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Welcoming the Education & Leadership Foundation to MAF’s Lending Circles Partner Network

At MAF, we are always on the lookout for partners who share our vision of a more equitable world for immigrant families. Today, we are thrilled to introduce our latest addition to the MAF partner network – the Education & Leadership Foundation (ELF).

Based in Fresno, California, ELF is dedicated to empowering underrepresented communities through a range of essential services, including immigration support, equitable education opportunities, and social justice initiatives. What makes this partnership particularly special is the personal connection that brought our organizations together. It all started when ELF’s Executive Director, Matías Bernal, first learned about MAF’s services in 2016 as a DACA recipient himself. Over the years, Matías has stayed connected with our organization and referred clients to MAF. Then, in the fall of 2022, Matías reached out to explore what a formal partnership and bringing Lending Circles in-house to ELF could look like.

ELF’s journey began 16 years ago, focusing on supporting undocumented students at Fresno State University through educational programs. Since then, they have expanded their reach and evolved into a Department of Justice (DOJ) accredited immigration services provider. ELF provides the community with education, civic engagement, and immigration services, as well as professional development seminars, leadership development, professional development internships, scholarships, and volunteer opportunities. ELF also initiates special projects like utility assistance and financial education workshops in response to community needs. Many of their clients are Spanish-speaking, English learners, or first-generation immigrants. Around 80% of the families they assist began their financial journeys with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), and approximately one in five of their clients either lack a bank account or have a deep-seated distrust of traditional financial services.

MAF’s Lending Circles program fulfills a crucial need for ELF’s clients, offering access to credit and capital when traditional loans and banking services are often out of reach or denied to the communities they serve.

At MAF, we believe that Lending Circles are a powerful tool for diverse communities across the United States. Our partnership with ELF is a testament to this belief, and we are excited about the positive impact we can create together in the years to come. We look forward to witnessing how Lending Circles will play a transformative role in ELF’s community, providing access to credit and financial education that can pave the way for brighter financial futures for immigrant families.

If your organization is interested in becoming a Lending Circles partner, we encourage you to reach out or join us for one of our upcoming Lending Circles Communities events. Together, we can continue to expand financial opportunities and empower communities across the country.