World Council Interns from Costa Rica Intern with Four Northwest Credit Unions

Four emerging credit union movement leaders from Costa Rica immersed themselves into the Oregon and Southwest Washington credit union culture for three weeks this spring, as part of an intensive short-term internship designed to broaden their professional expertise.

It worked for the interns. But it also provided a rich experience for the host credit unions.

“At a 30,000 foot view, our credit unions struggle with and champion for the same things,” said Amy Nelson, COO of Point West Credit Union. “At the three-foot trench view, we strive for similar results in very different ways, which gives us both added arsenal for progress.”

Point West hosted Guillermo Zuniga, a Website Administrator from Coope-Ande No. 1 R.L. Credit union. Like many of the interns participating in the World Council of Credit Unions’ International Credit Union Leadership Program, Zuniga soaked up as much new information as possible, while also giving back to the host credit union.

“Specific to Guillermo’s experience as a marketing professional, he was able to immerse himself in the Point West Brand Experience during our Annual Meeting, Member Appreciation Week and several other events which happened to be perfectly timed during his internship,” Nelson added.

Heiner Bermudez is Zuniga’s colleague at Coope-Ande in Costa Rica, but he spent his internship at Rivermark Community Credit Union in Beaverton. As his three-week visit with Rivermark wound to a close in early May, he raved about “five great ideas” he will take back home to improve member services.

“It was the most important thing I learned,” he said, and added that he found Rivermark’s mobile and online banking features to have quite the wow-factor.

“I love behavioral science,” said Walter Melendez, who interned at Vancouver’s iQ Credit Union. “We can use that to centralize our lending.” Melendez is the Marketing Manager for Coopealianza R.L.—a 160,000-member cooperative financial institution with 600 employees.

Ileana Castro, who specializes in Investment Services at Coopeservidores in Costa Rica, rolled her sleeves up at Oregon’s largest credit union—OnPoint.

The interns also interacted in high-level dialogue with senior credit union leaders attending the Spring Leadership Symposium sponsored by the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) and CUES Northwest on April 24.

Kasey Rockwell, the NWCUA’s director of outreach programs was liaison for the visiting interns. She arranged for them to learn more about regulation of credit unions during a meeting with Janet Powell of the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities (DFCS).

“We also wanted the interns to learn about our how highly we value our social mission,” Rockwell said. “We toured Doernbecher Children’s Hospital which is a major benefactor of Credit Unions for Kids. They were really touched and amazed to find out that the credit union movement’s charity of choice started right here in the Northwest.”

The International Credit Union Leadership Program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Professional Fellows Program. Reciprocal programs send American credit union professionals to other nations. In fact, the World Council is currently reviewing 20 applications for 12 internship positions in Costa Rica in June. Applications will soon open for an internship opportunity in Brazil in January, 2014.

An international credit union internship is highly recommended by Mary Vasquez, a Point West member service representative who interned in the Dominican Republic in January, 2013.

“It’s a great feeling to know we have the power to make a difference no matter where we come from,” Vasquez said.


The International Credit Union Leadership Program brings emerging leaders from around the world to various credit unions, both in the United States and abroad, for intensive short-term credit union internships designed to broaden their professional expertise. The program is designed to facilitate idea exchanges, promote foreign language development, enhance cultural diversity and improve problem-solving skills as they relate to global credit union development and management. The program also focuses on helping credit unions find new ways to attract young members.

The International Credit Union Leadership Program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of Citizen Exchanges, and is part of the larger U.S. Department of State Professional Fellows Program.


Questions? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225,

Posted in Around the NW, Compliance News.