Winnipeg money management course being taught in Ojibway aims to empower students with financial literacy

When Liam Keep was 16, he didn’t know much about credit cards.

But that changed after he graduated from a money management course from SEED Winnipeg, a non-profit agency that helps fight poverty in the inner city.

“It really helped set up that kind of knowledge about how credit works and how to manage your credit cards. On the day I turned 18, I went and got a credit card just because I knew I was in a position to pay it.”

Keep, now 20, went on to become a youth facilitator of the course and now works as an administrative co-ordinator at SEED (Supporting Employment and Economic Development).

The non-profit is now offering the money management course in Ojibway — a language Keep speaks and wishes he could have been taught in.

Anishinaabe knowledge keeper Frank Beaulieu is leading the Indigenous Lens Money Stories course online in Ojibway, which includes some participants from northern Manitoba.

SEED Winnipeg offers financial literacy courses to low-income Manitobans. One program called the Saving Circle gives $3 for every $1 participants save within a six-month window that is later used to buy an asset. The program gives up to $750 of matching funds for a total of $1,000 that is used to purchase the asset. (Darin Morash/CBC)

His course breaks down everything from the difference between a credit union and a bank to explaining how to come up with a budget.

“The elder would ask questions like ‘what is an asset? What can I do with an asset?'” Beaulieu said in a recent interview following the class.

Participants in the course are given a wealth of tips and tricks including how to prepare to invest in a home, negotiate with a cellphone company for a better rate and learn to spot unnecessarily high banking fees.

Pam Krasniuk co-ordinates a money management project designed to empower First Nations youth to work collectively in the community. (Darin Morash/CBC)

One goal of the course is to make participants aware of the financial risks of using pawn shops and short-term lenders, which are sometimes used as de facto banks.

In Winnipeg’s North End, big banks pulled out of the area years ago, leaving residents with few places to cash cheques and do banking. 

Pawn shops cash cheques for a fee and serve as short-term lenders that give customers a loan with a high interest rate in exchange for a personal item that is used as collateral.

“The system is made to just sort of have the participants fail … to pay the loan back, and if they’re not able to, they lose their item,” said Millie Acuna, manager of asset-building programs at SEED. “And so really, the risks are high.”

Millie Acuna, manager of asset-building programs at SEED Winnipeg, says the non-profit’s clients are looking for ways to boost their income or manage the limited amount of money they have. (Darin Morash/CBC)

Acuna said the course doubles as an act of reconciliation by connecting participants with a language they have lost over the years. Not everyone in the course is fluent in Ojibway.

“You could just hear the excitement and sort of that joy … ‘Wow, listen to us. We’re doing it. We are speaking in our first language and we’re having this great opportunity to learn about money management skills,'” she said.

“There’s this amazing realization that this is actually happening.”

The course runs online until Dec. 8.

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