By Michelle Thompson
News Leader Pictorial
Jan 13 2007
Children killed in a fire last year have inspired members of the Cowichan Tribes community to start a trust fund in their memory.
Troy Joe, four, and his nine-year-old cousin Marissa Thomas died in a Khowutzun Crescent blaze last October. After their deaths, the Alphonse family established the trust for the children’s families.
The Perpetual Bursary Peace and Harmony Trust Fund has since evolved into something that aims to keep generations of First Nations children safe, educated and financially secure.
Ralph Charles Goodwin, who has been adopted into the Alphonse family, said the community’s response to the fire inspired trustees to do something that would pay tribute to the youngsters.
“The whole Cowichan Tribes community was coming together to share in the honouring of these children,” Goodwin said. “It was apparent that these children were bringing families together that hadn’t talked in a long time.”
The trust fund will, ideally, prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.
The money raised through it will finance four or five bursaries per year, which will be given to Cowichan Tribes community students intending to study safety or security-related courses at college or university.
“The purpose of the project is to bring physical and economical health back into the community,” Goodwin said. “This is intended to be one of the primary economic vehicles for the community.”
The chartered trust, which has been endorsed by the Bank of Nova Scotia, will also act as a bank that will allow for both micro [ 2][Nobel Peace Prize] and macro financing [ 3].
That means people will be able to take out loans for as little as $15 or for enough to finance the purchase a home.
“This trust will accept deposits, perform lending and will acquire assets,” Goodwin said. “It has to be in business itself and generate its own sources of revenue.”
Government funding for Natives is expected to run out within the next 10 years, Goodwin said, and he hopes the chartered trust will help promote and encourage development on the territory.
“ Because of the imminent demise of federal funding, it’s very important for families to have sustainable incomes,” he said. “We wanted to figure out how to establish business relationships between people living on the reserve with people living off it.”
The trust is not just available to those living on the reserve, though. Everyone can access, borrow from, and donate to it. It is scheduled to become available to the public within the next two or three months.
There will be an administration office on the reserve and the trust fund will also be accessible in the Bank of Nova Scotia in Duncan.
Although the trust fund has been chartered, the trustees don’t have a working capital, and they’re waiting on expected investments from Alberta to get the ball rolling.
Eventually the trust will have branch offices across the country, Goodwin said, and the local one will act as a template for the others.
Each branch will benefit its local native economy since the assets acquired there will stay there, and will be used for economic development and bursaries.
This trust will have a high rate of loan-repayment, Goodwin said, since the people borrowing from it know the assets are going to a good cause.
“There is a sense of duty to the borrower and there is a sense of ownership,” he said. “We want First Nations across the country to network with us because the more funding we get, the more capital we get.”
The trust settlement was signed by Leo Alphonse, Ron Alphonse, Goodwin, Ruby Peters and Bernadette Peters.[editorial note: Chief harvey Alphonse membership is placed into a Blind Trust while sitting as an elected official at Cowichan Tribes]
To discuss financing opportunities with Ralph Goodwin, who is the trust’s business manager, call 778-433-3908. (see, also, Sthuy'shen Telew T-hw) [editorial note : Extreme Climate Change responses; Flushing Protocol; and Engineering; Survival Villages]
Editorial Note: see also, Global Humanitarian Bank
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