St Francis of Assisi Dunedin Trust Providing timely and practical solutions to financial hardship, and in doing so provide alternatives to avoidable debt and high-interest loans
Our Beginning See:What we saw happening in our community The St Francis of Assisi Dunedin Trust was formed after a meeting in 2013 with a group of Dunedin Catholics who were witnessing significant hardship among members of our local community who had taken on high-interest loans and were subsequently struggling with unmanageable debt. Judge:The response we discerned We concluded that many of those who took on high-interest loans were unaware of alternatives. Oftentimes people had become isolated and were disconnected from a network of friends who may be able to offer alternative support. We realised that we could build up community bonds and walk alongside members of our community who may require practical support. A study by the Children’s Commissioner in 2012 identified that reducing problem debt would be one way to improve the circumstances of poor children in New Zealand. We discerned that we could be part of this solution. Act: What we started doing
We decided to provide small interest-free loans and other support to enable people to become more financially independent. We established programmes to provide: • Access to no-interest loans and debt-reduction loans, in partnership with Nga Tangata Trust and Dunedin Budget Advisory Services • Access to small grants to help improve financial outcomes of people in need, in partnership with local agencies including Catholic Social Services • Access to information on financial literacy and other financial help available in Dunedin.
Some of our early activities included:
Making information available to people, in an easily understood format, to show that there may be alternatives to high-interest or pay day loans.
Working with other local agencies to increase awareness of the financial assistance that is already available to people in Dunedin.
We were founding members of ‘Lending Matters’, a group made up of representatives of the various helping agencies who lobby government for better regulation of loan providers.
Working with the local community and parishes to look at other ways of assisting people, who are facing financial difficulty, through both monetary and non- monetary means.
Creating opportunities for parishioners and members of the community to become directly involved in the work and development of the St Francis Fund Trust and Committee.
Our Spirituality Our Trust is named after St Francis of Assisi and is inspired by his care for all of God’s creation. We also chose the name St Francis because Pope Francis had recently been elected Pope and was immediately challenging us to be missionary disciples who step out into the margins. At one of our first meetings our Chair brought along the icon of Jesus and his companion as a focus for our prayer. This image was adopted as representing our desire to walk alongside the people in our community in a spirit of companionship. Each of our meetings begin with a time of prayer and each year we organise a series of reflections and meditations based on the theme of solidarity. Where we are now - 2021 Over recent years our work has evolved. Over the past 3 years the provision of NILs loans has been largely taken over by Presbyterian Support, who as a larger agency are in a better position to operate this service. There have been also positive changes to legislation that ensures that loan providers are better regulated. It is also pleasing to see more education provided around financial literacy. We welcome all these changes while remaining committed to our original aims and spirituality. We understand that having a flexible approach to our outreach is essential.
Our Aim: To provide timely and practical solutions to financial hardship, and in doing so provide alternatives to avoidable debt and high-interest loans Current work:
We provide referrals to Presbyterian Support who now provide no-interest loans (NILs). Presbyterian Support They in turn refer people to us who do not qualify for a loan but who require practical support.
Work collaboratively with local helping agencies, including St Vincent de Paul and Catholic Social Services
We have teams of volunteers who prepare meals each week that are delivered into schools. Much of the food used in these meals is provided by Food Share.
We have a team of volunteers who cut firewood and provide this firewood to families over winter.
We have a team of volunteers who host regular community shared meals.
We continue our membership of ‘Lending Matters’ and continue to explore ways of protecting those who are vulnerable to bad debt.
We have a wide network of supporters so when a particular need arises we can reach out, find a solution and provide practical support. For example, when a washing machine breaks down we can provide one of good quality at no cost. This becomes a helpful alternative to high interest loans or higher-purchase agreements which tend to include inflated costs.
In partnership with Mercy Parish we employ a part-time community worker to facilitate our work.
All of these works are done with the intention of helping to create a supportive community and to prevent those in financial difficulty taking on avoidable debt.
Establishing genuine relationships in our community so that we can walk side-by-side with one another, and when required to provide practical support.
Build up community bonds by providing occasions to gather, such as ‘soup and buns’ evenings over the winter and shared meals. We appreciate that when people are isolated and desperate they can make decisions around finances that may not be in their best interests.
Provide opportunities for a wide range of volunteers to become actively involved in providing practical support to our community.
Retain a flexible approach to our outreach.
Ground our outreach in the spirituality of St Francis of Assisi
Volunteer If you would like to volunteer please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org Make a donation The St Francis Trust is a registered charity run by volunteers. Donations go to support our outreach and to assist with the costs of employing a community worker. St Francis of Assisi Dunedin Trust: 06-0901-0663602-00