Students enrolled in a philanthropy course at the University of Mary Washington will award $10,000 in grant money to local charitable organizations in the Jepson Alumni Executive Center on Tuesday, December 1.
The 9:30 a.m. presentation is the culminating activity of the semester-long Economics of Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector, taught by Robert Rycroft, professor of economics. The grant, funded/provided by philanthropist Doris Buffett’s Sunshine Lady Foundation, is to be used for advancing nonprofit programs in the Fredericksburg community. The course allows students to learn about philanthropy through hands-on experience.
Recently, Buffet and UMW alumnus Shin Fujiyama, co-founder of Students Helping Honduras, challenged the students to pursue a career in philanthropy.
“This is a magnificent opportunity to do something to give people a hand up and not a hand out,” Buffett said during a class meeting.
The philanthropy course, in its fifth year at UMW, exemplifies similar courses that Buffett has created at 15 colleges across the country to allow undergraduates to experience the pleasure and the responsibilities that philanthropy entails. Each year,
Buffet gives each class $10,000 to award to charitable organizations as the class deems fit. The students have sole responsibility for creating a foundation, reviewing the grant applicants and determining who should receive assistance.
Buffett, sister of billionaire Warren Buffett, told the UMW class that she was fortunate to inherit money and that she reaps continuous benefits by helping individuals and families who have suffered misfortunes and need a helping hand to better their lives.
Her Sunshine Lady Foundation invests in organizations and programs dedicated to providing opportunities for the advancement of education, well being and new life choices for disadvantaged people with special empathy for the working poor and families in crisis.
“We give only to those who have run into bad luck and we have a high standard for what we consider bad luck,” she said. “It’s a great thing to help someone. The payoff is enormous. What we’re selling is hope and we do what it takes to get them through the rough patches. We give them the tools to help themselves.”
She urged the student philanthropists to get to know the people they are helping. “You often find out more than is on written pleas,” she said. “I can’t tell you how important the human touch is.”
Shin Fujiyama, a 2007 graduate, remembered the inspiration Buffett provided him four years ago as student in the same philanthropy course. After a trip to a hurricane-ravaged village in Honduras,
Fujiyama started collecting small change to help villagers in the refugee community of El Progreso, but he wanted to do more.
“I had this crazy idea that I could raise $100,000,” Fujiyama said. “Mrs. Buffet was the first person who thought I could do it. She told me that if I could raise a third of that, she would pay the rest.”
Four years later, Fujiyama and his sister, Cosmo Fujiyama, have raised nearly a million dollars to provide economic and educational support to under-served people in Honduras. Now, SHH has thousands of volunteers on more than 50 college campuses and has built two elementary schools, an educational center for an orphanage and homes for more than 100 families.
“That’s all from being in this class. It has changed my life,” Fujiyama told the class. “SHH has become my life’s calling. What I do is a small drop in the bucket of what needs to be done. You can be those drops too. There’s a tremendous need out there.”
Last year, students in the philanthropy course awarded $10,000 to the Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters to start a Hispanic Youth Mentoring Project. Past recipients also include the National Housing Trust/Enterprise Preservation Corporation, the Fredericksburg Counseling Services, Inc., Homes for America: Heritage Park Academic Achievement Program, Rebuilding Together, Rappahannock Refuge Inc./Hope House and the Fredericksburg Regional Boys and Girls Club.
For more information about the philanthropy course at the University of Mary Washington, contact Dr. Rycroft at (540) 654-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.