Fall grantee round-up

To hold a piece of the sun, instead by Katherine Toukhy

It’s that time of year again! Our fall grantees are offering numerous unique, fun, and educational opportunities to experience Arab culture.

Wish to learn Arabic? Sign up for classes with Mizna! Mizna, based in Minnesota, offers four classes that are 10 weeks long—each a different level of Arabic—that all begin around the beginning of October. If you’d like to learn more about Arabic music, Mizna also offers Arabic drumming courses using the derbekeh (Arabic term for the traditional drum). In these courses (there are beginner and advanced levels for both children and adults), students will learn about traditional Arabic music and the style and rhythm associated with it, eventually learning how to play more sophisticated rhythms and how to adapt a rhythm to the movements and sounds of dancers and musicians.

Also, from Sept. 18-20, Mizna—partnering with RAWI—will host the 5th National Gathering, which features many talented Arab and Arab American writers and scholars, providing them with an outlet for their various works.

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A festive fall

With the fall season upon us, the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) would like to take a moment to highlight some wonderful upcoming events sponsored by our grantees that aim to celebrate the Arab culture through food, music, cultural dance, arts and other forms of entertainment.

Boston Palestine Film Festival (BPFF): A program of the Middle East Charitable and Cultural Society Inc. (MECCS), the BPFF brings Palestine-related stories, cinema and culture to New England. The festival features numerous thought-provoking films of various types, including documentaries, full-length features, rare early works, video art pieces and new films by emerging artists and youth. BPFF also offers additional cultural programming in the form of concerts by Palestinian musicians and art exhibits by or about Palestinians. The aim of the BPFF is to offer a glimpse into Palestinian history and culture with these various stories depicting honest, self-described and independent views of the geographically dispersed society.

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Banking on the youth

Photo Credit: YouthBank

Young people have tremendous potential. They have a huge capacity to listen, understand, and make tough decisions, which results in great personal growth and could ultimately lead to great change in a community. YouthBank, a youth-driven philanthropy program, capitalizes on all of this untapped potential, putting it towards improving communities and building smart and strong leaders for the future.

YouthBank, in its simplest terms, is a youth-led philanthropy program that has many different chapters throughout Europe. Each team consists of a group of young people (usually aged 14-20) who are completely in control of the operations of the group, with only support and advice being provided by adults. This translates to the young people deciding on the grants and how the money should be allocated and what needs should be addressed within their respective communities. Is it practical and effective?

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Shining a light on a ‘safe harbor’


The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) recently awarded a $9,000 grant to Safe Harbor for Women (SHFW), an organization that brings public awareness to domestic abuse and cruelty. With this grant, SHFW was able to support two organizations—Turning Point (Macomb County) and HAVEN (Oakland County)—that focus on providing care for women who are victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

The money was raised through the first annual 100 Arab American Woman Who Care event, where dozens of philanthropic women donated $100 each and pooled their money together to make a larger impact to a cause that mattered to them. Each attendee nominated a charity of their choice, with three of the charities being selected at random and subsequently voted on by all those attending. Through this process one organization, SHFW, received the $9,000 grant award.

CAAP staff had the opportunity to visit both Turning Point and HAVEN, and a brief description about their work follows.

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Twitter tells a story, vol. 1


Recently, the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) hosted a Twitter chat discussing the ongoing pandemonium surrounding the Ice Bucket Challenge. The aim of this chat was to get a general idea of our followers’ sentiment toward the Ice Bucket Challenge, paving the way to learn more about their general giving strategies and philosophies (with a little advice of our own).

Read the recap here.


OPINION: The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’, half full or half empty?

A large group partaking in the Ice Bucket Challenge
Credit: Elise Amendola, TIME

Social media has been taken by storm lately by the Ice Bucket Challenge. The concept is a simple dare; individuals are asked to pour a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads within a 24 hour period or else they must donate $100 to the ALS Association (a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Should they choose to dump the ice over their heads, they must film it, then post the video on to social media (such as Facebook or Instagram) and pass the challenge on to friends. Some variations call for a $10 donation even if the participant soaks him/herself.

At first glance, this trend might seem quite ridiculous; donate $100 or endure a cold bath for a couple short seconds? As ridiculous as such a task may seem, it has proven remarkably effective. The ALS Association has fully embraced this viral campaign and rightfully so; since July 29, donations to the campaign have reached 16 times the amount raised over the same period as last year ($31.5 million compared to under $2 million).

Outside of the large sum of money that has been raised by the campaign, it has also dramatically increased awareness for the disease and the research needed to tackle it. There is no denying that, or else there would not have been such a large increase in donations. It is extremely difficult to deride a campaign that has raised so much money and awareness. However, from a philanthropic point of view, the Ice Bucket Challenge does more harm than good.

Yes, this campaign has raised millions of dollars for research in combatting a horribly debilitating disease, which is marvelous in its own right;however the Ice Bucket Campaign is itself inherently negative. There exists this idea that being doused in freezing cold water is preferable to donating to ALS research, which is the wrong type of message that is being sent. The message that giving is positive and extremely rewarding needs to conveyed, not that it is a punishment, or an alternative to an ice-bath.

Additionally, these acts of charity seem to be more about the individual than the cause. Individuals attempt to think of creative ways to complete the challenge as a way of garnering more ‘likes’ on social media, usually at the expense of ALS entirely. Many videos hardly mention the disease and for many it is just a chance to do something out of the ordinary with friends.

Furthermore, the long-term prospects are hazy. What are the chances that those donating will continue to help past the first donation and become a consistent donor, or even just continue to show support for organizations fighting the cause in general? Here at the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) we make sure to actively engage with donors, provide strategic giving tools such as donor-advised funds, and create a relationship so as to encourage them to continue supporting our work, as well as causes that matter most to them. How will the various ALS organizations ensure the longevity of their donations made as a result of the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Rather than choosing the cold shower as an alternative to punishment in the form of a donation, I encourage others to donate along with the frigid bath, as well as provide information about the cause that the ALS Association represents and urge people to help any way they can. Or, why not just give directly and skip the ice bucket all together?  If helping those suffering from ALS is a cause that matters to you, then support it because it is a cause worth fighting for. What more motivation does one need to donate than a strong desire to help?

-Dillon Odeh

Intern, CAAP


Shining a Spotlight on CAAP’s 2014 Grantees

The Center of Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) has awarded grants to a total of 13 nonprofit organizations in six different states for 2014. With these grants, the organizations will continue working in their respective communities, providing a wide array of services including: advocacy, arts and culture, social services, and education. Two of this year’s grantees are highlighted below.

Somali Family Service of San Diego: A first-time grantee, Somali Family Service of San Diego (SFS) strives to achieve a better quality of life for the Somali and other East African population living in San Diego. To reach this goal, the SFS helps Somali and other East African families become responsible, fully-contributing members of their community by providing various services that promote health, educational and economic success, and develop leadership skills.

Recently, SFS held an event that focused on training individuals to be more culturally aware when it comes to health care. The event was titled “Providing Patient-Centered Healthcare to Somali Patients: A Cultural Sensitivity Training” and primarily worked on training to tackle some of the cultural barriers that are major contributors to the gap in healthcare and access to and delivery of the care.

Credit: Somali Services of San Diego Facebook Page

Mizna: Based in Minnesota, this organization is also devoted to the promotion of Arab American culture. Mizna creates a forum for the expression of the culture, giving a voice to Arab Americans through literature and art. Mizna presents various works from numerous Arab American artists, exposing the wider American audience to Arab culture and helping to counter the many stereotypes that exist against Arab Americans.

This September, Mizna will hold their 5th National RAWI + Mizna Literary Gathering, bringing together leading Arab American authors. In the past, such gatherings have included workshops on a multitude of topics, such as poetry, short stories, political and legal writing, sexuality, and more. This gathering provides an outlet for these writers, while also informing the public of the Arab culture.

Credit: Giovanna Nido

The SFS and Mizna only represent a small sample of the many organizations that are receiving grants from CAAP this year. For a complete list of grantees—as well as details on what the funds will be used for—visit the CAAP website.


Zack Bazzi and his “rapid impact” project to aid Syrian refugees

Lebanese American Zack Bazzi, a documentary filmmaker and Iraq War veteran, is on a mission to improve educational opportunities for Syrian children in refugee camps. While working as a consultant in Kurdistan, Iraq earlier this year, Bazzi decided to volunteer his time in the eight camps that house more than 240,000 Syrian refugees.

He realized that some children went to school without supplies, and decided to do something about it. By founding TentEd, along with fellow veterans Scott Quilty and Patrick Hu, he was able to leverage his networks and raise thousands of dollars for this “rapid impact” project, which directly provides school supplies, books, and teaching aids to students in refugee camps.

In addition, Bazzi was able to utilize remaining TentEd funds to further assist the displaced children, ensuring that 200 children from low-income households in Ebil are guaranteed bus rides to and from Garanawa Elementary School through September.  By relying on local volunteers and supporters, the remainder of the funds were invested where help was needed most, allowing Bazzi to “get more bang for the buck.”

Rabia, a single Syrian mother of five, provides evidence of the impact of Bazzi’s work. Prior to TentEd’s help in the region, Rabia struggled to sign her children up for school. “I could not afford it,” she said. But now, with the help of Bazzi and the Center for Arab American Philanthropy’s (CAAP) support, she has newfound hope, and her children are “making progress in life.”


Rabia and her family

Bazzi recognizes the difficulty in getting aid to areas of conflict, but he says, “there’s always a reason for you not to do something, but if you have a vision, there’s always a way.”

Zack will begin his master’s degree in Disaster Response Management at Georgetown University in the fall. We look forward to hearing more from this trailblazer, for whom “giving back is common sense.”

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Gaza crisis: How you can help


The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) is responding to the current tragedy affecting the civilian population of Gaza by researching organizations providing humanitarian aid to those in need. All of the organizations below meet CAAP’s due diligence standards for charitable donations.

ANERA: ANERA is delivering essential medicine and supplies to hospitals and clinics; purchasing and delivering food to displaced families; and delivering hygiene kits filled with basic sanitary supplies for displaced people. They also plan to help rebuild damaged hospitals, clinics, and schools, as well as reconnect homes to drinking water in communities hit hard by bombs. Learn more. Donate.

Catholic Relief Services: While Catholic Relief Services’ physical office space in Gaza is closed because of the risks, their team of 15 Gazan staff are still working from their homes, with support from CRS’ Jerusalem and Ramallah offices. They are delivering survival kits to displaced families, have begun procuring medical supplies for four Gaza hospitals/clinics, and are preparing their teams and local partner organizations to provide psycho-social support to deal with the massive trauma. Learn more. Donate.

Friends of UNRWA: UNRWA is providing shelter to more than 100,000 people in 68 designated emergency shelters in the Gaza strip. The priority is to provide food, water, sleeping, hygiene and cleaning items to those in need. They are also delivering diesel to water and sewage pump stations, conducting sanitation work, and operating health clinics. On July 21, more than 6,500 people visited UNRWA health clinics including 500 children. Learn more.Donate.

Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps reports that they have 85 team members and a network of over 50 community organizations working in Gaza to provide humanitarian aid. They are distributing emergency food and supply packages, and other basic necessities like blankets, baby wipes and diapers, detergent and hygiene items. Despite the volatile security situation, they have been able to deliver nearly 400 packages a day to various sites. Learn more. Donate.

Image courtesy andlun1


W.K. Kellogg Foundation awards $380,000 grant to the Center for Arab American Philanthropy

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently awarded a $380,000 grant to the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP), a project of ACCESS. The grant will allow CAAP to expand its services and reach out to more members of the community to continue its mission of empowering Arab Americans, including youth, through philanthropy.

Funding from the grant will be used to launch additional Giving Circles, a new Women and Children’s Fund at CAAP that supports organizations serving low-income children, women and their families, and expansion of CAAP’s award-winning Teen Grantmaking Initiative (TGI) program nationwide.

“The Kellogg Foundation has been CAAP’s partner since our inception. We are so proud to have their ongoing support,” said Katherine Hanway, CAAP donor services and program officer. “This grant marks a pivotal point in CAAP’s development, as it will considerably expand our programs and services across the country. The grant allows us to positively impact our community, especially our young people.”

The Center for Arab American Philanthropy’s vision is to build a legacy of giving in the Arab American community, shaping the future of our society through the collective power of philanthropy and empowering others to be community builders. CAAP works with donors to invest their charitable dollars in organizations and programs across the United States. Learn more here.


Center for Arab American Philanthropy
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Dearborn, MI 48120


The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) strengthens the impact of strategic Arab American giving through education, asset building and grantmaking, in order to improve lives and build vibrant communities.

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