Dorwin Manzano started the day with the discovery and discussion of hot topics that challenge and confound the Caribbean movement each day. Amazingly, they end up being extremely similar to the US movement’s bi g issues. It was also amazing to see people who began the week coming into training as proud representatives of their many individual island countries go into this session with a new sense of connection with each other that supersedes individual national pride.

We moved into the project spotlight activities next, exploring in detail three international and one US project. As we have come to expect from this class, all four presentations were spot on. We then retired to lunch when mentors discussed upcoming individual DE projects to be presented to the group tomorrow. Most of the soon-to-be-designees already had more than an idea about their projects and described them with such passion and pride. Lunch did provide a unique moment of excitement as little Sister Benedicta climbed on the kitchen counter and with a long pole to begin poking at something in the ceiling rafters while the other nuns scurried about out of the way. We all gasped then howled as a very large crab flew from the rafters onto the floor! To the delight and appreciation of the nuns, Big Bert Mullings, DE-to-be, calmly moved in, picked it up and released it onto the grounds outside.

Debbie Wege told the story of the CDCU and the role of community development credit unions within the US movement, injecting her credit union’s relationship with Express CU in the process. The participants kept her on stage right up to the last seconds of her time asking questions. It was almost as if they knew what was coming next, wanting to avoid it.

But, of course, they didn’t as we handed out the credit union in development issues for them to ponder and solve. These “unsolvable” scenarios were attacked with energy and in-depth drilling producing very plausible decisions. The presentations provided a fitting end to the work day, in preparation for tomorrow’s big final case studies.

Normally we would have had a regular dinner before retiring in preparation for tomorrow’s rigors, but the nuns prepared an amazing meal of several nationalities for us to enjoy. And once again, the guitar came out as David Marquez led the whole group in more song, laughter and camaraderie. Now on to the longest day!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

CaribDE Day Three – Saturday, 15th May 2010

Posted by Kathy Chartier, CUDE 1994

Day three started with a twist. Most of us are not accustomed to shops being closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, but that is not the Caribbean way. Here, church, family and friends come before commercialism so the stores remain closed.

To accommodate our DEs in training by giving them an opportunity to visit Castries, do a little shopping and maybe even pick up their last minute auction item, the schedule started at 2:30 this afternoon and ran into the evening.

We started off the afternoon with another DE “first”. Bob Schumacher came into the room waving two pair of plaid men’s boxers that one of the sister’s brought to him after they were found on the lawn! The 'Prez' reluctantly claimed them to a great deal of laughter, while our 'Michelle Obama' immediately fired Bob from her security detail! For our part, we learned that it is not safe to hang laundry out to dry on our breezy ST Lucia balconies!

Next Tom Decker gave an overview of the National Credit Union Foundation and its programs. Bob assisted in explaining two of the programs that are especially dear to his heart - BizKids and CIF. An in-depth discussion of the DE program followed, with questions and feedback from our soon-to-be DEs.

I gave an overview of the Real Solutions program, highlighting the impact that it has had in Connecticut and our Financial Reality Fair program. I wouldn’t be surprised if a DE chooses bringing a reality fair to their school or credit union for their project! I then tried very hard to do our own Bill Myers proud when explaining The Credit Path to the group.

After so much lecturing, it was time for some group participation. Bob and Carla Decker’s session was on alternative CU models and structures. They referred to the concepts of shared services and shared branching. Then each group identified whether shared services, and shared branching respectively, might be applicable to credit unions in the Caribbean; and if so, how by discussing the benefits and implementation challenges. Each group answered yes, with one participant aptly stating, “Of course any rational person would say yes!” Suggested shared services included ATM servicing and machines, MIS systems, marketing and legal services or a shared attorney – interestingly in the Caribbean a lawyer must draw up the paperwork for each vehicle loan as well as mortgages! Shared branching, especially in the context of cross border shared branching, brought on plenty of discussion related to cost, competition, service levels and more.

Tonight was the night we sit in a circle and heard the stories of the facilitators and mentors projects. We heard stories of international partnerships, spreading the DE story and bringing on new DEs, raising over $15,000,000 in CIF deposits, incorporating international credit union development into an employee orientation program, visiting and training at the Philippines credit union movement, volunteering at a Hispanic credit union ultimately becoming a career position, and last but certainly not least, bringing this first CaribDE program to fruition in just one year’s time. Congratulations on a DE project well done, Melvin Edwards!

The participants were moved by the stories, and as one expressed, the program is starting to come together for them, and they are looking forward to being part of a community with such energy and passion.

The evening ended on a lighter note – musical note that is. David Marquez borrowed the sister’s guitar (remember we are in an abbey!) and led us in a great round of calypso and Bob Marley. There is nothing like singing together to bond people, and the room was electric tonight – you could see our relationships strengthen through the power of music.

This group is well on their way to becoming the next “Best Class Ever!”

Saturday, May 15, 2010

CaribDE Day Two - Friday, 14th May 2010

Posted by Carla Decker, CUDE 1997

Day Two started off with a deafening tropical rain and a surprise visit by St. Lucia’s Monsignor Patrick Anthony, a slightly built man with a thunderous presence. He greeted us to the abbey introducing us to his work in folklore research. Back in the 60’s/70’s he told us, he began pushing to add to the development agenda the concept of human element development; i.e. people and culture. Absent that, he noted, our people – especially our youth - meander in a space of cultural invasion – where the ‘outside is good’ mentality is akin to mental slavery. Thus awareness, recognition and adherence of indigenous values are the true hallmark of a fully grown society. That is “soul power!” he cried, while angels sang.

He added that only by knowing who we are can we know what kind of development we want to foster for ourselves. Cooperatives, he added are a part of our African heritage. The principle of working together where dialogue and balance exist between individual and community, NOT a society where some people have and others don’t. But where “jan jounen” (originally an agricultural practice) means you invite your partners and friends to help you out today and they’ll do the same tomorrow. Where the concept of jounen prete and sousou in pre-banking communities means I give you one day and you owe me until my day comes.

These are the Cooperative values that we should not lose. And these, he charged, are the indigenous values that we should continue to strengthen and formalize to serve the purpose of today’s society!!! With this message, he led the group in song… the redemption song.

In what was the remaining day, we learned of cultural outreach to children, WOCCU, the US vis-à-vis the Caribbean CU system, and Cooperative social responsibility. Somewhere in the mix, participant Teresa Royer was challenged by an erroneous perception of time and, in gift, led the group in a song of friendship.

Then, we rolled onto skits! The dramatic ability of the group is amazing; equally uncanny is participant Coleen Barnabe’s resemblance to Michelle Obama whom she played at a press conference, bare shoulders and all! In all their hilarity and our roaring laughter, the skits were also poignantly on content!

Miniature Earth opened our eyes to world stats and caused us to check our assumptions and biases.

Thus ended Day Three and our lesson on the 5 C’s… Children, Culture, Catholic, Cooperator, Credit union.

Friday, May 14, 2010

CaribDE Day One - Thursday, 13th May 2010

Posted by David Marquez, CUDE 2007

It is always great to wake up to the exotic sounds of a Caribbean Island and St. Lucia is of course no different. The beauty of our surroundings at Villa Santa Maria, Coubaril, Castries definitely encouraged two of the younger mentors and one participant to go exploring… using exercise as an excuse when they just wanted to see how far civilization really was! A very cold rain shower ensured they reached back (wet) in time for breakfast and a prompt start to the first CaribDE☼. But in true Caribbean style, a few participants strolled in a couple of minutes late giving excuses about the fictional time zones that exist in the region.

Tom Decker ceremoniously took the floor and started this historic occasion with an introduction of a very special person and our very own Melvin Edwards. Melvin urged the participants to take as much as they can from the program, network, be prepared to make lifelong friends and become part of a much bigger community. Melvin made mention of congratulatory messages sent by Pete Crear, CEO of WOCCU and Yvonne Ridgeard, President of Confederation of Caribbean Credit Unions (CCCU). Whilst thanking the Benedictine nuns, he saw it fit (and quite rightly so) to remind participants that the introduction of the Credit Union movement in the Caribbean had to be attributed to the Catholic Church.

Tom returned to describe the DE designation process highlighting the fact that it is comparable to a degree and with that comes knowledge and responsibility. So it was in that vein that participants must give their experience serious thought. Then came our favourite Peruvian, Carla Decker, who endorsed the former speakers and emphasized the DE’s mission, its background and summary of its roots. Carla reminded everyone present to be aware of their identity and the need to share skills to deal with all situations. Carla’s passion for this movement was revealed when she told the group that Credit Unions are tools for development, lifting people out of poverty and out of circumstantial situations.

Then came introductions. An interesting fact (tallied by the tallest man in the room, Bob Schumacher) was that amongst the DE staff present, there was 165 years of credit union experience and volunteerism in 33 DE classes! What a team to start this CaribDE! Participants’ introductions were an eye opener. The participants shared with the group their “gift” to the Class (a unique skill, attribute or experience) that will enrich the peer to peer learning process, and their “hooks” (what keeps them engaged.) The facilitators and mentors quickly saw a distinct difference in this Caribbean bunch where everyone clearly expressed their dedication and commitment to the movement, from long time CU people to former bankers and recent hires.

This was followed by a great lunch and a mean lemon meringue pie just begging to be eaten! And of course the DE participants obliged!

After lunch saw participants very excited to prepare their short presentations on development issues. These Caribbean DE’s in training were anxious to deliver their presentations and after this expressive exercise, Carla duly noted that it was the first DE class she saw people strictly adhere to the 3-minute timeframe. Quite ironic for a people who live on island time!

Melvin, David and Dorwin Manzano presented the history of the movement but with all different styles showing the diversity that exists in the region.

The day started to wind down with the straw exercise. What the facilitations did not cater for is that in the Caribbean, we were accustomed to huts with thatched roofs! As a result, each group got their structure to stand and quite tall I may add. Bob’s group did finish in the first 25 minutes but were almost like the tortoise and the hare as they eventually came in second. Debbie Wege’s group eventually got up but the structure looked as though it was gender split! My group obviously cannot read lips and as a result came in third as the structure kept heading towards the floor! But congratulations must go to Kathy Chartier’s group who emulated the leaning tower of pizza and were so annoyingly confident that they offered the other groups extra straws! It was quite an enjoyable time and really worked well in helping the group to bond.

This was followed by a reception out of our so called concentration camp with a five minute drive to a little bar where most were falling down to tiredness. However, we were on our way to expanding a professional and committed core of volunteers!

Day 2. here we come!