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Local, national groups help border projects
Some well-endowed philanthropists including Peggy Dulany, heir to the Rockefeller family fortune, visited Yuma County to learn how they can improve the quality of life for communities straddling the Arizona/Mexican border Tuesday.
The Yuma Community Foundation and Arizona Community Foundation have formed a partnership with Synergos International, established by Dulany, to form the U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership (BPP) a new nonprofit, according to Judy Gresser, western regional manager of the YCF and ACF.
Linetta Gilbert of the Ford Foundation and Nick Deychakiwsky of the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation, early fundraisers for the BPP, toured south county nonprofits in order to learn about concerns of the Yuma section of the border, Gresser said.
"Because the fundraisers have made an investment in the area, it is good stewardship for them to see what's happening," Gresser said.
Gilbert and Deychakiwsky visited Comite de Bienestar in San Luis, Ariz., and the Regional Center for Border Health and Campesinos Sin Fronteras in Somerton. Dulany, not arriving until the evening, was to attend an evening reception only.
Since the initial partnership with the Ford Foundation in the fall of 2002, $50,000 has been granted directly through BPP to Yuma-area nonprofits. Also, by being able to leverage funding from other partnerships, another $100,000 has supplemented BPP grants, Gresser noted.
Investments at Campesinos Sin Fronteras focused on providing educational resources and child-care providers on both sides of the border. It is intended to help infants through 5-year-olds receive early childhood education that is aimed to achieve future academic goals, Gresser said.
In a presentation at Campesinos, Sarah White, program manager, explained that in addition to preschool, the nonprofit deals with asthma and other childhood respiratory diseases, early childhood nutrition and training day-care workers on both sides of the border.
"Everyone has been really motivated, working on Saturdays and making it happen," White said. "But we're always looking for funding to sustain our programs."
BPP is contemplating ideas for expanding border projects and Campesinos is very proud BPP partners chose them as an agency to visit, said Emma Torres, Campesinos executive director.
One of the strengths of Campesinos has been its ability to stretch grants by forming alliances and so provide more services to more people, she noted.
"Children are our future and being part of their healthy development is one of the things I feel very proud of being a part of," Torres said.
The Ford Foundation's Gilbert noted, after visiting affordable housing in San Luis, Ariz., she observed people who started with very little create an asset and pass it on to their children.
"Is the money we've invested making an improvement? .. I say it is," Gilbert said. "In six years time we've seen a difference. Great things are happening here on the border to help people live full, productive lives."
Deychakiwsky of the Mott Foundation said he was deeply impressed he didn't hear so much about problems and barriers. He added that it was great to see people so excited in the Yuma County nonprofits about mobilizing people in their own communities.
"I saw an energy and progress here," Deychakiwsky said. "We are focusing on how we are improving the situation of children of low-income migrant families."
Gresser explained when families leave Mexico, once in the United States those with young children are often unable to access preschool. These children are more likely to enter school missing critical early education, which negatively affects their future academic outcomes. BPP hopes to have a continued commitment to help them advance, she noted.
William Roller can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858.