By: Elizabeth Roscoe, Executive Director, Western Union Foundation
Today, according to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, more than 65.3 million people – approximately one out of every 114 people on earth – has been forcibly displaced from their homes due to wars, conflict and persecution. And while attention has recently focused on Syrian refugees arriving in Europe, this is a global crisis of enormous proportions, impacting just about every region of the world.
It’s heartbreaking to hear about the many people who have been forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind to seek safety and a better life for themselves and their families. As a recent visitor to a refugee camp in Europe, I can attest to the fact that behind all the statistics and official statements, are real people with harrowing tales of suffering and loss. As heartbreaking as this is, I also witnessed the resilience of the human spirit – and the hope and ambition that people possess, despite the uncertainties they face. This is just one of the reasons why I’m so very proud to be part of an organization with a long history of providing support to the world’s most vulnerable people.
During its first year of grant making in 2001, the Western Union Foundation supported refugees and their families as they settled into their new communities in the U.S. Since then, our scope, reach and commitment has only strengthened to include support for refugee and internally displaced populations in Uganda, Colombia, Kenya, Pakistan, Mexico, Chile, Botswana, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, and more recently, many countries in the Middle East and Europe.
Many Western Union Foundation grants help provide emergency response, youth and adult outreach, education programs inside and outside of refugee camps, vocational training, integration and legal assistance, literacy and language programs, life skills training and support for host communities. Together with the Western Union Company, we are committed to continuing our support, with the Foundation leveraging our NGO relationships to help build long-term solutions for the millions who have lost so much. This is why we are expanding the focus of our signature Education for Better program, broadening our efforts to serve refugee populations by increasing access to education and job training, and strengthening communities affected by conflict and violence.
To help this make this happen, and to explore ways to better approach the refugee crisis from a global perspective, I am pleased to share that the Western Union Foundation recently announced a three-year grant of US$750,000 to the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) that will help provide access to education for 10,000 refugees in Uganda. Since then, additional funds were raised through the Western Union® business. WPDI’s successful approach to training refugees by focusing on life skills, vocational training and entrepreneurship, will serve as a blueprint for the implementation of a new program in a Kiryandongo, Uganda camp that houses approximately 70,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan – 85 percent of whom are under age 18.
Our Foundation efforts, together with those of the Western Union Company, can help build a long-term approach to creating a sustainable future for refugees, while helping strengthen communities worldwide.
Images ©WPDI. The Western Union Foundation is a separate §501(c)(3) recognized United States non-profit corporation supported by the Western Union Company, its employees, Agents, and business partners working to support education and disaster relief efforts as pathways toward a better future.