The Other Side of Giving Back

‘Well, this is quite the opposite of what I thought would happen,’ I thought, as I think about my sunny hometown, Los Angeles, while pressed up between a puffer-jacket-wrapped person and the doors of an NYC train car during rush hour in the middle of winter. All throughout undergrad, I thought that after graduation, I’d be continuing my education somewhere warm. Well… I ended up in New York City working with an NGO, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO).

Coming fresh from college studying International Relations, I have always been wary of the ways individuals gave back, non-governmental organizations, and other big institutions of international development. SHOFCO has taught me the other side of giving back. SHOFCO’s mission is centered around three pillars of transformation that all aim to free urban slum residents from the chains of poverty.

Almost always, women and girls are the first victims of poverty. SHOFCO believes that they are also the community’s key out of poverty. That’s why, through two Girls’ Leadership Academies, SHOFCO provides education and empowerment grounded on the emphasis of high-performing leadership skills, equipping students with the tools to effect systems change. Because of SHOFCO, over 500 young female leaders are poised to take the helm in advocating for their own communities.

To ensure that no barrier stands between a girl and her education, and to deliver an immediate answer to human suffering, SHOFCO provides a network of services – healthcare, clean water, and economic development. With reliable healthcare and water, children miss fewer school days; infants have a higher chance of normal neurocognitive development; and adults miss fewer work opportunities. Finally, financial programs and intensive training courses enable individuals to become financially literate, to save, and to start and grow a business.

Each of these pillars – female education and empowerment, service delivery, and community advocacy – on their own will not solve poverty. But with these pillars together, SHOFCO combats poverty on all fronts.

My time as a Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow in SHOFCO’s Advancement Team has put me in a unique position to see all that SHOFCO does and how each miniscule component fits into the organization’s overall objective. From designing a #GivingTuesday campaign in support of girls’ education, to writing a proposal for family planning initiatives in the slums, to thanking our network of supporters during the holiday season – the past few months at SHOFCO have given me the opportunity to experience all aspects of fundraising. It has taught me numerous skills, from fundraising strategy to grant writing, that are necessary to propel my career. But perhaps the most important takeaway from my time here is that SHOFCO was able to give life to and humanize the scientific and mundane theories that I learned in college.

I am grateful for Newman’s Own Foundation for giving me this opportunity. This experience has invited me to extend my education in a meaningful way. I am grateful for Newman’s Own Foundation for showing me what a real funder ought to be. One that is meticulous and informed, placing big bets on big ideas of organizations that are equally meticulous, well-informed and poised to make a long-lasting impact. One that puts full trust on communities and grassroots organizations as the very experts in their field. One that knows that those who are in the field and come from the community are the ones that need to be heard, believed, and empowered to take full charge of their own community’s transformation.

By Denzel Degollado, 2019-2020 NOF Fellow at Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), New York, NY