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AJWS gives out $3.2 million, slight decline from last year this time

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The American Jewish World Service announced Tuesday that it was giving out $3.2 million in new grants.

The grants will go to 151 organizations in 28 countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas. More than half of those organizations have budgets of less than $100,000 per year.

It is nice to see Jewish organizations giving out money again, but the AJWS grants are something of a mixed message, as the organization is giving out less this summer than it did last summer.

AJWS makes two rounds of grants each year to organizations involved in sustainable livelihoods and development, community health, community voice, education for all, and community engagement in conflict and emergencies — one in the summer and one in the winter.

In June 2008, AJWS gave out $3.8 million, $600,000 more than this summer. The organization is not yet sure how much it will be able to give out during its second round of grants that should be announced around December. In December 2008, it gave out $5.7 million.

A spokesman for the AJWS said that the organization is “holding its own” during the recession, primarily because its donors believe in the organization’s mission and they realize that a dollar goes much further in the Third World than it does here, giving gifts to the organization more bang for the charitable buck. And the organization, which has a December-December fiscal year actually, saw its fundraising increase in 2008 to $32.3 million from $30.4 million in 2007.

But right now, according to the spokesman, the AJWS is expecting a fund-raising decline of between 5 percent and 9 percent in 2009.

Here is the press release with the details on where the latest round of grants went:

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AJWS Announces $3.2 Million in New Grants

New York, NY; August 18, 2009— American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has recently awarded more than $3.2 million to 151 grassroots project partners in 28 countries. The new grants are divided into five categories, which include sustainable livelihoods and development, community health, community voice, education for all, and community engagement in conflict and emergencies. They provide funding to organizations in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

AJWS’s mission is to alleviate poverty, hunger and disease among people in developing countries regardless of race, religion or nationality. More than half of the grantees awarded funding in AJWS’s latest allocation have annual budgets of less than $100,000. But regardless of the grantee’s limited budget, AJWS champions an approach that enables grantees to have a tremendous impact on the populations with which they work.

AJWS’s approach is based on the idea that community leaders have the most nuanced understanding of the challenges unique to the populations they serve. Thus, community leaders are best equipped to develop strategies that deliver long-term change with the resources they are given.

“Twenty-five to thirty thousand dollars can go a long way in the developing world if you empower brilliant and committed people,” said Ruth W. Messinger, AJWS’s president. “All of the organizations we support are leveraging their limited resources very effectively because our focus is on providing these partners with guidance and resources, while respecting their ability to develop and implement programs that can change the fate of a community.”

Recipients of AJWS funding include grassroots organizations working in their communities to enhance human rights, promote social change and address the fundamental causes of poverty, discrimination and injustice. These organizations ensure access to basic services, such as education and health, while assisting individuals to develop livelihoods that will provide them with the means to support their families and contribute meaningfully to the development of their communities.

Highlights of AJWS’s June 2009 docket include:

Sustainable Livelihoods and Development
Support of marginalized groups is a major focus for AJWS’s grantmaking portfolio in the areas of sustainable livelihoods and development. The June 2009 docket represents an increased emphasis on natural resource protection, land rights, enhanced food security and economic justice for marginalized populations. One grantee, Union de Comunidades Indigenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo is working in southern Mexico to protect small farmers’ land and resources and provide credit and technical assistance to cooperative rural businesses. In Thailand, the Coordination Committee on Natural Resource Management of Surattanee focuses on defending indigenous peoples’ land rights through advocacy for legal land ownership and management of natural resources. In addition, a renewal grant to Culture and Art Society of Ethiopia supports an indigenous tradition of women’s agricultural collectives to improve food security and to strengthen marginalized women’s participation in local institutions.

Education for All
Around the world, AJWS’s partners are advocating for the right to education for all, seeking to ensure both access to and quality of education. In Mexico, Union de Organizaciones de la Sierra Juarez, Oaxaca is working to educate children about the history of natural resource exploitation and teach strategies to preserve community integrity. Coalition for Educational Development (CED), of Sri Lanka, promotes civil society involvement in national education policy. With AJWS support, CED will assess government education programs for children in disadvantaged communities and use their findings to help other civil society organizations advocate for better education for all.

Community Health
AJWS’s community health work supports organizations that promote access to health services for the world’s most isolated and vulnerable populations through community organizing, provision of services and treatment, preventive education and advocacy. Many of AJWS’s partners use a rights-based approach to secure and expand access to the highest attainable standard of health for the communities they serve. For example, Adolescent Reproductive Health Zone, of Thailand, promotes sexual and reproductive health for young people as a means of preventing sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies among internally displaced people in Burma and Burmese migrants and refugees in Thailand. In Peru, Mujeres de Anta — a group of indigenous women who were forcibly sterilized by the government — mobilizes women with similar experiences to seek justice and reparations.

Community Engagement in Conflict and Emergency
AJWS supports local organizations affected by natural disasters and political conflict to move toward peace and development. Many of AJWS’s grantees look beyond traditional short-term approaches to emergencies and instead seek to build resilient communities that are better able to prevent and respond to future challenges. In Sri Lanka, a new AJWS partner is establishing income-generating activities to provide livelihood support to at least 20 women who have been widowed or left without a breadwinner due to the abduction or disappearance of their husbands. On a global level, AJWS’s new collegial partner Tactical Technology Collective will work to build an international network of IT security trainers and support grassroots organizations in establishing digital security systems to prevent human rights defenders from being targeted for their work.

Community Voice: Civic and Political Participation
Community development cannot take place when access to basic human rights is denied. AJWS’s community voice grantees address the root causes of poverty, violence and inequality through advocacy, action-oriented civic engagement and movement building. An AJWS grantee in Nigeria is educating men who have sex with men on HIV/AIDS and promoting the human rights of sexual minorities in an environment of significant discrimination. In India, Caafy will push for stronger implementation of national-level judicial recommendations and legislation aimed at improving the socioeconomic status of Muslim minorities. In Mexico, the Organization of Mepha’a Indigenous People are building the capacity to protect and defend their collective and land rights and establish an inter-community radio communication system, critical for their security.

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