“Umoja- Unity”

Eva Ogden, Pinnacle Financial Partners


Partnership with The Center for New North Carolinians: Umoja Women’s Refugee Support Group

There are an estimated 242 languages spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  One of these languages is Swahili.  In Swahili, Umoja means UNITY.  As our NC Central DEI Council members first came to know the Umoja women’s refugee group, we found out that the name for their group was chosen because they sought to create a community for themselves that they felt has been lost as refugees.  The women in the group now consider each other family.  They play a unique role in each other’s lives. They are sisters, friends, counselors, advisors, mothers, and daughters to each other.  They are driven together by their love of family and their need for community.  One of the obstacles they face as refugees is integration into US the financial system.  And that is where our partnership began.

Last May, several members of our DEI Council joined the Umoja group to talk about budgeting and saving.  To overcome the language barrier, the organizer of the group translated for us.  We began the budgeting conversation with a single question: Kwa nini?  “Why?”. Why was it important for each of these women, personally, to learn how to budget.  The conversation was lively and engaging. And, while we didn’t quite finish the presentation, the participants left with a lot to consider.  In fact, the organizer of the group told us this topic was a point of conversation over the next several months.

One interesting aspect of this group is that none of the women seek knowledge and advancements for themselves but for the group.  One of the women now has a real estate license, and she is helping the others to realize their dream of home ownership.  This was another great opportunity for us to partner.  We connected this agent with Jeff Lockhart to assist with the Pinnacle 100 product as well as with our down payment assistance.  Several women have been prequalified although we are still waiting on a final closing as home prices have limited the prospects for lower priced homes.

Another dream of the collective is to build a business together so that they can help each other succeed and build generational wealth for their families. I have worked closely with the group to provide them with strategic guidance and resources in the community.  They are now in the process of working with both the UNCG Entrepreneurship program as well as the Nussbaum Center, where they will be matched with a business mentor and become members of a small business program pilot involving refugees and immigrants.

These women are inspiring, persistent, hardworking and loving.  They dedicate themselves to their children while still looking for opportunities to contribute financially to their families.  Our DEI Council wanted to do something for them so we put together a self-care bag for each of them.  In it, we included small items that they could use to pamper themselves like a sleeping mask, lotion, and fuzzy socks.  We delivered these last February, along with additional financial literacy information.  We wanted to remind them that they are AWESOME and deserve to pamper themselves.  The women were so appreciative!!

Yesterday was the celebration of International Women’s Day, yet women need and deserve to be uplifted every day.  Our firm is about relationships, and relationships evolve over time and through trust building.  Our DEI Council looks forward to continuing our investment in women every day and throughout the years to come.  And, we hope you will join us.  If you would like to volunteer to connect with the women of UMOJA please reach out to Eva Ogden at eva.ogden@pnfp.com.

Let’s continue the celebrations by taking action!

  • Click here to read our firmwide blog: Celebrating Women (pnfp.corp)
  • Join our Women of Influence Webinar on March 22nd to hear directly from our NCR leaders Carolyne Pelton (Regional President) and Melissa Smith (Senior Credit Officer) about their leadership journey.  If you would like to participate in the live discussion, click here or go to PNFP.com/women to register.