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November 27, 2023

Ability to make a difference drives one donor’s support of refugees and UNHCR

Alane Adams began her generous giving journey with USA for UNHCR in the wake of the Russian Federation's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Alane has been a longtime humanitarian, formerly serving on the Los Angeles chapter of UNICEF USA’s Board of Directors. In addition to her work helping children and refugees, Alane is an award-winning author and literacy advocate.

USA for UNHCR’s Why I Give series allows donors like Alane an opportunity to share what inspires their support of refugees and offers encouragement to other compassionate Americans to join them.

There are lots of worthy causes to support, what draws you to support refugees?

I stepped away from my family business back in 2008 and I started my foundation [The Rise Up Foundation]. At the time I was trying to understand the world a little bit better. Why was there so much endemic poverty throughout the world? What was the root cause of global poverty?

I was a huge fan of the work Angelina Jolie was doing with refugees and I read her book [Notes from My Travels] about her work with UNHCR. The insight into the plight of refugees seen through her eyes was inspiring for me and part of the whole process I was going through of trying to understand the world.

So the support of refugees is part and parcel of my passion for trying to understand the world and trying to make the world a better place. 

(Alane on a field visit with UNICEF)

Donating to USA for UNHCR and supporting the work of the UN Refugee Agency was not your first interaction with a UN agency. Can you share about your work with UNICEF?

My initial connection with the UN was through UNICEF and I began doing field visits with them as early as 2009. I've since been on five different field visits all over the world. I learned so many things being in the field and understanding UN organizations and my appreciation for the work that they do — which goes far beyond delivering a vaccine and lifesaving care.

You first gave to USA for UNHCR when Ukraine was invaded. What about that particular emergency prompted your generous donation and why UNHCR?

It was the devastation, the outbreak of war [in Ukraine] against people who had done nothing and were being rapidly displaced and forced to relocate to other borders and to leave their homes in the dead of night. 

At the time, it seemed to be the worst possible thing that this world was going to face and it was an opportunity [for me] to finally connect with your organization. I was committed to giving a block of money at the time and I didn't want to give it all to UNICEF. I wanted to be able to spread it around a bit.

Why do you choose to give to UN organizations like UNHCR and UNICEF?

I give money to big organizations that can have an impact on the world, and I focus my work specifically on the corner of the world and the issues in which I can really make a difference. For me, it has been literacy. 

I believe that money is fungible. It's movable. At the end of the day, UNHCR is going to do the projects, they’re going to fundraise for specific things, but you have this massive pot of money and the money is going to come in and projects are going to get done.

And I know when money is restricted, a lot of times what I've seen in the past is that there's this emotional reaction and all of a sudden we give a billion dollars towards something that only needs $500 million. 

The reality is that UNHCR’s issues are ongoing and multifaceted in multiple different places. 

My faith is in you as an organization, not a specific project. 

What motivates you to give and do you think it’s similar to what motivates others to give?

I always want to make a difference. It doesn't matter if you give $1,000,000 or $100,000 or $10,000 or $50 — you want to feel like you made a difference as a human being, as an individual. You want to feel like you cared, that it mattered and that you did what you could.

When you're feeling like something is overwhelming or you can't really change something, the best you can do is do what's within your power. And I think that's why so many people give during times of crisis and during times of catastrophe because they do feel powerless and they want to feel like they showed the world that they cared. 

How you can help

Join Alane and other compassionate Americans and give kindness this year. Becoming a monthly donor is the most efficient and effective way to help those fleeing conflict. Make a difference in the lives of refugees by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor.