It has coursed a path over almost 61 years from a movement created by what was described as a group of low-income earners to a multi-billion dollar collection of financial and other units serving in excess of 200,000 persons on the island.
For this reason the Barbados Cooperative Credit Union League had much to celebrate when it belatedly held its 60th anniversary dinner and awards ceremony over the weekend in a gala affair under the theme, 60 Years of Providing Advocacy and Developmental Services.
According to the League’s stated history, those low-income earners had combined with members of the St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in the same economic class and formed a Savings Union in July 1947.
This group became known as the Shamrock Savings Union and later the Shamrock Credit Union. The League, as a service organization for credit unions and other co-operatives in Barbados, was established in 1957 when Shamrock, Perseverance and Enterprise, the leading credit unions of the day, submitted an application for its registration.
With a backdrop of such a progressive past, Caribbean Confederations of Credit Union Director Hally Haynes declared at the Hilton Saturday night that “the Barbados League has been an outstanding member” of the regional grouping.
And in paying tribute to “all those who made this movement of people helping people,” he said, “the father of the Barbados movement, Conrad Hill, will be pleased. We have taken this movement from a small beginning and we now represent a significant player in the financial services sector”.
Minister of Small Business Dwight Sutherland offered compliments of his own.
“For the past six decades the League has grown substantially and has contributed in a mammoth way to the social and economic development of Barbados through advocacy and the provision of support, training and promoting the interest of its members.”
Noting that the League comprises 55 members that span agriculture, transport, craft, savings, and finance and now a recent addition of an investment cooperative, he said that the 33 credit unions among the lot have almost 210,000 members.
This membership that comprises more than two-thirds of the Barbados population of almost 300,000 have helped the credit unions to amass assets of more than $2 billion with credit to members reaching approximately $1.68 billion, and direct employment of over 500 Barbadians.
The credit unions at March 31, registered a combined net profit in excess of $24 million compared to $16.4 million ten years ago.
Among the persons recognized for their contribution to the success story of these organisations that are owned by the people they serve was Muriel Parris, described as “a faithful servant of the credit union movement for several decades”.
Hailing from the St Stephen’s Credit Union where she served as president on many occasions, Parris’ citation read in part: “In 1983, she was elected as the first and up until now, only female president of the League, a position which she relinquished in 1986. She remains very active in her credit union, currently serving in the capacity of president. She has the distinction of being the recipient of a national honour for her service to the credit union movement, in 1990.”
For her remarkable service Parris received a standing ovation, an honour which was also accorded to Anthony Pilgrim who was recognized with a Lifetime Contribution and Achievement Award.
Pilgrim joined League staff in 1990, became General Manager in 1995 and retains that position after 23 years.
He is said to exemplify professionalism and “goes beyond the call of duty”.
He is credited with seeing the League through some of its toughest years and being the “focal point for the rebuilding of the League and expansion of its services throughout the years”.