Investing in grassroots change makers is a better solution to the immigration crisis

I was recently invited to attend the Global Philanthropy Forum which was a huge honour. I was hobnobbing amongst Philanthropy Industry superstars such as Bill Clapp from the Seattle International Foundation, Charles Koch from The Charles Koch Foundation and Peter Eigen, Founder of Transparency International.

I was eager to learn more from peers, grantmakers and academics in the field regarding the Philanthropy environment in California as it is a key area from which Pionero Philanthropy is seeking donors to support grassroots nonprofits in the northern triangle.

Panelists in the discussion “Taking on Immigration at the Border” at The Global Philanthropy Forum 2019

Panelists in the discussion “Taking on Immigration at the Border” at The Global Philanthropy Forum 2019

On the second day, I keenly attended a Keynote discussion titled “Taking on Immigration at the border”. Admirable panelists took the stage such as Johnathan Ryan from Raices, Maria Moreno who runs Las Americas Newcomer School for recently arrived immigrant children and Carolyn Miles from Save the Children. I agreed with their sentiments and that the conditions with which immigrants have to encounter when they reach the border and throughout their journey are abhorrent at best.

Harriette Rothwell leading discussion at her table talk session regarding Philanthropy’s role in the Immigration Crisis.

Harriette Rothwell leading discussion at her table talk session regarding Philanthropy’s role in the Immigration Crisis.

The discussion however, failed to meaningfully address the root causes of why people are fleeing the northern triangle in the first place. Surely, addressing the cause rather than treating the symptoms is the wrong way to go about making meaningful change? If the purpose of Philanthropy is to support these communities and the humanitarian issues surrounding it, the root causes of their suffering must be dealt with. Simply giving a helping hand once the damage has been done, trauma sustained and families torn apart doesn’t in my opinion, cut it.

Furthermore, I believe that in the long run, welcoming more immigrants from the region makes the overall situation worse in the countries from whence they came.  

As Roy Beck demonstrates with his impressively effective gumball demonstration, The 1 million immigrants that the US does take in every year are those that if they did not emigrate, would be the agents for change to improve the fate of their home communities. Every year, balancing births and deaths, there are 80 million more people in poverty. The US could take 5 million extra a year but it will never get ahead of the problem, not in this century.

I emphatically believe that the true heroes are those who have the wherewithal to emigrate to another country but instead STAY in their communities to apply their skills to help their fellow countrymen. These are the true champions and unsung heroes that I see and work with day in and day out. These are the courageous community, business and nonprofit leaders who tirelessly work (usually for peanuts) to stimulate and support their communities so that they can lift themselves out of poverty and not have to make the heartbreaking decision to leave their family and emigrate.

People like Allan Ortiz in the video below from one of our many outstanding nonprofit partners, Caras Alegres. Thanks to Allan and his small team, he has helped lift many families such as that of Maria out of poverty (see below video for the full story). It is people like Allan in which Philanthropists need to support in order for long term sustainable change and improvement in these communities.


Immigration will never be an effective way to deal with suffering of people in the world. 99.9% will never be able to emigrate to rich countries.

The only place they can be helped is where they live, Let’s empower and support those community leaders and grassroots initiatives that are already working in local communities so even more impact can be made.

Pionero Philanthropy partners with over 60 nonprofit partners in Guatemala who are the community change makers that Philanthropists must support in order to improve the current situation both at the border and in central american countries.

To find out how you can support these changemakers, contact us today for a free consultation.