Friday, July 20, 2007

IDAs can propel you into Business Ownership

This article in the Oakland Tribune last week by Eve Mitchell, titled "IDAs can propel you into home ownership," actually makes the point that, in the Bay Area, IDAs probably won't allow you to own a home.
The $6,000 maximum an IDA can contribute toward buying a home doesn't go too far in the Bay Area, where the median price of a new or used condo or single-family home in May was $660,000, according to DataQuick Information Systems.
Also, IDAs that receive federal funding can only be provided to those with very low incomes. The income cap is $20,000 for an individual and $40,000 for a family of four at the time of enrollment. Most Bay Area nonprofits that offer IDAs receive federal funding, so the income restrictions apply here.
But the article goes on to suggest other ways to make that down payment happen, including pooling IDA funds with family members, and pursuing low-interest loan programs.
It's an interesting read. Have a look.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Meet Heather Haxo Phillips

Heather Haxo Phillips, Women's Initiative's Development Director (or fundraising director), is spending the summer in India studying yoga. Here's her perspective on microenterprise work after two months in the birthplace of microcredit.
I have spent the last 6 weeks in India, where many people live on less than $1 a day.

As I walk down the streets, I see so many women and children without any shoes on their feet, whole families sleeping on the same patch of sidewalk night after night. We have all seen the face of third-world poverty in pictures, but seeing it live provides me with piercing understanding about how much the human sprit can endure.

Their lives are so hard. Yet, these families still have smiles on their faces, even if they have no food on their bellies. They have pride, community spirit, and a strong sense of morality.

Here in India, microenterprise has become very well known. It can change a woman’s life by providing her with a $5, $50 or even $500 loan. Many women on the street, like those I have seen, have taken advantage of what microentperise can offer them.

As the field has grown it has also become commercial. India’s president-elect is embroiled in scandal because the bank she founded – which offered microenterprise loans as well as regular loans – gave loans to family members and let them default, leaving aging pensioners without any access to their savings.

The scope of what a $500 microenterprise investment can do in India is a stark contrast to the US where $500 won’t even pay rent for a month.

Today the importance of my role in microenterprise really struck home. I was talking with the granddaughter of our servant. Her grandmother cannot read or write, she has been changing the diapers, cleaning the toilets and making the dinners of my family for more than 40 years. The granddaughter had other dreams, she is going to hotel school despite the fact that both her parents are dead.

After 6 weeks of living together this young woman - my maid, I guess you would say - finally ventured a conversation with me. She asked me what I studied in college and what I did for a living.

She asked me what it was like to go around the globe, because she has never been outside of the city limits.

And then she turned to me and said, “Do you know that you have the best job ever?” That hit me between the eyes.

For most young, educated people in India, the best job one can get is working in a call center – your name stops being Saraswati because they want you to be Sarah, Manu becomes Michael. And you work American hours which means arriving at work in the dead of night. If you don’t have an education, you work doing whatever your parents did.

This girl has escaped that. She will graduate from hotel school, and if she is lucky she will someday be able to work the front desk. But it isn’t her dream job.

When I told her about the work I was doing to help women and their families, her eyes gleamed. She felt that it was the most important work that she could think of. And she should know.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Two WI Graduates on View From the Bay

Watch jewelry-making WI graduates Darlene Roberts and Lola Hanif talk about Women's Initiative and their own stories on ABC's View From the Bay.

(Jump on it, though. The video expires after 90 days!)

A Miracle

By: Quela, Women's Initative Graduate

OK, I know it's been a while since I blogged. I have been really busy: worried and stressed out about money. This is a lesson in faith, hope, and miracles.

Recently I became a sole business owner on top of being financially responsible. Lucky me, I also am my best employee! The reward is great, however, the challenge is greater--or seems like it at this time.

Remember when I told you going into business was like a marriage? Well now that the honeymoon is over I have been put to the question "Who said yes to this anyway?" Well I guess one has to be careful what one asks for.

While feeling sorry for myself one day the phone rang. A small voice called out to me, "Is this Quela?" I answered, "Yes." She continued, "We have been looking for a person to make a pair of pants all day! Can you help?" I said yes!

This emergency pair of pants so desperately needed belonged to a fancy music star who shall remain nameless. Long story short (you know you have to wait for the book), I made the pants in an hour and a half. Paid very well for my time I might add.

And the moral of this story one might ask? Never give up, accept where you are in the moment, and know your talent or gift was given to you for a reason. Be open for change AND ALWAYS expect a Miracle!

That's all for now.