In 2015, ISA launched ISA Pay It Forward, a grant fund that goes toward sustainable projects in under-resourced communities around the world. All ISA students have the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ by contributing a $5 donation when applying for an ISA program online. 100% of ISA Pay It Forward donations go toward funding ongoing sustainable development projects identified by ISA Service-Learning community partners in 11 cities around the world.
If a partner organization identifies a project that supports ongoing sustainable development in their community, the organization may submit a grant proposal to the ISA Pay It Forward committee. Grants are awarded directly to the partner organization in order to support their sustainable development project.
ISA Service-Learning students can play an important role in the success of these projects throughout their program by collaborating with their supervisors, community members, and ISA on-site staff, to either help with the proposal submission or to contribute to the completion of a funded project.
To date, ISA Pay it Forward has funded three community projects. The first partner organization to receive a grant was Patio Volantin in Vaparaiso, Chile in 2015 for a community gathering space. The director of this community exchange center who submitted the proposal, collaborated with local artists, community members and ISA students to build a colorful community garden and renovated green space primarily out of recycled materials in an abandon building lot that was destroyed during a devastating earthquake in 2010. Today the space is used for outdoors classes, recreational activities, concerts, and community events.
The second partner organization to receive a grant was Escuela Santiago in Heredia, Costa Rica in 2016 for a mobile library. An ISA Service-Learning student, noticing that this public primary school lacked a library, worked with the head social worker of the school to conduct a survey on the number of books that the pupils had at home, which typically ranged from 0-2. Subsequently, the student proposed a mobile library idea that she had seen in Chicago inner city public school programs. Today, Escuela Santiago’s new mobile library goes class to class every week serving grades K-6 and teachers report more students reading!
ISA’s most recent partner organization to receive a grant earlier this year was Mundo Libre in Lima, Peru for knitting machines. Mundo Libre was founded in 1985 to address the growing problem of drug-addicted children living on the streets in Peru by helping to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society. The treatment program is an integrated approach including education, therapy, medical attention, and skill-based training. The knitting machines will be integrated into the center’s already existing therapy and skill-training programs, which are part of Mundo Libre Therapeutic Community Treatment Programs.
Winners of the GoAbroad Innovation Awards will then be announced at the GoAbroad Reception during the NAFSA Annual Conference in Los Angeles, California from May 28-June 2.