Father Ganey helped start Fiji's first credit union.
Father Marion M. Ganey, a tall, lanky Jesuit from Illinois, arrived in Fiji in November 1953. The governor of Fiji, Sir Ronald Garvey, invited Ganey to teach the people there about credit unions. The governor knew Ganey already had helped to set up 19 credit unions in Honduras.
As Ganey prepared for his presentation, villagers gathered outside the chief's home. They were anxious to hear about his "credit unions" and how they could start one for themselves. But first, they wanted to treat their guest to a celebration.
Seated on grass mats, Ganey and his interpreter feasted on local foods and drank cava, a local beverage, from a shallow, wooden bowl that was passed around many times.
The villagers performed native dances and entertained Ganey with spear-throwing contests and simulated hunts. Finally, after the festivities ended, Ganey got to work explaining the credit union.
Credit unions are for everybodyGaney explained to the villagers, "Credit unions are for everybody." He told them them how by working and saving together, they could pool their money and help each other with loans at low interest rates.
The idea of the credit union appealed to the Fijians. In each village he visited, Ganey made sure that everyone understood and followed the credit union's rules of operation.
Every credit union meeting and every loan consideration was a village affair. They took hours of discussion and were accompanied by great celebration.
Kare-kare is the tradition of giving away something a friend admires.
Give 'til it hurts
The territory of Fiji is made up of more than 100 small islands spread out over 100,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean. In Ganey's time, it had a population of about 330,000 people from a variety of backgrounds. They still speak many different languages.
Both the geography and the variety of languages and cultures presented challenges for Ganey.
One of Ganey's greatest challenges was a Fijian custom called kare-kare. Kare-kare is the practice of giving away—for a small price—anything a friend might admire.
Fortunately, Ganey was able to convince the chiefs that an exception had to be made for anything bought with money from the credit union. Otherwise, a person might borrow money to buy something, like an ox to work his fields, only to have it be admired and taken away by someone else.
Kare-kare wasn't the only threat to credit unions in Fiji...