As an American fellow working in San Francisco, I worry that my posts will be considered mundane by adventure-seeking readers. I don’t have a tractor in my office, I have relentless wireless internet, and I have yet to come across a dog-riding chicken. I will attempt to keep things interesting by treating California as a strange and exotic new country and by taking all of your hardball questions.

To begin, let me tell you about my Saturday at the Savers Party in San Jose.

Check-in table at our party

Car club meeting next to our party

The Savers Party was thrown by Opportunity Fund, Kiva’s field partner in San Francisco, to reward its IDA Savings Program graduates.

The IDA Savings Program was developed by Opportunity Fund to encourage people to save. If an individual qualifies and can commit to financial education classes, every dollar he/she saves will be matched 2:1 (up to $4,000). The matching funds were raised by Opportunity Fund via federal grants, foundation grants and individual donations.

Opportunity Fund threw an impressive party, in large part due to the food and entertainment, which was supplied by OF’s small business loan clients. Mandy’s Korner provided the tri-tip and hotdogs, Vintage Pastries brought dessert and Face Painting 4 Fun provided the…face painting. For the kids (and there were many), Opportunity Fund volunteers held games, gave away prizes, and distracted them long enough to allow their parents to meet one another and enjoy the day.

For Opportunity Fund staff, the not-so-secret agenda of the Savers Party was to collect as much marketing material (stories, photos, videos) as possible. How did they benefit from the program? Were they saving for education, a business, home ownership or citizenship?

I interviewed a client who had saved $2,000 and received $4,000 in matching funds for her 18 year-old son’s college education. She told me that the program was a blessing for single parents who survive day-to-day and wouldn’t save otherwise.

Another man I spoke with told me how his wife used the savings grant to launch her childcare business. I asked him how he felt about the program. “It is beyond our imagination.”

Casey Koppelson also loves saving. Casey is a Kiva Fellow (KF12) in San Francisco and recent transplant from New York City. She is enjoying SF’s street vendors, dollar stores and parrots and has almost stopped shivering.

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