Student Philanthropists Select Spring 2020 Awardees

Jajja’s Kids

Jajja’s Kids directors Diane Reiner and Ronnie Sseruyange with all of Jajja's Kids in Uganda.

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 4, 2020) — Tasked with granting funds more coveted than ever given the strains of the coronavirus crisis, Rockefeller College’s Philanthropy and Civil Society graduate class worked to identify, evaluate, and award $3,000 to deserving local nonprofit organizations during the Spring 2020 semester. Ultimately, Professor Susan Appe’s students used the Student Philanthropy Fund to give $2,000 to the Capital Region Community COVID-19 Response Fund and $500 each to the Albany Damien Center and Jajja's Kids.

“To be effective philanthropists, we prioritized responsiveness with a focus on reacting to current and pressing needs,” the class stated in its justification.

Capital Region Community Covid-19 Response Fund

The $2,000 donation to the Capital Region Community COVID-19 Response Fund was the result of a three-week long collective decision-making process. After researching several local nonprofit agencies, Professor Appe’s class chose to prioritize the Capital Region Community COVID-19 Response Fund due to the public health crisis.

The Capital Region Community COVID-19 Response Fund is a coalition of philanthropic, government, and business entities that have come together to rapidly deploy resources to community-based organizations at the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak in the Greater Capital Region of New York. It addresses the social, medical, and financial impacts of COVID-19, working to supply hospitals and health agencies with medical supplies, bolster access to mental health services and support, and provide economic relief to individuals and families who have lost their job or have had their wages or hours reduced due to the pandemic.

In addition, its associated organizations assist the vulnerable communities that are currently falling through the gaps. The Response Fund helps put food on tables, delay and stop evictions, ensures children have access to free meals and support services, provides mental healthcare, supplements lost income, and more.

Albany Damien Center

During Governor Cuomo’s May 2nd briefing, he made a direct appeal for food banks, and it became clear to the students that the Student Philanthropy Fund could have its most meaningful impact in helping to feed the region’s most vulnerable community members.

The Albany Damien Center feeds, houses, counsels and empowers people with HIV and at risk of infection in the Capital Region and surrounding counties. Damien Center programs include serving meals and providing pantry bags with health and nutrition education, linking community members to LGBTQ-friendly healthcare providers and employers, navigating insurance and medication for HIV prevention and treatment, and providing housing on-site and in the community for housing insecure people.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic where immunocompromised people are at an even greater health risk, it is important to our class that we are responsive to this increased risk by supporting an organization providing direct services,” wrote the class. “In March alone, the Damien Center served about a thousand meals and adjusted all its programs to be available under social distancing guidelines to make sure no one in our community goes without service. Because of its reputation, relations with stakeholders, service to a vulnerable community, and effectiveness, the Damien Center is an ideal organization for the Student Philanthropy Fund to give to.”

Jajja’s Kids

Operating in Kampala, Uganda, with its governing and fundraising efforts located in Latham, N.Y., Jajja’s Kids is a local nonprofit committed to international work. The mission of Jajja’s Kids is to create brighter futures and unlimited possibilities for former street children in Uganda.

The program provides a safe and loving home, a supportive and nurturing community, and access to strong educational and leadership opportunities. The home in Kampala currently has 20 former street children living together as a family. They all attend school, receive three meals a day, and are cared for by a staff of six. The home also serves as a community center on weekends, offering a community meal, kids activities, and classes in music and dance.

“Jajja’s Kids has a unique group of children in its care and both executive directors, Diane and Ronnie, are held in high regard in their respective communities and have a reputation of being honest, responsible, and trustworthy,” the class explained.

The organization reported they plan to use the award to buy a stove and oven, so the kids can learn how to cook while they are housebound during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Student Philanthropy Fund is housed at the Institute of Nonprofit Leadership and Community Development (INLCD) at Rockefeller College and allows students to distribute funds to commendable nonprofit organizations as part of coursework. Students learn about philanthropy and the essential role nonprofit organizations play in building vibrant communities.

The Fund originated in the Spring 2019 graduate course and expanded to the undergraduate level this past fall. So far, Rockefeller classes have given $7,500 total to the following Capital Region nonprofit organizations:

  • $500 to The MoonCatcher Project in Schenectady, N.Y.
  • $1,000 to Youth FX in Albany, N.Y.
  • $3,000 to Commission on Economic Opportunities in Troy, N.Y.
  • $2,000 to Capital Region Community COVID-19 Response Fund in Albany, N.Y.
  • $500 to Albany Damien Center in Albany, N.Y.
  • $500 to Jajja's Kids in Latham, N.Y.

The program will continue in the fall with the undergraduate course, Private Philanthropy, Public Problems, and Power. To be considered, local nonprofits should keep an eye out for the Fund’s call for proposals in early fall 2020. Contact Susan Appe, PhD ([email protected]) for more information.