Participants in LFCD’s Hand 2 Hand program
Before arriving to the United States, refugee and immigrant families often experience traumatic life events and have to leave behind everything they know and love. Many spent time living in a refugee camp and had little preparation of a new life in a competitive environment like the Bay Area and Northern California. The “experience is very disorienting and can be difficult for many. However there will also be those who are very resilient and will achieve economic and social success and the quintessential American Dream.” says Kathy Chao Rothberg, CEO of LFCD. Kathy is herself a refugee from the Vietnam War era who came to America at the age of 7. Refugees and immigrants arrive to America, a place with a completely different social, economic, and cultural environment. In 1980, refugees from Laos saw this pressing need to support and grow the refugee community. Thus, the Lao Family Community Development (LFCD) was founded.
LFCD is committed to supporting immigrant communities through a holistic and collaborative, ‘wrap-around’ services model approach that strives to meet the immediate basic, long term, and special needs of communities through its initiatives in workforce, education, affordable housing, small business economic development and support services in health, income, and savings.
One of such initiatives is the Lao Family Individual Development Account (IDA) program in partnership with Beneficial State Bank. IDAs are special-purpose savings accounts with required financial education training and goals that are matched by federal, state, and/or charitable organizations to help low-income individuals save more. At Beneficial State Bank, we believe that incentivized savings programs like IDAs are some of the most important ways for low-income individuals to build assets and to decrease our country’s extraordinary wealth gap.
It’s not just about the job, and the savings, it’s also about understanding the financial systems in America. About how to develop credit, banking systems, how to use a credit card. Especially when you’re a refugee you don’t have any credit when you come to America. There are so many other things that go into becoming self sufficient.
– Kathy Chao Rothberg, CEO of LFCD
Through this IDA program, one LFCD participant achieved his lifelong dream of homeownership. Ka Baw, a refugee from Burma, was able to put down $4,000 of his own savings and with the matched funds and down payment assistance from the City of Oakland, LFCD, Office of Refugee Resettlment, and the FHLB SF Wish Program he was able to purchase a house with 20% down payment. This partnership between Beneficial State Bank and Lao Family Community Development, has this kind of real, direct impact and allows other account holders like Ka Baw to climb the economic ladder.
* Some content was featured on Oakland North’s article.