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From personal challenges to providing financial hope: Christina Cassar’s story

28 September 2023
Author: Anitha Thillainathan
In a world where personal challenges can often feel insurmountable, Christina Cassar's story stands as a testament to resilience and determination. Christina's path reflects the human spirit's ability to overcome adversity and extend a helping hand to others, even while navigating her own life-altering trials. 

Christina's academic journey began with degrees in English and history, leading to a fulfilling career in education. However, her life took an unexpected turn when she battled cancer. Surviving this ordeal showcased her inner strength, but fate had more tests in store. A stroke left Christina with left-side hemiplegia, depriving her of the use of her left leg and arm. Nevertheless, her passion for teaching and her spirit remained intact. 

Five years ago, Christina embarked on her journey with the YMCA of Hamilton, Burlington, Brantford as a part-time staff member, gradually working her way up to becoming a Program Coordinator. In this capacity, Christina provided literacy programs to incarcerated individuals, predominantly women in a correctional facility. 

At YMCA, Christina's work primarily revolves around individuals grappling with various interconnected barriers. These challenges include financial difficulties, a lack of budgeting skills, housing instability, and the need for basic life skills. Her clients, primarily adults aged 19 and older, navigate life's complexities with limited resources and often confront complex struggles. 

Recognizing the importance of financial literacy, Christina enrolled in Prosper Canada’s Financial Literacy for Facilitators course, inspiring her entire team to do the same. The Financial Literacy for Facilitators course was developed with the generous support of Ontario Securities Commission and prepares facilitators with foundational financial literacy knowledge to deliver financial education within their community. With course materials and training, Christina and her team equipped their clients with essential financial knowledge. 

One of the notable strengths of the Financial Literacy for Facilitators course, according to Christina, is the value of its resources. The materials are straightforward, user-friendly, and adaptable to diverse learning styles.  

The financial empowerment programs offered by Christina and her team aim to equip clients with the skills needed to become self-sufficient and less dependent on external support. Moreover, they emphasize the vital task of rebuilding self-esteem, a crucial aspect of the recovery and healing process for many of the women Christina works with. Incorporating Prosper Canada's financial empowerment resources from the course into their teaching has proven transformative. The materials, including Indigenous-specific content, offer consistency and comprehensive information, simplifying complex financial concepts for their clients. Online modules serve as valuable reinforcements, facilitating a deeper understanding of financial concepts. 

For other facilitators seeking to incorporate financial empowerment into their programs, Christina encourages them to take the Financial Literacy for Facilitators course. She underscores its simplicity, availability, and well-researched content as valuable assets. Furthermore, she highlights the significance of understanding participants' backgrounds and needs, adapting materials to ensure sensitivity and relevance. 

Christina’s work at the YMCA, along with the help of resources like the Financial Literacy for Facilitators course, provides a valuable way for people facing tough times find financial freedom. Christina shows that with the right tools and support, anyone can learn to manage their finances and look forward to a better future. Her story proves that determination and education can make a real difference in people’s lives. 

About YMCA of Hamilton Burlington Brantford 

Across more than 120+ locations in Hamilton, Burlington, Brantford and Haliburton, they are a charity committed to promoting equity and improving the health and well-being of people of all backgrounds, abilities, including at-risk and marginalized members of our community.  

From health and fitness programs, child care and camp, to employment and immigrant service programs and transitional housing, we're committed to supporting the broad determinants that influence the overall health of people in our communities. 


Anitha Thillainathan is a Senior Officer, Marketing and Communications at Prosper Canada.

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