Daughters for Life program ends due to lack of funding

For the first time since the start of the three-year pilot program in 2014, there are no Daughters for Life in the incoming cohort of 2018. Since 2010, the Daughters for Life Foundation, based in Toronto, Canada, has helped more than 30 “young women from countries like Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Israel and Jordan” attend a university or other academic institution in Canada, the United States or the United Kingdom, according to their website. The Daughters For Life program has 18 academic partners. One of these partners is New College of Florida.

In 2009, three of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s daughters were killed in a shelling attack by an Israeli tank on their home in the Gaza Strip. It was broadcast live on national television. Dr. Abuelaish established the Foundation in January of 2009 in honor of his daughters, Bessan, Mayar and Aya. The Foundation is his attempt to “honour their love of life and learning and their hopes and dreams for an educated future.”

The Foundation provides awards and scholarships to young women of any Middle Eastern nationality or background, based not only on their academic achievements but also “their character and commitment to improving the lives of girls and young women in the Middle East,” according to their website. The Daughters for Life Foundation believes that “lasting peace in the Middle East depends on empowering girls and young women through education to develop strong voices for the betterment of life throughout the Middle East.” These scholarships and awards are meant to ensure that and offer young women that opportunity.

Dr. Abuelaish visited Sarasota in 2013 to give a talk at a Jewish temple and stopped at New College on his way out of town, where he met with President O’Shea and former Provost Steve Miles.

“[Dr. Abuelaish] explained the program and we thought, ‘Yeah, sure, we’ll take some.’ And we’ll help raise some money for the scholarships,” President O’Shea said. “So that’s how it all started and we did.”

O’Shea was adamant that the college would not accept any scholars unless it had enough funds to guarantee a fully-funded four years. He stated that the community was very supportive. Over the span of two or three years, New College was able to raise $700,000 to $750,000 for the program, according to O’Shea, most of which came from the Sarasota community.

“The Daughters For Life program really caught the imagination of a large number of people in town,” O’Shea said.

The scholars had to apply to Daughters for Life and New College separately and be accepted by both. The first Daughters for Life cohort entered New College in 2014. Of the first cohort, one scholar, Loureen Dabeet, graduated early and two of the scholars, Leen Al-Fatafta and Najla Fawwaz, will graduate this coming May. The 2015 cohort included four scholars. Two Daughters for Life entered in 2016 and one entered this past fall. Currently, there are no Daughters for Life enrolled for the fall.

Funding for the program declined after the first years.

“After the initial flush, we haven’t been able to raise as much money for it as we’d like,” O’Shea said. “Hopefully, we’ll have another one or two [Daughters for Life] but I don’t think we’re going to get back to that wonderful time when we had four from a year.”

According to O’Shea, “there’s been some changes to the DFL (Daughters for Life) program as well.”

“The Toronto DFL program found it hard to raise money for students in the States because everybody wants those students in their hometown,” O’Shea said. “ I believe [DFL has] opened an American fundraising arm now, too.”

Although it is not confirmed on the Daughters for Life website, Executive Director of New College Foundation MaryAnne Young also referred to the establishment of a Daughters for Life branch in the United States intended for fundraising. In an interview with the Tangent, Young carefully noted that “these are things that I’ve heard and understood but have not been shared with me directly.”

If a fundraising branch has been established in the U.S., as O’Shea and Young both say, this development will affect the Daughters for Life program at New College. For now, the responsibility for future fundraising remains unclear.

“So, if [Dr. Abulaeish] has a fundraising arm here in the United States we don’t necessarily need to do all of the fundraising, because U.S. citizens get a tax benefit whereas Canadian citizens don’t get a tax benefit for students in the United States,” Young said. “I think we’re just at a transition point, honestly, with understanding what the DFL Foundation’s goals and objectives are and then how we can help support that.”

“We’re not going to just raise money for DFL and DFL is not just going to raise money for New College,” O’Shea added. “But having said that, if New College were to get a donation that would cover a student, we’d take one in a heartbeat, or two, however many we could afford.”

“I think if DFL Foundation wants to recommend students to the college for admissions process we will welcome with open arms,” Young said, when asked what the Daughters for Life program looks like at New College moving forward. “It’s kind of the chicken and the egg thing. I think if we have students who are coming then we need to figure out what the DFL foundation here in the United States is able to do and we don’t know that yet, I don’t think they know that yet. It’s hard to raise money overnight. Certainly, from my perspective, I just need to understand what the DFL Foundation wants to do, can do, and we will absolutely help supplement that.

“I need to be able to go to donors with specifics and we just don’t know that yet […] so it’s just a matter of letting them get a little bit more organized and established here in the U.S. so we have a better idea of how we can support.”

“So, in the future, what it would look like is New College does not do any more fundraising and DFL does all of the fundraising?” I asked.

“Maybe,” Young responded. “That’s what’s unknown and this is why I’m saying a transition point because I think DFL foundation is still trying to figure out direction–it’s hard to establish a nonprofit, it doesn’t happen overnight–so we stand ready to help in any way and we need to take their lead.”

The Daughters for Life program at New College depends on outside funding to provide the scholarships. O’Shea stated that New College still fundraises for Daughters for Life.

“We’re still out there,” O’Shea said. “It’s still one of the things we will do.”

Yet it seems clear that the New College Foundation does not have enough money to fund another Daughter for Life. As Young stated, New College is in a transitioning period with the Daughters for Life Foundation.

The three-year pilot program established between Daughters for Life and New College in 2014 ended in the spring of 2017. New College did not renew the agreement, nor did Daughters For Life. According to O’Shea, it was “very much mutual.”

“We both couldn’t fulfill it,” O’Shea said. “There’s no point if there’s no money.” Nevertheless, he continued: “We could and probably will sign another agreement.”

The program will most likely be for the graduate level, however, and not for undergraduates, since it is significantly less expensive.

A Daughters for Life scholarship at New College costs around $80,000. The most sustainable way to continue Daughters for Life on campus would be if New College received endowed scholarships.

“What we had hoped when we started this is that we could get a large gift to endowment that would then make it possible to get a student in perpetuity,” O’Shea said. “And we weren’t successful at doing that.”

A $2 million dollar endowment would cover the cost of one incoming student because four percent of $2 million is $80,000, the amount allotted to each scholar for a fully-funded four years.

“Usually, with an endowment you take four percent off each year because that’s usually about what they earn and they earn a little more but that allows them to increase with inflation,” O’Shea said.

To fund a cohort of four scholars, it would take $8 million each year.

“So, if you know anybody that would like to give $8 million, tell them to talk to me,” O’Shea said.

Third-year Diana Tarazi is a Daughters for Life scholar from Palestine. The founder, Dr. Abuelaish, is from her hometown. Tarazi learned of the Daughters for Life scholarship through this connection.

“I knew I wanted to apply for the scholarship because it gives you a great opportunity where you can get a high quality education in the United States,” Tarazi said. “I was always interested to study in the United States.”

Tarazi spoke of her expectations of New College and her experience as an international student on campus.

“Very few people actually knew about, first of all, the program and also my country,” Tarazi said. “I had to explain a lot of things to a lot of people…like my country and my language, stuff like that. Sometimes even…I felt like people thought it was weird to hear someone speak a different language. I really felt that my first year but I think it’s different now, it’s better.

“I think now everybody knows that there is a group of girls who are not from the United States and they speak a different language, so I don’t have the weird looks that I used to have my first year,” Tarazi laughed.

Tarazi believes that if the Daughters for Life program were to officially end at New College, it would have a negative impact on the campus community.

“We, Daughters for Life, brought some diversity to campus and if it’s ending,” Tarazi trailed off. “I saw it throughout the years, we actually made a change in the administration, in the student body, a lot of aspects at New College. A lot of people became aware of a lot things related to our region. People knew more about different perspectives, we added a different perspective to New College. But if [the program] stopped, then this is going to stop, right?

“Like less international people are going to be here and New College is going to go back to the way it was before,” Tarazi continued. “I think it’s good for the student body to have people from different backgrounds. I think people thrive with diversity and it adds something positive to the student body.”

“They’ve been a tremendous asset to the college,” O’Shea said. “The more diverse your student body is the better. I think that they’ve changed New College. And they’ve changed us, they really have, in a very good way.”

For now, the impact of an end to the Daughters for Life program at New College is–somewhat–hypothetical. Although the pilot program ended and there are no scholars enrolled for this fall, both O’Shea and Young explicitly stated that the program is not ending.

“I would say it’s dormant until somebody gives us more money,” O’Shea concluded.

Information for this article was gathered from daughtersforlife.com.

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