Unique program offers young Indigenous Manitobans opportunity to learn money management

·4 min read

A unique program is offering young Indigenous Manitobans the opportunity to learn important money management skills, while also offering those lessons in a way that can help them to build confidence, and understand more about their own culture and background.

“This program is about building those money skills, but also really about building that confidence and that sense of hope in terms of being able to plan for the future and gain control over money,” SEED Winnipeg Inc.(SEED) co-director Louise Simbandumwe said about the SEED Money Stories program.

“And a key piece of it is that we ground it in Indigenous tradition and knowledge.”

SEED is a Winnipeg-based organization that has been working for years to assist people living in low-income situations to better their lives, and to address and deal with the barriers many people and communities face when it comes to financial well-being.

“We were established to address poverty by building on the strengths of individuals and communities through financial empowerment programs, so there are a whole range of programs we offer,” Simbandumwe said.

One of the programs which SEED has been offering since 2011 is the Money Stories program, which Simbandumwe said is about teaching Indigenous community members between the ages of 15 and 30 real money management skills.

She added the program is important because a disproportionate number of young Indigenous people are living in poverty in Manitoba, and that means they can often be just one mistake away from financial disaster.

“I think these are skills that everyone needs, but I think the issue when you look at low income communities is there isn’t that cushion,” Simbandumwe said. “If they make a mistake they often can’t recover as easily, so the stakes are much, much higher.”

Money Stories, according to SEED, is a peer-led money management training program for Indigenous youth. The program combines Indigenous Elders sharing stories about their experiences with money, with Indigenous and peer-led activities about money management that are relevant to youth.

Simbandumwe said the program is offered in a way that always incorporates Indigenous knowledge and culture, and that aspect is what leads to so many success stories in the program.

“It’s all about having Indigenous community members take the lead in terms of shaping the program and building the curriculum, and having Elders very involved in terms of shaping what the program is,” she said.

“It’s about building a program that meets people where they are at, and that builds on existing skills, so that people can really thrive.”

Simbandumwe said that since starting in 2011, the program has helped hundreds of young Indigenous people learn “valuable and lifelong” money management skills.

“We see significant changes in people’s attitudes towards money in terms of their knowledge, and we see, in many cases, how transformative the program has been to many lives,” Simbandumwe said.

She said that being in an environment with people that share similar backgrounds allows for a greater comfort level for sharing and collaboration within the program.

She added Money Stories has a “ripple effect” as those who take the program often share what they have learned with friends and family.

Along with offering knowledge, Simbandumwe said the program offers opportunities for those who complete it to then start working as program facilitators, so they are also offering jobs and positions to many of the people that have worked their way through the program.

One of the most important aspects of the program is that they look to build on people’s existing skills and knowledge, Simbandumwe said.

“I think the key piece is that we are building on the strengths and capacities that are already there in the community,” Simbandumwe said.

“It’s not about just going in and helping people, it’s about empowerment and helping them to build on their skills and find their voice.”

More information on SEED Winnipeg and the Money Stories program can be found at seedwinnipeg.ca.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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