Supporting Our Newest Neighbours

3 minute read

Around the world, one person is forced to leave their home every two seconds due to violence or persecution. Although these conditions are not new, we are experiencing the highest levels of displacement in recorded history.

Kindred Credit Union serves communities with rich histories of walking alongside those seeking to build a new life in Canada. Many members are prompted to act by the memories of their own family fleeing persecution; others are guided by their faith or simply a conviction to do the right thing when there are people in need.

Navigating a new financial system

Getting established in a new country is a daunting experience; there’s so much uncertainty and often a new language to learn. Newcomers have to navigate complex and unfamiliar systems to access community support for themselves and their families, and this includes a new financial system.

In 2015, the Canadian government announced that 25,000 Syrian refugees were to be resettled throughout the country. Canada’s unique private sponsorship model allowed many of our member churches to help, and they were supported through Mennonite Central Committee and other faith-based relief and development agencies. As a result, Kindred’s Kitchener and Waterloo branches serve many families that are new to Canada. In order to be responsive and meet the needs evident at that time, Kindred launched the Refugee Resettlement Account, which allows individuals and families to access everyday banking at no cost for one year.

As a financial institution, we believe we can play a vital role in helping our newest neighbours gain comfort and a sense of community belonging. We aim to be a resource for newcomers, helping them navigate an unfamiliar and sometimes complex financial system. For example, we’re happy to take the time to ensure these families and individuals understand the benefits of a joint account, how to use a debit card, or the importance of protecting passwords. Building their financial literacy and confidence is one way we can live out our purpose as we seek to inspire peaceful, just, and prosperous communities.

“Working with refugee newcomers is one of the reasons I love my job,” says Kitchener Branch Manager, Ruth Konrad. “I’ve been fortunate to support many families, particularly women, in setting up their banking—a critical piece of their new life in Canada. The advice I’m able to offer gives them a little bit of certainty as they figure out all kinds of new systems.”

A newcomer’s journey is often not over once they are settled in Canada. A great many people continue to worry about the safety and wellbeing of the loved ones they were forced to leave behind. In support of family reunification, Kindred also offers low-interest loans of up to $5,000, in partnership with Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support.

Networks of support

Kindred’s partners, some of which are highlighted below, offer vital immigrant and refugee programs that are designed to address the wide variety of needs within the newcomer community. These needs are rooted in their unique stories. Some families come to Canada as government-assisted refugees and are able to access programs and services from Reception House Waterloo Region. For those who are refugee-claimants, Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support helps them navigate the application process and access much needed resources. Mennonite Central Committee supports churches and community groups that provide private sponsorship to individuals and families. Sanctuary Refugee Health Centre offers an innovative care model for refugee newcomers in Waterloo Region, regardless of the process through which they were able to come to Canada. 

It’s so inspiring to see our church and community partners’ dedication to newcomer initiatives, which are helping to create a welcoming community here in Canada.” — Ruth Konrad, Kitchener Branch Manager

Doing our part

Both organizations and community members have a role to play in supporting refugees. We are pleased that we can facilitate successful transitions to Canada by offering access to financial services and financial literacy education.

In addition to serving those who have had to flee to build a new life in Canada, our commitment to inspiring peaceful, just, and prosperous communities includes supporting organizations, such as Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), that seek to increase the capacity and resilience of people in need around the world. MCC runs programs to support these two different yet connected needs, at home and abroad. Kindred is happy to partner with MCC Ontario on its new podcast project: you can listen to one story of resettlement in Undercurrents Episode 3, Refugees and Piano Lessons.

Sheila de Peuter

Communication and Content Manager

Sheila is an experienced marketing communications professional with a depth of experience working with credit unions and a passion for co-operatives.

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