Partners at Work
For the six years of its existence, the United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU) Foundation has taken on a portfolio of age-old problems: poverty, hunger, violence and disaster relief. The foundation identified its causes in concert with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and other NGO partners says executive director Yma Gordon-Reid, concentrating its support on lifting people out of poverty and empowering women as the engines of change.
“For us, it was prioritizing support for women and girls as the way to really change poverty and communities all over the world,” Gordon-Reid said.
Because of its umbrella global orientation, UNFCU Foundation has funded projects in developing countries, but also in the U.S., lending support to The Floating Hospital’s behavioral-health programs for women and girls, the BOMA Project in Kenya, the UNFPA-led Campaign to End Fistula, which supports re-integration for fistula survivors; WIN (Women in Need) in New York City, and Together We Bake, a food-industry training program in Washington, D.C. (complete list of causes here).
“We look at the disproportionate impact on women, which tends to happen in any kind of economic or humanitarian crisis, and other poverty scenarios,” Gordon-Reid said.
With 20 years of philanthropy behind her, Gordon-Reid, who assumed her current role in 2020, says she’s particularly passionate about funding opportunities for women. Her experience includes work with United Nations Development Fund for Women, Citigroup, the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the Women’s Fund of Long Island, the latter—like The Floating Hospital—focuses on vulnerable women and girls.
Support from the UNFCU Foundation empowers women and youth across the globe.
“There’s lots of research that shows when you support women, the multiplier effect is much more leveraged, and we are able to increase its impact in terms of investment in women,” Gordon-Reid said. But just as women are empowered, they are also unduly impacted by gender-based violence, child marriages, teenage pregnancies, familial shunning and societal ostracization, and disproportionate reproductive responsibilities. The UNFCU Foundation seeks to mitigate these issues through aid and programming focused on education and healthcare access—two demonstrated paths out of such crises.
This linkage is crucial for The Floating Hospital whose behavioral-health practice for women and girls has been supported by UNFCU Foundation since 2014.
“Behavioral health for women and girls often is overlooked when the priorities of families experiencing homelessness center around macro survival issues like housing, food and safety,” said Dr. lgda Martinez, director of behavioral health at The Floating Hospital. “The extraordinary stresses of temporary housing play a critical role in the overall health of these individuals, and without good mental health support, it’s difficult to achieve other goals for a sustainable life and path out of poverty.”
Gordon-Reid says the foundation was especially glad to offer the support this year as the coronavirus pandemic revealed sudden, urgent issues, such as a global rise in domestic violence, and caused the organization to question how to balance immediate needs and long-term goals, and how to best focus its support.
“All kinds of things got really exacerbated last year, and one thing we recognized is that without access to quality healthcare, you’re really not able to do things like get to food sources or your job where you make money, or deal with kids not being in school. We don’t live our lives in silos and certainly women do not: It’s really very interconnected and it’s all important,” she said.
“The support provided by UNFCU Foundation helped us provide a continuum of behavioral-health support to women who needed it at one of the most challenging times in our history,” Dr. Martinez said, noting the need for such services for women and girls last year increased 25%.
Gordon-Reid agrees. “Now more than ever, it’s important to be able to partner with organizations such as The Floating Hospital and others that recognize behavioral-health support is critically important at this time and will be for a while,” she said. “For too long women have not been able to speak up and say, ‘my mental health is a need that I have,’ and that continues to be a challenge today for women here in New York as well as all over the world.”
“I think there’s a role for philanthropy to be a real convener as the listener, where you learn from your grantees, and we learned a lot from the partners we support this past year,” she said.
— Lana Bortolot