Published on Thu, 06/21/2018 by ABC Life Literacy Canada

Empowering Indigenous Peoples through Money Matters financial literacy program

On Thursday June 21st the summer solstice sun will rise on National Indigenous Peoples Day. A day for all Canadians to celebrate the culture and ongoing contributions of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit to the intricate fabric of our country.

At the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society (VAFCS) families will gather for a delicious free breakfast and then march 1,500 strong up Commercial Drive to Trout Lake in a friendship march. Carrying the traditional colours from six nations, the march is a glorious sight to behold. At Trout Lake festivities will continue all day with traditional dancing, lacrosse, canoeing and a performance from Juno Award winning singer-songwriter Murray Porter.

For 55 years VAFCS has been providing the urban Indigenous community with programs and services which encourage self-reliance and responsibility. Challenges to everyday basic living including the need for child care, housing and food are met with tools that empower families and individuals to overcome obstacles and set them up for success.

Recently VAFCS provided its community with the opportunity to take part in Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples, a financial literacy program created by ABC Life Literacy Canada with support from founding sponsor TD Bank Group. The program was adapted with the help of the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa to better reflect the needs of Indigenous learners. This is the second year VAFCS has offered this series of four workshops which focusses on budgeting and spending plans, banking basics, credit and borrowing, saving and RESPs.

“The workshops are a great fit with our other programs and gives us a chance to talk about housing, food costs and issues of importance to the community such as renter’s rights,” said James Hunter, VAFCS Community Housing Navigator, “it also lessens some of the anxiety around banking technology. Some Elders have never touched a bank machine before but feel more confident and comfortable once they see how simple it is.”

Hunter went on to talk about a few young mothers who attended a recent workshop and learned about RESPs. They were pleased to find out that even a small investment now would grow and could make a huge difference in their children’s futures.

Chris Bentz at Na-Me-Res in Toronto enthused that the Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples workshops are “super helpful and really round out my life skills program.” Bentz continued saying, “Knowledge is power,” and that “90% of the men going through the program can really use the information offered through these workshops.”

Both Bentz and Hunter were particularly impressed with the patience and expertise of the TD volunteers who are trained to deliver the workshops across the country. After overcoming initial suspicions regarding banks in general, both Bentz and Hunter reported that workshop participants opened up and responded to the material, asking questions and engaging in conversations. The volunteers listened to the concerns and tailored the workshops, focussing on issues most relevant to the participants. This was key to the success of the workshops and speaks to the specialized training TD volunteers receive including ending each workshop with a traditional talking circle.

To learn more about Money Matters and access free learning resources, please visit ABCMoneyMatters.ca.