December 17, 2021

Comic Relief US Youth Advisory Council Launches Juntanza Fund to Provide Grants to Youth-Led Programs and Changemakers Igniting Global Social Change

Initial $50,000 Investment Supports Youth-Led Campaigns that Address Hunger, Access to Quality Education and Mental Health Services, and Youth Leadership

Comic Relief US’s Youth Advisory Council, a leadership development program made up of eight global youth activists and social changemakers, today launched the Juntanza Fund, its inaugural grantmaking fund to further empower and resource youth-led organizations, leaders and activists. Youth Advisory Council members in this first cohort are from the United States, Colombia, Cambodia, Kenya, and Somalia and are driving social change within their communities. The Juntanza Fund – which means “a union to help one another and achieve a common goal” and originates from the practices of Afro-descendant communities in Colombia – brings youth leaders to the table to decide where and how funding is granted.

The Council developed the proposal criteria and vetted 175 grantee applicants. The mission of the Juntanza Fund was to support youth from low-income backgrounds who have a vision to address challenges in their communities, including hunger and sustainable agriculture, improving access to quality education and mental healthcare, and fostering youth leadership. Applicants were evaluated based on the level of youth-designed and inclusive approach to the program while also concentrating on the intersections of racial and gender equity. For this initial phase, the Council awarded five grants between $5,000 - $10,000 to youth-led programs and campaigns with a registered nonprofit or fiscal sponsor.

“Youth will bring forward solutions to end the cycle of intergenerational poverty, and the Youth Advisory Council has emboldened our grantmaking approach in many ways,” said Alison Moore, CEO of Comic Relief US. “The Juntanza Fund is a powerful initiative that reflects our commitment to innovate by centering, elevating and empowering the voices and lived experiences of young people.”

Juntanza Fund grantee partners receiving the initial investment include:

Arable Community Based Organization in Kenya: supporting youth, especially women in vulnerable and hard-to-access communities to adopt sustainable farming practices and better income security in arid and semi-arid lands;

Diversify Our Narrative in the U.S.: championing a more diverse and anti-racist U.S. education system through student advocates and student-led programs;

Fundacion Maleua in Colombia: providing mental health services for Afro-descendant communities, migrants and others living in vulnerable conditions and creating the first network of youth promoters of mental health in the region;

Hawa Feminist Fund in Somalia: training young female activists to join the women-led coalition in offering mental health and psychological support for survivors of gender-based violence;

Pepy Empowering Youth in Cambodia: helping girls and youth in rural areas of Cambodia access education and improve career readiness; and more.

“As part of our grantmaking strategy for Comic Relief US, we have made a commitment to fully involve individuals who have experienced these issues first hand, opening up our portfolio to the best ideas and innovations from young people and social entrepreneurs who are leaders in the communities,” said Ayo Roach, Vice President of Grants at Comic Relief US. “What the sector needs now is to listen to, fund, and partner with grassroots organizations that are addressing poverty through an intersectional lens and placing community needs at the center of their work.”

The inaugural members of The Youth Advisory Council include:

Giuliana Bryan Alvarez, 24, is a Colombian political scientist, ambassador of the One Young World organization, and project coordinator for youth and community empowerment at Manos Visibles (Visible Hands), a non-profit organization in Colombia.

Olja Busbaher, 25, came to the U.S. with her family in 1997 following the ethnic genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is currently a Grants Officer at the Malala Fund.

Fardosa Hussein, 26, is a documentary photographer and filmmaker based in Somalia whose work ranges from covering humanitarian work to everyday life in Kenya and Somalia.

Rattana Mai, 24, from Siem Reap, Cambodia, serves as a Scholarship Project Officer at PEPY Empowering Youth, an organization helping young Cambodians from rural areas continue their studies so that they can pursue careers, improve their quality of life, and uplift their communities.

Jordan Ott, 19, is a Native American of the Sac-n-Fox Tribe of Oklahoma, who is currently enrolled at Haskell Indian Nations University and focused on mental health advocacy.

Alexis Ramon, 18, is a freshman at the University of Southern California who is passionate about social justice.

Julia Song, 20, is a filmmaker and NYU Tisch student, who hopes to voice the narratives of underrepresented stories with authenticity.

Shamyah Williams, 19, is a student at Howard University and an established public speaker with a passion for creating change for girls of color on a global scale.

“When you create a safe, supported and informed space for young people, it’s incredible how strong their voices grow,” said Madison McCormick, Grant Programs and Communications Manager, who spearheaded The Youth Advisory Council. “Too often, the wisdom that young people hold from their lived experiences can easily be overlooked in an organization’s strategic decision-making process. Through the Juntanza Fund, Comic Relief US is recognizing the brilliance of our Council members and authentically carrying out our commitment to invite youth into our work.”

In 2022, The Youth Advisory Council will establish its second cohort with Comic Relief US. The newly launched $10M Innovation & Growth Fund will support the growth of the Council and the vision of the Juntanza Fund.

About Comic Relief

Comic Relief US harnesses the power of entertainment to drive positive change to create a just world free from poverty. The nonprofit has raised over $300 million by mobilizing donors of all ages to engage with causes through powerful content-driven campaigns and new digital platforms. Since 2015, Red Nose Day, Comic Relief US’ signature campaign to end child poverty has fundraised $275 million and positively impacted over 29 million children in the US and around the world. Donations are invested in grantee partners and social impact programs that ensure children are safe, healthy, educated and empowered and that address the root causes of poverty in communities most impacted. Comic Relief US, also known as Comic Relief, Inc., is a registered U.S. 501(c)(3) public charity. For more information about Comic Relief US and its impact, visit Follow @ComicReliefUS on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.