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Tag: DACA

Welcome Carmen Chan, DREAMSF Fellow!


Carmen, a Dreamer from Venezuela, shares her story and dream to help undocumented youth.

Carmen Chan recently joined the MAF team as an Outreach Fellow through the San Francisco Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs’ DREAMSF Fellowship. The DREAMSF Fellowship is an opportunity for DACA-approved youth to serve San Francisco’s immigrant communities while gaining valuable professional experience and training. We’re excited to have Carmen work with us and want to share a little bit about her through an interview!

1.What inspired you to apply to the Dream SF Fellowship?

I was looking for something to do over the summer and then my academic adviser send me an email about the Dream SF Fellowship. I also wanted to do something for the undocumented community because I wanted to find out what kind of a leader I can be. I applied and I was accepted!

2. Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Venezuela. I just graduated from San Francisco State University double majoring in History and Spanish. I attended Everett Middle School and Galileo High School in San Francisco. I came to San Francisco when I was 12 years old with my parents. My parents stayed for one week and they decided to leave me and my sister in the care of my uncle.  It was difficult for me, because I had to start over again. I wanted to stay in my country, because the majority of my family members and friends lived there.

I considered myself a person of two worlds because growing up the Chinese culture was in my surroundings and once I went to school, the Venezuelan culture was very prominent.  At home, my parents spoke Chinese to me and the customs and religion were very important growing. For example, on Chinese New Year my mom would wake up early and start preparing food. My favorite thing was waking up and smelling my mom’s cooking, the red envelopes, and the fireworks. Also, the Venezuelan culture was very prominent because I spend a lot of time in my neighbors’ houses. I remembered eating Arepas, Cachapas, and Sancocho. At school, I played with kids from the barrio. I also learned a lot of Venezuelan street slang.

Venezuela is always in turmoil. My country is divided still even today.  I remember when I was a kid I missed school a lot due to protests and confrontations between the Hugo Chavez party and the opposition. My parents thought that the best option was to come to America, study and improve my education. The political situation right now is worse than when I left. My parents do not even have toilet paper to use or chicken to eat. I feel really bad about how the country is right now.

3. What are some activities or projects you’ve been involved with that you are really proud of?

When I was an intern at Pact, Inc, I helped an Asian student with her financial aid. By doing that I found out that she was AB540 and she was so surprised because her parents did not tell her about her status.  AB540 was an assembly bill that was passed in 2001, which allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition fees. Many undocumented students refer themselves as AB540 to specify their status.

The student reminded me a lot of myself because my parents also didn’t tell me that I was undocumented. I found out about my status in high school, when my high school counselor told me that I did not qualify for FAFSA. My counselor did not know what to do with my situation because I was probably the first undocumented student she knew at that time.

The next day, the student came and told me that she didn’t want to attend to college because it was too expensive. I told her that there were many ways to get help like through scholarships. I kept encouraging her to apply for all the scholarships available and she did. When I found out that she got a four year scholarship to attend City College, I was so happy for her. I still keep in touch with her on Facebook.

4. Why were you interested in working at MAF as an Outreach Fellow?

Having the work permit has been an eye opening experience for me. I made mistakes and I learned some important big lessons. For example, filing taxes was so confusing and I made some mistakes in my W-4. I didn’t know why the IRS needed to take money out of my paycheck.  Some of my undocumented friends started to talk to me about signing up for credit cards, because it was important to start building a credit score. I was lost and little confused. The reason I wanted to join MAF is because I want to provide that support and guidance for many undocumented youth about their finances.

5. What are you looking forward to doing during your fellowship?

I am looking forward to learning many skills, especially in outreach, because I believe outreach is a powerful tool that can influence and empower the community that we serve. Also, networking and building connections.

6. What are some of your goals in the next five years?

I hope in 5 years to have a job that I enjoy, especially working with youth or the low-income communities in the Bay Area. I hope in 5 years I have the possibility to bring my parents to live here with me. I haven’t see my mother for about 10 years and I really miss her.

7. What are your hopes for the Dreamer community and undocumented Americans?

I hope that soon we have immigration reform that will benefit everyone equally, a reform that will benefit not only the youth, but the hardworking parents. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has so many limitations, such as you have to have come to the US before age 16 and you have to be under 31 as of June 15, 2012, so it does not benefit every Dreamer. One of my closest friends could not apply for Deferred Action because she came here in July of 2007 but to qualify you must have been residing in the U.S since June 2007. Because of one month difference, she couldn’t apply for the Deferred Action.

We can’t give up now. There is still hope. It is never too late to fight for our dreams. We are not alone in this fight. Our struggles make us stronger and make us who we are.

Calling all Dreamers


Jesus Castro shares his own story and hopes it inspires others to apply for DACA.

One of the things I find so empowering about our work at MAF is seeing young leaders follow their passion and give back to the community. Jesus Castro is one of those leaders who joined Lending Circle for Dreamers and has gone on to advocate for immigrant youth. I interviewed him about an exciting public service announcement he has developed with the SF Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs to raise awareness about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

How did you get involved with the SF Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs?

The first time I came in contact with the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA), or more specifically OCEIA’s director, Adrienne Pon, was at the Coro Annual Luncheon. After giving a speech on how Coro’s Exploring Leadership Program changed my life, several people came up to me to congratulate me, and discuss my career path, I was really honored. A couple minutes after Director Pon approached me and I think she stood out to me the most because of her offices name. I am very passionate about the fight for immigrants and, their name being The Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant affairs just caught my eye right away that’s when I knew that I wanted to get that internship more than anything.

What was the purpose of the PSA video?

The PSA’s purpose was to create a useful outreach tool to educate people about DACA and encourage them to come forward and apply. We were also hoping to incorporate it in our one year of DACA event this in celebration of DACA’s one year anniversary, so in response this PSA video came into play. During the process there were some hiccups and the video was delayed but with help from an awesome friend, and my own little grain of sand the video was finally completed and it’s now on YouTube. The video is also posted on our dreamSF website.

How did you feel sharing your personal story in the video?

Sharing my story is something that I really enjoy doing not only because it empowers others to share their stories, but also because it also gives me the strength and courage to keep sharing my story.  It’s a domino effect they need a little courage from others to share their stories, and these people’s positive feedback gives the person telling their story the courage to keep doing sharing.

What are some reasons DACA eligible youth have not applied yet?

I can’t know for sure and I can’t speak on behalf of those who haven’t yet applied for DACA, but if I were to guess why they haven’t applied I would say it’s because of the fact that they don’t have the money to do so. The cost to apply for DACA is $465 which is a huge investment and many people are also unfamiliar with the application process and what it takes to renew, so we need to provide the right educational and financial resources.

How did you find out about MAF?

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) has definitely played a huge role in my life. The first time I heard about them was through Legal Services for Children, the organization that helped me with my DACA application process. They suggested that I go to MAF for financial assistance because at the time they were offering a $155 scholarship for DACA applicants on top of their lending services to pay for the DACA application. I joined what they call Lending Circles for Dreamers were I got a step by step on filling in the application in order to receive the check that would pay for my application. Now, the program offers participants an opportunity to get a group loan and save so you can pay for your application.

What are some other ways the city is trying to assist immigrants?

Specifically, our office is assisting immigrants with language access, naturalization services and in terms of DACA youth/adult immigrants, we are launching a dreamsf fellows program that is specifically for DACA approved people and we have a Pathways to Citizenship initiative.

What are your hopes for comprehensive immigration reform?

A comprehensive immigration reform would be exceptional for all immigrants that currently reside in the U.S. I’m sure this comprehensive reform is around the corner but we just all have to make an effort in the process and show an interest in it. We currently have DACA but what about our parents and those who don’t meet the requirements for DACA? Not every undocumented person qualifies for DACA so many families are being broken up while immigration reforms is at a standstill. We need to move forward or our communities suffer.

What does civic engagement mean to you and how it is important in your life?

To me, it’s the 2nd chapter to my story. I have been with OCEIA for 2 years now and it’s really a home away from home. I can’t thank Director Pon enough for giving me the opportunity to be part of her team. Since the beginning of my internship the work has been tough, and I mean that in the most thankful way. Thankful because from all the work that I have done I know feel better prepared me for whatever other job comes my way. I also want to thank Richard Whipple he has been there every step of the way. He not only guides me through work challenges but also through life’s challenges. Although I have done a lot with OCEIA, this is only the beginning.  I am still looking forward to many years with them, and as OCEIA grows, I will as well.


Nesima Aberra is the Marketing Associate and New Sector Fellow at Mission Asset Fund. She loves storytelling, social good and a good cup of tea. You can reach her at nesima@missionassetfund.org.

Olivia: cooking from the heart


Small business owners Olivia and Javier started Eleganza Catering but needed Lending Circles to reduce medical debt & build their business

Olivia Velazquez and her husband, Javier Delgadillo are originally from Mexico and share a passion for cooking and for pampering the people around them. Together, they have 42 years of experience in customer service and food preparation from their tenure at a popular downtown San Francisco lunch spot.

In 2010, Olivia and Javier spent long hours at the Pediatrics Intensive Care Unit at UCSF Hospital, waiting for their youngest son’s recovery from neurosurgery.

To thank the hospital staff for their dedication, Olivia and Javier started to bring in sandwiches, salads, and fruits. From there, catering requests started to come in – first for private events of the staff members, and later for larger organization-wide special occasions. And so began Eleganza Catering.

Olivia’s daughters

Olivia’s credit score plummeted nearly 200 points from the medical debt accrued while her son was going through treatment. After he recovered, it was time for the family to focus on getting rid of the medical debt and improving their credit histories so they could build their business. She learned about Lending Circles from her friends, Bruno and Micaela, who were also small business owners and who had successfully used the program to repair their credit. Olivia and her husband joined a Lending Circle in 2012 and used their loans to help pay down their existing debt.

Sophie Quinton from the National Journal reports, “After just 11 months of participating in the peer-to-peer lending program, Olivia’s credit score went from below 500 to about 670.”

Check out Olivia’s business