The organizer of a financial literacy initiative hopes to expand and bring it back to help new Canadians manage their finances.
Salmaan Moolla is a University of Regina Business Student and part of the ENACTUS Club. He developed the Financial Foundations initiative to provide four financial literacy sessions to new Canadians through a partnership with the Regina Open Door Society during the winter of 2016-2017.
Moolla says hopefully in the next few months they can develop the initiative to have a standard monthly or bimonthly program later in the year after feedback and working on the initiative. “We want to have a bit of a longer term project,” Moolla said.
December, 2016 and January, 2017 four sessions had an estimated 45 to 50 new Canadians each session. “There was such a different spectrum of people,” Moolla said. “Some refugees who were there were previously professionals in their old country; some of them were from rural agricultural areas or where everything was based on cash and bartering.”
One change will be to create focused information in each session. “Instead of having a whole ton of information crammed into one hour, having it come through multiple sessions so that they can ease themselves into it,” Moolla said.
Moolla has volunteered with the Regina Open Door Society before and was aware of the influx of refugees into Regina in 2016 and noticed how some newcomers were being treated.
“We had heard from other refugees in the city that people were trying to take advantage of these Newcomers,” Moolla said. “People were trying to pretend like they were trying to help these people but they were trying to make commissions off of credit cards and what not so that they could try and sign up as many people as they could.”
In the last sessions, Moolla said there were people from many countries including: Syria, Central Africa, Eastern Africa, Somalia and Ethiopia. Moolla is hoping for another good turn out in the future sessions.
10 university students hosted the workshops. Many used the volunteering as their term projects. “Many of them were like ‘If I had never taken part in this I never would have done this.’ It was an experience for them as well as the Newcomers just to interact with each other,” said Moolla.
Abdul Mustafa is a Syrian refugee who attended the financial literacy program. “I think most people who came as a refugee and they speak Arabic… like their whole group, I think they need more from this class.”
The 20-year-old arrived in Regina in January 2016. Before that, Mustafa briefly lived in Jordan, where he says they had similar financial processes; although, he thought the program was helpful as being in Canada was a new experience.
“[The Canadian Embassy] choose the place,” Mustafa said. “We don’t know any information about Regina. They just say do you want to come to Regina and we say yes.”
Mustafa said the class was helpful to understand Canadian life. He said the topics included: “renting a house, if you rent a house you need the stuff, how you pay rent, every month you should pay your rent on time and bills.”
Alex Rojas is a father, arrived in Canada in 2011 and is originally from Venezuela. He says he would have liked a financial literacy workshop.
“We arrived with almost no money and zero credit history,” said Rojas.
It wasn’t until Rojas was in Canada for four years that he started learning about personal finances. “We mainly talked to friends about financial recommendations,” Rojas said. “I attended a couple of classes provided by the public library.”
Rojas believes being able to anticipate budget costs is important for newcomers. He says there were other costs such as paperwork, his permanent resident application and visiting family back home that he had not anticipated. “I estimate $20,000 since our arrival that we otherwise never expended if we were Canadians and I failed to include in my original budget.”
“[The Financial Foundations project] was a project we wanted to do for everyone and see where it can eventually go,” said Moolla. Moolla hopes the next sessions will be held in the fall of 2018.