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FirstOntario pledges $1 per member for international development

This past January, FirstOntario Credit Union (117,550 members, $5 billion in assets) pledged $1 per member to support a new initiative by the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF Canada), called Breaking New Ground.

After living in a refugee camp during Sierra Leone’s civil war, which ran from 1991-2002, rice farmer Mamie Conteh was considered “unbankable” by most financial institutions. Conteh joined a local credit union, which gave her the small loans needed to open more land for cultivation, doubling her rice harvest.

FirstOntario is giving $117,550 to CDF Canada for the enterprise, which was officially launched last October during Co-op Week 2017. The mission is to improve the social and economic wellbeing of 500,000 women, men and children and their communities, helping them build their way out of poverty through cooperative development.

FirstOntario CEO Kelly McGiffin stated in a media release: “It’s in FirstOntario’s DNA to reach out and respond to the needs of our communities, be it locally through our community Student Nutrition Program, affordable housing projects, donations and sponsorships, or globally through CDF Canada. We have a larger responsibility than just being a good community partner. We also have a responsibility to be good global citizens.”

The success of this cooperative approach has earned the confidence of CDF Canada’s institutional funders. For the past decade, donors like Global Affairs Canada, the Irish League of Credit Unions International Development Foundation and the United Nations have matched CDF Canada’s fundraising efforts: for every $1 raised, they match with funding up to $10. ◊