AmeriCorps VISTA Helps Families Achieve Financial Opportunity

Dan Ping He

AmeriCorps VISTA Dan Ping He (left) with Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Wendy Spencer.

Member shares her story about serving in the Financial Opportunity Corps during Franklin Project Summit in Gettysburg.

My name is Dan Ping He. I serve as a Points of Light AmeriCorps VISTA member with Asian Americans for Equality in New York City, supporting the Financial Opportunity Corps in partnership with Bank of America, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. 

I coordinate a financial coaching program, which builds capacity in my community by equipping low and moderate-income families with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make empowered personal financial decisions. We ensure the sustainability of our work by training quality volunteers from the community to provide free financial coaching services and facilitators to provide financial education workshops. 

I serve because I believe in the desires and abilities of people in my community to achieve their goals; whether it is to purchase a home, save for their children’s education, or build emergency funds to feel financially secure. 

Budgeting is hard when the high of cost of living is brutally apparent in simple purchases like toothpaste or food.  Saving is even harder in a city where 50 percent of families are rent burdened. 

But every day, I and 36 other volunteers approach our work believing that all of our clients are creative, resourceful, and whole.  They are not problems to be fixed, but people who are genuinely capable of being the best that they can be in all the ways that are most meaningful and empowering for them.

Our volunteers are trained to be empathetic, deep listeners to work with our clients in creating their own actions plans holding them accountable to their goals. Knowing that someone else cares about your financial well-being can mean the difference between achieving your goal and getting derailed from your goal.  

I would like to share with you a story of one of our clients, Taneika, who once made the mistake of obtaining a payday loan while facing mounting medical bills due to the genetic deterioration of her eyesight. Taneika was paired with one of our amazing volunteer financial coaches, Jonathan.

Jonathan drew upon his coaching skills to listen deeply to Taneika and helped her to create a budget. Through this process, Taneika realized that her excessive spending habits were largely a result of stress and feeling that she was not in control of her own finances and life. 

Jonathan helped her formulate a plan and since then they have worked together to track her spending and create a budget that works; ultimately building Taneika’s confidence while creating better money habits.

As AmeriCorps VISTA members we must not only serve with an “open mind and open heart,” we must also have “open ears.”  I serve to benefit others. I feel compelled to work for change in a culture that sees money as a stressful burden rather than an opportunity for a financially stable future. And though I am honored to speak here today, I know that the bigger job for me is to listen so that my community members can have their dreams realized and voices heard.

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