NCG is excited to announce the release of our 4th Snapshot of Philanthropy: The Christensen Fund.
NCG’s Snapshots of Philanthropy Series
NCG’s Snapshots of Philanthropy is a special year-long series that aims to better demonstrate the scope and impact of our members’ work. These short “snapshot” stories showcase the positive impact organized philanthropy has in northern California, and will be used to educate external audiences about why our members fund who they fund, and what changes are happening as a result of these investments.
Latest Snapshot: The Christensen Fund
Since the 1970s, a large number of Ethiopians have immigrated to the United States. Many of them settled in San Jose and Oakland, which are now home to two of the largest Ethiopian communities in the United States.
Unfortunately, many of these relocated Ethiopians struggled in their new environment because of language and other cultural barriers. There were few resources available to help them integrate into their new communities and most relied on earlier immigrants as their sole source of support. Some became successful entrepreneurs, but many others struggled to make ends meet.
In addition, a number of the newly displaced parents were concerned that their children would lose touch with Ethiopian languages and traditions, while their children were often embarrassed by the parents’ inability to communicate and take control of their families’ lives in this new country.
In 2004, The Christensen Fund decided to help groups of recent immigrants bridge the cultural gap between their traditional homelands and their new communities. One of these groups was the Ethiopian community in northern California.
The Fund’s Ethiopian Program Officer, Dr. Wolde Tadesse, knew that there were many energetic and dedicated Ethiopians willing to tackle the challenges of building a vibrant cultural community for themselves and sharing this culture with the greater Bay Area.
The Fund made several grants to local Ethiopian organizations to begin this community-building process, including the Ethiopian Community Services, Ethiopian Community Cultural Center and Ethiopian Arts Forum. The Fund supported a number of Bay Area projects that showcased Ethiopian traditions, including a colorful celebration of the Ethiopian New Year, a new International Ethiopian Studies Journal and a rotating credit system called Idir.
The Fund also focused on cultural opportunities for the Ethiopian children in these communities, including a weekend language school run by the Ethiopian Cultural Institute. One of the Fund’s grantees, African Cradle, organized summer camps for Ethiopian adoptee children and their American parents with the goal of bringing these families together to network with each other and take part in Ethiopian cultural life.
By 2009, the Fund had made over $600,000 in grants to strengthen the cultural connections within these Ethiopian communities and those investments were paying off. Cultural expression and celebrations were gradually taking center stage in Ethiopian communities. Ethiopians of all creeds, ethnicity and political affiliation were beginning to meet with each other on a regular basis at artistic events organized by members of the Ethiopian community throughout the Bay Area. The San Francisco Chronicle published an article about an exciting new amateur group of Ethiopian dancers. The cities of San Jose and Oakland were starting to identify with the communities and adopted resolutions to observe the Ethiopian New Year as “Ethiopia Day” and fly Ethiopian colors on this date.
Read Snapshot 1: S.H. Cowell Foundation online.
Read Snapshot 2: Horizons Foundation online.
Read Snapshot 3: The James Irvine Foundation online.
Learn more about NCG’s Snapshots of Philanthropy series online.