Where’s Bill? Convening Philanthropy Fellows to Share Their Experiences

Through initiatives by Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, both Stanford University and UC Berkeley have summer philanthropy fellowship programs placing students full-time for the summer in Bay Area foundations.

This year the two schools of students met together to share their experiences in a session led by myself. Students have been placed in large and small foundations undertaking research projects, getting involved in grantmaking, and learning what local philanthropy is all about.

I would like to see philanthropy fellows from all higher education institutions in the Bay Area.

“I learned that philanthropy is about asking the right questions and listening for the right answers, whether they are spoken or unspoken.” – Sadia Saiffudin, a 2014 Fellow placed at PVF

“In an increasingly diverse and developing era, the call for deeper collaborative action and strategic planning in addressing pressing societal issues has also become a high priority in the field.” – Carmen Ross, a 2014 Fellow placed at Northern California Grantmakers, reflects on what she learned in her placement.

Fellowship Meeting

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Reflections from a Zimbabwean Grace Scholar

Now in its 8th year, the Grace Scholarship Program is the result of a partnership between PVF and a donor to provide the critical gap funding necessary for bright, low-income Zimbabwean students who are a part of the US Achievers Program (USAP) to study at US and European universities.

This year, we interviewed a few of the Grace Scholars to learn more about their background, experiences in college, and plans for the future. Below is our first interview with Farai Musariri, a junior studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Hendrix College.

Farai -Grace Scholar

PVF: Tell us about your decision to study outside of your home country.

FM: The honest truth is that my decision was initially a result of financial desperation on my family`s part. Being admitted into a US college plus a generous financial aid package meant that my parents would not have to worry about paying for my education since that was a struggle already. Anyway, the countless social and academic opportunities I was exposed to while working on my college applications made me want nothing less than a liberal arts education. I longed to explore my academic interests outside of the mainstream sciences, and, most importantly, an opportunity to voice my concerns and passions in a place where I would be heard.

PVF: Was it difficult transitioning to a different culture?

FM: Not really. Zimbabwean culture is so westernized, so I was up to speed on most things: pop-culture, language/slang, dressing, etc. I, however, had a very hard time adjusting to the liberal culture at my school. Being a very conservative Christian, it took me a very long time to actually adjust and find my niche on campus. For the most part, I am happy with where I am right now in my culture training!

PVF: What types of activities are you involved in at school?

FM: I am aquote 2 very people oriented person and I guess my most influential role on campus is my job as a Resident Assistant. I know this sounds so cliché, but I genuinely find contentment in putting smiles on other people`s faces. On that note, I am a peer mentor and treasurer for the SOAR team (Student Outreach Alternative Resources) and our goal is to make sure no students feel left out/alienated socially. I am a student representative to the committee on international and intercultural study, and I work very closely with our Dean of Students through our college conduct council. I am also a committee member for Ngoma Africa, The African Students Association on campus. One other thing: I LOVE to cook, so I occasionally work with our culinary club through catering and cooking at campus events.

Regarding my calling, I have a “thing”—a major social concern—with poverty (having grown up poor). I went to the Dominican Republic last year on a service trip, and this past summer I worked with the Episcopal Community Services of Maryland (ECSM) in Baltimore City, through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty, in combating child and family homelessness. I am also doing an interdisciplinary study on poverty, outside of my major, so yeah….if I had to stand against just one problem, poverty would be IT!

PVF: What is your greatest accomplishment at school thus far?

Farai - Grace Scholar 2FM: Personally, my most joyful moment was seeing a deaf Rwandan friend (Samson) at Hendrix receive cochlear implants this past academic year (2013/14) after being deaf for close to 18years. I was a major part of the fundraising aspect of this miracle through the SOAR team and we raised $12000+ (together with other funders) for him since his health insurance only covered 80% of his total surgery costs. Overall, this was a very fulfilling experiences in that 3 or so weeks of intensive fundraising (which gave me wonderful professional experience) made a visible, life changing difference to Samson`s life. It was certainly a blessing, and it is one of those experiences I will be thankful for, my entire life.

PVF: What do you plan to do post-graduation?

FM: My plans as of now include getting a Masters in Public Health and exploring my options in the global health area thereafter. I am set on moving back home, or anywhere is Africa, within five years of my undergraduate education because I realize that back home is where I am needed the most. In the long term, the peak of my career would be to work for the World Health Organization (WHO)….how exactly? I am not too sure yet!

PVF: How has the Grace Scholarship helped you pursue your goals? quote 1

FM: Without the grace scholarship I never would have been able to afford to go to Hendrix, and being at Hendrix in itself has been great blessing. I have been exposed to a world of opportunities which have, at the very least, challenged me to think beyond the usual and be an agent for positive change in my community. On another note, the yearly personal reviews we submit to renew this scholarship actually help me evaluate my progress socially, culturally and most importantly intellectually. I am so thankful for such altruism, and I am challenged to give back in whatever way possible.

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Developing the Language of Math through Dance with the Help of PVF’s Mathematics Grants

The following guest post written by Susan Hamada, a Pre-K Autism Teacher at Lyndale Elementary in San Jose, discusses how she used a Mathematics Resource Grant from PVF to teach math concepts through dance and movement.

Lyndale - Dance and MathI would like to take this opportunity to thank Philanthropic Ventures Foundation and The Heising-Simons Foundation for your wonderful support of the dance therapy program for the preschool autism children at Lyndale Elementary School. Dance is a powerful method for developing the language of math, in addition to helping children mature physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. Moving through patterns over time may help us fill in any missing gaps in our neurological development, making it an important tool for autistic children.

When we initially began the dance lessons, many of the children needed assistance to participate in the dance class. By the end of their sessions, the majority were able to follow the verbal directions and movements to participate on their own. Some of the parents came to observe the class. By the end of the class, they were joining in and dancing with their child.

The dance classes were held at the end of the year, so we were able to review and reinforce the math concepts covered throughout the year. We danced with scarves, ribbons and bean bags, which required the children to count and name the colors.  The children also practiced shapes by moving through an obstacle course.

My preschoolers derived numerous physical benefits from the use of movement as an educational tool, including body awareness, coordination, flexibility, and spatial awareness. Their cognitive skills were also enhanced through vocabulary-building, creativity, and problem-solving. Finally, they grew socially and emotionally through cooperation with others and a growing sense of self-esteem. The very functioning of the brain itself was enhanced through repetition of specific developmental movements. Movement truly fosters the development of the whole child: body, mind, and spirit.

The dance instructor wanted to give the other autism classes the experience of a dance class, so he volunteered to come back the next week to give an additional 30-minute dance class! Thanks to your generosity, 40 preschool and kindergarten autistic children experienced the joy of movement.

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Where’s James? Connecting the Dots at the Invention Hub

At the Invention Hub, radical collaboration and connecting the dots infuse the spirit of the space. I recently brought together a start up and a nonprofit in this spirit of collaboration.

Zozi, is a start up named by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the 100 Most Brilliant Companies. Zozi helps you discover bite-sized adventures accessible to all kinds of people. For 28 years, Aim High has been closing the opportunity gap for under-resourced middle school youths in our communities with a free summer program.

Today, we sat around the same table to ponder the question: what if we could bring the amazing Zozi experiences to the wonderful Aim High youths to boost the summer program into the super-duper special sphere?

Zozi and Aim High

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Where’s Bill? Meeting with 30 Visiting Chinese Social Workers

Chinese VisitorsI helped plan the agenda for 30 visiting Chinese social workers from Guangzhou. The University Of California School of Social Welfare sponsored the visitors for a two-week visit which included lectures, on-site visits to see programs serving low-income people, and site seeing. I met with the group to explain the work of the foundation and gave each person an autographed copy of my book, Grassroots Giving, which is now available in Chinese. China is gearing up to create three million social workers.

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Where’s Bill? Expanding Career Options at Sequoia Adult School

by: Bill Somerville, President & CEO

I recently visited the Sequoia Adult School Scholars (SASS) program, which provides financial assistance to ESL students in the Sequoia District Adult School in order to help them expand their career options. Philanthropic Ventures Foundation provided a $10,000 grant to support SASS’s scholarship program.

Bill at SASS

Recipients of scholarships from Sequoia Adult School Scholars meet with donor Bill Somerville. All of these students completed the ESL program at Sequoia Adult School and now attend Canada College.

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Where’s James? On Air with Former US Senator Bill Bradley

For 40 years, former US Senator Bill Bradley has traveled arJames and Bill Bradleyound the United States listening to the stories Americans tell about their lives.  He was always moved, so he created a show on SiriusXM Radio called “American Voices” where you can hear some of these stories.

James and Bill Bradley 2

I was honored to be invited onto his national show to talk about the work of PVF to address the growing inequality gap in the Bay Area.  Stay tuned for a link to the interview when it becomes available.  Thank you Senator Bradley for giving a voice to a defining issue of our age.

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