For many people living in poverty, fear is an emotion they know too well.
“I was always afraid,” said Jocelyn. “Fear that my utilities would be cut off, fear of not being able to pay the rent. And while my kids never starved, I wasn’t able to provide healthy food for them. I was always scrounging just to cover the minimum payment on the bills, and my kids weren’t able to participate in any organized sports or activities.”
Jocelyn also feared that living in poverty would limit her kids’ future opportunities.
“I didn’t know how to save money, let alone put any aside for their future,” Jocelyn said. “Growing up in a home where survival mode is the norm, knowing that there’s no money put away for education, words like post-secondary were not used ever.”
Jocelyn then got a temp job at SEED Winnipeg, a United Way Winnipeg donor-supported agency. While working at the agency, Jocelyn participated in some of their asset building programs, which they run in partnership with Assiniboine Credit Union. And these programs helped change her life.
One of their programs is called Saving Circle, which is a matched savings program, combined with money management training. Participants save $250, SEED Winnipeg matches it with $750, for a total of $1,000. Participants can use this money for certain assets to improve their lives. Participants also take a 10-week money management course that helps them learn about budgeting, banking, credit, and savings.
Jocelyn also participated in SEED Winnipeg’s Access to Benefits program, which helps people with everything from obtaining IDs, to applying for benefits, to filing tax returns.
Over the years, Jocelyn has had over 40 residences.
“Knowing your postal code is a gift,” she said. “And to be able to get an ID and access anything, you have to be able to prove your address.”
Jocelyn found filling out forms left her confused and filled with anxiety, but her colleagues helped her fill out the necessary forms.
“I now have enough ID to vote,” Jocelyn said. “And they also helped me get help obtaining my kids’ birth certificates, so I could open up a bank account and an RESP for each.”
When Jocelyn saw the last statement from her kids’ RESPs, she cried.
“I have hope for them now,” she said. “Words like ‘university’ and ‘college’ are normal in my home.”
Jocelyn is now working full time as Administrative Coordinator for SEED Winnipeg’s Asset Building Programs.
“I struck gold here at SEED. I had no skills, but they saw I was able to connect with participants because I know their struggle,” she said.
Today, Jocelyn enjoys presenting participants with their Saving Circle cheques and sharing what she has learned in money management training with the community.
“I honestly never saw myself in such a fulfilling role, and I’m so grateful,” she said.
Jocelyn’s next goal is to own her own home.
“For now though, I have healthy food on my table, a roof over my head, and hope for my family’s future. And I no longer live in fear.”