Fund Ambassadors Grow a Community of Philanthropic Giving at WES: Announcing New Donations
In 2019, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund launched the Fund Ambassador program, which engages staff from across WES to develop skills in philanthropy and identify mission-aligned organizations to receive Fund donations. This month, we celebrate the accomplishments of the third cohort of Fund Ambassadors, made up of WES employees across multiple departments. The Fund Ambassadors successfully deployed a total of US$100,000 in donations to 10 local organizations impacting immigrant, refugee, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities in the United States and Canada.
An Ongoing Engagement
Over the past eight months, 10 WES colleagues engaged with immigrant and refugee leaders and had the opportunity to learn about different models of philanthropy from experts in the field, including Ana Maria Aristizabal of JFF (Jobs for the Future) and Rahel Tekola with the New World Foundation. Fund Ambassadors took on leadership roles, peer-organizing an engagement session where the cohort participated in thoughtful conversations that explored their ongoing experiences and how they could further contribute after the cohort ends. Fund Ambassadors were also able to share their professional and lived experience through decision-making processes required in the program.
For example, Ernest Wurzbach, one of this year’s Fund Ambassadors and our Director of Technology Infrastructure, Operations and Security, used his knowledge and expertise to address digital divide issues affecting low-income communities, including access to technology. Beyond the Fund’s donation, Ernest gave some of WES’ technology equipment to organizations that support immigrant communities in partnership with Digitunity, an organization helping communities bridge the digital divide.
Amplifying Impactful Organizations
Fund Ambassadors each selected an organization to receive a US$10,000 donation to support immigrant, refugee, and BIPOC communities in the U.S. or Canada. Their priorities ranged from delivering high-quality support services for under-resourced communities, to programs promoting equity for Muslim women in Canada.
US$50,000 in donations were made to the following five Canadian organizations:
- Afro Women and Youth Foundation (AWYF) selected by Rosemary Nwakogo, Credential Analyst
- Canadian Council of Muslim Women selected by Zara Khan, Marketing and Communications Associate
- Kenyan Canadian Association (KCA) selected by Caroline Ausukuya, Manager of Credential Examinations
- Matthew House Toronto selected by Vaishnaviy Kodeeswaran, Credential Examiner
- South Asian Women’s Centre selected by Ila Rani, Credential Examiner
US$50,000 in donations were made to the following five U.S. organizations:
- Art for Charity Association’s Center of the Humanitarian Crisis Relief for Ukraine Initiative selected by Elizaveta Mokiy, Knowledge Analyst
- FACE Foundation’s French Heritage Language Program (FHLP) selected by Eleonora Fallwickl, New Product Coordinator
- Neighbors for Refugees selected by Trevor Shealy, Senior Program and Admin Coordinator
- South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) selected by Ann S. Paul, Credential Analyst
- Sunset Spark selected by Ernest Wurzbach, Director of Technology Infrastructure, Operations and Security
Photo courtesy of SAADA
Uplifting Communities of Color
While considering the Fund’s journey with equity, diversity, inclusion, and racial justice (JEDI), this year’s program supported our commitment to uplifting communities and leaders of color, with 20 percent of funds supporting South Asian communities, 30 percent supporting Black communities, and 10 percent directly supporting Muslim women. Fund Ambassadors recognized the gaps in representation and funding for these communities and actively practiced reflective thinking when looking at the organizations they wanted to support.
“I had the rare opportunity to put a spotlight on the emerging youth leaders of our communities, focusing on African immigrant and refugee youth. It was both exciting and humbling to see that there are organizations committed to supporting and equipping the next generation with tools they need to live a productive life in Canada despite the unique barriers and challenges they may face.”
Rosemary Nwakogo, 2022 Fund Ambassador
A Growing Presence Throughout WES
Each year, more WES employees look to get involved in the catalyzing efforts spearheaded by the organization’s philanthropic arm. There is a growing Fund Ambassador alumni community committed to giving back and staying involved. For the first time, alumni were invited to return to the program to act as mentors, session facilitators, and review committee members.
“I am grateful I could be involved in this year’s Fund Ambassadors program after having gone through the program myself last year.”
Pavla Kochel, Fund Ambassador Alum