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Vancity launches MOSAIC program

UN International Year of Microcredit marked by launch of program to help new immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs overcome barriers

Vancouver, BC, October 20 – To celebrate the UN International Year of Microcredit and National Microfinance Day, today Vancity announced a program to help immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs build their credit ratings, access loans and gain Canadian experience.

Many new immigrants looking to start small businesses or supplement their incomes with micro businesses face roadblocks when trying to secure lending due to lack of collateral, personal credit history and full-time employment.

To help change this, Vancity has created a “Microcredit Toolkit” that it’s making available to local non-profit organizations serving new immigrants through a partnership with MOSAIC, a Vancouver multicultural non-profit that works with new immigrants and refugees settling into Canada.

The Toolkit is modelled after Vancity’s Peer Lending Program that helps entrepreneurs, the majority of whom are new immigrants, have better access to financial services.

The only financial institution in Canada to offer such a program, Peer Lending is a unique credit arrangement in which a small group of borrowers guarantee each other loans in lieu of collateral. The program looks at commitment and ability, rather than assets. Loans range from $1,000 to $5,000.

Since it was introduced seven years ago, Vancity’s Peer Lending program has helped about 700 people. More than half have generated $500 - $1,000 additional income per month and 10 per cent have developed enough skills to leave the program to take new jobs or grow their small businesses. The program has a 96 per cent repayment rate.

Now, Vancity wants to expand the reach of the program by making the Toolkit available to local community-based non-profit groups.

“Over the years we have seen the program open doors for many people,” says Shaheen Tejani, Program Manager, Vancity Community Business Banking Services. “We have great success stories, but we are limited in how many people we can reach. This Toolkit will put it in the hands of our community partners and help enrich the important work they are doing with new immigrants and refugees in this region.”

MOSAIC will be the first to use the kit. The organization has received a $167,000 grant from Vancity to develop its Peer Lending Program and translate the toolkit into various languages.

“We are excited about being the first non-profit to use the Toolkit. Every day we see people who could benefit from this program. People who are highly motivated with skills and talents, but who don’t qualify for support from a traditional financial institution,” says Sherman Chan of MOSAIC. “By removing those barriers we can help our clients achieve financial independence. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to the UN International Year of Microcredit.”

To celebrate the United Nations International Year of Microcredt 2005, the Canadian Steering Committee has declared October 20 as National Microfinance Day. The Committee is made up of Canada’s largest financial institutions, non-profit agencies, microfinance practitioners and the Canadian International Development Agency. The goal is to raise awareness about the need to develop inclusive financial services for the millions of underserved people in Canada and around the world. For more information: and

Vancity is Canada’s largest credit union, with $10.5 billion in assets, more than 315,000 members, and 43 branches throughout Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Victoria. Vancity owns Citizens Bank of Canada, serving members across the country by telephone, ATM, and the Internet. Both Vancity and Citizens Bank are guided by a commitment to corporate social responsibility, and to helping members and communities thrive and prosper.

For information on Access to financial services at Vancity, including Peer Lending go to

Media contacts:

Sara Holland
Vancity Public Affairs

Sherman Chan