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Spotlight shines on the Credit Union

As traditional bank branches shut their doors across rural towns, the Credit Union is one financial institute that continues to work at the heart of local communities.

With 137 branches across Northern Ireland, the Credit Union supports local businesses and everyday savers alike, and in a new three-part series we meet The Borrowers who hope their requests for credit will be approved.

Starting Monday (October 18) at 10.35pm on BBC One Northern Ireland, in this series fixed-rig cameras are used to observe loan officers and members at Credit Union branches, including Ballymena Causeway and Warrenpoint, Burn and Rostrevor (WBR).

Asking for a loan can be a daunting experience for both applicants and the loan officers tasked with approving requests.

In episode one, we meet Shannon Gordon and Charles Allen, who work in the Ballymena loan office. A former body builder puts Shannon through her paces during his appointment and Mark wants a loan for laser eye surgery, but will friend Charles give him the funds he needs?

In Warrenpoint loan officer Louise White is left in good spirits when a local entrepreneur seeks additional cash to expand his business.

It is more than just a job for Shannon, who enjoys talking to local people through her work. In episode two she lends a listening ear to former Northern Ireland ladies football coach Jimmy, who looks forward to seeing a friendly face when he visits the Credit Union.

Jacqueline has left her teaching career behind to pursue a dream of becoming a full-time artist and explains to Mark O’Gorman in Warrenpoint why a small loan would help to diversify her business offering.

The global pandemic has led many people to reassess their career paths – through choice or sometimes necessity – and the Credit Union has seen a noticeable increase in loan applications during 2020 and 2021.

In episode three we meet Laura, who launched an events company in 2019 but when Covid hit she had to reassess her plans. Laura worked in a care home during the pandemic and this young entrepreneur has a new business venture in mind which she describes as ‘a bubble within a bubble’. Will the Credit Union lend her the cash required to get this off the ground?

In rural communities the Credit Union is more than just a money lender to local businesses and it is not always large amounts of money that members need. This compelling series also reveals the personal stories of those who need a small cash injection to help with the everyday cost of living and to make it to the end of the month.

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