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WOCCU pilot program targets financial services for refugees

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Hundreds of Venezuelan refugees living in Colombia will gain access to savings and loans for the first time since fleeing their home country thanks to a new pilot program from the World Council of Credit Unions.

Through the program, 25 savings and credit groups were established to serve over 400 Venezuelans and Colombians.

The pilot expands access to basic financial services to savings and credit group members while also increasing financial literacy within communities. It allows participating members to obtain small loans during emergencies, purchases and business investments. Responsibly management of credit is also facilitated.

Melvin Mogollon, a member of the "Los Luchadores" savings group in La Guajira who left Venezuela last year, said in a press release on Monday that being part of the group has taught him how to save money and relate to his community in Colombia.

"It is a new beginning that will allow us to fulfill many dreams despite not being in our country,” Mogollon said.

Developed in the Colombian states of La Guajira and Arauca, the pilot was funded by a donation from Financial Center First Credit Union through the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions.

The World Council recently helped the same Venezuelan-border region by providing access to financial services to over 250,000 Colombians. The group is continuing to look for other opportunities to provide financial services to Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and other countries, according to the release.

“We see these savings and credit groups as a great first step for their members,” Oscar Guzman, WOCCU’s regional director for Latin America, said in the release. “As a second step, we worked with field promoters from two financial institutions—allowing them into the groups to help the people ‘graduate’ and gain access to Colombia’s formal financial system.”

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