In America, money is complicated. There are many financial traps to fall into and lots of stuff that, well, it's just not very straightforward! That's why we launched a finance & business training component for the students in our Advanced Sewing class. We're holding these special sessions one Friday night each month and plan to cover budgets, debt, business accounting, etc.
For this first class, we started with discussing banks. Why this subject? Well, it all started with a conversation I had with one of the artisans who works with Journey Home. I had written her several checks for products I bought from her, and noticed none of them had been cashed. When I inquired about it, she told me that it's very hard for her to cash or deposit a check. As I talked to more of my refugee friends, this was a common refrain. The banks my friends had tried to use charged monthly fees or required minimum balances that just weren't financially viable for these ladies.
Another issue they faced was lack of transportation and language barriers. Even if they had a bank account - which several had given up on - how were they supposed to get there? And once there, trying to communicate with a bank teller was intimidating.
As I planned for this first class, I tried to locate banks that were geographically close, provided mobile banking options AND didn't charge monthly fees or a high minimum balance. You know how many I located? Three. All the other banks I looked at didn't provide any feasible banking options for those with very limited money.
During class, we handed maps out (thanks, Google!) with the locations of these three banks marked. We then compared each bank and contrasted their services.
We also started a Bible study on what God says about money, based off Crown Financial's excellent financial study curriculum. We talked about being faithful stewards of the gifts God gives us, whether that is money, time or relationships.
But this class wasn't all about money, overdraft charges and checking accounts! There was also plenty of sewing, conversation and laughter as the ladies began working on large tote bags to hold items needed for home production. We're thankful for the volunteers that cared for the little ones so their moms could attend class, and thanful for St. John's United Methodist's generosity in letting us use their building to hold these special classes.
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We are gearing up for our third year of Make Welcome! Each year has brought new developments to our program as we continue to grow our outreach to the refugee community. Through the month of August, we'll be highlighting some of these new and/or redesigned initiatives.
One of the aspects of Make Welcome that we are particularly proud of is the childcare program. We’ve made it a priority to provide this. We know that so many young refugee moms are excluded from many other programs because they aren’t able to bring their little children along and don’t have other babysitting options. Often their husbands work long hours and their apartment complexes don’t have a safe place to play - so they’re basically stuck indoors much of the day, most of the week.
At Make Welcome, these refugee moms get a morning out. Our awesome childcare volunteers watch over their precious kiddos and play games, mold playdoh, read books, blow bubbles, and rock babies. The moms get to sew, talk, laugh and generally just enjoy several hours with other adults and no kids (usually) in tow. Anyone who has been a stay at home mom to young kids knows how important such times are to your sanity!
This year, we’re adding a new aspect to our program. We’re going to provide a Preschool Readiness program to the 3-5 year olds, teaching them alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors and more! We’re really excited about this new initiative...but we need your help.
It takes a lot of Playdoh, markers, stickers and toys to keep our preschoolers busy. We rely on supply donations, and we’ve got a long list this year! Do you want to help stock our new preschool class? Then head over to our Preschool Amazon wishlist and send some new markers, legos or stickers our way. Even if you never get a chance to see the class in action, know that your supplies donation will be greatly appreciated by kids AND volunteers alike![. . .]