Canadians and credit unions seeing Sri Lankans through trying times
Sri Lanka's coastal cities and villages were hit hard by devastating tsunami waves on
"It was an extraordinarily complex and difficult environment to work in," says
"Twenty minutes of monstrous waves had washed lifetimes of effort away. There was little infrastructure in the country. The eastern and northern sections were no-go zones because of the conflict. And the country was overwhelmed by a second tsunami of international aid that couldn't be readily handled by government agencies. It was an extremely challenging environment."
As momentous as this assignment was for Fischer, she says seeing credit unions transform lives in
"Credit unions are seeing communities through times of hardship and disaster all over the world," she says. "Many of Canada's most successful credit unions were forged out of desperate needs in the Prairie dustbowl of the 1930s. And they are there for the long term."
Fischer, 51, and her team harnessed the collective capacities of the CCA, the SANASA Development Bank, CCA's longstanding partner in
"I worried about my staff and the staff of our partners," says Fischer. "They had to navigate between multiple warring factions to access ordinary people caught up in the conflict. This is dangerous work - not only for them, but also for their families and friends. Sometimes we had staff leave out of concern for the safety of themselves and their families. Sometimes, they lost family members who were random victims of violence. They were just on the same bus or train as a bomber."
The tsunami no longer dominates the news headlines. The war is over and the world has moved on to other events in other places. But the work continues. Many of the 250,000 now in the IDP (internally displaced persons) camps are also tsunami survivors. The Canadian Co-operative Association with funding from the Canadian Red Cross, credit unions and individual Canadians continues to work with SANASA - bringing services to recovering communities and into refugee camps in war torn northern areas of the country. This too will be slow, difficult work.
As Fischer packs her bags for another overseas assignment in another distant place - this time in
The Canadian Co-operative Association is a national association for co-operatives in