Under a common sun
Earlier this year, First West Credit Union was honoured to once again participate in the Canadian Co-operative Association’s Women’s Mentorship Program, an organization that First West has supported for over a decade. This program brings women leaders from developing countries to Canada for an opportunity to gain professional development experience. I was asked if I would be interested in hosting a woman leader and I jumped at the chance to be involved. This year, First West was matched with Roselyne Jituti, general manager of Kencom Savings and Credit Co-operative in Kenya. The following blog captures my day-to-day experience hosting Roselyne during her visit to Canada.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
While waiting for our overseas guests to arrive at Vancouver International airport, I met two other host leaders from local credit unions here in B.C. Representing First West, Vancity and Prospera we were all excited to welcome our visitors. When Roselyne Jituti arrived we embraced and there was a heartfelt connection between us. Before leaving the airport the three hosts shared contact details so that we could reconnect our visitors during their visit.
When we arrived home the biggest surprise for Roselyne was my two dogs. In Kenya, dogs are used as guard dogs and certainly not as family pets. It was quite interesting – and frightening for Roselyne – to learn that our two Border Collies live in the house and sleep in our bedroom!
Friday, May 11, 2012
Because I was staying in Vancouver for LEAN Greenbelt training today, my colleague Jose offered to drive Roselyne into Langley to meet with the branch staff at our Willoughby branch. Roselyne had a warm welcome from assistant managers, Chrissie and Lisa who hosted her in the branch for the day. There was a lot of new information to absorb and by evening Roselyne was exhausted.
Not yet adjusted to the time difference or to the concept of jet lag, Roselyne wanted to go to bed at 6 p.m. After some persuasion, she stayed awake until 8 p.m. Even at that, she was awake again at 4 a.m the next day.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Today was shopping day. I discovered Roselyne loves to shop! She was interested in purchasing things to take home for her family, and extended family. In Kenya, she tells me that most shopping is done at open air markets and the goods are a mixture of new and used. We went to the local Salvation Army store where Roselyne spent an hour and half and came out with a large yellow bag filled with goodies for her family and a big smile on her face!
Later, after a simple dinner of roasted chicken, vegetables and rice, we drove to Stanley Park to see the sites. Particularly interesting were the totem poles as they were not like anything Roselyne had ever seen in Africa. She was also curious about the many bridges and the fact that the sea is so close. From Nairobi, where Roselyne lives, the sea is a four hundred kilometer drive. She and her family visit there only on vacation, like many Canadians who aren’t lucky enough to live on the coast!
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Today is Mother’s Day. As I learned, the Kenyans also celebrate Mother’s Day but in February instead. My husband cooked us brunch, bought us flowers and gave us cards of well wishes. Both Moms felt well spoiled.
Roselyne and I attended my local church for the 11:15 service and received a warm welcome. It amazed Roselyne that our service lasted only one hour; in Nairobi church lasts a minimum of three hours on Sunday, sometimes all day! She told me that it is often difficult to convince her 12 and 6 year old sons to go to church and I think I can understand why.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Today is my daughter’s 17th birthday and also the day that I got to take Roselyne into the office with me. We started the day with cards and gifts for my daughter and then left for our one hour commute into work. Like me, Roselyne drives to work, and like me she has a long commute. She tells me that her usual drive takes an hour and a half but that on a bad day, with lots of traffic or an accident en route, her drive can be as long as three hours. In Kenya, they drive on the opposite side of the road from us so each time we approach my car to get in I need to remind Roselyne that she’s not driving!
We had set up numerous appointments for Roselyne today; she met with Barry Delaney, Paul von Saarn, Loree Gray, Tom Webster, Launi Skinner and April Sather. She asked a lot of questions and learned that some challenged that her credit union faces are much the same as those that we face; membership growth, governance, funding and delinquency. Roselyne already has numerous questions ready for the branches that she will visit later this week.
Tonight, on the way home from work I called ‘411’ to get the phone number for my local sushi restaurant and ordered food for pick up. Then we stopped at Dairy Queen to buy an ice cream cake for my daughter. Roselyne was amazed by how “convenient” life is in Canada; she was interested that I could dial up a phone number, order take out and pick up a cake without pre-ordering, all while driving home. None of these she can do at home in Nairobi.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Roselyne is much more comfortable with my dogs. I had a good laugh this morning when I found her having breakfast with my older dog and sharing her toast! Considering that she was terrified of the dogs when she first arrived, she has become much more at ease in the house with them.
Today she spent the day at the Langley City branch with Branch Manager Barb McKeown. She sat behind the tellers to listen to customer service conversations, joined a sales meeting and participated in a mortgage application. To Roselyne, the biggest difference between our processes and those at her credit union in Kenya is speed of adjudication. In Kenya, it normally takes three months to approve and fund a mortgage!
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
On the way to work this morning I stopped for gas with Roselyne. It was interesting for her to see me fill the tank with gas. In Kenya, she explained, she never fills her tank. The rationale for this is if she were to be car jacked, the assailant could not take her far from home. Apparently car jackings are quite common, although luckily this has never happened to her, and the motive is usually theft.
Roselyne spent the day today between two of our Abbotsford branches: Town Center and Abbotsford Village. Roselyne has an amazing capacity for learning and for absorbing new information. Today she focused on performance management (our how and what), membership growth tactics and diversification of products.
Tonight, we visited Granville Island. Although the market and most shops were closed, it was a nice quiet time to visit and see the sights. It was also a perfect time to take a boat ride on the water taxi over to Yaletown. Roselyne said that at home she would have watched her sons ride the water taxi and would not likely have taken a ride herself but today she overcame her fear and enjoyed the ride!
Thursday, May 17, 2012
In her branch visit today Roselyne got some great ideas about membership growth: targeting the children of her members as future members themselves. This is not something that she had thought about doing before but the management at our Newton branch shared their tactics for youth membership growth with her and she feels that some of these things can be easily exported to Kenya!
Last night we went together to the ‘Courage to Come Back’ awards at the Vancouver convention center. Besides finding the venue and the view of Coal Harbour beautiful, Roselyne was impressed by the event. The challenges that people in Canada face such as mental illness, addiction, abuse and physical rehabilitation are no different that those challenges in Kenya. Despite our different cultures, Roselyne and I felt more connected after the event. What surprised her was the amount of money raised - $929,000 in one evening. To her, that was a staggeringly large sum to be raised in one night by so few people.
Friday, May 18, 2012
In her sixth branch today, Roselyne met the staff of our Fleetwood branch. Although the branch was short-staffed they were very welcoming of Roselyne and showed her their daily processes such as emptying the ABM. In Kenya, Roselyne’s credit union serves the employees of the Kenyan Commercial Bank who are her members and delinquency management is handled in the branch. She was very interested in learning how we at First West manage delinquency and spent this afternoon with Don Harder and our Credit Recovery team. They provided Roselyne with some useful tracking tools and guidelines for managing collections.
After work we joined the hosts from Vancity and Prospera and their African visitors at Surrey’s ‘A Taste of Africa’. The three ladies, Roselyne from Kenya, Eveness from Malawi and Cecilia from Ghana were delighted to see each other again and even more excited to eat traditional African fare. For the hosts, it was our first experience with such foods and the reaction was mixed. It was a great way for us to realize the cultural challenges that our guests might have been experiencing in our homes!
Saturday, May 19, 2012
More shopping! As mentioned, Roselyne loves to shop and she wanted to purchase ‘new’ clothes for her three sons so we drove to Metrotown and stopped first at the Superstore. After about two hours we left with numerous bags filled with Roselyne’s purchases: a watch for her boss, clothes, toys and electronics for her sons, a purse for her mother and only one small item for herself: a watch. Not surprisingly, Roselyne maxed out her suitcase and we spent the remainder of the day getting her another larger one and she repacked.
At dusk we headed up to Grouse Mountain and rode the gondola up the mountain. It was a clear night and the sights of Vancouver were lovely, certainly memorable for Roselyne as she prepared to leave the next morning.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Excited to be returning to Ottawa but sad to be leaving Vancouver, Roselyne cleared through security at YVR at 8:45 a.m. We promised to stay in touch, to Skype and email each other. It will be especially interesting to see how Roselyne implements the things that she learned at First West within the context of her own credit union in Kenya. She is already planning her next trip: an exchange program in Israel in 2013.