The Microloans For Mothers program is structured as an entity under the 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, Class-ACT (Class – Arts, Children & Technology, Inc.). Initial planning for the Microloans For Mothers program started in the spring of 2010 following the visit to a small school in Cambodia (October, 2009) that was being supported by the Class-ACT organization, and where it was conducting its Children’s Global Art Exchange program. Board members were inspired to assist the families of the school by issuing small loans to the mothers, enabling them to start a simple business that would generate extra income for their families.
The Microloans For Mothers program issued its first five loans in November of 2010, and within a year grew to serve 35 clients. Women receive an initial loan of $100 to start or improve upon a home business. The loan is paid back over a six-month period, after which the mother can apply for a larger loan. To date 100% of the loans have been repaid. Mothers are organized in “loan groups” of five members that meet weekly for business training, fellowship, payment of loan installments, and deposits to their individual savings accounts. Staff in Cambodia prepare a monthly progress report on each mother’s business. By helping mothers with capital to start their own businesses, the program enables low-income women to take a proactive role in creating a more promising future for themselves and their families.
The Microloans For Mothers program in Cambodia continues to expand and make a real difference for many families there. So much so that Class-ACT’s board of directors has decided to expand it further to now also include low-income single mothers in San Diego County.
Class-ACT (the umbrella non-profit organization for the Microloans For Mothers program) has been an active organization serving the community since its inception in 1998. Support has been received from many organizations, businesses and individuals, as well as major city, county and state funding. Programming has increased steadily throughout its history. The first programs were in the area of local arts education, which by its tenth year was serving 150 classrooms (representing service to approximately 18,000 children – each receiving six to ten hours of art contact). Also, when considering the many performances done by children, the impact of this local arts education component extended beyond the classroom and into the community, touching the lives of many more – estimated to be an additional 10,000 to 15,000 parents, friends and neighbors. The program brought not only arts and cultural enrichment to students, but also new technology skills that enhance academic excellence.
In the summer of 2008 the organization started its global outreach component called the Children’s Global Art Exchange, designed to support arts education for adopted schools in a developing world country, and create a link with children in our own local communities. The local school art component incorporates a fundraising element and then links the local classroom of children with those in the adopted classroom where we fund school supplies, school art projects and other educational needs. This global outreach program lead to the support of schools in Cambodia that several board members visited in October of 2009. The trip was extremely productive, and became the inspiration for initiating the microlending program, Microloans For Mothers.
The executive director of Class-ACT, Niels Lund, holds a California teaching credential and two university degrees in Education Administration. He is well known in the local business and education communities through years of volunteer work, and has wide knowledge and experience in Arts Administration and Marketing. He has for many years worked directly with children in the creative field of the performing arts, and founded the San Diego International Children’s Festival that served over 50,000 children over a period of six years (1989 – 1995). Mr. Lund is responsible for the management and operation of Class-ACT and its programs. He secures the artists who provide instruction in the local community, establishes connections with local and developing world schools, and furthers the operation of the Children’s Global Art Exchange and Microloans For Mothers programs, both in Cambodia and San Diego County.