Jamaican wins community award in Canada – he teaches immigrants how to escape bad debt

Jamaican wins community award in Canada – he teaches immigrants how to escape bad debt

December 18, 2020 0 By Horace Mills

A Jamaican native, Andre Smith, has defeated more than 100 applicants to be awarded among five community champions at the end of a competition, which was hosted in the Greater Toronto Area by media giant Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC Toronto).

“I feel good getting the award because it was a pretty intense competition,” he told The Beacon. “It was really good to see that the judges as well as the public recognize and value the work I am doing.”

Described as a mentor and volunteer, Smith got the award for his stellar community service, which partly involved him teaching financial literacy to Jamaican youth and new Canadians.

Host of the competition, CBC Toronto, said Smith also volunteered at the Jamaican Canadian Association, served on the board of Black Coalition for Aids Prevention, and aided Local Immigration Partnerships in helping newcomers to settle in Canada.

The person who nominated him, Sheldon Nembhard, is reported as saying that Smith is knowledgeable, and that he listens attentively and is always making time for his students.

Smith opted to promote financial literacy after realizing that it was particularly necessary for new immigrants, including Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals.

He told The Beacon that he, as well as his room-mate, was among people who once faced a financial quagmire in Canada, which operates on a credit-scoring system.

“I took out a lot of credit cards and I bought a lot of flashy things; I bought a new car…” Smith explained. “Within a matter of a year, I was at about CA$50,000 in bad debt. I struggled a lot financially. I was living pay cheque to pay cheque, and I realized that many Canadians are also in that position.”

Smith, who eventually made his way out of the red, went on to obtain a degree in Accounting from York University in Canada. He also started to voluntarily teach people about financial literacy.

He said he directly impacted more than 100,000 people through his projects called FLIP (Financial Literacy And Investor Programme) and FLOSS (Future Leaders Obtaining Sufficient Skill).

“I have had multiple workshops in Toronto,” Smith added. “Since COVID-19, I have been facilitating a lot of workshops online, so I have had people join from different parts of Canada, the Caribbean, the United States.”

Smith initially offered the programmes free of charge, but, over time, he introduced a minimal fee to help expand his voluntary reach.

“One of the things that we wanted to do was to expand our services across the globe,” he explained. “So, we started charging for our services. It’s way lower than what a lot of other people in the industry charge.”

Smith, who underscored the relevance of community service and development, is no stranger to volunteerism.

On an annual basis, he, for example, provides financial assistance through the Andre Smith Achiever Award to students of his Jamaican alma Mater – Eltham High School.

Smith told The Beacon that he learned the importance of sharing while he was growing up with his grandmother, Edna Thomas, in the poverty-stricken community of St. John’s Road, located at Spanish Town, Jamaica.

He, this month, launched a book partly about the big challenges he endured as a child. The publication is titled: Living Purposefully Beyond The Walls Of The Ghetto.

To purchase a copy of it, CLICK HERE.

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