So how does a program like Financial Futures get from interpreted financial capability classes on site to the “Financial Empowerment for New Americans Project?” Start by building on a grant-funded project in 2015/16 through the Refugee Targeted Assistance Program with the goal of developing the financial capability of refugees and asylum seekers, then add staff participation in IDEO’s Human-Centered Design course, then strengthen existing and forge new partnerships.
Then add funding support from Jane’s Trust in the amount of $80,000 to bring on an Americorps*VISTA and a project manager, provide training for Community Ambassadors who will lead classes in year two, and a Financial Wellness Day with activities for the whole family.
Jan Demers, Executive Director of Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) says, “In these uncertain times for our New American neighbors, we’re grateful for this funding support, and we’re committed to continuing to scale up our services to ensure that all Vermonters have opportunities for bright financial futures.”
With the strong collaborative support of partners, CVOEO’s Financial Empowerment for New Americans Project will reach 150 New American neighbors through interpreted classes and individual coaching meetings; a Financial Wellness Day, reaching 100 New Americans; and a new service of financial house parties to reach 100 Somali women (the result of a four-month long Human-Centered Design workshop with Financial Futures staff participating) Check out this cartoon.)
Those partners include the Burlington School District Parent University who will organize financial workshops at Parent U., refer community ambassadors, recruit hosts for Bhutanese house parties, and recognize participants at their annual graduation. In addition, the Vermont Family Network (VFN) will refer community ambassadors as well, and recruit hosts from the Somali community. The Islamic Society of Vermont will host a Friday Jummah meet and greet with mosque members and partners, hosting financial capability classes on site, and also refer community ambassadors and recruit hosts from the Somali Community. The City of Winooski will host and provide marketing and outreach for the second annual Financial Wellness Day and host on-site community classes that day.
As one partner, Pam McCarthy, CEO/President of the Vermont Family Network (VFN), says, “Moving from a model of being participants in a class to becoming the hosts and facilitators of financial education is sure to make a positive difference, and aligns with VFN’s commitment to empowerment and peer-to-peer learning.”
Kate Larose, Financial Futures Program director says “The clients that CVOEO serves are at the heart of all that we do. For that reason it is only fitting to imagine what success will look like two years from now from a client’s perspective:”
My name is Ashikiro and I arrived in Vermont in 2008. Sometimes it seems like yesterday when I was back in the camp in Kenya. Other days it seems like a lifetime ago. My first year here was wonderful and confusing. In addition to learning another new culture and language, I also had to learn a completely new financial system—everything from getting a bank account to paying bills. I heard that CVOEO had financial classes, but I never felt comfortable going, and the bus would take an hour. So when I heard they were looking for women interested in hosting a party, I signed up. I invited five of my friends and we decided we wanted to learn more about buying a car, especially since many loans here charge interest that we cannot pay. The party was fun. I learned new things and I earned money towards my savings goal for hosting at my apartment. My friends were able to start saving too. Three parties later I am closer to buying my car and I was invited to become a community ambassador. Less than 10 years ago I was learning all of this for the first time. Now I will be the one teaching other Somali women. People tell their friends, “Oh, you have a money question? Ask Ashikiro.”
Innovation in this project takes several forms: moving from the concept of classes to parties that are responsive to what attendees want to learn and provide built-in opportunities for saving towards goals, a multi-generational approach through the family-friendly Financial Wellness Day with hands-on learning for all ages, and working with those who are already trusted and respected members of the community.
The Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) is a nonprofit corporation formed in 1965 to carry out the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in Vermont’s Northwest Counties of Addison, Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle. It is one of five Community Action Agencies in Vermont.
We bridge gaps and build futures. That is, we provide individuals and families with the basic needs of food, fuel and housing support in times of crisis, and we help them acquire the necessary education, financial skills and assets to build a stable future in which they thrive.
CVOEO provides vital services to over eleven thousand households (over 25,000 individuals) every year. Our three Coordinated Statewide Housing Services (the Fair Housing Project, the Mobile Home Program, and Vermont Tenants) serve residents statewide. The agency employs a dedicated staff of approximately 145 employees and engages more than 1,100 volunteers annually, working out of approximately 18 locations in addition to Head Start classrooms throughout the Champlain Valley region.