Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It’s magic

Collins Kamakech, DEI ACE, RPO

Seeing co-ops come to life in Uganda
Here we were in northern Uganda, thousands of miles from our Canadian homes, the blazing sun heating up the tiny SACCO (Savings and Credit Co-operative) office where we had gathered, and we’re talking about building a snowman as a metaphor for creating a co-operative.

A month earlier, the SACCO board was in this same office, huddled around the manager’s computer  to watch a video Prince Edward Island co-operator Siri Jackson-Wood had made, of children rolling, shaping snow into a frosty figure that smiled at them from the screen.

Siri, who was one of six Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) volunteers that delivered a pilot program in northern Uganda, called the Development Ladder Assessment,  used the video to illustrate the power of belonging to a SACCO.

Journey of discovery
It was a fitting start to our own journey of discovery into the lives of the rural poor.

As we saw over and over again during our study mission, there is something magical about seeing a co-operative come to life when hands and minds are joined.

As we know, the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives in 2012 presented an exceptional opportunity to tell the world about the many ways credit unions and coops are “building a better world.”

When the calendar turned to this historic year in January, 2012, never could I have imagined that eleven months later, I would be in northern Uganda, witnessing first-hand how credit unions and co-ops are helping people work their way out of poverty and bringing lasting prosperity to their families and their communities.

I have had the good fortune to participate in two missions now, the first being in 2010 in Nicaragua. My trek to Uganda reinforced my belief that the co-operative model is the best model to to bring economic democracy, and a life with dignity, to people in need throughout the world.

I returned to Canada from Uganda, along with my teammates, changed people: inspired to tell fellow Canadians about the very real difference we are making in the lives of the less fortunate; inspired to become better global citizens.   Is there any better legacy IYC 2012 could leave?

Though building a snowman may not be a perfect metaphor for creating a co-operative in Uganda, given how quickly it would melt under the hot African sun, it does demonstrate how much is being achieved by working together.

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