|Making a difference - CCA Interns
Ask Blaire Ulrich why she got involved in international development and you will see a big smile come across her face. "I've known about the work CCA (the Canadian Co-operative Association) does in international development since I started working full-time in the credit union system in 2010. One of my
co-workers volunteered with CCA in Ghana and I'd always wanted to do something similar. I saw a tweet one day about an international development opportunity with CCA and applied for one of their internship positions."
Recognizing the important role youth play in international development, over the past 18 years CCA's internship program has enabled more than 150 young Canadians to work alongside its international partners. Blaire's application was successful and in 2014 she left Saskatchewan for a six-month placement in Nairobi, Kenya. Blaire's employer, Affinity Credit Union, granted her a leave of absence to fill a position she says "was a great fit for my skill-set." A marketing research analyst, Blaire's assignment was to work with the African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Associations (ACCOSCA) as a marketing development officer.
By granting Blaire a leave of absence Affinity Credit Union was not only supporting her passion, it understood this would be mutually beneficial to their business. "We're proud of Blaire's participation with CCA," says Affinity Credit Union market manager Brenda Lyons. "On her return to Canada, her unique experiences and learning inspired her colleagues and external community organizations to continue their own efforts in helping to build a better world for everyone every day - because by working together co-operatively, we can achieve so much more."
Living and working in Kenya helped Blaire gain a better understanding of
co-operatives and how she was a part of this movement. "I was able to see savings and credit co-operatives (SACCOs) in such a different way than I do in Canada," she says. "Kenya has SACCOs ranging from very small with just a few members, to very large with thousands of members and asset sizes larger than some credit unions in Canada."
"Seeing how passionate SACCO employees, managers, and board members are about co-operatives and the co-operative principles has really impacted how I do my day-to-day job with Affinity Credit Union. Working in the credit union sector opened my eyes to another way to help people, through co-operatives ."
Brenda Lyons echoes Blaire's sentiments. "Working with an international
co-operative provided her with valuable professional development experiences and an opportunity for her to make a difference in the world outside of her normal working environment."
Blaire was one of five interns to take part in the 2014 CCA internship program and she returned to Canada with a whole new perspective.
"My internship with ACCOSCA was life changing. I'm so thankful that Affinity Credit Union supports their employees in personal and professional growth. My leave of absence has made me a better co-operator, employee and Canadian."
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