Nearly 300 young Canadians express their thoughts on microfinance in the DID DoingMyPart.Coop Youth Contest

    In May, the two grand prize winners will take part in an educational tour
    in Tanzania

    LEVIS, QC, Feb. 6 /CNW Telbec/ - To celebrate the beginning of
International Development Week, Développement international Desjardins (DID)
is pleased to announce that some 300 young people from across Canada, ages 18
to 30, entered the second DoingMyPart.Coop Youth Contest, held September 20 to
November 9, 2007.
    Among the participants, 12 young people distinguished themselves with the
exceptional quality of the essays that they submitted in answer to the contest
question: Is microfinance a solution for sustainable development in developing
countries?. The 12 winners are listed below in alphabetical order.

    Winners              City/Province            Member of Caisse Desjardins
                                                  (Note 1)
    Charles Bélanger     Quebec City (Québec)     Caisse Desjardins de Cap-
                                                   Rouge (Québec)
    Misha Benjamin       Montreal (Québec)        n/a
    Annie Bérubé         Quebec City (Québec)     Caisse Desjardins de Saint-
                                                   Rodrigue (Québec)
    Marie-Pierre Bérubé  Becancour (Québec)       Caisse Desjardins du Canton
                                                   d'Aston (Saint-Léonard-
    Sara Blenkhorn       West Vancouver           n/a
                          (British Colombia)
    Maxime Carré         St-Romuald (Québec)      Caisse Desjardins de Saint-
                                                   Romuald (Lévis)
    Anaar Kara Torbay    (Newfoundland)           n/a
    Sara Kelly           Trois-Pistoles (Québec)  Caisse Desjardins de
                                                   l'héritage des Basques
    Mike Lafleur         Calgary (Alberta)         n/a
    Sarah Messerli       Montreal (Québec)         Caisse Desjardins
                                                    d'Argenteuil (Lachute)
    Gregg Newson         London (Ontario)          n/a
    Natalie Rouskov      Mississauga (Ontario)     n/a
    Note 1: Membership in a Desjardins institution was not a contest
            eligibility criteria.

    Among the twelve winners, two stood out in particular. The two grand
prize winners are Sarah Kelly (Trois-Pistoles, Quebec) and Mike Lafleur
(Calgary, Alberta). Together, the lucky winners will travel to Tanzania in
East Africa for a one-week education tour. There they will be welcomed by the
local DID project director. They will visit Tanzanian financial cooperatives
where they will meet with employees, managers and members and discuss the
practical benefits that access to basic financial services provides for them
and their families.
    Style and originality were the elements that distinguished the 12 winning
essays. Choosing the winners involved a rigorous evaluation process by a jury
composed of representatives from contest partners and DID. You can read the
12 winning essays and learn about the winners on the contest microsite at
    All the winners will receive a selection of gifts offered by DID and the
contest partners - the Fédération des coopératives québécoises en milieu
scolaire (under the COOPSCO banner), Jobboom and the Canadian International
development Agency (CIDA).

    Imagination and Awareness

    The quality of the winning essays showed how aware young people are about
development in countries in the South.
    Sarah Kelly, age 23, is studying for a Master's degree in ethics at the
Université du Québec à Rimouski. In her essay, she portrayed a Peruvian mother
with very limited means for improving her family's living conditions. It
begins, "It is 5:30 am. Her day begins on this damp December morning in Peru.
She knows the routine and the reason: feed her three children, at least for
today... All day her unfailing fingers will weave the products they know so
well and then the children will sell them. The small profit, if there is any,
will be spent on yarn and dye. She cannot afford to send her little ones to
school and they already work so hard. It is impossible to break out of this
vicious circle that keeps them in this vulnerable state." The full text is
available on the contest microsite at www.DoingMyPart.Coop.
    Age 29 and a resident of Calgary in Alberta, Mike Lafleur is an Education
Program Developer with the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation
Technology, an organization dedicated to developing new technologies for
making affordable water and hygiene services available in developing
countries. His essay puts us in the position of the 1.2 billion people in the
world who live on less than one dollar a day. "Imagine playing a game of
Monopoly but starting off with less than a dollar. Without access to any
credit, each roll of the dice lands you into more debt and the cycle of
poverty rolls on. Think of microfinance as the "Advance to Go" card that
allows you to collect a small yet sufficient amount of money to invest in."
The full text of Mike's essay is also available on the contest microsite.
    The second www.DoingMyPart.Coop contest is a DID initiative under the
Desjardins Youth Focus program.

    About DID

    Développement international Desjardins (DID) is a component of the
Desjardins Group, the largest integrated cooperative financial group in
Canada. For over 35 years, DID has been providing support for the creation,
development and strengthening of financial institutions and is now present in
twenty countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Central and
Eastern Europe. DID, which specializes in providing technical support and
investment for community finance, draws on the rich and diverse experience
acquired through collaboration with numerous partners, and on the 100 years of
experience of the Desjardins Group. DID works in partnership with the Canadian
International Development Agency, the World Bank and other multilateral

For further information:

For further information: Karina Lehoux, Communications Advisor,
Développement international Desjardins, (418) 835-2401, extension 5796,;

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