Each year GoAbroad hosts the prestigious Innovation Awards during the Annual NAFSA Conference to recognize innovative organizations, individuals, and projects in the field of international education. In 2015, the Innovation in Philanthropy category was added, sponsored by the GoAbroad Foundation, in order to highlight many of the great philanthropic efforts in international education.
This award recognizes philanthropic efforts that have impacted an individual or group, the global community, or a local community and seeks to honor organizations that demonstrate innovative corporate responsibility and philanthropy. We encourage submissions that profile significant charitable donations, corporate volunteer programs, unique philanthropic campaigns, or any event or program that demonstrates an organization’s philanthropic commitment(s). Nominations are evaluated based on originality and the estimated impact on an individual or group, the global community, or a local community.
We are proud to announce the 2016 finalists in this category:
1. Rustic Pathways Foundation: Development Ambassador Program
The Rustic Pathways Foundation is a non-profit that was built to help support the many communities, projects, and people that live in the regions where Rustic Pathways travels and takes students. While the Foundation has been around for many years, 2015 was a true revival of the non-profit with a more concerted effort to identify projects, get Rustic Pathways staff, families, and alumni involved in fundraising, and ultimately fund these efforts.
Strategically, the Foundation first set to identify six key issue projects to make it easier for people to see exactly where funds were going and how many dollars it took to meet specific goals. It made for a much more effective way to show people exactly how far $20 goes or how many dollars it takes to build an entire home.
Secondly, the Foundation focused their efforts on using passionate Rustic Pathways families and alumni as well as zealous staff members to reach out to their network of friends and loved ones to help support the projects. Staff and students can create individual fundraising pages with financial goals to either directly fund one of the six key-issue projects, or to fund the general pool of the Rustic Pathways Foundation which gets split up amongst all the projects.
Through support, encouragement, and tips on how to set reasonable goals and speak from the heart, Rustic Pathways was able to take thousands of micro-transactions to make more money in the 2015 calendar year than were made in the history of the Foundation through donations. As of today, this Development Ambassador push and revival has raised $132,460 in the six months since beginning the program!
2. International Studies Abroad (ISA): Pay It Forward Program
In 2015, ISA launched ISA Pay It Forward, a grant fund that goes toward sustainable projects in under-resourced communities throughout the world. All ISA students have the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ by contributing a $5 donation when applying for an ISA program online. 100% of ISA Pay It Forward donations go toward funding ongoing sustainable development projects identified by ISA Service-Learning community partners in 12 cities.
If an organization identifies a need for a project that supports ongoing sustainable development in their community, the organization may submit a grant proposal to the ISA Pay It Forward committee. Grants are awarded directly to the community partner in order to support their sustainable development project. In addition, ISA Service-Learning students play an important role in the success of these projects throughout their program. With the collaboration of their supervisors, co-workers, and ISA on-site staff, service-learning students have the opportunity to undergo a needs assessment of the community partner.
The first partner organization selected to receive the Pay It Forward grant in 2015 was Patio Volantín in Valparaíso, Chile. Through the financial support of ISA Pay It Forward along with the hard work of local community members and ISA Service-Learning students, this community exchange center is on its way to building a community garden and renovated green space in an abandoned building that was destroyed during a devastating earthquake in 2010. This garden includes local plants and herbs used for medicinal purposes by the Mapuche nation. This allows greater Valparaíso to use this space as a living classroom in order to learn about the cultivation, culture and traditions of the Mapuche nation.
3. International TEFL Academy: Charitable Contributions
International TEFL Academy believes it is their responsibility to leave the world a better place than how they found it. Their staff, instructors, and students are global citizens and they realize how fortunate they are to travel and live abroad. International TEFL Academy is committed to making an impact, both large and small, by direct involvement and by encouraging others.
As an organization International TEFL Academy commits a portion of their annual revenue to local and international charities, in addition to committing their time as individuals and as a company. Beginning with free ESL classes provided to their community in Chicago, International TEFL Academy donates their time to programs that serve those at greatest risk including refugees, children, and the homeless. Their efforts are widespread with a special focus on education and literacy.
International TEFL Academy’s 2015 donations exceeded $17,000, including:
- $8,100 to a Nepal relief fund
- $3,000 to Amnesty International
- Over $3,000 in donations and staff involvement to Chicago-based children’s literacy charity Reading in Motion
- ITA donations of $ 750 and staff clothing drive for warm clothing to Chicago-based St. Leonard’s Ministries and Night Ministries
- $1,000 in donations and computer equipment to the Barrilete orphanage in Leon Nicaragua
- $1,000 to the international charity of choice of a specially-selected ITA graduate who is teaching abroad
- $500 scholarships given to all members of the US Military (active duty & veterans), Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and CityYear who enroll in International TEFL Academy classes
In addition, International TEFL Academy’s president serves on the board of directors of a local literacy charity, Reading in Motion. ITA also sponsored the participation of the Reading in Motion marketing director in the annual Hubspot Inbound Marketing conference in 2015 to empower the organization to grow their charitable efforts.
4. Griffith University: Community Internship Program
Griffith University has a unique service learning subject called the Community Internship. This is a volunteer-focused, multidisciplinary subject whereby students volunteer for a minimum of 50 hours and engage in a program of academic learning to gain credit. The overall objective of the subject is to inspire their students to volunteer in the community and broaden their understanding of community needs. Through this subject Griffith wants their students to feel empowered to make a difference in their community, whether local or international. The Community Internship is an elective subject available to domestic students as well as international students, and has proven to be particularly attractive for students studying at Griffith for one semester through the Study Abroad program.
It can be difficult for international students, especially those on short-term trips, to obtain a placement in an Australian workplace as part of their studies. The Community Internship Program means that any student wishing to experience an Australian workplace as part of their studies is able to. The program has expanded rapidly and Griffith now offers over 400 internship places each semester with a Griffith Community Partner. Since starting in 2012, Griffith students have dedicated almost 60,000 volunteer hours to community organisations.
Around 150 not-for-profit organisations are partnered with Griffith for this program. They report very high levels of satisfaction with students and 88% of partners are supportive of providing volunteering opportunities for international students. A recently completed survey of partners showed they were able to identify substantial growth in the graduate/employability attributes of students, with the highest growth being in students’ increased awareness of social and environmental issues. Eighty-one percent of partners say they would employ one of the Griffith students if a position were available in their organisation.
5. Institute of International Education (IIE): Emergency Student Fund & Scholar Rescue Fund
The Institute of International Education has a long history of providing emergency assistance to students and scholars facing emergencies around the world. Through the Emergency Student Fund (ESF) and Scholar Refuge Fund, IIE is able to respond to urgent crises in an immediate and effective manner by providing financial support to students when emergencies in their home countries threaten to jeopardize the completion of their studies.
In June 2015 the Emergency Student Fund awarded 165 grants to Nepalese students at 122 U.S. college and university campuses who face urgent financial need due to the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in April. IIE awarded approximately $330,000 in funding with grants up to $2,000 each. These grants were made possible with generous funding from organisations, such as the Freeman Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York, as well as anonymous U.S. citizens who share IIE’s commitment to help Nepalese students remain enrolled in their U.S. degree programs so they will be better prepared to assist their communities when they return to Nepal.
In response to the Syrian Refugee crisis, IIE provided emergency assistance and educational opportunities to Syrian students and scholars. Thier Scholar Rescue Fund has supported more than 50 Syrian professors and researchers to resume their academic work in safety outside Syria. The IIE Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis connected 70 Syrian students with scholarships in the United States in 2013, and plans to help up to 1000 students in 2014. They also partnered with UC Davis to produce the first known study on the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on higher education. They hope this study will convince governments, donors, and international organizations to consider higher education initiatives an essential part of the humanitarian response and future development efforts.