When students voted to pass the Student Activities Fee Endowment reform in February 2012, their votes had an impact far beyond campus by creating the Social Innovation Public Service Fund. The first SIPS grant winners did service projects abroad with the funds they received.
The SIPS Fund awarded its first grants last fall from a $1.5 million endowment that was established by the SAFE reform. SIPS has awarded grants ranging from $1,000 to $13,000.
SIPS provided funds to Kristen Trivelli (NHS ’14) to travel to Guwahati, India, last winter. Trivelli initially became interested in volunteering with Operation Smile, which treats facial deformities in children but ended up also volunteering at an orphanage for girls and the Pratiyasha Foundation, which brings meals to the slums of Guwahati.
Trivelli said her work with Pratyasha was life changing.
“It was amazing, because literally we spent $12 and we fed over 80 kids every Sunday,” Trivelli said. “They are the most honest kids you’ve ever met. … You’re hugging and playing with them, and you’re like, ‘How do they have so much joy when they have nothing?’”
Trivelli has continued to work with Pratyasha since returning and plans to raise funds by selling laptop cases made from fabric she bought in India. The ongoing involvement was an important part of the SIPS application process.
“It was something we always talked about, how to take my experience and apply it to the Georgetown community,” she said.
Nitya Ramlogan (SFS ’13) travelled to Oaxaca, Mexico, on SIPS funds with a plan to market the crafts of local artisans to Georgetown students.
Ramlogan connected with a community partner in Oaxaca, which has now hired her as a consultant.Ramlogan is working to bring the Oaxaca artisans’ goods to the Georgetown Farmers Market.
“The project has even exceeded the boundaries I originally had in mind, and become a broader project, but the connection with Georgetown will be a lasting one,” she said.
Alumni are also eligible to receive SIPS funding.
Claire Charamnac (SFS ’11) is the co-founder of Women LEAD, which works to empower young Nepalese women through intensive, yearlong programs focused on real-world skills, leadership and confidence. She described the SIPS grant, awarded to Women LEAD earlier this year, as the largest her organization has received.
“SIPS is a critical part of our success,” she said. “They’re our biggest partner at this point.”
Women LEAD is now working to lengthen the program from one to two years and to expand the program to other countries.
In addition to project assistance, the fund provides programming, including lecture series and innovation labs.
SIPS Development Director Michael Grasso (SFS ’14), who is a former director of personnel for The Hoya, said that the majority of SIPS-funded projects are international because that is where students’ interests tend to lie. The organization also aims to expand its domestic efforts. SIPS tries to go beyond just paying grantees’ travel expenses.
“What SIPS does is it provides this extra layer of providing resources, connections and funding,”Grasso said. “Our preference is always to support and fund the programmatic aspects of an applicant’s project, meaning materials and support for them. We prefer to partner them in what they’re actually doing on the ground, instead of just getting there.”