Monday, September 24, 2012

The last few days...

Charlie with the board chair who proudly ownes approx 600 hectares of land where he produly grows wheat. 

So just as we expected, no internet, but plenty of reliable electricity out there so that was good.  We left UB on Sunday morning and travelled about 2.5 hours north to a village (soum) called Bonuur. Majestic green and pale yellow/brown coloured  mountains dotted the dusty landscape as our little Toyota "something" bounced and rattled along the roadways. It was a nice change to be out there. Fresh(er) air and tastier traditional Mongolian food than here in the big city. Everything cooked and served here is grown in the local area and of course its all home made. I have to admit when we arrived I was a little apprehensive about this next stay but boy was I wrong. It was a great credit union to work with, very well run and a very strong leader running it with along with a very proud and supportive Board and community behind it.
The chair and CEO of the Khasbanyan Ulziit credit union
My coaching partner and I along with our translator met with the CEO of the credit union and his staff for about 2 hours on Sunday after we settled in. We hit the ground running Monday morning with more discussions with the CEO, then a meeting with the Chair of the Supervisory Committee who also is on the Board of Representatives for the soum (like a city councillor). We met in his office. When it was over he presented us with honorary visitors medal and certificates. The medals commemorate the 20th anniversary of the soums existence. We spent some time travelling through the farm areas. This area is a huge producer of vegetables and wheat. Lots of potato farms. This is the P.E.I of Mongolia. Met some great people (cu members) and took lots of pictures.
Potato harvesting
The CEO asked us to zero in on his most pressing challenges which was getting his members to save more than they do now and coming up with ideas to help him grow membership. The credit union is only six years old and is profitable. But they need to grow. Working closely with the CEO and the Chair we manage to put together a number of possible strategies that could help.
Meeting with the Chair of the Supervisory Committee inside his office at soum hall
Back to UB Thursday morning. All of the other teams will be back too as we get ready for our Friday morning debrief with our Mongolian partners MCTCC. We head home Staurday. Its an early flight out.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Today we head out to our next CU assignment. We're leaving the city in the morning about 11am and will drive about 100k north of UlaanBatar into vast countryside. This may be the last time I post for awhile. We dont know what to expect in terms of internet access, or electricty or running water. So if you don't see any new posts for a while you'll know why. Thanks to all of you who have been following along. I'll catch up when I can.

Sun going down over the Tuul River

Day 4

Day 4 was our final day at Good Life SCC. The morning meeting was delayed due to a hydro blackout (which is no unusual in the city, they happen frequently). We got started about 11am. My coaching partner and I presented our findings and recommendations with the assistance of our translators. The E.D. and her staff thanked us for the report and they looked forward to discussing it with their Board. The future of Good Life SCC is dependant on building a stronger business relationship with their sole employer group sponsor, Tuushin LLC. The potential new membership market present some opportunities for growth buy it is limited. Good Life is well run and we were thankful for the opportunity to visit and be of some help. After lunch we were driven out to see another member who's life has been vastly improved thanks to business loans he received. He handcrafts morin khuur's. The morin khurr is a traditional Mongolian bowed stringed instrument.

It's one of the most frequently played instruments of the Mongol people and is considered a symbol of the Mongolian nation

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Rose Hotel

My credit union coaching partner and I would like you to meet someone. Yesterday we had the
privilege (and indeed honour) of visiting Dashdulam the owner of the The Caphau Motel (Caphau means Rose in Mongolian).  She is an incredibly inspiring woman with a perpetual smile who with the assistance of her credit union, aptly named the Good Life SCC, has transformed her life into a decent and dignified "good life". One that is immensly better than she would otherwise have had she told us. She did so in the face of great financial and physical adversity. We were only able to spend about 30 minutes or so with her but in that short time we learned about a wonderful story that really exemplifies the reason we coaches travel thousands of miles to help credit unions in developing countries like Mongolia.

Dashdulam in her hotel
When Dashdulam was 5 years old she became afflicted with polio. Life was obviously very difficult for her. We didn't get much in the way of details about her upbringing and her life as a growing child, teenager and adult this country. But its pretty safe to say that she's faced many challenges and barriers in her life along the way. She was able to attend primary and secondary school and she had a keen interest in becoming an accountant. She did not pursue her dream she explained to us because employers would not hire someone with the physical disabilities she possessed. She moves around with the use of crutches. It appeared she could not put much weight on her legs and dragged her feet for the most part. She told us that her life changed 9 years ago when she saw an ad in the local newspaper about a credit cooperative that was just opening up, where people like her, people who could not even dream of doing business with a bank could have access to financial services like savings and business loans. Dashdulam owns a very modest home on the outskirts of Ulaanbatar. We did not find out how she came to own the house but I assume it was handed down to her by her parents or other family. She decided to take control of her life and start a business. A home based business would be best of course considering her physical challenges. This would allow her to work and earn an steady income without leaving home. With loans from Good Life she converted her home into a 4 room motel. With a noticeabley excited  look in her eyes and a strong sense of pride, she readily approved our request to take video and shoot pictures of her place. I can't over emphasize the word pride. She was so happy about what she'd accomplished so far in her life and was eager to have these strangers from Canada visit her place. 
Charlie and Dashdulam outside the Rose Hotel

GoodLife Savings Credit Union

We were warmly greeted by the Executive Director Hoesa (her first name) and two of her staff. The interpretor assigned to us is Inkay. A very interesting lady who works (her real job) in the area of environmental policy development for the central government. We spent the next two and a half hours meeting with the E.D. and her staff learning more about Good Life SCC, past and present. The credit union faces many challenges as are most credit union's in Mongolia right now. Back in 2008 hundreds of small savings and loans went bankrupt during the world financial crisis. Thousands of Mongolians lost their life savings in many cases. The system has been trying to regain consumer confidence ever since. They've made great headway but still have along way to go. However we already believe we have a number of ideas to share so we're anxious to continue our work over the next three days and learn more about them. After lunch the days agenda required us to spend the afternoon on the road visiting three of the credit uions members. It's not unusual for credit unions involved in the coaching program to want to "show off" the special guests from Canada. It's also about the credit union showing us the heart warming success stories that personify the good they do and the impact their services have on their members livihoods. Personally I love this part. It's the reason I come. This is the moment of truth. This is where you see the impact credit unions can have here.  People lifted out of poverty because the credit union believed in them and gave them a chance. Today we found such a story. I'm in the process of putting it all into words. Stay tuned.

Day One ...

We all met at 10am for our debriefing meeting. The meeting was hosted by our partner for this mission - MCTIC (the acronym is affectionately pronounced by everybody as MICKTIC)and stands for Mongolian Cooperative Training and Information Centre. Really nice people. MCTIC's Executive Director Mr. Myagmar-Ochir welcomed everyone with gracious comments about the CCA and the credit union coaching program. Also in attendenace and presenting information to us, covering a variety of areas, were B. Purev of the FRC (cu regulator),B. Munguntuya and B. Bayarmaa of the MOCCU and others.

Tomorrow my coaching partner Heather O'Hare and I head to our first credit union. I made up a great name for our team.... O'Hare and No Hair. The credit union is located here in Ulanbatar and its called Good Life Savings and Credit Coopertative (thats cool). We'll continue to stay in this hotel for the remainder of the week so daily posts to the blog should not be a problem. ....check back later.....oh one more thing, lots of pot holes in the roads throught and around the city. Charlie
Charlie "no hair" and Heather O'Hare 

A funny story on the way to Mongolia...

Prior to arriving at the airport in Ottawa I remarked how I always get "pulled over" after going through airport metal detectors at the security check. I revealed to the team that I have been packing titanium hips since 06 when both were replaced due to severe osteoarthritis. And so as is usually the case everyone got through screening except me. I lit up the metal detector booth in the Ottawa airport like a Christmas tree. There was lots of smiling and suppressed laughter by my colleagues as they watched me go through the wand and pat down drill. But to my surprise Jane got pulled over too haha. Not sure what set off the bells for her, but after they were done with her and she joined up with the group, with eyes wide open (looking kinda shocked), she declared with a sense of dismay and in an invasive (that was gross) kinda tone she said, "I got Charlied!!!" . She got Charlied?? So now for this group, and I'm going to guess for the balance of the journey to and from Mongolia, through the many checkpoints and metal detectors we'll be required to pass though, my name has become the adjective that will describe the process of being pulled over, wanded and patted down by security people....... Hey I got CHARLIED. Did you get Charlied? Oh no look someones gettin Charlied. I'm not sure I like this. We made it to the hotel about midnight...into our rooms about 1am. In a few hours the mission will officially begin when we meet with our hosts at 10am. Check back tomorrow. Bye for now. Charlie