A Mongolian family moves all of their belongings to an area with better pasture to save their livestock.
A small-town resident is making a big difference halfway around the world.
Sue Klassen, second from right, a loans officer at Westoba Credit Union in Rivers, joined seven other credit union representatives from across Canada who travelled to Mongolia in September. Klassen helped to create innovative solutions to benefit farmers devastated by harsh winters in Mongolia. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Sue Klassen, a loans officer at Westoba Credit Union in Rivers, travelled to Mongolia in September, more than two years after one of the country’s harshest winters on record.
"I travelled to Mongolia with seven other credit union professionals from across Canada for a two-week coaching mission," Klassen said. "Working in teams of two to provide coaching services to our peers in the Mongolian credit union system."
During the 2010 winter in Mongolia, temperatures fell to -50 C for extended periods of time and thick ice and snow buried grass, making it impossible for animals to graze. The inclement winter would soon become termed the dzud, or "white death" after the conditions killed millions of animals and left thousands of families, who rely on the livestock to survive, struggling.
"Some of (the Mongolian farmers) had lost everything," Klassen said. "In a fledgling democracy like Mongolia’s, there are no government programs to help these people and the banks would not look at them. With half the country employed as herders, the effects were devastating."
Klassen worked to create innovative solutions to benefit farmers and help get the country’s struggling economy back on the right track.
While there, she tackled everything from governance to delinquency controls within the banking system.
"There are so many success stories of how credit unions have helped these people," she said. "It’s amazing and makes you proud to be part of the credit union system and co-operatives in general."
The experience was so positive for Klassen that she plans to go back and continue to work and establish co-operatives in the country.
"The pride and enthusiasm of the Mongolian members has reaffirmed my belief in the co-op principles," Klassen said.
"If there is one thing I learned from my mission to Mongolia, it’s how small the world actually is and how much can be accomplished by working together co-operatively."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 29, 2012