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Class of Undergraduates Gives $7,500 Grant to Fonkoze to Advance Poverty Reduction in Haiti

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At the beginning of the Fall semester, students from the Global Perspectives on Leading and Investing in Social Change class were presented with the opportunity to develop and run a grantmaking process during the semester. On December 18, the class hosted a ceremony to present Fonkoze, which provides financial and non-financial services to empower Haitians—primarily women—to lift their families out of poverty, with a $7,500 grant (provided by the Do Good Institute).

Throughout the semester, students learned about global giving and styles of philanthropy, researched issue areas, developed a mission statement and a request for proposals, reviewed applications and virtually visited nonprofits and NGOs to determine which organization would receive the grant.

At the start of the grant ceremony, Alex Counts, professor of the course, said, “I’m so proud of the work each and every one of you did throughout the semester – I truly admire how you all went about this process. We had many opportunities to debate over issue area, criteria for the grant, as well as which organization to select. By actually debating issues, you get to the best result, and that’s exactly what you did.”

The class was challenged to come up with a cause to support and specific organizations to benefit from the grant. After weeks of research, papers and debates, the class agreed on the issue of global poverty and hunger. They then wrote a request for proposals (RFP), received applications from 30 international humanitarian organizations, and ultimately chose to support Fonkoze’s path-breaking work in Haiti.

Fonkoze was created 23 years ago to bring financial inclusion and development services to Haitians in need – providing them a viable way to lift themselves out of poverty. Fonkoze’s vision is for a Haiti where people, standing together, shoulder to shoulder, have pulled themselves out of poverty.

During the ceremony, students reflected on what they learned during the semester and the impact the course has made on their lives. One student said, “Throughout this course I began to see philanthropy differently. After truly learning about and understanding how nonprofits work, I see philanthropy not as a way to get out of taxes for the rich, but rather a way for anyone to help those that are less fortunate. I would not have considered donating to a nonprofit before this class, and now for Christmas I have asked my family to make a donation to Fonkoze in my name instead. I have now seen how even what I donate can help keep a nonprofit alive and even help them create new programs.”

Mabel Valdivia, executive director, Fonkoze USA, spoke to students saying, “First, it is my deep honor that I’m here representing Fonkoze today. Thank you to the Do Good Institute, Professor Counts, and other supporters for convening us, and for the students for selecting our organization. I hope you feel a sense of pride for selecting us. In doing so, you’ve acted like sophisticated grantmakers and philanthropists. This grant will allow us to be innovate, to meet organizational needs, and do such much more. We’re so honored and humbled.”

The ceremony was closed with brief remarks from Bruce Levenson, a staunch supporter of the Do Good Institute. He told students, “I am inspired by hearing your stories and how this class has shifted your thinking. Hearing one student say he had requested his family forego buying him Christmas presents and instead make donations to the nonprofit organization he supported in class, was just one of many moving testaments to the class’ impact. Time and again students made clear that this class widened their lens, providing the tools and inspiration to do good not just in their remaining college years but for the rest of their lives!”

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