Skip to content Skip to main navigation

About Windmill Microlending

Founded in 2005, Windmill Microlending is Canada’s only national charity offering affordable loans to skilled immigrants and refugees. Our microloans help our clients pay for the costs of accreditation, training and career development. Funded by the public and private sectors, Windmill has delivered more than 8,000+ microloans to new Canadians, helping convert their potential into prosperity.

Our vision is to ensure skilled newcomers are equitably integrated into the workforce while contributing their expertise to Canada’s economic and social success.

Who We Help

Windmill supports immigrants and refugees who come to Canada with education, skills and experience but struggle to achieve career success. Our clients may be under-employed, working in “survival jobs”. Often, they cannot afford the costs of Canadian accreditation, training or career development. They are likely unable to access mainstream credit in Canada because of low income and/or lack of Canadian credit history.

How We Help

Windmill provides affordable loans of up to $15,000 to help skilled immigrants and refugees achieve career success. We offer financial support to our clients as well as:

  • Client success coaching;
  • A mentorship program;
  • Financial planning and budgeting tools; and
  • Career development resources.

Our microloans can be used to pay for qualifying exams, training, assessments, books and materials, living allowance, relocation costs, professional association fees, and other expenses related to advancing your career. For all the ways a Windmill loan can be used, visit our FAQs page.

On average, our clients more than triple their incomes and unemployment decreases. To learn more about the outcomes of our work for our clients, visit Windmill’s Impact page.

Who We Are

Our people reflect our commitment to our clients. Windmill’s board, leadership team and staff reflect a broad mix of cultural diversity, countries of origin, skillsets, gender and age. Learn about our leadership team.

How Our Clients Succeed

Windmill’s skilled immigrant and refugee clients grow their incomes, reach their career advancement goals and are able to establish their lives in Canada. We help them convert their potential into prosperity.

We need your support

Get involved with others who believe in the power of microloans to help skilled immigrants and refugees achieve career success in Canada.


Have more questions?

Read our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Dr. Maria Eriksen Windmill MicrolendingOur Founding Story

In 2005, the late Dr. Maria Eriksen, a Calgary-based clinical psychologist, was frustrated to see many of the janitorial staff, at the hospital where she worked, were internationally-trained health professionals, unable to practice in their professions because of obstacles like the excessive cost of licensing, lack of credential recognition or credit history and insufficient Canadian experience. When she learned of these barriers for skilled immigrants and refugees, and thought about this terrible waste of human potential, Dr. Eriksen and her friends took action.

She gathered together a group of six friends: Eleanor Chiu, Amal Umar, Aziza Kotadia, Kerry Longpre and Corinne Tessier. Together they fundraised for six loans, to help six skilled immigrants challenge their exams for Canadian accreditation.

Windmill Microlending’s founders developed an innovative and unique loan program grounded in a social justice framework. From the beginning, Windmill, then known as Immigrant Access Fund, welcomed newcomer applicants who had no credit rating and no collateral, if an affordable loan could enable them to restart or grow their careers in Canada.

Over its first decade, the small, upstart charity, featured a board and small team of paid staff who were all women. They met weekly around a kitchen or boardroom table to review the loan applications, share client stories and build the organization from the ground up. In order to grow their impact, this founding group joined forces with other community leaders and established a unique, non-profit funding model to empower new Canadians. The legacy of their work continues to build today, with Windmill Microlending serving immigrants and refugees across Canada.

Since its founding, Windmill has approved more than $65 million or 8,000+ affordable loans, empowering skilled newcomers to achieve career success and rise to their fullest potential. Dr. Eriksen passed away in 2008 but the legacy she and her friends have left goes on with the career success of every immigrant and refugee who converts their potential into Canadian prosperity.