From Pain…to Possibility
A few short years ago, Mary Van Eerd-Cook was living with chronic dental pain that if left untreated, pointed toward serious medical consequences. Then, shortly after beginning studies in Red River College’s Community Economic Development program, her marriage of nearly 25 years ended. With limited financial resources, children at home to care for, and unable to pay for her medical needs, Mary was afraid for where her life was headed. “I couldn’t even wrap my head around it,” she explains. “I was going to school and had five dependents!”
It was at Red River College where she noticed a poster for SEED’s Saving Circle program, where participants complete ten weeks of money management training while saving their own money. Mary applied for and successfully completed the Saving Circle program which, combined with SEED’s funds matched 3:1 to the money she saved, enabled her to pay for the dental work she so desperately needed.
Mary points to SEED’s holistic approach and the connections with other participants in the training as especially meaningful. “The facilitators are extremely knowledgeable and encourage everyone to share ideas. There’s a lot of space to develop community here. The people in the workshops share information that helps stabilize each other.”
Saving Circle participants open a special savings account at Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU). For Mary, it is refreshing to see credit unions like ACU investing in the community and providing services in Winnipeg’s North End. “There is a consciousness [at ACU] of the impact of poverty on people. You see a community attitude, and it doesn’t matter if you are putting in $50 or $5,000.”
It’s a larger poverty to have no possibilities…Because of this, I will never feel that low again.
The Saving Circle program helped end Mary’s physical pain and improved her life in ways she could never have predicted. Mary is giving back by sharing her skills and knowledge with other program participants. She works at SEED on a contract basis delivering Money Management Training and program supports. Mary explains that her experiences with the Saving Circle program mean that she will never look at life the same way again. “It’s a larger poverty to have no possibilities. Here at SEED, there are people who relentlessly meet the needs of people who are suffering. Because of this, I will never feel that low again.”