Christina Speh

Head of CRA Fair Banking and Testing Compliance at TD Bank

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Own Who You Are

While many of my peers grew up with grocery store bread aisles brimming with choices, I spent my middle school years where people waited in long lines for one loaf of bread – no choice, no complaining. This was Berlin during the height of the Cold War.

Experiencing the literal and ideological divide between East and West Berlin permanently altered my world view. Here, I saw men with machine guns patrolling the Berlin Wall to keep a whole country confined. I saw bomb-ravaged buildings that were never repaired. I viewed maps that identified West Berlin as an empty white space with no borders.

It was these early experiences that led me to cherish the ability to pursue my dreams and appreciate how important it was to enable others to do the same -– dreams like owning a home and being part of a safe community.

Owning a home has deep emotional resonance in this country. It's a milestone of success, part and parcel of the American dream. Yet many low-to-moderate income families struggle to become first-time homeowners. And a few even overcome obstacles to start successful businesses. Banks can enable those dreams by providing financial access -– through loans, credit, financial education and community funding -- helping people transform their lives as they create them.

But what about those members of the community who need extra support? How can we support those who don't even have a roof over their head, who have struggled with addiction, mental illness, domestic violence or job loss? Enter local non-profits, who understand the challenges their community members face. Workers at these organizations are on the ground with the neediest -- in some cases, they've experienced homelessness themselves and are now helping others through the same organization that helped them get back on their feet. 

For twelve years, Housing for Everyone grants from the TD Charitable Foundation have helped fund community non-profits in their efforts to expand affordable housing those most in need. These community partnerships help local organizations make a meaningful difference, helping people of all backgrounds take pride in their communities and own who they are. 

These videos share just a few stories of those whose lives have been changed thanks to the work of community non-profits. After experiencing the oppressive culture of Cold War Berlin, I am so grateful to be a part of a program that creates opportunities to enrich people's lives an enable our diverse communities to thrive.  

Video Series: Housing for EveryoneClick image above to watch all videos in the Housing for Everyone series

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