The year 2019 was very busy and successful for the Dewan Foundation. Keeping up the trend of the last few years, we made a record 48 grants to organizations in Chicago and to U.S. non-profit organizations working overseas. Altogether, expenditures for grants totaled $175,600. Grants in Chicago were directed to 24 organizations that serve the homeless, those in tenuous housing circumstances or other significant need and two inner city Catholic schools. Overseas, there were 22 grantees with programs in Africa, Central and South America.
With a substantial number of core grantees that the Foundation supports on a more or less regular basis, it has become increasingly difficult to add new partners to our grant portfolio. Nonetheless, in 2019 we added four new providers, one in Chicago providing longer-term services to homeless women and children, and three programs that work in Africa and South America.
Each year in this letter, the Foundation devotes a few paragraphs to describe some aspect of our work. The intent is to help our supporters and visitors to our website gain a greater understanding of what we do. In the last few years, we provided details on our efforts to respond to youth homelessness, our overseas programs and our core grantees. This year, we would like to provide a perspective on an issue that has generated tremendous controversy and even public outrage, that is, the crisis in immigration.
Individuals and families are fleeing from violence, crushing poverty, hopelessness and the effects of climate change to our borders by the thousands. The United States has been attempting to control the crisis, particularly at the southern border. These responses have taken a harsh and ugly tone with an emphasis on physical barriers, family separations and detention camps.
When you ask yourself the question, How bad must conditions be for a family to pull up stakes, leave their homeland, make a long and dangerous journey to a foreign place where they don’t know anyone, don’t know the language and will probably take on the most difficult and low paying employment in order to survive? The answer is that conditions must be very bad.
Would people stay in place if life was just a little better and there was a more hopeful tomorrow? What kinds of efforts might bring this about?
The Dewan Foundation is working to make life a little better and the future more hopeful for people who might otherwise journey to the United States. Our mission from the Foundation’s inception has been to confront directly the assault on the dignity of the human person through efforts to help people in poverty improve their situation by their own action. The two vehicles to bring this about are education and work.
Education is a long-term strategy. Although the process spans many years, every single year builds up the stock of human capital and provides hope for the future.
In 2019 the Dewan Foundation made education grants to twelve organizations working overseas in eight countries for a total of $41,000. These grants helped support school construction in Mali, basic school supplies and literacy instruction in remote areas of Honduras, a computer technology center for middle-schoolers and an after-school program for girls in Guatemala, education equipment, English as a Second Language and computer instruction in El Salvador, tuition support of university students in Bolivia and in the capitol city of Honduras and others.
The shorter-term strategy is work. These programs are focused on providing skills training and infrastructure to help people generate income. In 2019, the Dewan Foundation made grants to nine organizations in nine countries for a total of $36,500 to support job creation and income generation. These efforts included the manufacture of artisan crafts in Guatemala and Mexico, construction of a grain mill in Uganda, hospitality industry internships and job placement in Cambodia, an internet café and coffee shop in South Africa, sewing machines for vocational training and business development in Togo and Uganda, salary support for health clinic workers in Bolivia and Benin and assistance for rural coffee farmers in Guatemala to raise income through effective farming practices and diversification of income through a beekeeping enterprise. In some cases, the efforts amounted to just a few hundred dollars of income per family, in other cases up to $1,000. In every case, it helped people be more productive and make a living in their own community. While the Dewan Foundation contribution to these programs was modest, overall, they are not hugely expensive.
Although the Dewan Foundation can’t respond to every problem, we can take effective actions. We maintain firmly that there are positive solutions to our immigration crisis, if only we have the will and commitment to pursue them.
With kind regards,
The Board of Directors