France Michaud | Desjardins Group
Odile was 24 when she was the victim of a bus accident one Christmas day. She suffered multiple injuries that left her unfit to work. Considering it too heavy a burden to bear, her family asked that she be placed in a care facility.
When she was discharged from hospital, a host family took her in. Odile was also victim of fraud, and was thus deprived of financial compensation for the accident. She is therefore obliged to live on social assistance.
Since the accident, Odile's has had to live with various handicaps, many of which are invisible at first glance. She suffers from chronic pain. But despite that, she is determined not to give up. "I may be unable to work, but I'm not totally incapacitated," she argues.
Prior to the accident she wanted to become a psychologist. Now, she spends most of her life helping others as a volunteer. Despite her limitations, she has attended many workshops and has been very involved in La Maison des Parents, an initiative of the Carrefour québécois de la famille, for the past 11 years.
Over the years, Odile has focused on helping others and lived within her means. But three years ago, a series of events shook her fragile financial balance: her living quarters were too cold and the hike in electricity bills and overall cost of living forced her to move, which entailed further expenses. Furthermore, her glasses broke - and the special lenses she now needs because of the eye damage from the accident cost $400.
Solidarity keeps finances afloat
Odile's Desjardins caisse referred her to the ACEF du Nord de Montréal, one of Desjardins's community partners in its Mutual Assistance Funds program. There she would get access to much-needed support.
"ACEF welcomes people from all economic and social backgrounds, whether they work or live on social assistance. Many are facing hardships, a loss of employment for example, so they come to us. Financial problems can affect anyone, at any time," says Johanne Arnould, budget advisor at the agency, which assists nearly 500 people a year through individual consultations and group workshops. "What's different about ACEF is that we don't judge people. We help everyone in need and have no stake in any of solutions that we propose. We are impartial and always mindful of the situation before us," she adds.
« What's different about ACEF is that we don't judge people. We are impartial and always mindful of the situation before us »
- Johanne Arnould
After approaching the ACEF, Odile got a call telling her she would get a small loan to sort out her situation. "Can you believe it? Before ACEF, I sold my fridge that I'd bought three years earlier, thinking it was the only way out. Instead, it made things even harder for me," she exclaims.
After duly paying back the ACEF loan, Odile got two other small loans to buy appliances through the Desjardins Mutual Assistance Funds. The ACEF also gave her a hand with her budget and referred her to other area services that she could turn to, which was especially useful since she was moving. "The ACEF has given me so much support. When I call them, I feel really that people want to help. I always feel welcomed," she points out.
Now in her 60's and already a great-grandmother, she's never considered herself victim. Way back, the doctors who treated her after the accident admired her strength of character. Today, the ACEF du Nord de Montréal is one of a long list of organizations with which she volunteers. "The Desjardins caisses and ACEF showed me the way out of a deadlock. So I'm happy to lend a hand in return," she says.
A great way to give back...
*The name Odile is fictitious and is used to protect anonymity.