Safety in Num­bers

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Ire­mem­ber as a child go­ing shop­ping with my mother for gro­ceries at the Co-op store at the bot­tom of the steep hill where we lived; it was lo­cated just be­fore the busy main road be­tween Sh­effield and Don­caster in the north of Eng­land. I al­most got killed there once, on Don­caster Road, one win­ter's day when I lost con­trol of my to­bog­gan and shot across the main road be­tween trucks and buses. We were to­bog­gan­ing il­le­gally so we never told any­one about it, even though a po­lice­man, who had seen the whole in­ci­dent, had threat­ened to tell our par­ents. In those days, po­lice­men put the fear of God into us just by look­ing at us. A cou­ple of years later, I lost my two front teeth on that same hill thanks to win­ter, snow and to­bog­gan­ing again: that time I used a low stonewall as an emer­gency stop. That hill had a lot to an­swer for. It was al­ways a long trudge back up the hill laden down with shop­ping bags full.

The Co-op was re­ally the cen­tre of our lives back then. Our in­sur­ance com­pany, and we had pre­cious lit­tle to in­sure af­ter the war, was the Co-op In­sur­ance Com­pany. In town, there was the main store that stocked just about ev­ery house­hold goods and ap­pli­ance imag­in­able. In my teenage years, when I thought I would be­come a painter to ri­val the Im­pres­sion­ists, I bought my oil paints at the Co-op.

Much later in life, when I was al­ready a suc­cess­ful writer of text­books, I fre­quently lived for months on end at the grand old ho­tel, the ven­er­a­ble Sher­a­ton Com­man­der, by Har­vard Square just op­po­site the main cam­pus when I was per­form­ing there, or at MIT, or at Bos­ton Col­lege. My US pub­lisher, Ad­di­son-Wes­ley, was lo­cated at Read­ing, just up the road from Har­vard. Sorry, the point of this di­gres­sion is that on Har­vard Square, there was not only the Wurst House (pro­nounced ‘worst house') where you could get beer, a plate of liver and onions, and ‘full ser­vice' by the pret­ti­est stu­dent-wait­resses on earth, there was also the cen­tre of a stu­dent's uni­verse, “The Coop”. It was years later that I came to un­der­stand that The Coop was ac­tu­ally the Co-op in the sim­pli­fied English of Amer­ica in those days.

You see, the co-op­er­a­tive move­ment has been present in my life from my ear­li­est days, which goes a long way in ex­plain­ing my ab­so­lute faith in the global phe­nom­e­non that in Saint Lu­cia is rep­re­sented by the Co-op­er­a­tive and Credit Union Move­ment.

The ti­tle of this piece is, as you may have no­ticed, Safety in Num­bers; so here are a few – num­bers, I mean. Ac­cord­ing to the World Wide Web, St Lu­cia has 18 Credit Unions (but there may be more: this num­ber may be out of date). Of a pop­u­la­tion that num­bers be­tween 160 and 200-plus thou­sand, depend­ing on whether it is an elec­tion year or not, an im­pres­sively pre­cise num­ber of Saint Lu­cians, 81,022 in all, are mem­bers of a Credit Union.

With so many Credit Unions, no­body need ever com­plain about a lack of easy ac­cess to a fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion; wher­ever you live, you will live in easy reach of a Credit Union Of­fice. Fond St. Jac­ques, Mil­let, Saltibus, Den­nery, La Ressource, La­borie, Mi­coud, Choiseul, Mon Re­pos, the list goes on and on.

Then there are the spe­cial in­ter­est credit unions that do not rely on your place of res­i­dence as the bond be­tween mem­ber and union, but in­stead are united by a com­mon oc­cu­pa­tion or in­ter­est: the SDA Credit Union, the Na­tional Farm­ers Credit Union, the Civil Ser­vice Credit Union, the Co-op­er­a­tive Credit Union, the Hos­pi­tal­ity Work­ers Co-op­er­a­tive Credit Union, the Po­lice Credit Union, the Elk's Co-op­er­a­tive Credit Union, the Teach­ers' Credit Union, and last but not least, my spe­cial favourite, the Saint Lu­cia Work­ers' Credit Union,

Why is the Saint Lu­cia Work­ers' Credit Union my all-time favourite? Well, ask your­self, “Are we not all Work­ers?” We work to help our­selves; we work to sup­port our fam­i­lies; we work be­cause we have to, and we work be­cause we must; we work for small causes and we work for greater ones; we work to make our coun­try great, suc­cess­ful and at­trac­tive to our vis­i­tors; we work for Saint Lu­cia.

And so I re­turn to the thought that prompted this tale: Yes, we have safety in the num­ber of credit unions and co-op­er­a­tive so­ci­eties that op­er­ate in this small is­land state, yet would it be too hereti­cal to ask whether or not Saint Lu­cia would ben­e­fit from hav­ing one united credit union. I'm not sure – what do you think?

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