Monday, August 8, 2011

Meeting (some of) the coaches

Today I had the opportunity to meet four of the credit union coaches who are going on the Mongolia mission, and what an impressive group they are! While the other six coaches were in Mongolia last year and didn’t have to attend the Ottawa briefing, these four are new to that country…and only one, former Alterna Savings CEO Gary Seveny, had previously been on a CCA international mission.

Gary, who is one of the most active “retired” people I have ever met, is also on the board of the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF), so he already knows a great deal about the international development work we do. The other three are Bruno Dragani, Chief People and Administration Officer at Coastal Community Credit Union (how nice to see Human Resources referred to merely as “People”!); Sophie Ethier, VP Corporate Services at Caisse populaire groupe financier in Winnipeg; and Ramune Jonusonis, Commercial Morgage Officer at Parama Lithuanian Credit Union in Toronto.

On the second day of the briefing for the four new Mongolia coaches, we spent the morning talking about telling stories.  If you're wondering what storytelling has to do with coaching Mongolian credit unions, the answer is simple: we want the coaches to write and talk about their experiences when they get back to Canada.  This has little to do with the culture shock/re-entry issues we discussed in CIL's actually about engaging the public in the international development work that CCA does. This kind of public engagement -- having mission participants talk, write or be interviewed about their experiences overseas -- is an integral part of CCA's ID program.  While co-op and credit union employees and members are a key target audience for our public engagement program, we also encourage participants to speak to community groups, service clubs and, of course, the local media.

We spent the afternoon with our resident Mongolia expert, Erin Mackie, who talked about everything from gender equity to the history of the Mongolian credit union movement.  It was wonderful that we could tap into her amazing well of knowledge about both the country and the kind of work the coaches will be doing.
Tomorrow morning, the coaches leave for Mongolia for the first week of the mission.  To Sophie, Bruno, Ramune,  Gary and the other six I will be meeting in Ulaanbaatar,  I say sain yav-aarai (have a good journey).  As for me, I’m off to our family cottage in Nova Scotia first thing tomorrow morning for a week of R&R, and fly to UB out of Halifax on August 13.

-- Donna Balkan

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