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IRC offers free financial coaching to refugees, asylees, and immigrants in Southern California

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IRC LA's Financial Coaching Services

It’s no secret that life in the U.S. can be very expensive. Rising living costs and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have made it harder than ever to sustain emergency savings and avoid debt. For new arrivals to the country, the process of understanding the U.S. financial system can be daunting; and candid, trustworthy conversations about money are often hard to come by.

Here at the IRC, we offer free financial coaching sessions to help our community gain control of their finances. Stella Nabakooza, a graduate of the program, recently sat down with the IRC to share how our financial coaching program has impacted her life.

IRC Financial Coaching participant, Stella N., shares her journey finding confidence and trust again in her financial literacy skills, thanks to our financial coaching program.

Photo: Nehemiah Strakovsky

Stella's Story

“When I first came to the U.S., I was a home care nurse for the same family for four years, working 7PM to 7AM,” she said. During the day, Stella worked as a teacher’s assistant for children with challenges. “I was exhausted all the time,” she added.

People may refer to beginning life in a new country as a “clean slate” or a “fresh start.” Stella, however, like many others, had trouble balancing her finances, even with two jobs. Then, she was diagnosed with a significant medical condition. 

“All of a sudden I had a $10,000 bill that I wasn’t prepared for,” she recalled. The debt collectors began sending notices. 

“I was scared—I had restless nights. I was afraid to answer calls. Even with my two jobs, I couldn’t afford close to $10,000,” Stella told us. Then, she heard about the IRC’s financial coaching program. She decided to sign up, and was paired with our Financial Capability Coordinator, Luke Van Lant, for financial coaching lessons.

The first thing Stella learned about was budgeting. She recalled, “I was just spending, spending, without a budget. Making a budget helped take the pressure off.” She laughed, and added, “Trust the budget!” 

Once Stella saw her earnings and expenses on paper, Luke helped her identify ways to reduce those expenses. Stella began to understand how, little by little, she could save for emergencies and unexpected expenses like her medical bill. Luke also helped her steadily grow her credit. “There’s so much to miss out on if you have low credit, like owning house,” Stella shared.

It’s been about a year since Stella graduated from the IRC’s financial coaching program. After graduating, she completed a web development bootcamp. “Luke helped me find so many opportunities and resources that I didn’t know existed,” she reflected.

These days, Stella has her sights set on going back to school, and eventually owning a home. When asked what she would like to share with members of the refugee community who might consider financial coaching, she had this to say:

Photo: Nehemiah Strakovsky

“Life gets easier [with coaching]. You can prioritize your goals, feel confident in them, understand that they are attainable. Coaching was like therapy, it helped me bring my sanity back... It’s a relationship, I know the coaches are there for me, even still. Lucky that it’s free of charge, all I needed to give was my time.”

How to enroll

If you are interested in learning more about our free financial coaching services, please contact Luke Van Lant, Financial Capability Coordinator, at Luke.VanLant [at] Rescue.org to schedule an appointment or enroll today.

Photo and story thanks to Community Relations Intern, Nehemiah Stark.