News

5

A STRUT through 5 years of giving and 50 years of freedom

Who knew back in the summer of 2014 that STRUT would bring in over a quarter of a million dollars in just five short years? 

Well, we did.

That’s because of the unwavering vision and enthusiasm of Carl Meadows, a champion of the cause for safe migration of LGBT+ refugees. Carl brought a small group of committed citizens together to change the world. 

Sound familiar? It should. Last year FOH made its 4th annual STRUT walk, which coincided with 40 years of celebrating Pride in Vancouver. This year, our 5th STRUT walk coincided with 50 years of decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada and brought in over $50,000. 

It is certainly a great trajectory and FOH’s prospects for growth and expansion are even better with some exciting new partnerships we will be rolling out in the coming months.

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One such partnership is with the UNHCR, a global body established to identify and address the worldwide refugee crisis. This year FOH was invited to participate in UNHCR’s global awareness campaign. It was the perfect complement to the funds we raise locally with the collective distance we would walk in solidarity through STRUT.

Along with over $50,000 in funds raised, FOH saw 74 participants walk together in collective total of 119 km this year. Over the past five years, that amounts to 552 participants and 840 km, which can now be added to the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety campaign.

Funds raised through STRUT will continue to go directly into grants awarded to Canadian charities working to resettle SOGIE migrants, but this was an opportunity for our local grassroots movement to go even further and contribute to a global awareness movement to #StepWithRefugees worldwide.

The fresh injection of donor funds can now be used to support the six grant applications led by our community partners in Vancouver and Toronto. These are currently under review for both LGBT+ refugee private sponsorship support and newcomer community service projects.

The timing was also just right for STRUT this year, falling on the heels of the announcement by the Government of Canada to expand its support for LGBT+ private resettlement efforts. Thanks to the work of the Rainbow Coalition for Refuge , the ongoing consultations that have persisted since 2017 with Global Affairs Canada and IRCC are finally paying off!

Private resettlement support of LGBT+ individuals facing persecution worldwide will involve a five-year extension of the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program (RRAP) and an expanded $800,000 funding commitment. Rainbow Refugee founder Chris Morrissey came to make the announcement about the RRAP before participants strutted their stuff on the seawall.

Our community partners that benefit from FOH grants showed up in teams, including MOSAIC, Qmunity, and VAST, along with members from numerous Circles of Hope and corporate teams led by TELUS and TD Bank.

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We are ever grateful for all the corporate sponsors and partners that came onboard, old and new. These include the 2019 platinum partner TELUS and platinum sponsor Hootsuite, as well as the supportive partnerships with Ruby Blues Winery, DJ Krista, Fountainhead, Glacier Media, Portable Electric, and Innocent Ice Cream.

Of course we cannot go without acknowledging our faithful long-standing contributors that include TD Bank, Pacific Alps Retirement, Kevin Perra Realty, PI Financial, Fluevog Shoes, Body Energy Club, and Andrew Beckerman.

Special thanks also go out to Squamish Elder Byron Yususultxw Longclaws and Hlgu Ni’is Yu’us (Terry Azak) of Nisga’a Nation for their annual opening welcome and blessing. We also thank Miss Gloria Hole and Miss Mina Mercury of Tuck Entertainment for the spectacular performance. Thanks to Christopher Hunte and Barb Snelgrove, respectively, for their continual support with the event programming and for hosting the affair. Big thanks as well to Jay Brotherton at HIM (those legs!) for leading the warm up event.

We are so grateful to welcome Outook TV as a dedicated LGBT+ media partner and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are an unmistakable presence year upon year. Tremendous thanks to Brian Houle for his incredible photography.

And of course, we are so fortunate for all the donors, volunteers, and STRUT walkers who took the time to support this cause and raise the funds that enable safe migration of LGBT+ asylum seekers and refugees worldwide.

In the words of Carl Meadows, it truly does take a village.

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A personal message from the President

It has been four years of growth, stewarded by the unwavering commitment, passion, and strong leadership of Foundation of Hope co-founder and founding President Carl Meadows.

Carl inspired me to join the cause for safe migration of LGBT+ Refugees in 2013 when we first became a private sponsorship group to bring Ahmad Danny Ramadan and Aamer Sroujieh to Canada along with their dog Phoebe.

A success story resulted from the Danny and Aamer Circle of Hope, a constituent group (CG) with Chris Morrissey and Rainbow Refugee as our co-sponsor and the United Church of Canada as our sponsorship agreement holder (SAH).

Our mission was to safely bring them to Canada from Beirut, Lebanon where they lived among other Syrian Refugees persecuted for being homosexual.

Under Carl’s leadership, five of us private sponsors went on to found the Rainbow Foundation of Hope in 2014, including Hassan Abdessamad, Patrick Rmeily, Paul Tolnai, and myself.

In the four years that would follow, we would seek to enable 19 registered charities operating across Canada to achieve successful private sponsorship for over 30 Refugees and support for 13 community projects offering support services to countless refugees and newcomers to Canada.

The total value of grants amounts to over $175,000 in awards and millions of Aeroplan miles, thanks to our partnership with TD Bank.

Through that partnership, we have also managed to set aside a $50,000 endowment fund to assist with our strategic goal of becoming financially sustainable over the long term.

We are in it for the long haul.

I am so honoured to be the last remaining founder of this organization to sit on its Board of Directors. I accept the role as President with deep humility and a renewed dedication to grow and succeed.

I sit among a truly diverse team of talented and dedicated directors, members, and volunteers who continue to strive for success.

We exist because of donors like you.

Over these past four years, Carl has been the champion of fundraising efforts while I have remained steadfast in my commitment to give where the need exists.

So as long as individuals remain in urgent crises, acutely vulnerable to violence, persecution, and death simply for wanting to live life and freely love someone else, regardless of their gender identity or sexuality, we must continue to give.

Please consider becoming a standing monthly donor today. Please, donate now.

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TD gives $40,000 – the biggest donation by a country mile.

It is no secret that TD Bank is a huge supporter of LGBT+ Canadians, but did you know that TD is also a big time contributor to many causes that champion LGBT+ rights internationally?

You may or may not know that TD, through its Aeroplan miles donor program, has provided millions of Aeroplan miles to Foundation of Hope (FOH) over the past two years. As a major corporate partner, TD also showcased our work in the 40th annual Vancouver Pride parade this year.

We hope to offer you an understanding of how we work as a registered charity enabling other registered charities to meet their goals of a collective cause. We’re looking to recruit interested folks to take up a role in our 100% volunteer organization.

Whether as a standing monthly donor, board director, member, or talented volunteer, we welcome whatever assistance you can offer, any valuable skills, and a bit of extra time.

For two years, FOH has benefited from Aeroplan miles used to support LGBT+ community projects for our network of Newcomer service providers, provided travel and accommodations for Newcomers in need, and enabled Refugees to flee persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

Over the previous fiscal year, Aeroplan miles went to our national network of civil society groups supporting travel to meet with the Government of Canada through ongoing consultations on how it can be more effective in addressing the plight of LGBT+ Asylum Seekers and Refugees worldwide.

Foundation of Hope learned the Aeroplan miles donor program will finish at the end of this fiscal year, but we’re absolutely thrilled that, in lieu of the 6 million Aeroplan miles earmarked for us to use, TD has provided a cash donation of $40,000!

This incredibly generous injection of funds will be devoted to FOH’s strategic objective for financial sustainability, as we’ve already begun to set aside $5000 a year for the past two years to meet a $100,000 endowment with the Vancouver Foundation.

The $40,000 cash donation – OUR BIGGEST EVER – will fast track this goal by 8 years and put us half way there in just two short years!

Foundation of Hope is #foreverproud of our partnership with TD Bank to champion LGBT+ rights worldwide.

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Welcoming UNHCR into our community as Foundation of Hope turns 4

The week leading up to today has been filled with hope in a global sense. One of the first partnerships formed by the Foundation of Hope was with LOUD Business Community in 2014, shortly after we became a registered society in BC.

That was four years ago today.

The following spring on April 15th, 2015, FOH attained registered charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) thanks to Benefic Law acting as our charity consultant. It unlocked our donor potential as we launched the first ever STRUT annual fundraiser.

STRUT brought in over $40,000 in Year 1.

We took steps to assist Rainbow Refugee to be directly positioned to receive downstream benefits of our fund as a local partner. We linked them to Benefic and once again, on the eve of STRUT 2017, Rainbow Refugee attained CRA registered charitable status and immediately became an eligible for FOH grants.

Now in 2018 and four years later, we are a national organization with grants awarded across Canada. Thanks to our corporate partner TD Bank, Aeroplan miles provided travel needs for civil society groups to attend international proceedings like last week’s Equal Rights Coalition conference here in Vancouver, co-chaired by Canada and Chile.

The conference is how we made our newest friendship and hope to for a strategic alliance with the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), an esteemed UN body advancing the cause for safe migration worldwide.

LOUD Business Chair Blair Smith, whom the UNHCR contacted in advance of the conference, arranged for FOH to meet and discuss our role in Canada around forced migration of LGBT+ persons. To us, it was obvious that a meeting should not occur without the presence of Rainbow Refugee.

So thanks to the arrangement on August 8th, Ottawa-based Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Representative in Canada with Rainbow Refugee leaders Chris Morrissey and Sharalyn Jordan sat together in the warm sunshine on the terrace at Oceanic Plaza. They talked in depth about what is going out there, who the major players are, and what is needed now.

We listened closely and two things become clear.

Firstly, the UNHCR is an authority on the acute crises faced by SOGIE migrants worldwide and a valuable link to international civil society groups and services. As a registered charity, UNHCR Canada is eligible for grants from FOH, which can be directed globally to address urgent situations.

Secondly, our volunteer work over four years, thanks largely to a close partnership with Rainbow Refugee, has made FOH more aware of the breadth and depth of civil society groups within Canada. Working to address the needs of SOGIE migrants, this capacity can facilitate UNHCR efforts to direct globally vulnerable migrants to Canada and out of harm’s way.

It will give them hope.

Jean-Nicolas explained how few LGBT+ Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have access to resources allowing them to learn about humanitarian work in places like Canada. Individuals become destitute, are often decimated and left to dangle at the end of a rope. Together, FOH and Rainbow Refugee can assist the UNHCR to better understand possibilities available to them in Canada.

An important milestone has been achieved on our fourth birthday. This connection to the UNHCR really has the potential to amplify the work being done locally to address this global humanitarian crisis.

Together we can help Canadian charities be more visible to those countless individuals lacking the resources to give them any will to survive. These connections cast a beam of light beyond Canada. It can guide the journey out of darkness and into the lights of Hope.

Tremendous thanks goes out to our community partner LOUD Business for such a thoughtful birthday present.

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Year 4 of STRUT: truly among friends

On June 9th, 2018 you all made what has come to be an annual pilgrimage – the collective gathering of friends old and new to attend the fourth annual STRUT. Foundation of Hope invited the community to help bring in funds to enable the cause. Caring and generous folks, more than willing to do your part as donors, we walked in solidarity for the cause.

We were joined by our corporate sponsors and partners, led foremost by TD Bank as a key partner and perennial contributor. TD’s donation of Aeroplan miles allowed us to bring our community partners out to participate this year, including representatives from Toronto’s Rainbow Railroad, a key partner to FOH, and The 519, which received its first grant from FOH last year. Montréal’s Centre de Solidarité Lesbienne also joined the event and is the first charity to receive FOH funding in Québec.

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Our invited community partners joined up with the local like-minded organizations FOH supports including Qmunity, MOSAIC, and VAST. All these organizations are doing important work to support local LGBT+ Newcomers.

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Equinox joined as a new arrival this year, presenting the iconic Stonewall Stiletto, which they had Shayne Oliver custom design from the original pleather banquettes in New York’s legendary Stonewall Inn – a nod to the commitment and pain of activists fighting for LGBT+ rights.

These evocative heels are such a fitting complement to STRUT, but they definitely won’t be seen prancing the seawall among an all outrageous manner of footwear donned by this year’s strutters.

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Foundation of Hope also welcomed the ongoing support of Vancouver’s own legendary John Fluevog, another perennial fave and supreme fit to our brand for STRUT, as well as new support this year from Body Energy Club. We also thank Telus for supplying a crew of volunteers to help us execute a flawless event, yet again.

Foundation of Hope thanks you all. We exist because of you. Without STRUT as an annual means of replenishing our fund, we simply could not continue to accomplish the goals of our Purpose:

Enhance the lives of LGBT+ Newcomers and their families through financial support to Canadian charitable organizations working directly with Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Newcomers to Canada, both nationally and internationally.

This year we managed to once again exceed $50,000. It took a lot of work, as it does every year, but these funds have never been more critical. That’s because early in 2018, FOH received a record number of applications. Requests came from civil society groups from Halifax to Nanaimo, seeking assistance with projects addressing sponsorship cases for LGBT+ Asylum Seekers and Refugees, as well as Newcomer community service projects.

The amount requested far exceeded the capacity of our fund. Because STRUT occurs in June, it meant FOH could only award a portion of the amount requested in the approved grants. It also meant having to reject grants through our Review Teams, which evaluate these applications.

Community members, many of whom are faithful donors, voluntarily sit on Review Teams with the FOH Grants Committee to collectively review and score every grant application we receive.

Foundation of Hope would prefer to award grants to all eligible applicants, but we anticipated the milestone where the need would outstrip our capacity to give. So it was important to have an objective means of approving some grants over others while being transparent and accountable to our donors.

STRUT is crucial to the success of the Rainbow Foundation of Hope. Financial stability is a primary objective to the long-term sustainability of this fund. It is intended to be a reliable means of support for the charitable work being done to assist LGBT+ migrants fleeing persecution across the world.

It takes time and effort for FOH to administer these grants as a 100% volunteer organization, but the ongoing contributions from reliable donors are just as vital. Help us to be there for Canadian charities when they need assistance to do this important work.

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DONATE and become a standing monthly donor today. It means the world to us all.

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