Society of St. Vincent de Paul founder Frédéric Ozanam is the inspiration for the Ontario conference’s new Ozanam Education Fund.

Vincentian program targets education

By 
  • January 24, 2013

Ozanam fund hoping that school will help raise people out of poverty

TORONTO Ontario’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul has launched an education program as it continues to evolve from a purely charitable organization to one that can fundamentally change lives.

The Ozanam Education Fund Program, named after the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s founder Frédéric Ozanam, has been created and funded by the society’s Ontario Regional Council to provide financial assistance towards education to help individuals and families escape the cycle of poverty. The regional council’s Systemic Change Projects Committee, a group of three members and the occasional ad hoc contributor, runs the program that started off with $40,000.

“The (regional council) said, ‘Here’s some seed money. We want you to go out and start with this and see what you can do in finding really worthy cases... people that are in poverty situations where if you provide some extra funds, it can get them out of that situation and get them into some kind of training,’ ” said project committee chair Jere Hartnett.

In an article on poverty and education, Hartnett wrote, “The main obstacle is the lack of financial resources. Funds are required for tuition, course fees, computer equipment, tools, accommodation, food, transportation, day care, previous debt payments, etc. Any combination of these can present barriers that will continue to prevent the person from ever being able to obtain the education or training they need to obtain a decent job. With a low-paying or part-time job or no job at all they will continue to scrape by with a mere existence trapped in a world of poverty.”

Hartnett says his committee could have restricted the fund to students graduating high school, but decided to extend the the program to older applicants living in poverty who wanted to further their education. The committee will grant up to $2,000 per person, meaning it can provide money to 20 people a year.

Since first accepting applications last fall, three people have received funds for post-secondary education and a fourth application is in the works.

“A couple of them are single mothers,” said Hartnett. “One has a couple teenage daughters, and she’s been scraping by... She’s going to be a hospital medical administrator, (but) she needs to go back to CDI College, for example.”

People apply to the Ozanam fund through a referral process. A member of their local St. Vincent de Paul conference would need to recommend them and assist them in completing the application forms before sending the package to the projects committee.

Conference members are typically involved with their communities, engaging in charitable works, such as distributing food, clothes, etc.

“So at that level, our people are in touch with a lot of people that are in those situations,” said Hartnett.

“So right now we rely on them bringing forward cases.”

If a person is seeking funds, but is not in contact with a society member, Hartnett recommends that he or she seek out their local St. Vincent de Paul conference.

Once an application is in, the key factors to gaining the funds include quantity of applications, the priority of cases and applicants’ inaccessibility to education and training.

“We’re looking a little more at the overall situation, understanding the overall environment that they’re in and saying, yeah, they need this funding to make that difference and get out of that situation,” said Hartnett.

Right now there are few applicants, so the committee is handing out funds to those eligible on a first-come, first-serve basis. But when more applications come in, the plan is for a more stringent screening process and assessing applicants in blocks three times a year. Those that receive funds can reapply.

The projects committee encourages donations to keep the fund running and to expand it in the future.

“This can be done through your local Saint Vincent de Paul organization or by making a donation directly to the Ozanam Fund,” wrote Hartnett.

“We’re really committed to (the Ozanam Education Fund)... and that’s why there are several people here who feel quite passionate about this project.”

For more information on the Ozanam Education Fund Program, contact systemicchange.ssvp@ssvp.on.ca.

 

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