Celebrating Heritage and Leadership

Danielle M. Reyes May 2017

In recognition of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month – a commemorative month that pays tribute to and celebrates the culture, contributions, and sacrifices of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States–the DC office of the Gates Foundation co-hosted a special event with the Metro DC Chapter of Asian Americans Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) that featured a panel of three Asian American women leading private foundations in the Greater Washington region.

Nageeb Sumar, a member of AAPIP and Gates Asians in Philanthropy, organized the event as a way to recognize, “a panel of three impressive, successful AAPI leaders in philanthropy” and to bring together local Asian American foundation and nonprofit staff as well as Gates staff, for a casual and candid, conversation about diversity and leadership in philanthropy. Surrounded by images of famous Asians, executive directors, Hanh Le, of the Weissberg Foundation, Sapphira Goradia, of the Goradia Foundation, and Danielle M. Reyes, of the Crimsonbridge Foundation each shared personal accounts of their career paths, experiences and lessons learned in the philanthropic sector, and information about the foundations they lead.

Hanh Le detailed her journey from public service, to building playgrounds in the nonprofit sector, to eight years at Exponent Philanthropy, before assuming her current position. While Sapphira Goradia revealed that her father initially invited her to lead the foundation until he “found someone more qualified” only to watch the foundation flourish under her leadership.

“It sounds like several of you had some wonderful and influential mentors who encouraged and supported you along the way” said one attendee, “I wish I had that.”

Affinity groups such as Asian Americans in Philanthropy provide a venue for foundation and nonprofit staff of Asian and Pacific Island heritage to develop as professionals in the sector, while also working together to increase philanthropy from and to the API community.

“Many of us are the only Asian American, Hispanic or other ethnicity at our nonprofit or foundation,” said Reyes, who is of multiracial heritage. “Like many, I am an American, born and raised in the United States, but still regularly asked, ‘Where are you originally from?'” Added Reyes, “So I’m grateful to Nageeb and AAPIP for putting this event together and creating space for our voices and our stories…it’s a wonderful way to not only honor our heritage this month, but to find new ways to support each other and our work in the sector.” #Community