Doing Good: Irvine Nonprofits Serving Local and Global Communities
With National Nonprofit Day having been August 17 and many nonprofits gearing up for the upcoming holiday season or year-end fundraising activities, finding a few social cause organizations to support with your time and skills is easy in Irvine. According to a 2014 OneOC.org report, Irvine led Orange County cities with more than 300 nonprofits at the time, the majority working in the human services, education and public benefit areas, both locally and internationally. Nonprofits in the city affect not only the local community but also focus on a variety of efforts and audiences internationally as well.
Working to empower girls and women escaping human trafficking International Sanctuary offers employment through the organization’s social enterprise, PURPOSE Jewelry. Sanctuaries provide safe places for professional training in the form of non-residential community centers. “But our sanctuaries offer more than the empowering acts of earning an income and obtaining job training,” says Chelsea Maietta, head of community engagement. “They provide education, access to healthcare, and a community to belong to where they are able to heal, grow, and experience unconditional love.” A myriad of opportunities are available to volunteers to fight human trafficking locally and globally — get involved helping at the Orange County office, at community events or through projects that can be done at home.
Meanwhile, Nuru International, started by a Special Operations Marine veteran, does its work in Africa. The organization’s mission is to eradicate extreme poverty in fragile, rural areas to build communities resilient to violent extremism, working with local leaders to co-create integrated solutions to help communities out of extreme poverty. Over the past decade, Nuru has led efforts in rural areas of Kenya and Ethiopia, helping more than 120,000 people. It has recently launched a third initiative in northern Adamawa state in northeastern Nigeria and plans to launch additional future projects in increasingly fragile regions. “Nuru is excited about helping local leaders chart a path toward lasting and meaningful choices for their communities through co-creating solutions that are unique to each community’s cultural context,” shares Billy Williams, Strategic Partnerships Director.
Many international nonprofits call Irvine home and look to the local community for voluntary assistance with shot and long-term programming including special annual events and ongoing fundraising campaigns. Developments in Literacy (DIL), another international nonprofit organization, operates schools in Pakistan’s most impoverished areas, with more than 25,000 students enrolled in 134 campuses. DIL schools have been a model for success in their communities, proven by a primary school completion rate of 99 percent compared to national average of 57 percent. The DIL office in Irvine is always looking for volunteer support in photography, animation, data entry and general administrative assistance. “Our current urgent needs are donations and fundraising as we need to diversify our donor list as well as continue supporting the Syrian refugee school in Tripoli, Lebanon,” says Puneh Ala’I, executive director/founder of For The Unseen, which works on projects to improve the lives of vulnerable communities globally, primarily targeting people who have been negatively affected by conflict or neglect.
“We are also looking for any experienced grant writers. Those two are beyond crucial needs at this time.” Her team also works with a Cambodian Kids Center helping provide education and amenities on location in Koh Chang.
Closer home, WHW, formerly known as Women Helping Women, provides the unemployed and underemployed the skills and resources they need to get and keep a good job. Since 1993, it has served over 100,000 job seekers at no charge. “A good job is more than a paycheck, it is essential to creating a stable, safe and educated community. And for many, it is a lifeline,” says Trina Fleming, chief operating officer. Programs include employment readiness workshops, computer training, job placement assistance, employment retention support and professional apparel.
Boys Hope Girls Hope is an academic scholarship and boarding home program for disadvantaged youth. The organization is currently planning its fall fundraising event, the 22nd Annual Evening of Hope, featuring a reception, dinner, and a performance at the Segerstrom Center, and needs committee members to help plan the event, get donations, solicit sponsors, and assist with other organizational activities. Another organization working with children albeit alongside their parents is Boot Camp for New Dads, in partnership with Dad’s Adventure, offering workshops specifically designed for parents-to-be expecting their first baby. With the success of these sessions, Boot Camp for New Moms was later added. Couples discover solutions to challenges that surprise many parents-to-be and the workshops feature new parents with their babies who share real-world experiences, advice, and tips.
Families Forward helps families in need achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through housing, food, counseling, education, and other support services. During the holidays, the organization distributes Thanksgiving baskets to over 800 local families containing all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings to cook a holiday meal. “Volunteers are integral to accomplishing our mission. Our Adopt-a-Family Program gives volunteers the opportunity to spread holiday joy to more than 2,200 children and their parents,” says Sarah Stokes, marketing specialist. “Assistance is needed throughout November and December to organize, prepare and distribute food baskets and gift bag donations to families at our Program Center.”
Corporate sponsorships, need-based giving, skills training are just some other ways to assist. Most nonprofits also have immediate needs and available volunteer opportunities listed on their websites and social media pages for ready reference. To help with upcoming projects, find out more about the nonprofit sector in Irvine and other organizations doing good in the community and outside, the charity directory maintained by the city of Irvine is a handy resource.