Immigrant Community Organizations Receive $2 Million in Philanthropic Funds – Twice the Initial Pledge

In response to COVID-19, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund and Tarsadia Foundation have doubled their financial commitment to the Opportunity Challenge, a grantmaking initiative to support the success of immigrant and refugee workers in the U.S. 

NEW YORK, Sept. 24, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The World Education Services (WES) Mariam Assefa Fund and the Tarsadia Foundation today announced 12 awardees of the Opportunity Challenge, a new grantmaking initiative to support the success of immigrants and refugees and the community-led organizations that serve them. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the caliber of ideas submitted, and the demonstration of need from applicants led the funders to double the planned award of $1 million to a final total of $2 million. The awardees were selected from a pool of 470 applicants from 42 states and over 200 communities nationwide.

“We are proud that the Opportunity Challenge has risen to the challenge of this unprecedented moment by doubling down on our commitment to immigrant and refugee workers and the promise of community-driven change,” said Monica Munn, Senior Director of the WES Mariam Assefa Fund. “The nearly 500 applications we received through the challenge revealed an amazing amount of innovation and leadership in immigrant communities across the country, as well as deep commitment to building more inclusive, equitable economies for all. The work of each of the 12 awardees will benefit individual immigrants and refugees, the communities where they live and work, and ultimately the broader economy as it recovers from the impact of COVID-19.”  

Immigrants and refugees have been disproportionately affected by the economic, health, and societal impacts of the pandemic. According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), six million immigrants work in industries hardest hit by the economic effects of coronavirus and an additional six million serve in frontline occupations. Immigrant communities, particularly those of Asian descent, have also experienced a rise in xenophobia, discrimination, and racism since the onset of the pandemic as highlighted by Human Rights Watch. This rising xenophobia converges with heightened awareness of the need to dismantle systemic inequities in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The volume of applications speaks to the impact of these converging issues on immigrant communities, and underscores the fact that philanthropic funders can do more to support them. Indeed, research by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) conducted prior to the pandemic showed that less than 1 percent of philanthropic funding goes to support immigrant communities.

“Through the Opportunity Challenge, our hope is to give immigrant and refugee communities the power and resources to build their own narratives and be the architects of their own futures,” said Priya Bery, CEO of Tarsadia Foundation. “In the face of one of the greatest health and economic crises of our time, we saw both the vulnerability and the resolve of immigrant and refugee communities around the country as they continued to work to foster community led-change. The overwhelming response we received was a beautiful reminder to celebrate and honor the histories and journeys of so many that make our communities vibrant and strong today. This has been an incredible journey discovering new models to uplift immigrant and refugee workers.”

The grants will provide general operating support to organizations that are piloting new ideas as well as expanding proven models, such as worker cooperatives, lending circles, career pathway programs for high-growth industries, training for immigrant entrepreneurs, and providing crucial supports, such as access to affordable childcare and reproductive health care.

The 12 awardees come from 9 states and the District of Columbia. They are:

  • Center for Family Life – SCO Family of Services in Brooklyn, New York
  • Centreville Immigration Forum in Centreville, Virginia
  • Code the Dream in Durham, North Carolina
  • Encuentro in Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Inclusive Action for the City in Los Angeles, California
  • Many Languages One Voice in Washington, D.C.
  • Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco, California
  • Neighborhood Development Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Oakland Bloom in Oakland, California
  • Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton, Massachusetts
  • Sueños Sin Fronteras de Tejas in San Antonio, Texas
  • Suma in Portland, Oregon

Each of the awardees will receive up to $200,000 over a two-year period. The additional funds will be awarded as prize donations to eight semi-finalists in recognition of their impactful work and investment in the challenge process.  The full list of awardees, including summaries of their proposals, may be found here. An external selection committee of 14 experts and community leaders from philanthropy, social innovation, advocacy, and workforce development helped the funders identify the top ideas. More details on the selection committee and review process are available here.

“We’re grateful to all the organizations that participated in the Opportunity Challenge,” said Esther Benjamin, CEO of World Education Services. “We can’t wait to see how the awardees will put the funds to work to build more inclusive local economies for the immigrants they serve. We’re also excited to have had the chance to work with the Tarsadia Foundation to establish a powerful model for philanthropic partnership and investment in immigrant communities.”

For more information, contact Silan Akgul, WES Mariam Assefa Fund Communications Manager, World Education Services. T: 631-565-5244 E:

About the Opportunity Challenge
Launched in March 2020, the Opportunity Challenge, a joint initiative of the WES Mariam Assefa Fund and Tarsadia, seeks to foster the development of more inclusive, equitable economies and communities, and support community-led organizations in their efforts to ensure access to higher quality jobs for immigrants and refugees. For more details on the Challenge, including how awardees were selected, and more, please visit our website here.

About WES and the WES Mariam Assefa Fund   
Founded in 1974, World Education Services Inc. (WES) is a 501(c)3 non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and workplace goals in the United States and Canada. Over more than 45 years, WES has provided credential evaluations to nearly three million individuals from around the globe. Launched in 2019, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund supports catalytic efforts to build more inclusive economies for immigrant and refugee workers in the U.S. and Canada and ensure they have the skills, knowledge, and supports to succeed.   

About the Tarsadia Foundation   
Tarsadia Foundation is a global family foundation that has been active in service and philanthropic giving over the past 10 years. Tarsadia Foundation is on a mission to unleash human potential and is committed to building a world where economic inclusion and boundless opportunity exists for all, in harmony with the planet. Through their grants and investments, they are fueling Inclusive Mobility, tackling Current Crises and Future Threats, and inspiring Human Transformation across the globe.