Month: May 2016

National CAPACD AAPI Lending Circles MAF

At their core, Lending Circles are about community.

When you bring together families, friends, and neighbors to help each other achieve their shared financial dreams, you’re leveraging the power of community. This practice of lending and borrowing money in family or social groups — a practice that inspired the the Lending Circles program — is common in communities around the world. Today, we’re highlighting one in particular: a unique group of partners providing Lending Circles to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) immigrants across the US.

In many parts of Asia, Lending Circles are an age-old tradition.

In the Philippines, the practice is referred to as paluwagan; in some parts of China, it’s called hui. With traditions like these to draw from, many AAPI immigrants are familiar with Lending Circles as a source of savings and credit. What’s often unfamiliar is the complicated financial marketplace discovered upon arriving to the US.

This comes at a real price: 10% of AAPIs do not have bank accounts and many more are “underbanked,” meaning they must turn to fringe financial services like payday lenders and check cashers. According to the FDIC’s 2013 Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, 19% of Asian Americans and 27% of Pacific Islanders turn to fringe services to meet their financial needs.

To bridge the gap between the modern financial marketplace and cultural traditions like paluwagan and hui, we can tailor Lending Circles to meet the unique needs of AAPI communities.

AEDA Lending Circles AAPI MAFWe can start by meeting AAPI immigrants where they are, on their terms.

In this spirit, we offer loan agreements into seven Asian languages: Chinese, Burmese, Nepali, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, and Hmong. But this is only a beginning. We can also open-source solutions — so that other nonprofits can build on the lessons we’ve learned in San Francisco and bring them to cities all over the country.

No two communities are alike. And local organizations know best how to handcraft their services to meet their clients’ needs.

That’s why nonprofits across the nation are custom-fitting Lending Circles to their local communities.

Take Asian Services In Action (ASIA), for example. This Lending Circles provider in Cleveland, OH, provides culturally relevant social services to Nepali and Burmese immigrants and refugees, many of whom don’t encounter the concept of a credit score until they’re ready to buy a car, rent a home, or start a business.

Through Lending Circles, these clients are able to build credit with people who speak their native language — oftentimes their friends and neighbors. This system of mutual support provides a sense of security that sets Lending Circles apart from other loan models. It can even help refugees build a new community in the U.S. after leaving their home countries.

“I love seeing our clients’ eyes light up as I explain the Lending Circle model,” says Lucy Pyeatt of the Chinese Community Center (CCC).

“‘Yes, we know that!’ they often reply.” Many of Lucy’s clients are intimately familiar with the concept of Lending Circles: “They’ve participated in them informally with family and friends for years, and they feel so relieved to have a product that they already trust. They feel that their heritage, and their models of financial security, are being respected. It’s a great bridge for them.”

By drawing on their traditions and adapting to their needs, Lending Circles put the power in the hands of the communities themselves. Our partnerships with organizations like ASIA and CCC are the real engine that powers the success of Lending Circles, so that local leaders can create local solutions.

It all started with a collaboration between MAF and National CAPACD.

National CAPACD is an advocacy group on a mission to improve the quality of life for low-income AAPIs. Two years ago, MAF joined forces with National CAPACD to launch a financial capability project with eight AAPI-serving organizations:

Together, we set out to answer a question: Can we boost the financial capability of new immigrants by incorporating Lending Circles and financial education into the existing immigration resources that community organizations are providing? Our new partners started to marry traditional services like language classes, citizenship education, and workforce training with our innovative Lending Circles program and financial coaching.

In just two years, the National CAPACD cohort has formed 56 Lending Circles, with 344 participants.CAPACD Lending Circles AAPI Community

It’s amazing to think that these participants have generated well over $150,000 in loan volume, all from lending and borrowing with their peers. And the repayment rate is astonishingly high — over 99%. This means that participants are opening checking accounts, establishing credit scores, and entering the financial mainstream for the first time.

Some have been able to rent apartments. Others have used Lending Circles has a source of peer support in a new country. And for many women who moved to the U.S. to join their husbands, Lending Circles offer a chance to exercise their financial independence.

After two years of successes, we’re excited to continue working with this impressive group of AAPI-serving organizations.

Our partners have ambitious plans to deepen their Lending Circles programs and bring them to even more hardworking immigrants across the country. And we have plans of our own to strengthen our network by forging new relationships and improving our tools for partner collaboration, like our online “Lending Circles Communities” knowledge-sharing platform.

We know that the key to success lies in the power of community. That’s why we’re working together with our partners to build even stronger resources for our Lending Circles clients — who, in turn, work together to support each other’s growth.

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A current Supreme Court case could lead to skyrocketing interest in one of our signature programs, Lending Circles for Deferred Action.

In 2014 , President Obama announced an executive action to expand the “Deferred Action” program to grant “dreamer” youth and their parents a type of temporary permission to stay in the U.S. Although this policy has been blocked in the case United States v. Texas, a favorable Supreme Court decision expected in June of this year could make 5 million people eligible for DACA and DAPA.

For the many eligible UCLA students, affordability is a major issue.

Studies have shown that 43% of those eligible for DACA choose not to apply because of the high application fee. So when Valeria Garcia, Program Director for the Undocumented Student Program at UCLA, learned about the Lending Circles for Deferred Action program, she thought it would be a great way for UCLA students to finance their DACA applications. UCLA’s Undocumented Student Program provides a welcoming and safe space to help students navigate UCLA by offering mentorship, programs and workshops tailored to their unique needs.
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Now, for the first time, UCLA students have the opportunity to join the Lending Circles program.

This partnership will enable UCLA students to pay for the $465 application fee with a zero-interest loan, and build their credit histories at the same time. Young, college-age
d youth historically have low credit scores. In a study conducted by Experian, millennials’ average credit score was over 50 points lower than the average credit score in the U.S. and close to 100 points lower than that of baby boomers.

With a growing network of Lending Circle providers, getting signed up with the program will be easy for UCLA students. Los Angeles partner providers (including including Building Skills Partnership (Los Angeles), Pilipino Workers Center of Southern CaliforniaMexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF) and Korean Resource Center (KRC)) have already helped participants loan and borrow nearly $10,000 in Lending Circles loans.

UCLA students can now feel empowered to take action, to build their credit, develop sound savings habits and put money aside toward specific goals, by working with these existing partners offering the program in their own backyards.

With immigration reform on the horizon, new opportunities for collaborations like this one can help remove the financial barriers many aspiring citizens face. In January of this year, MAF launched the Build a Better LA campaign for exactly this reason. This past April, we welcomed three new partner providers through this campaign: East LA Community Corporation, Koreatown Youth + Community Center, and LIFT-LA. Together, with local partner providers and organizations like UCLA’s Undocumented Students Program, we hope to reach more hardworking families in need of an affordable financial product – and a path out of the financial shadows.

Curious to learn more about Lending Circles for Deferred Action? Check out LendingCircles.org for more information.

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Kimberly Ynes MAF Moms

 

This Sunday is a day dedicated to the strong, wise, generous, and caring mothers in our lives. In the spirit of Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating a few MAF clients who are working hard to build bright financial futures for their families.

Three Generations of Chefs

Guadalupe MAF MomsFor Guadalupe, cooking authentic Mexican cuisine has always been a family affair. As a girl, she and her mother made the tastiest tortillas from scratch, and now she and her daughters do the same. She used her Lending Circles loan to buy equipment and help pay for a van to expand her catering business, El Pipila — which she runs with her daughter to support their family.

When we last shared Guadalupe’s story in 2014, she dreamed of opening a small, brick-and-mortar food stand. Now, she’s a food vendor at The Hall in San Francisco and a food truck regular at Bay Area festivals. Guadalupe’s family is key to her success. “I am doing this for my daughters. I want to make sure that neither of them has to work for anyone but themselves”.
Helen MAF Moms

A Mom on a Mission

Helen, a single mom from Guatemala, came to MAF with a simple dream: to have a safe home for her children. Because she couldn’t afford the hefty security deposit and didn’t have a credit score, she had no choice but to rent rooms in shared apartments — including one with families living in hallways.

After joining a Lending Circle, Helen saved up enough for a security deposit and built her credit score. Now, she has her own three-bedroom apartment for her daughters, and even bigger dreams.

Whipping Up Cupcakes with Her Son’s Support

Elvia’s son ignited her passion for baking with a simple question: “Mom, what do you love to do most?” After building a reputation for having the best desserts at parties, her family and friends encouraged Elvia to start a bakery.Elvia MAF Moms

She used a $5,000 loan from MAF to invest in a fridge, business license, and a number of necessities to grow her bakery, La Luna Cupcakes. She now has a cupcake shop in Crocker Galleria in San Francisco, and her children continue to be her North Star. “I always taught them if you want something, you can do it! Believe in your dream!”

Thanks to Lesley Marling, MAF’s newest Partner Success Manager, for her contributions to this post.

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