One in 10 Canadians lack the ability to provide themselves with the basic necessities and one in seven Canadian children live in poverty. These disturbing facts can often lead to other challenges including low literacy, increased crime and substance abuse.
Facing these issues in their local city of Halifax, the Enactus team at Saint Mary’s University created OPtions, a social loan project that seeks to identify people facing poverty and help them take the steps necessary to increase their standard of living and quality of life.
Enactus Saint Mary’s developed a social loan program which enables youth to secure short-term loans to help with immediate needs such as rent, bus tickets to get to work or school application fees.
The social loan program involves financial literacy training, budgeting and peer-mentoring, educating the youth and empowering them to become more financially aware and better able to manage their personal finances. Enactus Saint Mary’s University pairs each participant with an Enactus mentor, thus increasing positive, long-lasting effects on all participants.
The target audience includes at-risk youth, aboriginals and other individuals who face barriers in their personal and professional lives, including homelessness, disabilities, drug and substance abuse as well as physical, mental and sexual abuse.
Enactus Saint Mary’s University works closely with the Sobey School Business Development Center (SSBDC) which helps identify target groups who would benefit most from this program. Every three months a new group of project participants, which includes between 10 and 12 individuals, enters the OPtions program.
Each year, Enactus Saint Mary’s directly works with approximately 50 at-risk youth in Nova Scotia through the OPtions program. Having collectively saved over $10,000, participants are using these funds to return to school and further their education.
One of the main components of the program is social loans which has a current repayment rate of 97%, exceeding the repayment rate of almost all conventional lending institution programs.