“And When You Hear This, Isabela…”
The San Francisco StoryCorps team has now had the privilege of doing two recording days with families at the Mission Asset Fund (MAF), an innovative nonprofit financial services organization in San Francisco’s Mission District. They are committed to the local community’s economic vitality and self-sufficiency. Known by its primarily Spanish-speaking client base as El Fondo Popular de la Misión, their mission is to “expand access to financial services, savings and investment opportunities for work-poor families,” so that low-income and immigrant families are able to build credit, and remain and thrive in the ever-gentrifying area.
After a wonderful day of interviews in December, San Francisco facilitator Rose Arrieta and I were invited back for a recording day this Valentines Day. Our gracious host, Doris Vasquez (pictured below), a MAF staff member, greeted us with freshly baked morning pastries, which she’d set out for the day’s participants and us to enjoy.
Doris, along the rest of the MAF staff, does an amazing job in creating a welcoming, trusting, and personalized environment for their clients. These close bonds were immediately apparent when Doris effortlessly stepped in as an interviewer for a couple of StoryCorps participants who ended up coming in alone for their recording session.
One of these interviews was with Reina, who came to her interview to send some loving messages to her young baby, Brittany, who she brought into the interview.
Reina gave birth to Brittany just a few months ago, “un milagro,” she said, “a miracle”. In an emotional ending to the interview, Doris, described witnessing Reina’s great strength as a new mother, a strength Doris said she saw in her from the moment they first met a year earlier, when Reina came in for a financial advising class there.
At the heart of Mission Asset Fund’s ground-breaking programs are small lending circles made up of just a few members, called Cestas, in Spanish (“baskets”), which help members build credit, finance their own small businesses, and provide access to short-term loans for family emergencies. Many of the clients who participated in interviews are members of these small lending groups, including Alicia, who Rose and I met on our first day at MAF. Alicia’s planning to use her loan from the group to open a tamale stand in one of San Francisco’s bustling public plazas, with hopes of eventually opening a restaurant of her own. Alicia came in with her 17 year-old son, Pedro, to share with him the story of coming from a long lineage of highway workers in Mexico, and how proud Alicia is that Pedro, now a freshman at San Francisco State University, is the first in the family to attend college.
Rounding out our celebration of “Love Day,” some couples also came in to record some of their favorite memories together, and hopes for the future, including parents-to-be, Diana and Fabio.
Diana is six months pregnant, and she and her husband Fabio beamed with joy as they recounted their favorite memories together for their future daughter, whom they’ve named Isabela, after Diana’s middle name. Almost every story they shared, from how they met through friends to how excited their parents are to welcome her into the family, started with “And when you listen to this Isabela…”
It was an honor to be witness to these precious moments. There couldn’t have been a more meaningful way to celebrate love, friendship, and family.
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