Syrian woman in the camp for displaced persons in Qatma, Syria. Getty Images.
A Syrian woman in the camp for displaced persons in Qatma, Syria. Getty Images.

Two anonymous donors in San Antonio have each pledged $50,000 matching grants to the San Antonio Area Foundation to support a select group of U.S. charities assisting the human wave of refugees arriving by land and sea to Europe. The Area Foundation, in turn has launched a refugee fund to enable other individuals in the city to match the $100,000.

Interested readers can donate by clicking on the link to the Refugee Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation.

“We really like to be able to assist people in making wise philanthropic choices, especially in crisis situations,” said Dennis Noll, CEO of the San Antonio Area Foundation. “In a crisis like this one, we can help people understand who the most reliable charities are and who is having the greatest impact.”

San Antonio Area Foundation CEO Dennis Noll. Courtesy photo
San Antonio Area Foundation CEO Dennis Noll. Courtesy photo

One of the two anonymous donors told the Rivard Report that he and his wife decided to make an equal pledge of $50,000 after learning of the other anonymous donor’s $50,000 gift.

“What is going on is almost unimaginable for Americans, so we tried to imagine exactly what that experience would be like if we were people who had lost friends and neighbors, whose communities were destroyed, who were living in a detainment camp with no idea what the future holds for ourselves or our children,” the donor said. “That’s why we are donating, and we are happy to be partnering with Area Foundation. It gives us confidence the money will have the maximum possible impact.”

The San Antonio Area Foundation is the city’s community foundation. Its website describes the foundation’s work: “We provide a simple, powerful and highly personal approach to giving — so your gifts impact the community, forever. We contribute to the community through grants and scholarships. We help nonprofits further and strengthen their mission, and we provide leadership for key community issues. We’re in the business of building community.”

The Area Foundation manages more than $290 million in assets and, since 1964, has distributed more than $260 million in grants and scholarships to educate youth, preserve the environment, protect animals, fund research and provide services that enhance the quality of life for people living in and around San Antonio.

Kate Edwards, the director of communications and marketing for the Area Foundation, said staff spent two weeks analyzing efficiently managed U.S. charities engaged in refugee aid services in Europe that are having the biggest impact. Staff selected eight recipients for funding, assuming the Area Foundation can equal the $100,000 pledge with matching contributions.

Those funds are: Catholic Relief ServicesDoctors Without BordersInternational Rescue CommitteeInternational Medical CorpsSave the Children FederationU.S. Association for UNHCRU.S. Fund for UNICEF, and World Vision.

“We conducted in-depth research, compiled data and spoke with leading experts working hands-on in the field to help us direct gifts to the most effective charities assisting the refugees,” said Edwards. “The depth of human suffering is something everyone can see and donors are interested in helping. We think our fund will be very timely.”

The Area Foundation’s Refugee Fund will focus its giving on three specific areas:

* Refugee camp humanitarian assistance.

* Assistance with Mediterranean water crossings.

* Assistance at land migration routes and at borders.

The current refugee crisis began in 2012 when millions of Syrians were displaced internally by the war and then began to cross into neighboring countries, including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and even Iraq, where many are now trapped by fighting. Refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan held 3.7 million people by the end of 2014 with another one million arriving this year.

Civil war, violence, political instability and famine in Africa have added to the refugee flow.

Free Syrian flag flying inside the camp for displaced persons at Atmeh, Syria. Getty Images.
Free Syrian flag flying inside the camp for displaced persons at Atmeh, Syria. Getty Images.

More and more refugees have turned to people smugglers using unseaworthy vessels to risk dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossings. More than 440,000 refugees have reached Europe by sea this year, but untold thousands more drowned trying to make the crossing. More than 549,00o refugees have arrived in Greece, Italy and Hungary this year by sea and land, and an average of 10,000 are crossing the Hungarian border into Austria each day. Many are seeking to make their way to Germany or on to England. Nearly 800,000 refugees have applied for political asylum in Europe this year alone, a number that is expected to grow to at least 1.3 million by the end of the year.

European governments were slow to react to the crisis, but of late, have pledged billion of euros in aid. The European Union has started the process of apportioning the first 120,000 refugees to member countries, setting off violent protests by nationalists in Finland and complaints in other countries that individual governments should not have to accept dictated quotas.

The New York Times publishes a regularly updated graphic titled The Scale of the Migrant Crisis.

*Top image: Syrian woman in the camp for displaced persons in Qatma, Syria. Getty Images. 

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.