December’s Females and Finances features Calyn Ostrowski, director of the World Council of Credit Unions foundation. Calyn helps provide financial services to credit union members around the globe. Keep reading to learn about some of Calyn’s favorite experiences and financial advice!
What does “Owning It” mean to you?
“Owning It” means that if you really want to make something happen, you will. It means knowing your authentic self and living to your fullest potential every day. It means owning your successes and owning your failures and continuously learning from each.
Tell us how you got to where you are today.
Improving people’s lives is my passion and has been the underlying theme throughout my career. Staying true to this mission, I have been deliberate in my career choices, selecting only those job and volunteer opportunities that allow me to grow personally as well as professionally, so that I may be equipped with a diverse set of skills, knowledge and resources.
What would you say are your most important lessons learned about finances?
Set goals and be open to communication. Regularly check in with yourself or your partner to track progress and evaluate priorities.
What’s your favorite current financial education resource?
The World Council of Credit Unions travels around the world to bring communities living on less than $2 a day access to a safe place to save or take out loans. One of my favorite programs is called Semilla Cooperativa [cooperative seed], developed by World Council in Mexico, which visits members who live and work outside the city and places where it would not be viable to build a physical office.
Semilla Cooperativa emphasizes savings mobilization through the deployment of credit union field officers to people where they live and work. It typically involves delivering financial services using mobile technology and includes a financial literacy component that teaches topics such as savings, credit, cooperative principles and budgeting. Field officers determine routes based on expected cash flow in each group in order to minimize the amount of cash they carry in between communities.
Transportation to reach credit union members is not always easy. In places like Colombia, it takes a credit union field officer 1.5 hours by motorcycle to reach a river crossing which leads him to a Semilla Cooperativa group in the mountains. The bridge washed out nearly four years ago, and the credit union officer must cross the river using only a cart and pulley with the help of a credit union member on the other side. Once he arrives, he is greeted by the entire village!