Partners Asia received the 2018 International Partner Grant in a vote by a committee of more than 20 members, led by co-chairs Amy Corey and Patricia Kiyono. Partners Asia supports community initiatives to improve the lives of Myanmar’s most vulnerable. Many of these people are ethnic minorities living in unstable areas within Myanmar and along its borders, where they risk displacement and exploitation. Partners Asia builds relationships with courageous community organizers and with international donors to help bridge the gap between local leaders and global resources. With this partner grant, Washington Women’s Foundation becomes one of those global resources.
With each International Partner Grant, we collaborate with an external nonprofit partner. This approach assists us with locating potential grantees, and brings expertise to our committee in our chosen focus area. This year for the first time, we worked with Global Washington to help focus our funding. Global Washington does not itself make grants but, instead, convenes a network of Washington-based foundations, companies, academic institutions, and nonprofits working on issues around the globe.
With a framework of Sustainable Development Goals presented by Global Washington, the committee considered three possible funding areas: water and sanitation, access to finance, and global refugees. By an overwhelming vote, the group opted to focus on the refugee crisis, motivated by press coverage of the unprecedented number of forcibly displaced people worldwide. UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, provides context for the critical issue: over 68 million people are displaced, of which roughly 50% are women and girls, and less than 1% are resettled.
Between September and December, committee members met four times to narrow eight Washington-based nonprofits—ranging from large agencies to small volunteer operations—down to four invited proposals. The granting guidelines were three-pronged:
- Significant impact is one of the primary goals of our grant making – on individuals, the organization and/or the community at large.
- The Foundation also looks for potential for leveraging other funds, collaboration or other partnerships.
- Charity fills an immediate need; philanthropy makes change happen. We are looking to make change happen.
The three final proposals that emerged after robust discussion were 1) Partners Asia, to support in-country efforts for marginalized ethnic minorities displaced from Myanmar to Thailand; 2) Extend the Day, to provide solar lights for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh; and 3) Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWRIP), providing legal representation to asylum seekers who have entered the U.S. Teams of committee members visited the three organizations in site visits and brought back their findings and impressions for a final vote.
What We Learned
In the course of reviewing possible grantees, the committee broadened their understanding of refugees from the relatively few people with official refugee status under international law to any migrants who have left their homes because of violence or political, religious, gender, or economic oppression. This broader definition allowed the committee to consider NWRIP’s application to assist asylum seekers detained in the U.S. in addition to nonprofits supporting refugees in foreign countries.
The Grant and Merit Award
The International Partner Grant of $15,000 to Partners Asia will fund two community initiatives: Fortune and Beam Education Foundation. Fortune was formed by displaced youth from the Shan State of Myanmar now living as stateless people in northern Thailand. Fortune staff will provide 10,000 Shan migrants with legal counseling and coordinate with the local Thai government to help them acquire ID cards, work permits, passports, and birth and death records. Beam, led by dedicated community activists, provides informal and formal education to youth from Myanmar who crossed the border into Thailand. Beam is working to organize, train, and establish standardized curriculum and a transcript system for over 20,000 Myanmar children studying in 110 informal learning centers along the Thai-Myanmar border. Together, the two projects will help thousands of vulnerable people in uncertain circumstances work toward a more viable future.
A contribution from the Foundation that supplemented committee members’ donations allowed us to give a $2,000 Merit Award to Extend the Day. This Bainbridge Island-based organization works in developing countries where there is little or no access to electricity. The Merit Award will help them deliver hundreds of long-lasting solar lights to Rohingya families in a Bangladesh refugee camp.
Our thanks go to Grants Program Manager Aviva Stampfer for ably guiding the granting process, from the kick-off meeting to the award showcase. All the committee members deserve recognition for their energetic research, perceptive analysis, and compassionate consideration of the applicants, who dedicate tireless efforts to improving the lives of international refugees.
International Partner Grant Committee
- Nellie Allnutt
- Susan Arnold-Aldea
- Susan Barley
- Julie Burg
- Diane Carroll
- Sarah Chapman
- Amy Corey
- Kit Crane
- Kathleen Davis
- Toby Donner
- Betty Drumheller
- Cedra DuFlon-Heide
- Nancy Elliott
- Marianne Emerson
- Jill Hearne
- Elizabeth Herring
- Carole Horwitz
- Patricia Kiyono
- Sonja Ling
- Donna Murphy
- Anne Repass
- Nicole Stellner
- Katy Tangenberg