Three Northwest Credit Union Professionals Reflect on Recent WOCCU Brazil Trip


Three Northwest credit union young professionals have recently returned to the United States from Brazil after immersing themselves in the Sicredi credit union system.

Unitus Community Credit Union’s Member Advocate, Gabrielle Steinert, and Consumer Loan Processor, Stephanie Zarceño, joined ISU Credit Union CFO, Cory Omanson, WYCUP Program Manager, Thomas Belekevich, and others on the nonstop journey that crisscrossed the state of Paranà.

The World Council of Credit Unions’ Young Professional Exchange, held in Curitiba, Brazil, provided them with the opportunity learn more about the Sicredi credit union system model and engage with the community. The exchange brought credit union professionals, WYCUP representatives, and members of the Sicredi youth committees together to meet and exchange ideas.

Sicredi is a highly collaborative credit union system that serves over 4 million members at 116 credit unions across Brazil. Youth committees are established at the credit union level and provide a space for young members to gather, build awareness of the benefits that financial cooperatives offer, and ensure credit unions’ future success and sustainability.

The Sicredi system was inspiring, said Belekevich.  He experienced “amazing hospitality, engaged with the community, and a level of professionalism that is seldom seen. At every stop, we connected with local youth committees and saw how Sicredi is working to redefine the relationship with young people.”

The group had the opportunity to speak with dozens of Sicredi members, including those who became successful lawyers, farmers, and engineers while involved in the youth committees.

“As I got to speak with young members through our trips to various Sicredi branches, I learned that the youth committees brought career development, financial education, community involvement, and the feeling that they belonged to something important,” said Zarceño.

Sicredi’s youth committees strengthen relationships with young members by nurturing a culture of volunteerism, promoting social responsibility, and encouraging social and economic entrepreneurship and cooperation.

“It was really moving to see how highly regarded Sicredi is among their young members,” said Steinert. “The young members of the community felt that their credit union really wanted to listen to their feedback and that the youth committee program could help them make a real difference.”

During the trip, Steinart, Zarceño, and Omanson worked on a toolkit that would help credit unions around the world replicate Sicredi’s youth committees, including in the Northwest. The toolkit is set to be further refined during the YP Exchange and Global Youth Summit, held in the United Kingdom this March. In the meantime, Zarceño and Steinert hope to implement aspects of the Sicredi model at Unitus and establish a Youth Committee in Portland.

“I have always believed financial knowledge is extremely important to have, especially at a young age,” said Zarceño. “This trip has fueled my passion to spread financial knowledge through Unitus to members in our community.”

To learn more about the YP Exchange Program, contact Carmen Vigil, Director, Cooperative Momentum, at 206.340.4817.

Posted in Around the NW.