voices > Sunny’s Diary

Sunny was 13 when she arrived in the U.S. from Thailand with her two sisters. She learned to be resourceful while putting herself through school and sending money home to support her parents. That resourcefulness has paid off for her business, 5FT2IN, a clothing line for petite women. Sunny started saving for her business through Opportunity Fund’s IDA Savings program, and went on to get a loan and business advice from us. As her business has grown, so has Sunny’s involvement—from being an active alumna attending Opportunity Fund events to sharing her story with national policymakers.

Day 1: Thursday, September 11, 2008

8:30 am – 9:30 am: Attended Lobbying 101: Capitol Hill Visit Preparation.
Met with Opportunity Fund’s IDA team.

10:00 am – 1:15 pm: Attended the Opening Plenary sessions.

1:30 pm – 5:30 pm: Capitol Hill Visit - Went to Nancy Pelosi’s office and met with her staff. We had a very brief meeting, approx. 5 minutes b/c the staff had to run to a meeting. I talked about the impact of the IDA program on my life and how it helped me start my business. After the meeting, Gwyneth (from Opportunity Fund) and I toured the House Chamber and the Senate Chamber and watched a Senator in action.

We then went to Barbara Boxer’s office and met with her Legislative Assistant, Brian McKeon. We talked for about half an hour on the Savings for Working Families Act, the ASPIRE Act of 2007, and the IDA program. Several people from the Bay Area joined us at this meeting like Sharon Robinson and Tse Ming Tam of United Way, and Estelle Clemons of the City of Oakland.

Afterwards, we all met up in front of Capitol Hill for a group photo.

7 pm – 10:45 pm: Went on the Washington by Twilight Tour. Viewed from the bus the Federal Triangle, the White House, Capitol Hill, The Mall, Watergate, Kennedy Center, Georgetown Waterfront, and Arlington Cemetery. Stepped off and visited FDR Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean Walls, Jefferson Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, and World War II Memorial.

The tour was $36, I feel it was well worth the money because prior to visiting Washington, D.C. I did not know anything about its history or landmarks and the tour guide explained all the sites to us and took us to many significant places in a short period of time.

Day 2: Friday, September 12, 2008

11:45 am: Met Suvada, Gwyneth, and others for a tour of the White House. We went inside and looked at all the different rooms in the White House. Afterwards, we walked around the White House and even passed by some protestors. We then got on the Metro and went to Capitol Hill. On the way there, we dropped by the Visitors Center to look at more things and buy souvenirs.

2 pm: We had a staff-led tour of Capitol Hill by Samuel Rockman, from Barbara Boxer’s office. He took us underground and we traveled from her office to the Capitol on a little monorail. He explained the place to us and also took us to see the old Senate Chamber. He also took the time to explain the art and what they stood for. It was very cool. When we were finished with the tour, it rained and some of us got very wet. We decided to go eat near the Postal Station.

6 pm: We returned to the hotel and later attended the CFED Networking Reception featuring a go-go band with a Washington, D.C. theme. I ended my night early to prepare for Saturday morning’s event.

Day 3: Saturday, September 13, 2008

8 am – 9:30am: Breakfast with Accountholders. I spoke on a Q&A panel with other account holders (Michael Harley and Dennis Matthews) on my experience with the IDA program. It was a great experience. There I met Michael Sherraden (who is considered the father of the IDA), Fred Goldberg (a leading expert on tax policy reform), and Andrea Levere (president of CFED).

10:00 am: Afterwards, we were asked to take some photographs with the organizers.

10:30 am – 1:00 pm: Toured the Holocaust Museum. Heard a survivor’s story, it was very sad.

1:30 pm: Returned to the hotel for the closing plenary.

2:30 pm: Went to the airport. Returned to Oakland.

In September 2008, Sunny addressed 1,000 community development policymakers and practitioners at the 2008 Assets Learning Conference in Washington D.C. She talked about her experiences as a small business owner and IDA saver, as part of a panel of IDA clients.