Education & Arts

Seed Fund Grantee Highlight: Green Meadow Waldorf School

December 16, 2014

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Green Meadow Waldorf School (GMWS) received a $1,000 Seed Fund grant to support Open Saturdays, a free tutoring program brought by GMWS faculty, staff, parents, and students to children in struggling local public schools during the 2014-15 school year. GMWS is located in Chestnut Ridge, New York in the East Ramapo School District where more than 48 percent of students are eligible for free school lunches, and an additional 14 percent are eligible for reduced price meals. The district has faced significant budget deficits in recent years, exceeding $7 million in the 2012-13 school year, resulting in extensive cuts to programming. Last spring, more than 80 district teachers and staff members were laid off, including arts faculty, librarians, and security personnel, and full-day kindergarten has been eliminated district-wide, as has music and art, athletics, and AP and ESL coursework.

gmws2Student Testimonial:

“To be honest, I was very skeptical about [Open Saturdays] because it was free of charge. I was reluctant to wake up early every Saturday, but I…brought my math folder, tests, and homework and expected the worst. At first I worked with a student named Sabine, and she really got me comfortable with the environment here. After a few more sessions, I started to work with Mr. Madsen. He was a great help and he definitely helped me increase my scores in math.” –Julian

Open Saturdays is a way for Green Meadow to reach out to students in this severely under-resourced school district. The program was designed and is coordinated by Green Meadow’s Diversity Committee, a standing group that includes representatives from diverse backgrounds from the faculty, staff, and parent body. The Committee contacted guidance counselors and administrators in local schools during the fall of 2013 to gauge needs and interest in a tutoring program, and based on this input from partners in the district, GMWS moved forward with a pilot program immediately. Open Saturdays, launched in January 2014, provides free tutoring in mathematics, science, and English to local public school students enrolled at Chestnut Ridge Middle School and other middle and high schools in the district. The tutors are GMWS middle and high school teachers, staff, parents, and high school students, who volunteer their time.

gmws3Student Testimonials:

“In the time that I have been coming here, I have had an amazing experience. I was tutored by several different people. My grades went up and my homework was completed more efficiently.” –Elijah

“With these Saturday sessions, I have gotten to understand my work better and meet incredible people. At the beginning, my grades were not where they should be, but with your [GMWS tutor] help my grades have improved dramatically.” –Alexis

 “When I first [started], I had a lot of trouble with the subject Math. I was at the point where I was failing bad. Then I met a teacher named Mr. Madsen. Once I worked with him, he made math a lot easier for me.” –Taron

The principal outcomes for the program are learning improvements by students, evidenced through increased competence with the material, as observed by tutors. GMWS also hopes that the program will promote a culture of service in their community and support an overarching goal to build bridges between their school and the larger community while providing tangible, meaningful services to their neighbors. You can read more about the program in an interview with Vicki Larson, Green Meadow Waldorf School’s Director of Communication and Marketing in their March/April 2014 newsletter.

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RSF Makes a Loan to the Pine Forest School

December 15, 2014

PFS Logo.RSF is pleased to announce a new loan to the Pine Forest School (PFS). RSF financing will help fund the acquisition and renovation of a new campus property that will increase access to Waldorf education in the community.

Celebrating their 20th anniversary this school year, Pine Forest School is a publically funded, Pre-8 grade school in Flagstaff, Arizona using the Waldorf curriculum and methodology. PFS was founded in 1995 as a K-4 public school, and was originally funded by the Arizona State Department of Education. Through collaborative efforts by Flagstaff families interested in Waldorf education and enthusiastic, trained Waldorf educators and public school teachers around the country, Rudolf Steiner’s desire to bring the Waldorf model to public education became a reality in Northern Arizona. Over the next five years the school grew to be a complete K-8 program.

Michael Heffernan, PFS Executive Director, standing in front of the school's new property. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Sun.

Michael Heffernan, PFS Executive Director, stands in front of the school’s new property. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Sun.

The school currently operates on a 1.5 acre campus located in a light industrial park area of north Flagstaff. For the past several years the school has been focused on developing resources and community support for a move to a site offering a more Waldorf-appropriate environment, as well as the capacity to embrace a larger community. With the help of RSF financing the school was able to acquire a 3.5 acre property in Sunnyside, one of Flagstaff’s oldest neighborhoods. The school has plans for over $1.4 million in renovations, and hopes to open the new campus for the 2015-2016 school year.

“Pine Forest School and RSF Social Finance have known each other for many years,” says RSF Senior Lending Associate Reed Mayfield. “I first visited the school in the spring of 2011 when they were seeking to build out new facilities – it was not the right time for a move. But now as the school and community have grown, we are proud to co-create a path to the new space. Talk about long-term relationships!”

The Waldorf-modeled curriculum that Pine Forest School follows uses a child development model that nurtures and embraces learning for the head, heart, and hands of each student. With nearly 250 students currently enrolled, PFS offers Waldorf main lesson blocks intertwined with Southwestern culture, tradition, and history. Special classes and extra-curricular activities include German, Spanish, eurythmy, woodwork, handwork, art, archery, chess, basketball, and volleyball. The school is led by a passionate group of teachers and administrators, and seeks to facilitate strong family and community involvement through events, volunteer opportunities, and communication.

The Pine Forest School is currently the only public charter school in Flagstaff using the Waldorf methodology. PFS believes all children should have access to Waldorf education, regardless of their financial resources, and hope that the move to a new location will provide greater access to underserved children. The new site is more centrally located in Flagstaff, and is surrounded by several different neighborhoods and communities of people from varying ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“I am very excited that PFS has been blessed with the opportunity to expand our enrollment and bring this form of education to more children and families, and move to a location which is in the heart of Flagstaff, surrounded by neighborhoods, other schools, public libraries, city parks and national forest,” says PFS Executive Director Michael Heffernan. “We will be able to build our program with the larger facilities and more acreage, and the possibilities for community collaboration are many.  RSF is the perfect organization to partner with as their mission for social finance is aligned with our mission for excellence in education.”

Video courtesy of Pine Forest School:

About Pine Forest School

Founded in 1995, Pine Forest School (PFS) is the only public charter school in Flagstaff, Arizona using the Waldorf methodology. PFS provides an education of the whole child, with a curriculum that is a truly comprehensive balance of academic, practical, and artistic activities. The school is dedicated to helping individuals achieve their full intellectual, emotional, and physical potential, in a sustainable and beautiful environment that reinforces integrity, understanding, respect, and trust.  www.pineforestschool.org

RSF Launches Arts Shared Gifting Circle in Los Angeles

December 5, 2014

In the past four years RSF has been experimenting with a new model of giving called Shared Gifting. Shared Gifting aims to transform the power dynamics in philanthropy by giving the decision making authority for grant funds to the non-profits who will receive them.

Previously RSF has facilitated this process with organizations focused on sustainable food and agriculture. However, in January of 2015 we will be hosting the first Shared Gifting circle focused on the Arts!

In order to determine where to host Shared Gifting circles, RSF looks to our borrowers who are our partners in the field. RSF supports two wonderful borrowers in Los Angeles; LA Stage Alliance and 18th Street Arts Center. We worked with both of these organizations, as well as our community of grantees, donors, borrowers, and investors, to identify great non-profits working to provide services to the arts community in Los Angeles.

We are excited to announce the participants of Shared Gifting Los Angeles:

Representatives from these organizations will participate in a full day meeting to distribute $50,000 in grant funding through a collaborative process in which the grantees will become grantors to each other. To learn more about the Shared Gifting process please visit our website at: http://rsfsocialfinance.org/services/donors/shared-gifting/

We are excited to be working with these organizations and look forward to sharing our experiences from the Shared Gifting meeting!

RSF Makes a Loan to the East Bay Waldorf School

December 2, 2014

10685579_10152799061635734_4161669210641885723_nRSF is pleased to announce a new loan to the East Bay Waldorf School (EBWS). RSF financing helped the school complete renovations to existing classrooms and facilities and lease additional classroom space.

The East Bay Waldorf School was founded in 1980 when a group of parents and friends opened a kindergarten in the Julia Morgan Center in Berkeley. Each subsequent year another grade was added toward the full complement of eight grades. The school moved to Emeryville in 1984, where it remained for 12 years. When the school district reclaimed the Emeryville site in 1996, EBWS purchased its current home – an 11-acre hillside campus in El Sobrante, California.

Born from the insights of Rudolf Steiner, the Waldorf model of education unfolds an enriching and rigorous synthesis of academic, artistic, and practical pursuits for intellectual, moral, and physical development. The mission of the East Bay Waldorf School is to ignite the spark of individuality in each child, developing a lifelong commitment to learning, creativity, and excellence. The school’s curriculum integrates the sciences, humanities, mathematics, music, movement and the arts to offer a diverse and profound learning experience.

IMG_7128RSF’s relationship with the East Bay Waldorf School dates back nearly two decades, when RSF provided the mortgage loan for the purchase of the El Sobrante property. Two additional loans were made, in the fall of 1996 and in 1999, and were used for construction costs, classroom renovations, and the purchase of computers and science lab equipment. The new loan has allowed EBWS to complete renovations and lease three new portables.

“The new classrooms needed to be in place and the upgrades had to be completed in time for the start of the new school year,” says Ted Levinson, RSF Senior Director of Lending. “The East Bay Waldorf School community was extremely helpful and cooperative in completing the process. It was exciting to be of assistance in the completion of the improvements to the school!”

ourbackdoorAn extraordinary feature of the East Bay Waldorf School is their remarkable hillside campus, adjacent to thousands of acres of regional parkland accessible by foot. The campus and adjacent wild lands function as an extension of the school’s classrooms, providing fantastic opportunities for students to spend time learning and playing in nature.

“This location provides us with rich opportunities to venture regularly into the natural world,” says Kelly Chappie, Interim Administrator at EBWS. “We are committed to offering Waldorf education to a broad constituency while cultivating a school resonant with the impulses of the first Waldorf school: a development of thinking, feeling, and willing in children, which offers them an education in service of realizing and making their own unique contributions to the future.”

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About East Bay Waldorf School

Founded in 1980, the East Bay Waldorf School is situated on a remarkable 11-acre hillside campus adjacent to thousands of acres of regional parkland in El Sobrante, California. The school offers an infant through 8th grade program and is committed to offering Waldorf education to a broad constituency. The East Bay Waldorf School ignites the spark of individuality in each child, developing a lifelong commitment to learning, creativity, and excellence. http://www.eastbaywaldorf.org/

RSF Makes a Loan to Liberty Source

November 20, 2014

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RSF is pleased to announce a new loan to Liberty Source, a public benefit corporation and subsidiary of Digital Divide Data (DDD) that employs members of the military spouse community to provide U.S.-based business process outsourcing (BPO) solutions. Although the business was founded this summer, it already employs over 90 people at Fort Monroe in Virginia. RSF has provided working capital to support DDD in the implementation of this new domestic venture in impact sourcing.

An existing RSF borrower, Digital Divide Data is an internationally-acclaimed social enterprise that pioneered “Impact Sourcing,” a model that creates jobs in the BPO industry and builds talent in the developing world. Impact Sourcing empowers people to become technologically literate participants in the global economy while encouraging first-world clients to consider the entire value chain for their business, just as fair trade has done for the food and agriculture sector. DDD’s international offices are located in Laos, Cambodia, and Kenya.

Although dozens of other firms around the world now engage in Impact Sourcing, DDD’s approach is unique in that it incorporates a comprehensive program of employment and higher education, creating an enduring, life-changing environment for young men and women who otherwise face limited employment options. Liberty Source addresses a growing market need for a competitively priced and flexible U.S.-based BPO solution by employing military spouses and other members of the military community, providing them with the training and practical experience necessary to get them on the first rung of the professional career ladder.

“DDD has a thirteen year track record of growing social impact and strengthening the earning power of its staff,” says RSF’s Senior Director of Lending, Ted Levinson. “We’re glad to help by bringing the DDD model – that has accomplished so much in Asia and Africa – to the U.S. Our military families make tremendous sacrifice; it is gratifying to work with social enterprises supporting this community.”

Liberty Source staff young woman stockThere are over 700,000 military spouses in the United States, with 80% of them having post high school education. Although this is significantly higher than the general U.S. population, these dedicated spouses are four times as likely to be unemployed or underemployed because of the limited number of job opportunities near military bases and the frequency at which military families move from base to base. Liberty Source brings these highly motivated, educated members of the military community together with DDD’s proven employee development program, providing them with the means to enter, or return to, the workforce, while also offering the opportunity to augment their family income. Additionally, Liberty Source provides an alternative to outsourcing abroad, keeping jobs onshore and helping improve the U.S. economy.

“Without support from RSF, we would not have been able to get Liberty Source off the ground,” said Deborah Kops, Board Chair, Liberty Source and Board Member, DDD. “The RSF loan provided us the seed money to hire staff and buy equipment. Only a mission-aligned lender understands both the social impact and the imperative to operate a commercially viable company.”

About Liberty Source

Headquartered in Hampton Roads, Virginia on the decommissioned Fort Monroe military base, Liberty Source is a business process outsourcer (BPO) delivering corporate processes such as finance and accounting, human resources and customer care to clients seeking a flexible, onshore and cost-efficient solution. The company, the first viable onshore alternative to the traditional offshore BPO model, has a compelling, socially conscious mission; tap into the dedicated, under-employed pool of highly skilled military spouses by providing educational and career opportunities. By harnessing the power of this domestic workforce, and creating strong alliances with leaders in the education, consulting and technology sectors, Liberty Source is able to rapidly implement powerful solutions that meet the changing needs of its clients. A Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) owned by Digital Divide Data, Liberty Source is for-profit, yet designed as responsible and sustainable enterprise, managed for the benefit of its clients, its shareholders and the broader public interest.  For more information please visit http://www.liberty-source.com.

Refugee and Immigrant Fund: Growing New Roots in a Safer Land

November 14, 2014

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by Ellie Lanphier

On two of the world’s largest rooftops the Refugee and Immigrant Fund, in collaboration with Brooklyn Grange, runs the Urban Farm Recovery Project. Their Urban Agriculture Training program for refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants to New York City teaches job readiness skills for the US job market through individualized weekly workshops on the farm and at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Employment Center. In May, RSF provided a Seed Fund grant to help the Refugee and Immigrant Fund (RIF) grow the Urban Farm Recovery Project from a therapeutic intervention tool to a comprehensive immigrant integration program.

RIF 2The Urban Farm Recovery Project provides professional and social network development through collaboration with a diverse group of staff, volunteers, interns, and visitors from the U.S. and throughout the world. Participants get hands-on training applicable to green job opportunities within the emerging green economy through workshops facilitated by experts in the field. English-language immersion experiences emerge through weekly on-the-farm English conversations while participants experience psychological healing from working in a soothing, productive and collaborative outdoor environment. RIF staff help participants complete and/or update resumes with individualized support from a recruitment expert and provide ongoing support after completion of training, including invitation to events and access to resources. Additionally, the Urban Farm Recovery Project provides a weekly stipend.

The farms are located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard (Brooklyn) and Long Island City (Queens). Rooftop-farming provides many benefits to the community it inhabits, such as shortening the supply chain, reducing carbon footprints, and providing natural cooling during the summer months by absorbing solar energy. The two rooftops combined absorb millions of gallons of storm water per season, and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection acknowledged this service to the city by awarding the Brooklyn Grange a $592,000 grant.

Since its founding in 2007, RIF has provided legal and psychosocial assistance to over 600 refugees, including legal consultations and referrals to pro bono attorneys and medical specialists. While their success stories are many, they recently featured an Urban Agricultural Training program graduate on their blog. Here’s an excerpt:

zakyatZakyat left her native Togo in West Africa three years ago to join her father in the United States. Upon her arrival in New York she began attending the English Language Learners International School in the Bronx, excelling particularly in her math and science courses. She graduated in June of 2014 after three years of hard work and hopes to go to college someday to study biology.

Zakyat joined RIF’s Urban Farm Recovery Project in March of 2014, balancing her school work with her internship at the farm. She enjoys learning about all the different vegetables and says that the program has improved her confidence to use English. Her friendships at the farm have also led to a job! Brooklyn Grange farm intern Allie directed Zakyat to Tribeca Pediatrics, where she will begin training as a medical assistant. This wonderful opportunity is the first step towards Zakyat’s dream of becoming a family doctor, and she’s thankful for the friendships and connections that made it possible.

“I wouldn’t have gotten this job if it wasn’t for RIF,” she says. “I’m learning a lot here, and I still have more to learn.”

 

Ellie Lanphier is Program Associate, Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance

RSF Makes a Loan to the Charlottesville Waldorf School

October 23, 2014

RSF is pleased to announce a new loan to the Charlottesville Waldorf School (CWS). RSF financing will help the school refinance existing debt, build reserves, and develop more classroom space.

The Charlottesville Waldorf School, located in Albemarle County, Virginia, offers Waldorf education to approximately 160 students in early childhood through eighth grade. Originally named Crossroads Waldorf School, CWS opened in 1982 with a class of 12 Kindergarteners. The school experienced steady growth in enrollment and programs throughout the 1980s and 1990s, adding classes in handwork, foreign language, stringed instruments, recorder and music, and physical education.

cwvDm9asA3Lw9bN3Afl5esWDJpoThe Waldorf curriculum stems from the belief that true learning is a process of discovery that engages the whole human being. Instead of passively receiving information, Waldorf students are involved in a dynamic process of exploration, both of the world and of themselves. Charlottesville Waldorf School seeks to provide the child with the physical environment and stimulation of the imagination needed at each stage of growth, in order to awaken the new capacities required to reach his or her full adult potential.

“Tremendous dedication by its teachers, staff, and parent volunteers over many years has built up the Charlottesville Waldorf School from an idea that was first hatched around a grandparent’s kitchen table, to a beautiful, accredited preschool-8th grade school on its own partly-wooded, hilltop Charlottesville campus,” says the school’s Administrative Chair Michelle Schlesinger.

Throughout its history, which has involved several moves, Charlottesville Waldorf School has sought to find and fund a permanent location. That goal was attained in the spring of 2002, when a group of parents, grandparents, and friends of the school purchased a property for the school’s permanent home. Since 2002 the school has built up an extensive campus, which includes a newly-built, eco-friendly assembly hall, music room, and library. The students also enjoy ample outdoor space, including several open play areas and a large wood with trails and creeks, which are used at all levels of the program.

SONY DSC“The strong support of the entire community is ever present at the Charlottesville Waldorf School,” says Reed Mayfield, RSF Senior Lending Associate. “It has been wonderful to work with the school community thus far and we are incredibly excited to support their long-term stability and growth.”

Since opening its doors over thirty years ago, Charlottesville Waldorf School has built a solid reputation in the community. The school hosts a number of social and artistic events on campus that are open to the wider community, including eurythmy workshops and a regional high school fair. The campus is also the site of several summer camps and year-round classes in Irish music and dance, which are run by outside organizations. The involvement of new parents in the school in recent years has brought energy and motivation, and the current atmosphere is one of satisfaction and excitement amongst students, parents, teachers, and administration.

“This loan from RSF provides us for the very first time with a single comprehensive financing structure that is aligned with our mission and allows us to focus more on achieving our long-term strategic objectives,” says Michelle. “It has been an incredible experience working with a lender that shares our commitment to improving the well-being of society and the environment, and that completely ‘gets’ the value of a Waldorf education that cultivates not only students’ intellectual curiosity and imagination but also their social responsibility and passion for a better world.”

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About Charlottesville Waldorf School

The Charlottesville Waldorf School is an independent private school located in Albemarle County, Virginia, just outside the historic town of Charlottesville. Founded in 1982 by a group of parents and grandparents determined to bring a Waldorf education to Central Virginia, the school moved into its permanent, Charlottesville campus and LEED-certified grade school in September 2007. The Charlottesville Waldorf School offers a curriculum rich in academic, artistic, practical, and physical activities in an inclusive and diverse environment. The educational philosophy, based on Rudolf Steiner’s understanding of child development, cultivates the imagination, intellectual curiosity and social responsibility of the students. http://www.cwaldorf.org/

Seed Fund Grantee Highlight: Malama Kaua’i’s Roots of Kauai Green Careers Training Program

October 16, 2014

by Ellie Lanphier

In May, the first Roots of Kauai Green Careers Training program was launched at Malama Kaua’i, a community-based organization that focuses on advocating, educating, and driving action towards a sustainable Kaua’i. Funded in part by an RSF Seed Fund grant, the program provides free job literacy training for Kauai’s young adults interested in green careers. Malama Kaua’i hopes to serve their community by creating economic opportunity for graduates, promoting environmental stewardship within the community, and enhancing the growth and success of Kauai’s green organizations and businesses.

Malama Kaua'i

The 10-week Green Careers Training program includes 60 classroom hours focusing on environmental and career development education, combined with a 100-hour internship with one of Kauai’s green or sustainability-focused organizations and businesses. Students gain environmental literacy, academic skills, leadership abilities, career development knowledge, and practical hands-on training. The course covers environmental topics such as water, waste, transportation, energy, green building, health, and food and agriculture, as well as community organizing and social entrepreneurship. Career development topics include self-assessment and career planning, resume writing, interview preparation, networking, and portfolio development. The 2014 class enjoyed guest speakers such as Dr. Carl Berg from the Surfrider Foundation and M?lama Hul?‘ia, and Ben Sullivan, Energy Coordinator for the County of Kauai Office of Economic Development.

Malama Kauai’s Director of Operations, Megan Fox, reported gladly that in their launch year they actually had more internship site invitations than students to fill the internships! Fox sees this as a promising sign for the demand for entry level talent in green industries. This year, students completed 100 hour internships at Anuenue Farms, Eddie Jo Organics, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Waipa Foundation, Kauai Community Recycling, Nani Moon Meadery, Kauai Nature School, ReStore Kauai, Kauai Juice Co., Malama Hule‘ia, and D.A. Solar.

An additional requirement of the program is completion of a business or community project which students are required to pitch to a panel of community leaders. Fox reports that some students took it a step further and actually launched their businesses:

H2O PonoH20 Pono

Nadia Kaley, 28, of Kapaa launched H20 Pono, a water conservation and water catchment business that provides both education and installation services. During the program, Nadia and fellow classmate Stormy Soza received WET Teachers Certificates from the Department of Water for water conservation education. They also gained hands-on conservation experience interning at National Tropical Botanical Garden. They will be launching their first community workshop soon.

Ho'okahe WailanaHo’okahe Wailana

Kaui Fu, 28, of Kilauea, and Shawna Blackford, 20, of Lihue, won the Green Pitch Night competition with their river stewardship community project, a partnership with Hawaiian Civic Club and Hanalei Canoe Club. Their project focuses on trimming and clearing the Hanalei River of excessive hau overgrowth, planting native gardens, and educating young canoe club members about native plants and ecology. They are currently fundraising for this nonprofit.

Kauai GardensKauai Gardens

Carey Tinsley, 24, of Kilauea began Kauai Gardens, a permaculture and pono landscaping company, with the ambitious goal of expanding into a full nonprofit venture focused on sustainable agriculture and healthy living. You can see Carey’s promotional video on You Tube.

RootlessYardcare & Small Engine Repair

Kanoa Nabeshima-Costa, 25, of Waimea, has launched his business that provides sustainable landscaping services focused on native plants, integrated pest management strategies, and small engine repair services.

Kauai Music ServicesKauai Music Services

Ryo Shintani, 26, of Lihue, won the “Judge’s Choice” award for his sustainable music therapy service aimed at providing services to developmentally disabled youth and seniors with cognitive disorders. This has been a long-time dream of Ryo’s since returning from Berklee College of Music after studying music therapy for two years and working as a behavioral paraprofessional on Kaua’i. Ryo performed at the groups’ graduation celebration.

Graduates will receive ongoing career services support as they create their future and shape the future of Kaua`i. The Roots of Kauai Green Careers Training program is offered free of charge to participating students by organizations and individuals who have invested in the future of Kaua`i’s economic and environmental sustainability. If you are interested in participating, you may contact Megan@MalamaKauai.org for more information.

2014 Roots of Kauai Green Careers Training Program participants

2014 Roots of Kauai Green Careers Training Program participants

 

Ellie Lanphier is Program Associate, Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance

Announcing the 2014 RSF Seed Fund Grantees!

May 29, 2014

by Ellie Lanphier

Every spring, RSF provides small gifts to seed new initiatives that offer innovative solutions in the field of social finance, or address issues in one of our three focus areas. Thank you to all of our individual investors, donors, and staff members who make the RSF Seed Fund possible!

2014 RSF Seed Fund Grantees:

Malama Kaua’i, founded in 2006, focuses on advocating, education, and driving action towards a sustainable Kaua’i. Their core programs include Kaua`i School Garden Network, Community Garden, and Food Forest agroforestry project (which hosts the largest collection of banana species in the state). New programs this year include SNAP/EBT processing at farmers’ markets, Island-wide Organic Gardening Training, Native Hawaiian Charter School Food Program, and the Roots of Kaua`i Green Careers Certificate training. The Seed Fund grant of $2,500 will support the Roots of Kaua`i Green Careers Certificate Program, a free 10-week training program focused on delivering environmental, career development, and soft skills education to Kaua`i at-risk youth, aged 18 to 30, during summer 2014.

Malama Kauai

 

Willamette Farm & Food Coalition, located in Lane County, Oregon, was founded in 2000 to support the development of a secure and sustainable regional food system. The organization promotes locally grown and raised foods, educates consumers, and connects households, businesses, and institutions directly to Lane County farms. The Seed Fund grant of $2,500 will support a website redesign for Eugene Local Foods, a year-round online farmers’ market that makes shopping from local farms convenient for consumers and farmers alike.

Eugene Local Foods

 

Veterans to FarmersVeterans to Farmers (VTF) was started in 2011 by US Marine Corps Veteran Buck Adams to ensure that veterans are able to establish new careers in greenhouse farming, while engaging the residential community in creating a healthier, local food system in Denver, Colorado. The clean, healthy food grown at the Training Center Greenhouse will be sold directly to the community within a 3-mile radius, currently considered a food desert. VTF will accept SNAP benefits and sell a percentage of the food on a sliding scale to ensure access, regardless of income. The $1,500 Seed Fund grant supports outreach to the surrounding Denver community, advertising SNAP benefit use to purchase VTF produce and educating consumers on the environmental and nutritional benefits of buying local.

The produce is grown using aeroponic, vertical growing towers, which use 90% less water and land than traditional agriculture, while growing 10 times the yield. Each 10,000 sq. ft. greenhouse will grow roughly 150,000 pounds of produce each year that will be accessible year-round.

 

REDCOREDCO, the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation, is a non-profit, tribally chartered entity of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) working to improve the lives of the tribe’s 32,000 members by promoting economic development and self-sufficiency on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. REDCO’s recently launched Keya Wakpala Food Sovereignty Project aims to increase tribal access to healthy, fresh, and locally grown food. They received a $2,500 Seed Fund grant to support the establishment of the Keya Wakpala Farmers’ Market, a weekly seasonal farmers’ market where locally grown organic produce will be planted, tended, harvested, and sold by tribal members. The market will open in July 2014 and will operate through the end of September or October; it will accept SNAP benefits from inception.

 

Indian Land Tenure Foundation, based in Little Canada, Minnesota, was formed to address the crisis of reservation land loss. The non-profit supports the return of the buffalo to the lands, culture, diets, and economies of Native American communities through their work with the Tanka Fund and in collaboration with Native American Natural Foods (NANF). NANF created the Tanka Bar, the first nationally distributed food product from an Indigenous community. The Tanka Bar is made from an ancient Native recipe of preserving bison with fruit and is sold in more than 5,000 stores nation-wide. NANF would like to buy all the buffalo meat it needs from Native American buffalo producers, but there aren’t enough Native buffalo ranchers to make this possible. Project goals over the next 10 years include converting one million acres of land to buffalo production, expanding retail markets, and building awareness. The $2,500 Seed Fund grant will support the creation of educational materials on the health, environmental, and economic benefits of buffalo restoration.

Indian Land Tenure Foundation

 

Dane County TimebankDane County Timebank was established in 2005 to build self-sufficiency and interdependence through timebanking. The organization received a $2,500 grant to support the design and communications for Mutual Aid Networks, a new form of cooperative where members collectively manage timebanking, community savings and investment pools (of the dominant currency, plus goods and in-kind resources), and other forms of community sharing and exchange. These are applied to this mission: to create means for everyone to discover and succeed in the work they want to do, supported by their community. Measurable goals include having three Mutual Aid Networks established, incorporated and functioning by end of 2014, with communication tools, training materials, and template agreements for new Mutual Aid Networks to adopt.

 

Green Meadow Waldorf School (GMWS)received a $1,000 Seed Fund grant to support Open Saturdays, a free tutoring program brought by GMWS faculty, staff, parents and students to children in struggling local public schools during the 2014-15 school year. GMWS is located in Chestnut Ridge, New York in the East Ramapo School District where more than 48 percent of students are eligible for free school lunches, and an additional 14 percent are eligible for reduced price meals. The district has faced significant budget deficits in recent years, exceeding $7 million in the 2012-13 school year and resulting in extensive cuts to programming. Last spring, more than 80 district teachers and staff members were laid off, including arts faculty, librarians, and security personnel, and full-day kindergarten has been eliminated district-wide, as has music and art, athletics, and AP and ESL coursework.

Open Saturdays is a way for Green Meadow to reach out to students in this severely under-resourced school district. The principal outcomes are learning improvements by students, but GMWS also hopes that the program will promote a culture of service in their community and support an overarching goal to build bridges between their school and the larger community while providing tangible, meaningful services to their neighbors.

Green Meadow Waldorf School

 

Refugee and Immigrant Fund (RIF) of Queens, New York, was established in 2007 to provide a safe space and opportunities for refugees to rebuild new lives in the United States. RIF has served over 600 refugees through legal and psychosocial assistance. They received a Seed Fund grant of $2,500 to support the growth of the Urban Farm Project through expanded reach and stronger, more comprehensive program development, implementation, and evaluation. The Urban Farm Project began as an additional therapeutic tool to help refugees recover from trauma. While providing a soothing natural environment for psychological recovery, the project also offers several benefits, including job readiness skills development, English language immersion, immigrant integration, and green job training. RIF made the strategic decision to fully focus its resources on the Urban Farm Recovery Project from 2014 on, expanding it from a therapeutic intervention to a comprehensive immigrant integration program using urban agriculture training as a catalyst for integrating newcomers in New York.

Refugee and Immigrant Fund

 

Cooperative FermentationCooperative Fermentation seeks to democratize our food system through the creation of cooperatives in food and farming in Maine and beyond by incubating new co-ops, providing popular education and presentations, producing food, facilitating community meetings, and supporting cooperative transition of existing food and farm businesses. The $2,500 Seed Fund grant will support cooperative consulting, co-op economic development workshops, and research and implementation of new economic models including: barter, sliding scale, alternative currency, hour exchanges, community investment, and multi-stakeholder co-ops. Cooperative Fermentation hopes to reach a variety of people through these programs, while maintaining a focus on younger farmers and food producers in Southern, Central, and Midcoast Maine.

Ellie Lanphier is Program Associate, Philanthropic Services.

Clients in Conversation: Building on a Shared Vision, Part II

April 17, 2014

This article was originally published in the Winter 2014 RSF Quarterly.

Interview with Mark Herrera, Senior Manager, Client Development

Allegra Allesandri Pfiefer transformed a struggling school into the first public Waldorf-inspired high school in the nation. Laura Summer runs a successful year-long arts education program that is completely tuition-free. Both women have experience with the challenges of starting new initiatives that defy others notions of normal. In each case, strong communities played a vital role in their success.

Click here for Part I

Mark: Laura, I’m interested in this model that you have created for sustaining support for your work in a gift economy. Can you talk about how it’s working?

Laura: Free Columbia runs completely on contributions from many individuals, including our students. Sometimes, I do wonder if it’s going to be working next month or next year, but so far, it is.

As a teacher, that gives me this amazing feeling of freedom. I can give the very best that I have to my students and it isn’t tied to what I owe someone for paying me a lot of money. You actually get to teach out of what you know is right for your students in the moment. It’s such a strong feeling that I have given up teaching in any other model.

I’ve also stopped selling paintings for money. We started two years ago having what we call an art dispersal, where we hang up lots of paintings and make them available to the community. Community members can become stewards of the art, which means they can take the art and keep it for as long as they want. They can pass it onto somebody else or give it back to the artist whenever they choose to.

photo courtesy of Free Columbia

photo courtesy of Free Columbia

It was an amazing experience when we first did it. People just came and took the paintings off the walls and took them home. They emailed us about where they were hanging them and sent us pictures. It was as if, until then, the paintings had been out of work and unemployed.

This has also become part of our financial model because people can contribute money to the endeavor and to support the artists.

Mark: Allegra, you’ve been cultivating this really practical and deep approach to educating. What have been some of the highlights or transformative moments for you?

Allegra: I’m actually inspired by some of the parallels that I’m hearing in what Laura has said. I’m reminded of a story about my students. They have a main lesson block in health and nutrition. In one activity, they harvest chard and kale from our garden and prepare it with eggs from our chickens. Students told us that they went home and cooked it all week long for their families—the most green vegetable they could remember eating.

It’s like the artwork going out into the communities, it’s this learning that the students realize, “Here’s something I grew in my own garden at school. We planted it, we harvested, and now, I can take it home and nourish my family.” When that happens, you have families that are being supported by what’s going on in the classroom.

The art of our education is leaving the school campus with these kids and going into their homes—it’s bringing health, nutrition, and love of learning home.

In the first year of the school, I would go into classrooms to visit. The classrooms were chaotic. There was little respect for the teachers, for the learning environment, for the physical space. I walked into one classroom and greeted the teacher in the class. And one girl looked at me and said, “Why are you always smiling?” I thought, “Uh-oh, this is a really hard question to answer, because she thinks I’m happy.” I was actually sad. I wasn’t sure that this experiment of bringing Waldorf methods into the public sector was going to work. I had to think long and hard before I could answer truthfully. I replied, “Well, I love teenagers. I’ve always worked in high schools; it’s the place in education I love. And that’s why I’m here.” And I literally felt like the earth shifted. The kids realized I was serious. They believed that they were in a new kind of environment where learning could be interesting and fun, and where adults would listen respectfully to them. This experience taught me about the incredible potency of Waldorf education. The potency is held in the relationships, the intentions, and the vision that we share which is transforming our communities.

Mark: To wrap up, is there anything that you’ve heard from one another that has really resonated with you?

Allegra: I really like hearing Laura talk about the movement of art in the community. I’ve heard John Bloom speak about the healthy movement of money. And I think it’s true for art and other things. In my world, it might look like trying things, experimenting, not holding fast to certain protocols about education or what it’s supposed to be, but rather exploring through relationship and a safe environment. This picture of movement and flow in an educational setting is really resonating for me.

Laura: Throughout this conversation I’m hearing surety that this deep level of intention does work. It isn’t just that it works in a small, limited, cloistered place where everybody has the same values or the same financial background. It can work for diverse groups of people. And when it does work, it can transform people and allow them to see things that they couldn’t see before.

Allegra Allesandri Pfiefer is the principal of George Washington Carver School of Arts and Science, the first public Waldorf-inspired high school in the nation.  She is a graduate of Sacramento Waldorf School and a founder and teacher of San Francisco Waldorf High School. Allegra earned her doctorate at UC Davis as part of her mission to bring Waldorf education to a wide variety of educational institutions.  Sacramento City Unified School District serves 45,000 students and is the only school district in the US to support three public Waldorf-inspired schools educating over 1000 school children.

Laura Summer is co-founder with Nathaniel Williams of Free Columbia, an arts initiative that includes a year-long program based on the fundamentals of painting as they come to life through spiritual science. She has been working with questions of color and contemporary art for 25 years and her approach is influenced by Beppe Assenza, Rudolf Steiner, and by Goethe’s color theory. Her work, to be found in private collections in the US and Europe, has been exhibited at the National Museum of Catholic Art and History in New York City and at the Sekem Community in Egypt.

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