Stories of hope to warm up your winter

We’re pleased to share with you the winter edition of Stories of Hope & Resilience, a special selection of stories from the advocates we support around the world, who are leading the fight for human rights. As an AJWS supporter, you make their work possible — these stories wouldn’t exist without you.

Here in the United States, the past few months have been filled with uncertainty and fear, but since January 20, we’ve watched President Biden’s administration take its first steps toward building a more just and equitable future for all. We’re feeling optimistic that our work together — supporting over 500 activist organizations in 18 countries — will be bolstered by new policies that defend the human rights of the most vulnerable people on earth. That’s why, for this edition, we asked activists around the world: What do you hope to see from President Biden?

You’ll also read about the resilient communities battered by Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America, and how AJWS grantees sprang into action to save lives, and you’ll meet a man who’s using an ancient method to educate his community in Kenya about COVID-19 prevention.

As you continue to persevere through these unprecedented times, we hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe, and we hope these stories will strengthen your belief that by standing together, we can make the world a better place.

— Your Friends at AJWS

Around the World


Global Human Rights Defenders Share Their Hopes for Biden’s Presidency

For the human rights advocates we support around the globe, a new U.S. president means new foreign policy that will directly affect their work. With President Biden already rolling back many of the dangerous policies of the past four years, we asked them: What changes do you hope to see from the new administration? Their answers reveal that while they don’t expect U.S. foreign policy to solve every challenge they face, they have hope for a future in which our country stands behind the most vulnerable people on earth. Click above to hear directly from activists from Burma, Mexico and beyond.


Photo courtesy of Save Lamu

Town Criers and Hand-Stitched Masks: How an AJWS Grantee Halted COVID-19 in Kenya’s Lamu Island

When the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, residents of Lamu — a remote island in northern Kenya — felt sure that it would never reach them. Many were unconvinced the threat was real. But Save Lamu — an environmental organization supported by AJWS — stepped in to educate people about the virus and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) that would save lives. To get past the community’s skepticism, they relied on a generations-old method of spreading a message: the local town crier. Click below to meet Lamu’s 61-year-old crier, Shee, who is protecting his community every day.


Flooding in indigenous communities of Guatemala. Photo courtesy of CCDA.

As Dual Storms Hit Central America, AJWS Grantees Work to Keep Communities Safe

This fall, Hurricanes Eta and Iota caused immense, catastrophic damage across Central America — wiping out the land and homes of many communities that AJWS grantee-partners support in the region. Thanks to the generosity of the AJWS community, we were able to spring into action immediately, making emergency grants to distribute food and first aid — and rebuild homes. AJWS’s emergency response also helped the human rights advocates we support in Nicaragua and Guatemala secure PPE for families forced to survive in crowded shelters. Read more about our grantees’ tireless work to keep their communities safe.

What We're Reading

On Biden’s Planned Summit: Humility, Not Hubris, Can Save Democracy

In the first year of his term, President Biden is set to create a Summit for Democracy, assembling the world’s democracies to strengthen each other and establish common goals. But how can the U.S. lead such a summit with our own democracy still under threat? AJWS’s Tracey Gurd explains that Biden’s summit can still succeed — only if he is humbly ready to learn from our country’s mistakes, and the successes of others.

Just Security

Saw Paul Sein Twa Wins Goldman Environmental Award

AJWS grantee Saw Paul Sein Twa, co-founder of the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) in Burma, has won the world-renowned Goldman Environmental Prize for environmental activists. Paul was recognized for his work launching the Salween Peace Park, a 1.35-million-acre park in the Burma’s Salween River basin, which represents a major victory for peace, preservation and the rights of Indigenous communities. This piece was originally published by a leading Karen news outlet.

Karen News

Morning Run, Memorials, Memories

Robert Bank has spent much of his life fighting for human rights. In this essay, he discusses how his morning runs during the time of COVID-19 have led to deep reflections on how past and present manifestations of oppression and efforts to ensure human rights are intimately tied to one another. As Robert writes, his reflections are inspired by a series of monuments he runs by every morning, which memorialize the Holocaust, Eleanor Roosevelt and the site of a 19th-century community of free Black Americans in Central Park.

eJewish Philanthropy

Pompeo’s Legacy as the U.S. Secretary of State

AJWS’s Rori Kramer was a guest on NPR’s popular podcast "All Things Considered," where she spoke about outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his destructive legacy under the Trump administration. She discusses the dangers of Pompeo’s efforts to infuse a narrow view of religion into State Department policy, as a rationale for trampling on people’s human rights.


Dozens of Faith Institutions Announce Divestment from Fossil Fuels

AJWS is proud to have joined 47 faith institutions from 21 countries around the world, who are together supporting total divestment from fossil fuels in keeping with our commitment to climate justice. This proclamation represents the single-largest joint divestment of religious leaders in history.

Eco Watch

Next Steps for Foreign Policy

In their op-ed in The Hill, AJWS’s President and CEO Robert Bank and Director of U.S. Advocacy Rori Kramer advise the incoming Biden administration about how United States foreign policy can best support the human rights of the communities we support around the world.

The Hill

Take Action with AJWS

The first 100 days of a president’s term set the course for how they will carry out their vision for moving our country forward. Add your name to our petition calling on the Biden administration to use these early days to defend human rights: to stand up to authoritarianism, defend persecuted minority groups, fight for the rights of women, girls and LGBTQI+ people, and more. Together, we’ll make sure the new administration hears loud and clear that we want them to make our world a safer and more just place for all.

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