Featured Grantee: Community Action New Mexico Builds Assets in Small Towns and Opens Financial Training Classes to All
Community Action New Mexico (CANM) has been able to significantly transform small towns in New Mexico through its 26-partner network and IDA project.
The little town of Cuba, New Mexico, for one, has seen tremendous results: the town has 655 residents and more than 80 of them have graduated from the financial education program offered through the IDA project (with 12 saving in IDAs). The local service provider with whom CANM partners, Nacimiento Medical Foundation, offers ongoing financial training classes that are open to the public and that enroll about 20 people per class. The effect of the classes on life in Cuba can easily be seen in the grocery stores of the town, where the mayor has noted that people are using calculators when determining what to buy.
In another town, named Truth or Consequences after the radio and TV game show that came to prominence in the 1940s and 50s, 67 of the town’s 6,800 residents have graduated from CANM’s IDA project. “It’s like the IDAs are rebuilding the little town,” said Sharon Henderson, Deputy Director of CANM. Main Street of Truth and Consequences had been losing business over the past ten years; now, businesses are opening with the help of IDAs, including a restaurant that was opened by two graduates of the IDA project and mentioned in a New York Times travel article about the town.
Part of CANM’s strategy in building assets, not only in these small towns, but also in larger towns and cities throughout New Mexico, is a focus on building social and personal assets tantamount to the focus on building financial assets. By opening the financial training classes to the general public and not just to IDA participants (although IDA participants are required to attend), CANM successfully integrates low-income people with people of stronger financial standing, thereby breaking down barriers between economic strata. In effect, low-income people may be able to build social assets through these classes at the same time that they are learning about financial assets.
“One of the indicators to staying out of poverty is how many people you know in higher economic classes,” affirms Sharon Henderson. With low-income people attending the same financial training classes as higher-income people, the opportunity exists for establishing relationships, breaking down misconceptions associated with lower-income lifestyles, and for a person of a stronger economic situation to inform a lower-income person of a job opening. For more information about CANM’s activities, please contact Sharon Henderson at (505) 217-2747.
This article originally ran in the IDAresources.org Update Newsletter on 07/30/09 and is available for archival purposes.