Refugees from Burma and other countries receive care at The Perch, a small community center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tucked on a side street in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, “the Perch” is a modest house surrounded by palms. Inside the house – built low and open to receive tropical breezes – around 40 refugees are recovering from serious injury or illness. A grant from the Taft Fund, a small grants resource managed by the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) that U.S. ambassadors can tap for refugee-related projects, has been paying for residents to receive medical care at local hospitals and clinics. Thanks to the grant, Burmese, Sri Lankan and Iraqi refugees at Perch have been able to get back on their feet.
A Burmese refugee finds music the best therapy for recovering from a leg injury.
In Nepal, Taft Fund money helped establish a café and community center for young Tibetan refugees. Many Tibetan youth are prohibited by law from getting jobs outside the Tibetan community, so the Center will provide crucial vocational training and a community meeting and performance space. At the center young Tibetan refugees will be able to learn computer skills and consult a list of sanctioned job opportunities.
The abbot who runs the Youth Center welcomes a donor group to the new cafe at the Youth Center.
Each of these grants was $20,000, the highest amount awarded by the Taft Fund. They exemplify the work of the late Julia Taft, a longtime refugee advocate and a former Assistant Secretary of PRM at the State Department. The Fund provides one-time grants to local organizations that help refugees adapt to their new lives and achieve some measure of self-reliance. Projects can cover refugees (including refugees who have returned to their country of origin), internally displaced persons, and stateless people. The grants go to organizations that plan to become self-sufficient, or have a one-time acute need.
For example, in Costa Rica a Taft Fund grant paid for the construction of a computer lab at the recently completed “House of Rights,” a center for refugees in the country. As in Nepal, the grant focused on job training and paid for six computers, a printer, wireless access, and other supplies, as well as the salary for an instructor. Recently, 120 refugees graduated from the program with marketable data processing skills.
In Nouakchott, Mauritania, a staff member of a pharmaceutical project supported by the Taft Fund prepares to distribute badly needed medicine to refugees who have recently returned home.
When refugees decide conditions are safe enough to return home, they often have major needs. Where will they live? How will they survive while they find work or wait for the first crops? In Mauritania, the Taft Fund supplied medicines to an organization that helps returning refugees when they get sick, and are unable to pay for a visit to the doctor. To make this project a success, the Embassy also worked closely with the Mauritanian government’s Refugee Welcome Program.
The Taft Fund is not just about generosity, but about strengthening links with local governments and the wider public. The small grants awarded by the Taft Fund demonstrate the United States’ commitment to finding – and funding durable solutions to the problems refugees and other displaced persons face.