Ayala Foundation-USA: Creating Better Opportunities to Serve Others

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress

The emergence of a ‘new golden age of philanthropy’ has pushed the number foundations all over the world.  According to a study Asian-American Philanthropy:  Expanding Knowledge, Increasing Possibilities done by Andrew Ho for The Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, the number of foundations in the United States has grown from 22,000 in the early 1980s to over 65,000 in 2004.

However, the boom in the number of foundations and their assets has also involved the issue of diversity in philanthropy – like how it is (or isn’t) a factor in giving, how ethnic and racial groups exhibit different styles, etc.  With the growth of Asian American population, there has also been an increase in diaspora philanthropy, or philanthropic giving from citizens and residents of the US to their countries of origin.

This is the thrust of Ayala Foundation-USA — to inform, motivate and inspire others to be generous in support of social development programs in the Philippines.  Established in 2000, AF-USA has become a bridge between US-based Filipino individuals and communities, and Philippine-based social development institutions.

“If Filipinos don’t help their fellow-Filipinos, who will?”  said Vicky Garchitorena, President of AF-USA and added, “Fortunately, our experience at AF-USA is that most FilAms do want to help their kababayans back home.”

However, Ms. Garchitorena also explained that often, FilAms have not helped because they do not know what the problems are, the solutions or how to give their support.  This is why AF-USA creates opportunities for Filipinos in the US to help the Philippines.  Although it does not undertake programs on its own, AF-USA encourages a number of strategic initiatives that has shown a track record of success in implementing programs that can have a long-term positive impact on its beneficiaries.

One of these projects is the Gearing up Internet Literacy and Access for Students, or GILAS.  A program implemented in cooperation with both the Philippine national and local government officials, it aims to put computer labs with Internet access in all 6,350 public high schools in the country.

“As of the end of September 2008, GILAS has connected 2,000 public high schools, thereby benefiting about 1 million underprivileged youths from Batanes to Basilan,” said Ms. Garchitorena and added, “It has a tremendous impact on the ability of our youth to find jobs when they leave school, as computer and Internet literacy skills are now basic requirements for any type of employment, whether they stay in the Philippines or go abroad.”

AF-USA gets help from their Philippine counterpart, Ayala Foundation, in encouraging local non-government organizations (NGOs) to apply for accreditation as a grantee institution.  These organizations are then evaluated and presented to the Board for approval.

But of course, there are always challenges, said Ms. Garchitorena.  “One big challenge is the fact that the FilAms are scattered all over the US.

While there are pockets of concentrations, the size of the country makes it difficult for us to reach them all.”  For this reason, AF-USA rely on other committed and dedicated FilAm network volunteers in identifying community and business leaders in cities and states.

Another challenge she says is the need to capture the attention of second or third generation FilAms who might no longer be emotionally connected to their homeland, unlike their parents or grandparents.

Still, Ms. Garchitorena explained that they have seen an increased interest among FilAms to help their hometowns, alma maters, parishes or personal charities.  For this, she invites all FilAms as well as Americans with strong ties to the Philippines to join AF-USA in helping underprivileged Filipinos in the Philippines.  She is also appealing others all over the US to join as volunteers.

“Our country still suffers from many problems related to poverty – illiteracy, homelessness, abuse, environmental degradation, and an inadequate public sector infrastructure.  The government does not have enough resources to address all our problems.  We cannot wait for the perfect time and place.”

For more information on AF-USA and how you can help Filipinos back home, you can contact their office at 255 Shoreline Dr., Suite 428 Redwood City, CA 94065 or call(650) 598-3126.  You can also log on to http://www.af-usa.org.   (www.asianjournal.com)

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