A RISK WORTH TAKING (Fall 2016). Creating a nonprofit organization is a risky proposition; many close their doors in the first five years, others end up operating on a shoe-string budget. Ten years ago in Worcester, Dr. Olga Valdman (an immigrant) and Kaska Yawo (a refugee) saw a need—to help students emigrating from Africa settle into a new life in an American city—and decided to take that risk. In year one, they offered tutoring and Saturday enrichment programs to 25 African students. The next year, African Community Education (ACE) became an independent nonprofit organization and in 2009 hired its first full-time employee. In 2010, this “little engine that could” approached The Clowes Fund. At that time, ACE had an operating budget less than $150K and a plan to expand its outreach to parents struggling to understand the Worcester Public Schools and how to help their children thrive at school. The Fund invested in that fledgling organization and six years later, we congratulate ACE on its 10th anniversary. More than 300 people gathered recently to celebrate what is now an organization that operates with a $500K budget and the equivalent of 11 full-time employees who serve nearly 300 immigrants with programs that support academic and family success, leadership development and cultural appreciation. The Mayor of Worcester and State Representatives Dan Donahue and Mary Keefe spoke at the anniversary event about ACE’s value to the City of Worcester, a refugee settlement community for immigrants from around the world. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey expressed her respect and admiration for ACE’s leaders and invited Kaska Yawo to be part of her new statewide Advisory Council on New Americans.
In the image, ACE founders Dr. Olga Valdman and Kaska Yawo (left and center) at the organization’s 10th anniversary event.
Clowes Fund Field(s) of Interest: Immigrants, Refugees and Asylees