The WES Mariam Assefa Fund launched in 2019, and we are already beginning to see the impact of the inspiring work of the leaders and organizations we support.
The Fund supports immigrant and refugee leaders and is focused on deepening the bench of leaders with lived experience. We’ve spotlighted below a few individuals who are guiding efforts in their organizations, communities, or workplaces to drive change for all.
Canada is becoming a more and more diverse country, and everyone deserves to participate in the economy and prosper.
Executive Director of Toronto Community Benefits NetworkRead Story
I realized my passion, which is working with small business owners and trying to understand what they do in their community.
Community Finance Fellow at Mission Driven FinanceRead Story
I never saw myself as an executive director, but I wanted to address the need for adult education opportunities for immigrants in New Mexico.
Executive Director of EncuentroRead Story
Many different kinds of solutions are required to ensure immigrants and refugees can access opportunity. We fund a wide range of ideas, strategies, and practices, such as career pathways and training programs, wrap-around supports, inclusive financial services, worker ownership models, and more. On the right are snapshots of the ways that our partners’ work supports the success of immigrants and refugees and creates more inclusive economies.Learn more about our current funding priorities
To learn in-demand skills and advance in their careers, immigrants and refugees need accessible training and workforce programs that address the unique barriers they face.
Our partners are enabling immigrants and refugees to learn new skills:
Building Skills Partnership (BSP) works with California property service workers and provides skills training so they can advance in their careers. When COVID-19 hit, BSP rapidly developed the Infectious Disease Certification Program in collaboration with property service workers, the labor union SEIU-USWW, and employers. The program has benefited not only California’s immigrant population, which makes up 61 percent of the state’s property service workers, it has helped to reduce the spread of COVID-19 across California. Property service workers have acquired valuable skills and career training while also increasing their safety.
Toronto Community Benefits Network works to ensure that construction projects in the city provide jobs to immigrants, refugees, women, and other underrepresented groups in the sector. The organization’s mentorship, apprenticeship, and training programs help individuals access the skills and experience they need to enter the industry and advance within it.
Driving more inclusive practices among employers is critical to ensuring equitable opportunity and economic mobility for immigrant and refugee workers in the U.S. and Canada. By helping to address the barriers and challenges immigrants and refugees often face, employers can provide greater opportunity for them to reach their full potential.
Here are ways our partners are helping employers adopt more inclusive:
JFF identified recommended strategies for employers to invest in immigrant talent and improve job quality. JFF is working with businesses to implement these strategies, including through on-the-job ELL classes and skills training. The organization is partnering with employers to formalize internal pathways for professional advancement and to improve the economic mobility of immigrants in low-wage jobs.
To address inequalities in the workplace and other systems, our partners are leading efforts to empower and uplift immigrant workers and communities. We believe that those who are closest to the challenges are also closest to the solutions. Our partners are working to improve economic outcomes for immigrants and to address barriers to quality employment through building leadership capacity and training workers to self-advocate.
The Ontario Employment Education & Research Centre (OEERC), in partnership with the Workers’ Action Centre, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, and Caregivers Action Centre, is supporting immigrant and refugee workers in various sectors across Canada. The organizations are providing immediate support to workers affected by COVID-19, while also building long-term worker leadership and organizing capacity to improve job quality and drive change in the workplace through advocacy.
Economic mobility is dependent on much more than skills, education, or networks. There are supports outside of the workplace that workers—including immigrants and refugees—need in order to thrive, such as access to childcare, health care, and technology.
Our partners offer key services and push for better access to necessary supports:
Access to childcare benefits for working parents and their children. Many Languages One Voice in Washington, D.C., is exploring cooperative and mutual aid models for childcare. It is also working to ensure childcare worker rights within immigrant and refugee communities.
Financial access is essential to the long-term security and opportunity of immigrant workers, business owners, and families. Through inclusive access to capital, more immigrants and refugees can invest in their own futures, start businesses, and build wealth in their communities.
Our partners’ support enables immigrants and refugees to create their financial futures:
The IRC’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) makes affordable loans to borrowers who have little access to traditional financing, particularly refugees and immigrants. CEO’s research shows a positive correlation between the loans and coaching that CEO provides and improved credit scores. Read the story of Charles, a CEO client who has built up credit, purchased a car, and is working toward financing a home, all within a year of arriving in the U.S. from Nigeria.
One of the first worker cooperative franchises in the U.S., Brightly is worker-owned, women-run, and community-led. The franchise offers eco-friendly residential and commercial cleaning services. Launched by the Center for Family Life/SCO Family of Services, Brightly enables immigrant women to access safe, non-exploitative work while building wealth for themselves and their families.
Equity, inclusion, diversity, and racial justice are inextricably linked to WES and the Fund’s vision of a future when immigrants and refugees can thrive and pursue the careers they desire. Read how we’re putting these principles at the center of our work.