Most people of colour who migrated to Britain during the fifties and thereafter will talk of the challenges that they faced in coming to a new country. There were the natural challenges that come with the migration to a new country with a different weather climate, differences in culture and the general way of life. In addition to this somewhat unavoidable barriers were the barriers created in areas such as education, employment and housing. One of the key things that helped people from the West Indies manage, if not outrightly overcome some of these challenges were independent Savings and Loans schemes called Pardners.
Originating from the Carri beans, the Pardoner became an essential means for many immigrants to overcome barriers to start a new life in Britain. A pardner (or partner) scheme works with a group of people – friends, families, workers or even people within a wider community, deposit an agreed sum of money into the schemes central fund at regular intervals (typically weekly, bi-weekly or monthly) over a specified period of time. Each person within the group takes turns to withdraw the full fund with each deposit period until each member has had the opportunity to withdraw a fund called a hand.
Although it could be seen as risky and is reliant on a high degree of trust; it enabled and still does enables people (who might not have access to loans or bank accounts) to develop the disciplinary of saving and accessing loans without relying on loan sharks. Whilst there are no interests, there are also no charges with the knowledge that participating in a scheme means supporting people within the local community.
Amongst other things, some of the early migrants were able to overcome the challenge of finding somewhere to live where people didn’t want to rent rooms to them by using their hand of a pardner to buy or at least pay a deposit on a house. Further community support involved renting out rooms in the house to other migrants faced with the same challenges as them.
As I mentioned the schemes aren’t without risk, you have to tolerant of the fact that I may not always run as smoothly as planned and you, therefore, have to be flexible. It requires both sacrifices whilst you are paying in money that you would have preferred to spend and patience whilst waiting for your turn. At the same time, it can be rewarding and virtually life defining if not saving.
I’ve recently come across Deanne Heron’s books on Pardner Money Stories which covers how pardners have been used to cover the costs of weddings, funerals and family holidays – increasing interactions, respect and bonds between people. I hope that pardner schemes long continue to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
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Susan Popoola of
Mosaic Fusions: https://mosaicfusions.com/