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
Through grantmaking, impact investing, and partnerships, we support organizations and leaders that are focused on four impact areas: opportunity, wealth, power, and justice. Many different kinds of solutions are required to support the success of immigrants and refugees. On the right are snapshots of the ways our partners’ work creates more inclusive economies and communities.Learn more about how we partner and fund
To increase access to economic opportunity, we support the development of inclusive career pathways and training programs for immigrant and refugee job seekers and workers. To unlock broader access to quality jobs, we support organizations that are engaging with employers to ensure long-term career growth and advancement.
The Fund backs organizations working to shift employer practices and develop career pathways that support the economic mobility and success of immigrants and refugees. For example, African Bridge Network convenes a consortium of human services employers in Massachusetts to collaboratively address unique challenges that immigrants and workers of color face, with the goal of improving job quality, advancing opportunities for workers, and ensuring lower turnover. In Canada, Diversity Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University is helping to establish career pathways for immigrant youth, particularly Afghan refugees, in the Greater Toronto Area, Halifax, and Calgary through paid work-learning opportunities.
Financial access and inclusion are essential to long-term security. Our funding seeks to ensure equitable access to capital so that more immigrants can work toward securing a future for themselves and their families, start and own a business, and create lasting wealth in their communities.
The IRC’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) makes affordable loans to borrowers, particularly refugees and immigrants, who have little access to traditional financing. CEO’s research shows a positive correlation between the loans and coaching that CEO provides and borrowers’ improved credit scores. Read this story about Charles, a CEO client who, within a year of arriving in the U.S. from Nigeria, established a credit history, purchased a car, and began working toward financing a home.
The Fund supports the development of worker cooperatives and employee ownership models. 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 grantee partner Center for Family Life in Brooklyn, New York, Brightly enables immigrant women to access safe, non-exploitative work while building wealth for themselves and their families.
We believe that those closest to the challenges are also closest to the solutions. We seek to shift power to leaders who have lived experience, community-based organizations, and broader communities so that individuals and organizations can create the solutions they need in order to thrive.
The Fund partnered with the Tamarack Institute to launch a participatory grantmaking pilot project in Peel Region of Ontario. The project brought together a People’s Panel of community members to make funding decisions; the members, each of whom had lived experience, ultimately made grants to six organizations bridging economic opportunity gaps.
Echoing Green’s Racial Equity and Immigrant Justice initiative, a fellowship to support immigrants and refugees of color in the United States and Canada, is backing 19 leaders who are addressing systemic issues of racial equity, immigration, and economic mobility to create more equitable communities and economies for all.
We envision a world where our workforce, education, and financial systems enable the success of all people, including immigrants and refugees. We support efforts across the United States and Canada to ensure more just policies, systems, and institutions, shift public perception and conversations, and foster welcoming communities.
Workers’ Action Centre in Ontario is an advocate of workers’ rights and decent work. With support from the Fund, the centre was able to address many of the challenges immigrant workers faced on the front lines of COVID-19 and related crises.
The Pivot Fund is working to ensure that more fact-driven, local, and trusted information reaches immigrant communities and communities of color across the U.S. by supporting community-driven news media.
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.