Posted by Tess Waggoner on January 06, 2020 in Blog

Founded a decade ago, Blossom Hill Foundation operates a fellowship program that offers grants to support children who have been affected by conflicts in the Middle East. Rosy Nimroody-Jacobs, Deputy Director of Blossom Hill Foundation, stopped by our offices to tell us more about the impact their Fellowship Program has had in providing direct services to children in need.

Over the last decade, Blossom Hill has invested $1 million to support over 56,000 war-affected children in ten countries. Their Fellowship program supports social entrepreneurs who want to implement innovative projects that directly address the needs of the most vulnerable: children impacted by war. Programs supported by the fellowships fall into four program areas: child development, education, technology, and job development. Fellows may apply from anywhere in the world, and early Fellow cohorts have included entrepreneurs from three continents and ten different countries. While the majority of programs are run in the region, they can be used to support displaced children anywhere in the world. 

A number of factors make the Blossom Hill Fellowship program unique. Each Fellow is assigned a mentor, or "thought leader" who supports them throughout their funding period by providing specific guidance related to their project area. Additionally, grants may be used to support projects that are still in the development phase. Blossom Hill funds are not exclusive, meaning that Fellows are encouraged to seek additional financial support from relevant partners and foundations. One of the rarer aspects of their awards is that they are renewable; Fellows have the opportunity to apply to extend their funding as they develop their initiatives towards financial independence or acquire other funding partners. Fellows are also expected to have a fiscal sponsor that is a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization. More specific information about the fellowship application is available on their website.  

In our conversation, Rosy emphasized that Blossom Hill hopes to encourage projects that can become self-sustaining. This includes learning from the success of previous Blossom Hill fellows; individuals are encouraged to propose to replicate projects or expand them based on the successes of previous Fellows' projects. 

One Fellow project that touched us was proposed by Dr. Keith Watenpaugh to deal with the problem of students lacking access to their educational credentials, like transcripts and diplomas. Such documents are crucial for young people to be able to continue their education or apply for jobs, but too often, these documents are lost or otherwise inaccessible to people due to violence and displacement. Article 26 Backpack, a project of the University of California, Davis, is "The Universal Human Rights Tool for Academic Mobility." An innovative cloud platform, it secures such documents and streamlines application procedures for displaced students. Professor Watenpaugh was awarded funds to support his efforts to offer the Backpack in Arabic. He told the Washington Post, "For refugees and other at-risk people, they will never have to worry again that their documents might be lost.”

Another moving Blossom Hill project is one being implemented by a young man who is himself a refugee. Sports for All promotes physical exercise and social cohesion. Through basketball and soccer programs, they bring locals and displaced persons from a variety of backgrounds together for the love of sport. In addition to the leadership skills such team sports foster, Sports for All additionally provides workshops and coaching to further encourage and support the children participating in its programs. 

We were inspired to hear about some of the Blossom Hill-supported initiatives that empower children. Through the seed funds Blossom Hill provides, opportunities for social impact are multiplied as Fellows and their target impacted communities are provided with resources and training that support not just their immediate physical needs, but additionally offer the chance for healing, growth and career development.