Greetings From Somalia, Ohio
It started with a simple sign at the entrance that lists hours of operation. Then, it spread to the
But only about 100 of Big Bear/Members First CU's members-all from Somalia, Africa-can read it. And that's OK
Offering information in the Somali language is only the CU's first gesture of welcome to the area's newest-and
Starting next month, Big Bear/Members First CU will begin offering financial education classes to the 20,000
With financial backing from the Ohio Credit Union Foundation, offers of in-kind and monetary support from other
Sue Helmreich, outreach manager of the Ohio Credit Union League, said these classes would follow the general
At the end of the first year for the Latino program, she said, participants and focus groups were asked to evaluate and
For the past nine months, Helmreich said, CU staff has studied the Somali culture and participated in diversity
Vice President Dan Brown has even spent many hours touring Somali neighborhoods, visiting their shops, dining at
For example, "Their Muslim religion forbids the paying of interest on loans and the earning of dividends on shares,"
The Typical Profile
Typically, she said, they will borrow from people in their own community before they go to outside sources. They
Part of the reason, said CEO Greg Kidwell, is mistrust.
"Generally speaking, many immigrants come to the United States with perceptions of mistrust regarding financial
He said the first step to earning that trust is providing them with education so they understand what to expect from
A respected member of the Somali community, Shakir Farrah, 29, has been the link pulling the two entities together.
He told CU officials, "Eye contact, smiles and positive body language is the best way to build trust with these new
Helmreich said the OCUL and Foundation also have the challenge of convincing CU managers and their boards that
"This is not any different than a 100 years ago when the Irish came to escape famine and the Germans came to
Farrah said he plans to remain in Ohio with his family, but would like his daughter to learn about the Somali country
As with many cultures, first generation Somalis tend to stick to their own ways, Helmreich said. "They work hard
Their children, however, tend to move toward American ways, including its language and its spending habits. "There
"By the third generation, they are totally American and totally forget where their roots are," she said. "And, like