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Unwavering Motherhood in a Pandemic: Tammy’s Story

In the tapestry of human resilience, some stories stand out like beacons of hope and remind us of our shared struggle and humanity. At MAF, we often hear these stories when talking to clients. Tammy’s remarkable journey as an undocumented migrant from Honduras is one of these stories and a testament to the power of perseverance and the human spirit.

On the move to find a place to thrive 

Tammy’s journey has not always been an easy one. From facing the harsh realities of a difficult relationship to enduring the heartbreak of two miscarriages, she found herself at a crossroads. Fueled by the unyielding love for her children, she took a leap of faith, leaving Georgia’s shadows behind and venturing to New York.

She told us, “I felt there was no way out; we owed a lot of rent, and it was coming; I could see that I was going to lose the apartment with the two children.” Leaving Georgia turned out to be what she needed to find community and support. She began rebuilding her life in New York with the support of her mother. She also relied on her faith to bolster her through trying times and provide her with the strength and courage she needed to overcome adversity.

“But I feel that it has made me more of a warrior than I already am, it has made me a woman who makes my decisions when I have to make them.“

Even though New York came with its own set of challenges, including contracting COVID-19 in the first month and having to live in a shelter, she remained focused on her goals and never lost sight of what was important. She was able to find ways to provide for her children and was proud that they always ate three meals a day. Her love for her children was a driving force that kept her going, even when times were tough.

A bright road ahead

Tammy’s story isn’t just one of survival; it’s a testament to her transformative journey. She went from shelter living to securing her own apartment, a reflection of her strength and commitment to her children’s future.

Tammy is always looking ahead. She is working hard to finish her GED and exploring the potential opportunities the real estate industry could provide for her family. Even though her children are only eight and four years old, she thinks about them graduating in the future and starting a job, such as becoming real estate agents. She is having conversations with her children early on and teaching them the importance of hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

“To see my children, to educate them in a good way, for them to be better than me, better than me in every way. And that’s why I try to be the best so that they see that I’m making an effort, so that they make an effort in every situation so that they never let themselves fall.“

Tammy’s dreams are tangible, and her goals are firmly grounded. Completing her GED is high on her list of aspirations. She already completed courses and is waiting to hear back about a scholarship that would allow her to take the exam this year. But more than that, her dream is to instill compassion and community service in her children, echoing the invaluable lessons she has learned on her journey. She told us that no matter their obstacles, she always reminds her kids to be respectful and polite to others. She reminds us that despite the obstacles that life may throw our way, we must never lose sight of what is truly important.

With her experiences, she leaves our community with some incredible advice:

“… we should always believe in ourselves because that is the first thing we should do as a human being, always believe in ourselves.”

Tammy’s story reminds us of resilience and hope, shining light on the strength of a woman who, against all odds, embraced life’s challenges and carved her destiny. Her journey from Honduras to the United States embodies the essence of the human spirit and reminds us that, no matter the circumstances, our dreams can be realized through unyielding determination and unwavering belief in ourselves.

We’re grateful to Tammy for sharing part of her journey with us after we met her through the Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP). Join us to support families like Tammy’s here.

When the Mountain Does Not Come: Eduardo’s Story

Amidst the backdrop of a pandemic that reshaped lives worldwide, Eduardo’s story emerged as one of unwavering perseverance, resourcefulness, and steadfast dedication to family.

When COVID-19 first hit, Eduardo found himself grappling with a reduced work schedule, and therefore reduced income. Like millions of others, he navigated the uncertainties with a heavy heart and determined mind. Working on the frontline in a food processing company, he not only had to worry about his own safety but also about how to make ends meet for his family.

The challenges were compounded by the distance that separated him from his loved ones. With family back in Guatemala, Eduardo had an additional responsibility – the financial support that he provided was a lifeline that stretched across borders.

Exclusion Amidst Struggle 

One of the most painful aspects of the pandemic for Eduardo was the exclusion he felt. While conversations buzzed about stimulus checks and financial relief, Eduardo and many immigrant families like his were left behind. His coworkers discussed the government relief they were receiving, the stimulus checks that would cushion their financial fall and the opportunities that came with it. But for Eduardo, these talks were a stark reminder of his exclusion from these benefits.

“When we were at lunchtime with the guys, there were talks and versions of many things, and they began to say… ‘You are going to get a check of $1,200,’ and some said: ‘no,’ ‘yes,’ and others: ‘I already got it.’ Well, they only talked about residents and citizens, and we just stared off into space.”

“Cuando la montaña no viene a Mahoma, Mahoma tiene que ir a la montaña.”

Eduardo embraced this common saying in his home country, translating as: “When the mountain does not come to Mohammed, Mohammed has to go to the mountain.” He realized that waiting for things to change wasn’t an option, especially when there were mouths to feed and children who depended on him. Eduardo took matters into his own hands. He bought haircutting tools and spread the word among his coworkers to build his clientele and income stream. It was a practical solution that not only helped him make ends meet, but also brought a sense of community amongst his colleagues and neighbors during a time of isolation.

While Eduardo’s determination sustained him, his dreams soared beyond borders. He envisioned a bigger, brighter future for his family, a reality where they could live in a spacious home with room for his daughters to play. Memories of his homeland, Guatemala, tugged at his heartstrings, but he knew that his daughters deserved the opportunities that the U.S. could offer.

Eduardo’s story is one that resonates deeply with us, echoing the struggles and aspirations of many immigrants who face exclusion while striving to build a better life for their families.

We’re grateful to Eduardo for sharing part of his journey with us after we met him through the Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP). Join us to support families like Eduardo’s here.

Context is Everything

In our increasingly data-driven world, we often turn to numbers and data to understand complex issues, including the well-being of immigrant families. However, what data can’t always capture is the intricate context of people’s lives. This fall, MAF hosted the third webinar of our IFRP research series to dive deeper into the context of immigrant families’ lives, and what it means for nonprofits to show up and serve with intentionality.

“The only real difference between numbers and data is context.”

Christopher Dokko, Evaluation Manager at MAF, laid the foundation for the event by highlighting the significance of context in understanding immigrant families’ lives. Numbers can nudge us in the direction of learning about people’s experiences, but it’s not enough to get the full picture. Christopher pointed out that data collection should extend beyond what is traditionally considered to be an indicator of financial wellness. It should encompass various variables, including social conditions, identity, geography, policy landscape, and access to opportunities.

Taking it a level deeper, it’s important to understand that context and crises, like inflation or environmental disasters, don’t impact everyone equally, leading to uneven consequences. Christopher noted, “When we’re thinking about data within the context of the broader world, we’re not just thinking about what’s happening, but how it’s differentially impacting different people’s lives.” This holistic mindset allows us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of immigrant families’ lives, and how we can better meet their needs accordingly.

Graphic showing trends shaping financial security, including shifting modes of production, work and the value of money, and access to formal structures

How nonprofits show up in times of crisis

Given the ever-changing context of immigrant families’ lives, nonprofits serving those communities have a duty to listen intentionally to what families are experiencing and respond accordingly to meet their needs with dignity and respect. We were honored to be joined by three incredible nonprofit leaders doing this work across the US. In conversation with MAF’s advocacy and engagement director Joanna Cortez Hernandez, they shared their own learnings and experiences with us about how they show up for immigrant communities, and how they make it sustainable for their staff in the long run.

I think one of the most valuable things that we can offer the community is our commitment to listen, to be nimble, and to continue to create things that are actually meeting the expectations, the opportunity, the potential, and the needs.

Karla Bachmann, VP of Financial Wellness at Branches

For us, it’s really about focusing on an asset-based perspective. We know that there are lots of challenges; it’s easy to start off with all the things that, in our (Immigrants Rising) case, undocumented people cannot do. But it’s important to switch it up and say, what are the opportunities that do exist out there? Then, really focusing on those opportunities and meeting people where they’re at.

Iliana Perez, Ph.D, Executive Director at Immigrants Rising

One of the biggest things I’ve taken away is the space that we’re in. We have a kitchen, and we try to cook meals, como familia as much as we can… It gets us all in the same room to share stories, because those are the most powerful things that keep us moving and keep us doing what we do every day.

Lizette Carretero, Director of Financial Wellness at The Resurrection Project

In times of uncertainty, the context may shift, but our dedication to understanding, supporting, and celebrating immigrant families’ lives remains unwavering. We invite you to watch the recording of our most recent webinar and stay tuned for more insights as we continue this learning journey.

Starting over in a storm

Starting over is always difficult. Starting over after a ten-year marriage and with a two-year-old in the midst of a pandemic seems insurmountable. But this is where Diana starts her journey.

Diana had just begun a career in sales to be able to support herself and her daughter when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted her progress. In the early days of the pandemic, having a new career that required in-person interaction was especially difficult. Being unable to work, combined with the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic, felt like trying to start her new life in the midst of a storm.

Finding her own way 

Faced with supporting her daughter on her own, Diana told us how she found the options for her very limiting.

In my case the job opportunities that I could aspire to, were not office jobs, they were hard jobs, restaurant jobs, cleaning jobs, those kind of jobs… So, the fact of considering eight to ten hours working at a job earning $10 (which I imagine is the average), I am talking about $80…What am I going to do with that money and I’m not going to see [my daughter] all day?

Diana decided to forgo her limited options and take on the challenge of learning sales and building her own career. She wanted to be able to provide for her daughter while also being present for her. Even though she received messages that she should do something safe, something predictable, Diana took the step to believe in herself. She shared that in the beginning, she had to overcome a lot of self-doubt, knowing that she was the only one who was there to support her daughter and to cover all the expenses for her household. But she found the confidence to move ahead and make her own way.

“When my daughter grows up, she will not complain to me, or maybe she will not even remember if I had or did not have money in the process, if I fed her, if I took her to extraordinary places. What she will complain to me is that I was not with her”.

Turbulent waters

Like many in our community, Diana was excluded from federal relief during the pandemic. Through talking with friends in her community, she found out about MAF’s programs—one of the few supports she could apply for as an immigrant.

“[MAF’s support] was the only economic support that I received in the COVID process, and it was a great blessing, maybe it was not thousands of dollars, but it was enough to give me peace in that process.”

As she was working through a difficult divorce, Diana had just lost her legal representation because she couldn’t continue paying. Her acceptance into the Immigrant Families Recovery Program came at the right time to help her hire a lawyer so she could navigate the divorce and custody process with a bit more peace of mind.

Just keep swimming

Diana’s dedication to her career as a way to provide for her daughter is evident as her eyes light up when she talks about her strategies to be successful.

“…My goal is every day to talk to everyone about my product, even if I go to take my daughter to the pediatrician. Wherever I go, I share what I do, I have my cards (I always bring them with me), and I share them with people, I go to a business and I put my cards there.”

Even though Diana was introduced to MAF through our COVID relief programs, she soon joined other MAF programs. Diana joined a Lending Circle in Houston with one of MAF’s partners. In community with other women, she participated in a Lending Circle for $200 per month and used the opportunity to raise her credit score from 400-500 up to almost 650 points.

Diana is always looking for ways to grow. She just opened her first office space to grow her sales team. She is excited to train a team in a way that helps them generate income and be successful themselves.

The next wave

We asked Diana to share her advice for others who may be facing similar difficult circumstances. Her resilience was evident as she shared what gives her the strength to keep moving ahead, even in the midst of a storm.

My advice would be to look internally within themselves, to look for help in faith, in God, no matter what religion they practice, what they believe, but to know that there is a power much greater than us, which is, in a manner of speaking, the hand that moves many things and that is much more powerful than us. Putting our trust in that power, in God, but also putting action to do the things that we have to do at the moment, not tomorrow, not what is coming in the future. I learned that doing things day by day will give you results.

Diana continues to work daily to provide for her daughter and build a better future for both of them. As she grows her business, she also shares her dreams for her family’s future. What she hopes for most is to see her daughter happy and fulfilled as she grows, and she hopes to one day be able to purchase a home to provide more space for her daughter to run and jump.

We’re grateful to Diana for sharing part of her journey with us after we met her through the Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP). Learn more about the initiative here and how MAF is helping immigrant families rebuild from the pandemic.

Hitting the Road with Lending Circles

Since MAF’s inception, Lending Circles have been a foundational tool to help low-income and immigrant families build and establish credit throughout the U.S. Building on what has already been good and working in immigrant families’ lives for generations, Lending Circles takes after traditional community practices worldwide where people come together with neighbors and friends to lend money amongst themselves. MAF formalized this time-honored tradition and acts as a loan servicer to bring people together in a shared lending model while reporting people’s monthly payments so that they build credit in the process. Lending Circles is the perfect example of the magic that can happen when the community comes together to support one another.

Scaling through trust

While MAF is headquartered in San Francisco, CA, we can reach communities nationwide with Lending Circles through partnerships. We recognize that there are countless nonprofit organizations already working with their local communities who understand people’s unique needs and circumstances. Honoring these relationships, MAF partners with expert nonprofits across the country to expand our reach with Lending Circles.

Our nonprofit partners come from a wide range of backgrounds, but the common thread is their ability to leverage Lending Circles as a complementary offering to the clients they already serve. We’ve seen our partners combine Lending Circles with their existing services to help families become homeowners, pair with their financial coaching programs, help refugees integrate into the U.S. financial system, and so much more.

Lending Circles Roadshow

In 2019, MAF launched our Lending Circles Communities campaign for nonprofits interested in partnering with us to bring Lending Circles to their communities. We hit the road and toured six cities just before the pandemic set in, spreading the word about what it means to be a Lending Circles partner and meeting hundreds of incredible nonprofit leaders along the way. Through this tour, we welcomed a cohort of 7 new partners, each uniquely leveraging Lending Circles to support their clients’ financial lives.

Four years later, we’re excited to share that we’re hitting the road again in Spring 2024! We’ll be touring the U.S., hosting in-person and virtual events to rally together our next cohort of partners. As families continue rebuilding from the pandemic while navigating inflation and other financial and political challenges, access to safe and affordable credit and capital has never been more important.

Be the first to get updates on where you can join us at a roadshow event! We can’t wait to connect with nonprofits nationwide during this campaign as we expand our partnership network.


Announcing MAF Learning Hub

We are excited to announce the launch of MAF Learning Hub, our new learning management system (LMS). Individuals can get culturally relevant financial education and resources to help them build financial confidence and achieve their goals. MAF Learning Hub is a cloud-based platform that provides users with a seamless and engaging learning experience.

Expanding access to relevant financial education

We believe in a community-centered approach, focusing on the strengths of the communities we work with. From the beginning, we have been dedicated to creating pathways for community members to access timely and relevant financial education that recognizes them as experts in their own lives.

From in-person workshops to streaming live charlas financieras to our MyMAF app, MAF constantly adapts to ensure that our financial education is relevant and accessible. Now, leveraging technology, we are launching MAF Learning Hub, allowing our community to access content, resources, and engagement opportunities anytime and anywhere.

Interactive, self-paced learning

MAF Learning Hub users can start with core topics and engage in self-paced learning that covers fundamentals such as building credit. For example, a person joining a Lending Circle to establish credit for the first time may find themselves in a complex financial realm that can feel overwhelming. MAF Learning Hub eases this transition by providing participants with tools and knowledge to develop critical financial skills.

The courses in MAF Learning Hub consist of short, interactive lessons that can be completed in just a few minutes, anywhere. As clients progress through the core topics, they can boost their confidence and prepare for the next steps in their financial journey.

In-depth engagement

MAF Learning Hub offers more advanced options for individuals who are ready to go beyond the basics. Users can participate in activities, join group financial education sessions to connect with other learners, and access additional MAF programs and resources. MAF Learning Hub emphasizes the strength of the community by providing online group sessions where participants can ask questions, exchange advice, and offer support. Additionally, clients can schedule one-on-one coaching sessions with an MAF financial coach to receive personalized guidance in achieving their goals.

Growing together

In the development of MAF Learning Hub, we consider the different aspects of our client’s lives and refer to our “Ladder of Engagement.” This roadmap provides various opportunities for clients to engage with MAF. Our ladder of engagement allows us to create multiple entry points to our financial services, recognizing that each person’s financial journey is unique. It also enables us to deepen engagement by offering different options. MAF Learning Hub is a flexible addition to the ladder of engagement, catering to clients at any stage of their financial journey, whether it’s their first exposure to financial education, supplementary resources following a coaching session, or a group session they have attended with us.

MAF Learning Hub was created using a user-centered design approach focusing on the communities we serve. These communities face various challenges in their complex financial lives, such as legal status, variable income, language barriers, and limited access to financial products. When developing new content and tools, we consider all of these factors to ensure that users feel supported and welcomed.

Only the beginning

MAF Learning Hub is an ever-evolving product, and we are excited to invite you to join the platform and provide feedback to support its ongoing development. We will regularly add new content and resources to ensure that the platform remains responsive and relevant. By measuring platform usage and analyzing client activities, we will securely gather data about clients’ financial goals and outcomes, enabling us to provide even better support.

At MAF, we believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to build financial confidence. MAF Learning Hub is a step towards turning that dream into a reality.

Currently, MAF Learning Hub is available to active MAF clients. Stay tuned for expanded access in the coming months!


Finding Courage in Crisis

As the nation’s first guaranteed income program for immigrant families, MAF’s Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP) has been laser-focused on holistically supporting families in their financial recovery while learning about what is good and working in their lives. It takes courage to persist in the face of exclusion and ongoing financial hardship, but we’ve been hearing incredible stories of courage and resilience during crises from clients. In particular, the importance of entrepreneurship and self-enterprise has surfaced as a key financial strategy for many immigrant families hit hardest by COVID-19.

Paving their own way

Taking IFRP one step further as a program, we embedded evaluation to research and truly understand what it will take for immigrant families to recover faster. While many families are still actively participating in the program, early trends in the data are already showing us how they weathered the pandemic with grit and determination. Shut out from government relief programs, immigrant families found many savvy ways to make ends meet, like negotiating rental payments, selling possessions, and leaning on friends and family.

Immigrants are also investing in themselves, their families, and their futures through entrepreneurship. 1 in 5 immigrant families turned to self-employment to forge their own pathways to recovery and financial stability. Of these families, entrepreneurial income made up 75% of their household incomes–a significant influx of income that helped keep many families afloat in crisis.

People behind the numbers

The trends we’re seeing tell us part of a story about how immigrant families are innovating to survive, but numbers aren’t enough to understand the full breadth of their experiences. Over the past few months, we’ve spoken directly with many immigrant families across the country to hear their stories of courage during an unprecedented crisis. In our most recent webinar, we were honored to uplift stories from Luisa and Isidora, two women who took leaps of faith during the pandemic by starting their own businesses to provide for their families.

It takes immense courage to start a business during an economic crisis, but that’s exactly what Luisa and Isidora did. When turned away from other financial relief, these women took a leap of faith to support themselves and their families during incredibly uncertain times. While caring for her children during COVID, Luisa turned trash into treasure by collecting recycling from her neighbors for extra income. From selling fruits to flowers, Isidora embraced multiple avenues of entrepreneurship to fight for her family’s well-being. Both faced many barriers in their business journeys, but persisted nonetheless.

Immeasurable Love

A common theme we hear from many clients, including Luisa and Isidora, is how love and family is the motivator to push through the hardest days. Efrain Segundo Orozco, MAF’s Financial Education & Engagement Manager, summarized it perfectly during the webinar:

“Something that isn’t data-driven, something that we can’t measure, is the amount of love that drove these mothers to do what they did. The love that they have for their families was the spark that lit the fire that propelled them to do what they did, and that’s gonna continue to propel them to do what they’re gonna have to do. And that same fire is in a little spark that you could just find within them. It’s the same fire. It’s like sharing a candle that you could find across communities nationwide.”

While these sparks of love that keep people going are admirable, we must also acknowledge that it doesn’t mean the tough times are easy. Luisa shared with us that while starting her recycling business was great for her family financially, it also greatly improved her mental health in a difficult period of isolation due to COVID-19 and economic stress. In the words of Mariel Hernández, MAF’s Program Communications Specialist:

“People are strong and resilient, but being tough is tough. It takes a toll on people. But if we can find these moments of self-empowerment, then maybe it makes the tough journey a little bit easier.”

Our work continues

Every day, we’re learning more from the immigrant families we serve about what it will take to help them rebuild from COVID-19. It’s a long road ahead, but we’re in it for the long haul as we make strides towards a world that is equitable and just for the families we serve. We invite you to watch the recording of our most recent webinar, Finding Courage in Crisis, to get the full scoop on MAF’s emerging research and hear Luisa and Isidora’s full stories.

If you missed part one of our webinar series, check out the blog and event recording here to learn more about our IFRP research design.

Welcoming 4 New Partners to the Lending Circles Network

Across the country, MAF’s Lending Circles program partners with nonprofits to provide access to zero-interest social loans and financial education that helps low-income and immigrant communities build credit, save money, and achieve their financial goals. We’re thrilled to announce that we are welcoming four incredible nonprofit organizations to the Lending Circles network.

At MAF, we believe that everyone deserves access to affordable credit-building loans and financial education. We are excited to work with our new partners to bring Lending Circles to their local communities and help families build financial security nationwide.

Learn more about our newest partners below:

City Dibs
Baltimore, MD & Oakland, CA

Brioxy transforms communities by investing in the leadership of Black folks who are building possibility models towards Black sovereignty. As part of the City Dibs initiative, they train cohorts of Black leaders in cities across the country that are building innovative solutions in their neighborhoods. Lending Circles will be a complementary tool to support leaders in their fellowship program.

The Community Action Partnership of Orange County (CAP OC)
Orange County, CA

CAP OC seeks to end and prevent poverty by stabilizing, sustaining and empowering people with the resources they need when they need them. They boldly address the root causes of poverty and advocate for change through systemic reforms, social justice and racial equity. CAP OC is integrating Lending Circles into their financial empowerment workshops and their Family Resource Centers.

East Oakland Collective
Oakland, CA

The East Oakland Collective supports residents of East Oakland, prioritizing Black residents, to navigate challenges and barriers to inequities through resource distribution and advocacy. EOC work towards racial and economic justice and equitable access, and their work includes homeless services and solutions, economic empowerment and community action. Lending Circles will pair with their financial literacy curriculum as core components of their economic empowerment programming.

International Institute of Metro Detroit
Detroit, MI

The International Institute is dedicated to transforming the lives of low-income immigrants, refugees, and U.S.-born residents through innovative solutions to advancing economic mobility. IIMD will integrate Lending Circles into their Center for Working Families, providing financial coaching, training, and workforce development.

If your organization is interested in bringing Lending Circles to your community, click here to learn more!

Designing Research Rooted in Immigrant Families’ Lived Experience

For more than 15 years, MAF has cultivated relationships with low-income communities by putting the best of finance and technology in their service. When COVID hit, we built on these relationships and support from funders to provide cash assistance to immigrants excluded from federal stimulus. The Immigrant Families Fund and the insights from participant surveys led us to think even bigger about what immigrant families need to recover from the devastation of the pandemic. We designed the Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP) to deepen not only our community relationships, but also our knowledge about their financial lives. Our research aims to inform the conversation on immigrants and the economy — how they live, persevere, and thrive — as we collectively push forward toward a more just world.

An intentional question

It might seem obvious, but good research starts with a clear and thoughtful question — one that
can focus, organize, and motivate all the research activities. On its surface, our research
question for IFRP seems rather simple:

What will it take for immigrant families to rebuild their financial lives faster?

In truth, though, the question is quite complicated. For us, it requires that we consider not only
the type and duration of support that immigrant families need and deserve, but also the specific
political and economic context of their lives; the material, emotional, and social dimensions of
their financial experience; and, their skills and strengths at both the individual and community
levels. The elegance of our question is that it’s big enough to hold both simple and complex

Context is everything

In our digital world, everything is data — but not all data are equal. People are best understood
in the context of their lives; similarly, data are best interpreted in the context of their collection.
So, to answer our research question, we developed a data strategy focused on gathering rich,
relevant, and timely information about people’s experience not just with our program, but also
more generally — their challenges, priorities, and opportunities. We do this through longform
surveys, pulse surveys, and in-depth interviews — in addition to collecting programmatic and,
for many, administrative data from credit bureaus and banks. When layered together, these data
will allow us to paint a more holistic picture of how immigrant families are doing across time.

From and for the people

We designed our question and data strategy with such care because in research, as with many
things, you only get what you put in. By rooting ourselves firmly in immigrants’ lived realities, our
research will have real-world implications. To understand what it will take for immigrant families to rebuild their financial lives faster, we’ll need to uncover how they navigate political and
economic uncertainty; what strategies they use under significant constraints; and, how civil
society and government can best support them. And that’s just the beginning. We might be
structuring the research process, but the truths we’re excavating come from people — and what
we do with those truths is ultimately for them.

Generating knowledge, generating power

This isn’t just an academic exercise; it’s another way in which we’re serving communities. Our
investigations are not only rooted in and reflective of immigrants’ lives, but they can also shape
the conversations we’re having in our cities, states, and nation. Knowledge is a powerful tool
and research is how we forge it. Using these tools, we’ll be able to build a more just and
equitable financial system.

We held a webinar about our research design, in conversation with Professors Fred Wherry and
Eldar Shafir, our esteemed collaborators from Princeton University. Learn more by watching

Working with Annie Leibovitz and TriNet to uplift MAF’s story

We are honored to have the renowned portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz, capture the image of our founder and CEO, José Quiñonez. Leibovitz’s work is well-known and respected worldwide, and we appreciate the attention her project with TriNet has brought to MAF.

A part of TriNet’s People Matter campaign, the video highlights MAF’s 15 years of improving the financial lives of low-income immigrant families with access to the capital they need to achieve their dreams.

With the support of a dedicated team, we have served over 90,000 people with emergency grants and credit-building loans. According to Leibovitz, what makes José a hero is not just his work with Mission Asset Fund, but his dedication to making the invisible visible. He understands that low-income immigrant families are often overlooked, and he is determined to help our community succeed.

Leibovitz’s powerful portrait of José captures his dedication and passion for his work. The image represents MAF’s work in the Mission District of San Francisco, where we help people who are often on the margins of society. It is a reminder of the power of helping others and the impact one person can have on their community.

José closes with the commitment to continuing our work to help improve the financial lives of low-income immigrant families nationwide. With the right support and resources, we can make a difference and help more people achieve their goals. And we are grateful to have such a talented and respected photographer as Annie Leibovitz help bring attention to our cause.


José Quiñonez: Traditionally society thinks our poor people are just ignorant, they’re dumb. They’re doing everything wrong. That never really squared with my reality.

My name is José Quiñonez. I’m the founder and CEO of the Mission Asset Fund. What we’re trying to do is to help improve the financial lives of low-income immigrant families so that they can get a loan to buy a car, a mortgage, they can get a loan to start business.

As an immigrant myself, I came to this country when I was nine. I came here undocumented, so I know what the reality is like to be in the shadows. With the small business owners, for example, and they have very limited access to capital and all they want is just an opportunity.

When we started the mission as a fund over 15 years ago now, we were clear about our mission. The question was how to do that. So we brought a team together of young people.

Team member: What is staff engagement looking like?

José: Putting the best technology in the service of poor people. We were we’re constantly innovating. We’re constantly changing. Going from a local organization rooted in the Mission District in San Francisco to being a national player. It is quite the leap.

We were able to sort of expand at a blink of an eye because we have the support of TriNet. We’ve now served more than 90,000 people with emergency grants, with credit building loans.

I kind of feel like we’re just getting started.

Annie Leibovitz: José, he’s really like a hero. He’s an amazing man.

I knew these were going to be in environmental portraits. I really thought about how important it is to find the place that will resonate. It was a decision I made that the table was really his tool.

And they’re right out that window is people walking by the bus. You know, it’s the Mission district. I just felt like she was on the street. You know.

José: For a person like myself who has been at the margins of the world to get that type of attention of somebody like her, to be her muse for a half a day. I’m just completely in awe. This is a moment that we have been working towards trying to make the invisible visible.