Great Strides for Children on the Move: Danielle De La Fuente’s Work with Refugee Children through the Amal Alliance

by | Feb 7, 2020 | Changemaker Of The Week

When you’re at the United Nations and a Minister of Education requests your advice, you know you must be doing something right.

But it took Danielle De La Fuente, founder of the Amal Alliance, a lot of hard work and dedication to get to that moment.

A daughter to immigrant parents, De La Fuente founded the Amal Alliance in 2017 and received a Pollination Project (TPP) seed grant for its pilot program in 2018. A new non-profit organization, Amal’s mission is to bring alternate education to the more than 50 million displaced children living in refugee camps and informal settlements around the world.

Through education, physical activity programs such as yoga and dance, and a safe place to gather, the Amal Alliance provides a holistic approach to education in emergencies by providing these children with social emotional learning and psychosocial support. The programs are designed to instill mindfulness, a positive attitude, and social skills among diverse groups of children from various countries, cultures, faiths, and ethnic backgrounds.

So far, the Amal Alliance has provided services to nearly 1,100 children in Greece, Lebanon, and Turkey. Despite these impressive accomplishments, however, the humanitarian players were less than hospitable hosts for De La Fuente at the beginning.
De La Fuente—whose formidable resume includes work at the US Department of Defense—recalls sitting next to a senior official during the Global Compact discussions: “I complimented her on her work. She replied to me, ‘You are an ant, what would the UN want with a little ant?’” It was a watershed moment for De La Fuente, who, despite feeling tears dwell up, responded beautifully: “I told her that was the nicest thing anyone could ever have said to me because ants are hardworking and resilient and the ant hills they build together as a team are nearly indestructible.”

Despite disparaging remarks such as those and wading through miles of red tape, De La Fuente never refused to give up, showing up meeting after meeting to bring voice on behalf of refugee children. So, when that Minister of Education asked her opinion, it was a particularly poignant moment: “It made me realize that I was finally being taken seriously.”

And that she most certainly is.

Amal Alliance was a co-sponsor for Education at the inaugural United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Global Refugee Forum held in Geneva Dec 16-18, 2019, where their “Rainbow of Education” was featured as one of the “Most Promising Holistic Practices.” They also drew great attention to the need to prioritize early childhood development and psychosocial support in refugee settings through a co-hosted event with UNICEF, International Rescue Committee, Sesame Workshop, Save the Children, The LEGO Foundation, and the Moving Minds Alliance. Lastly, their partnership with Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Affairs contributed to the body of research on early childhood psychosocial intervention, releasing their first White Paper in December of 2019.

De La Fuente recounts their experience in Geneva: “This was truly an exciting opportunity as we are working alongside governments, the World Bank, and the largest NGOs to shape the policy that will affect millions of young children displaced by natural disaster and conflict … We have been able to advocate for the little ones and get psychosocial, social-emotional learning, and early childhood development on the agenda for education in emergencies!”

Despite her amazing success, De La Fuente remains ever humble and mindful of the initial grantors that supported her dream, including the McGinnity Family Foundation, the Rotary Foundation, and, of course, The Pollination Project.
“We are so grateful to The Pollination Project: the faith you invested in us boosted our confidence to deliver a sound service to the most vulnerable.”

TPP is thrilled to have provided support to Danielle and the Amal Alliance, and we are so proud of all that she has accomplished (and continues to accomplish!) at the United Nations on behalf of refugee children. Danielle and her team have set the goal of reaching 50,000 displaced children by the year 2023. They are looking for support from volunteers, in-kind donations, and pro bono financial and strategic partners. To help, please visit: https://amalalliance.org/

Written by Carolyn Ashworth