As Western Union Foundation Shifts its Education Giving, Refugees Loom Large

The Western Union Foundation has always made education a top priority in its grantmaking, giving around 70 percent of its annual funding to this area. One of the foundation’s flagship programs, Education for Better, was formed in 2012 to maintain Western Union’s ongoing commitment to bring quality education to underserved communities around the world.

Earlier this year, we spoke with foundation president Patrick Gaston for a little insight into where the foundation’s global education support was heading. While Gaston said the foundation would, for the most part, stay the course on its mission of improving primary and secondary education opportunities around the globe, he did hint about a slight pivot. According to Gaston, this would “focus on more workforce training and job skills training in the educational realm, but focused on women and youth.”

Related: Where is the Western Union Foundation’s Global Education Support Heading?

That slight change in tack is happening, with two additions to the educational mix not mentioned by Gaston when we last spoke—displaced children and out-of-school refugees. These are two groups the Western Union has been keenly focused on for some time now.

The Western Union Foundation recently announced that it was ready to launch the next phase of its education giving. While the foundation will continue to support education efforts around the world, in this phase, the funding spotlight will shine on the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).

It isn’t that the foundation has never worked in the MENA region. Its refugee work has led the foundation to the area organically. The impetus for focusing on education in this region now, according to Jean Claude Farah, an executive at Western Union, is "The combination of neglect, conflict, poverty, hostility, discrimination and mass migration,” which is resulting in “alarming drops in the provision, quality and regularity of education.”

Farah cited a recent UNESCO report that revealed “one in every four children and adolescents in the MENA region is either out of school, or at risk of dropping out.” He went on to say that “the future of millions of young children is being compromised, and this will result in immeasurable harm to their societies.”

The Western Union Foundation is one of the frontrunners helping the world’s refugee populations. And with education being a major funding focus for the foundation, it comes as no surprise that it’s bringing refugees into the fold in this next phase of its Education for Better program.