Hikmet Ersek, Western Union President and CEO
The Western Union Company and the Western Union Foundation have announced a series of grants and donations to provide critical support for communities devastated by natural disasters and humanitarian crises in the first quarter of 2011. The Western Union family, including the company, its employees, Agents and Foundation, has committed nearly $1 million in global disaster relief since the first of the year. Contributions support eight separate events of varying severity, including the recent devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
“As a global company, disaster relief is part of our DNA,” said Western Union President and Chief Executive Officer, Hikmet Ersek. “By teaming with our Agents, our Foundation and numerous humanitarian organizations, Western Union is helping to rebuild homes and lives.”
Complementing the company’s direct disaster response efforts, Ersek has issued a global philanthropy challenge to the corporate community to raise $500,000 for the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), in honor of its fifth anniversary. In 2011, the Western Union Foundation will match all new corporate donations to CERF dollar-for-dollar up to $250,000.
“Whether they dominate the headlines or are largely unreported, disasters and crises take a heart-wrenching toll on the people involved,” said Luella Chavez D’Angelo, president of the Western Union Foundation. “Western Union and the Western Union Foundation are committed to meeting some of the immediate and long-term needs of communities grappling with suffering and loss by working with the world’s most respected charitable organizations to make things better.”
First Quarter Disaster Relief Giving
Civil unrest in Libya has created a humanitarian crisis at the country’s borders, its impact spilling over into neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. A $100,000 contribution to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the refugee agency of the United Nations, will support emergency aid to over 400,000 refugees fleeing Libya into Tunisia and Egypt. Assistance includes provision of emergency shelter, food, water, medical care and psycho-social care. In addition, the Western Union Company made a $25,000 donation to the International Red Cross/Red Crescent in support of their relief efforts in the region.
In Sri Lanka
Extensive flooding in Sri Lanka has impacted more than one million people. In the aftermath, hundreds of thousands have been displaced and both lives and livelihoods have been lost. A $10,000 grant to UNICEF will mitigate the impact on schools where textbooks and materials were washed away. Funds will replace books and uniforms and support the education sector partners’ efforts to clean schools and deliver learner kits, blackboards and recreational kits with the goal of keeping children in school.
Western Union's multi-faceted approach to supporting relief efforts in Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami is approaching nearly $530,000 in direct and in-kind support. The company's response includes Foundation grants, Agent contributions, employee donations and gifts from other Western Union Foundation donors. As previously announced, the Western Union Foundation made an initial $50,000 contribution to Mercy Corps to provide for the immediate needs of survivors through their local partner, Peace Winds Japan. More than $60,000 has been raised from the Rite Aid Foundation, Cash Express Service and Sangrams Palace, through Agent giving circles and Western Union employees have raised more than $47,000. Both the Agent gifts and employee donations are matched by the Foundation.
Several months of torrential rain and flooding in Colombia has created unprecedented destruction throughout the country, impacting the homes and property of more than two million people and damaging infrastructure. The Western Union Foundation has teamed with Western Union Agent Giros y Finanzas Compania de Financiamiento S.A. to contribute $30,000 to Cruz Roja Colombiana Seccional Valle del Cauca to provide relief efforts. The combined donation is part of the Foundation’s Agent Giving Circle program, which allows Western Union Agents to pool their funds to amplify the effects of their gifts on the issues they care about most.
Weeks of heavy rain and massive mudslides resulted in the virtual destruction of some Bolivian neighborhoods, with more than 1,500 residences damaged or destroyed and thousands of families left homeless. A $20,000 donation from the Western Union Foundation and Western Union Agents DHL Express Boliva and Banco Union S.A. to World Vision will provide families with blankets, hygiene kits, winter clothing and mattresses. Child-friendly spaces are set to care for children and to provide psycho-social support. In addition, temporary shelter will be provided to house the poor until more permanent housing can be constructed.
In January, widespread flooding and the ensuing mudslides in Rio de Janeiro left hundreds dead and thousands homeless. Extensive property damage and disruption of communications and other utilities in mountainous communities magnified the suffering of victims. In response, the Western Union Company and the Western Union Foundation have partnered to make a $15,000 contribution to Junta de Educação e Ação Social da Convenção Batista Fluminense in support of their efforts to provide the materials needed to reconstruct homes and rebuild lives.
In New Zealand
Two major earthquakes in a five-month period killed at least 65 people in the city of Christchurch and forced thousands to evacuate their homes and businesses. Continued aftershocks have complicated efforts by the city’s residents to regain some normalcy. In response, the Western Union Foundation has teamed with Western Unions’ Agents City Forex, International Remittance and Fexco to offer a $15,000 grant to Red Cross New Zealand in support of their efforts to provide emergency and hardship grants to those who were forced to flee and those who remain in their homes without basic services such as power, water or sewage.
A series of tropical storms across 43 towns in Queensland, beginning in November 2010, triggered some of the worst flooding the state has seen in decades. In January, another deluge resulted in further loss of life and property, affecting an estimated 200,000 people across the state. A $10,000 grant from the Western Union Foundation will support the Australia Red Cross’ efforts to help communities in the recovery process, providing personal support and practical resources in recovery centers across the affected areas.
Disaster response has been part of Western Union’s heritage dating back to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and remains a part of the Western Union Foundation’s giving strategy today. In times of crisis, the Foundation seeks to multiply the results of critical, on-the-ground support programs through strategic financial grants and matching programs that encourage Agent and employee involvement. Since 2001, nearly $20 million in corporate and Foundation funds have been donated to help communities in desperate need.
Western Union’s disaster relief efforts are part of the company’s signature Our World, Our Family initiative. Launched in September 2007, this 5-year, $50 million commitment equips individuals and families worldwide with the skills, knowledge and resources essential to breaking the cycle of poverty. Since its introduction, Our World, Our Family has provided more than 800 grants in over 100 countries and has touched more that 1.85 million lives.