In today’s fluctuating economy, the ability to make sound financial decisions is crucial to one’s future.  And if you are a refugee starting over in a new country, stability is tightly connected to financial literacy.

At World Relief DuPage/Aurora [WRDA], Asset Development programs are designed to help refugees move toward community integration through financial literacy and asset-building opportunities.  Through education, refugees receive the financial tools needed for success.

All newly arrived refugees take their first step towards financial freedom during their first six weeks here.  As a part to the ESL Job Class, Rebekah King, WRDA Asset Development Coordinator, walks the students through the process of budgeting and explains the difference between income and expenses.  Furthermore, Rebekah discusses the importance of having a bank account, enrolling in direct deposit, and using an ATM machine.

“Essentially, the lesson on budgeting shows the students that there is no extra money, at first, to spend on non-essential items or check cashing fees, “said Rebekah.

Once the client is established in a job and able to show a monthly margin of $400-$600 in their budget, additional opportunities for financial growth are available through partnerships with programs such as, Ways to Work.

Ways to Work is a national program administered locally by the Salvation Army Chicago Metropolitan Division. The program assists low-income families who have either no credit or bad credit obtain a low-interest car loan.  According to Jacqueline Lopez, Ways to Work Loan Coordinator, the loan is a credit building tool. The loan process includes a comprehensive application, a valid driver’s license, a credit check, proof of employment, and attendance at a financial education class.  Another component is a written personal statement to convey to the loan the committee what a car would mean to the family.

“World Relief helps us identify qualified participants.  We have never had a WRDA client make a late payment on their loan or be rejected for the program,” said Jacqueline.

As a nontraditional lender, Ways to Work is about seeing people succeed—and the success of the program speaks for itself.  According to Jacqueline, there have been applicants who were on public aid when they started, and by the time they finished paying off their car loan, they were off public aid and in a better job.

Recently, WRDA refugee client Ibrahim Alameir was able to purchase a vehicle through Ways to Work.

In August 2014, Ibrahim arrived with his wife and son from Iraq.   Due to the strong work with ethic Ibrahim learned from his father, he immediately went to work as a machinist to support his family.   Ibrahim was able to carpool to work, but without a car, he would ride his bike from Carol Stream to Wheaton for appointments—even in the winter.  Due to his hard work and lofty financial goals, by February 25, 2014, Ibrahim had earned a driver’s license,qualified for a car loan through Ways to Work, and purchased a used mini-van. Ibrahim’s next financial goal—- enroll in college and earn a license to practice dentistry again.