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2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: International, International Human Rights

Mission: The Robert F. Kennedy Center continues his mission through domestic and international programs that help the disadvantaged and oppressed and that recognize, train and support our next generation of leaders.

Results: Educating and Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders: In 2010, the RFK Center partnered with the New York State United Teachers to launch an online human rights curriculum (Speak Truth To Power/STTP) with 31 teacher-developed lesson plans. “…in every child, is the potential for greatness…” – Robert F. Kennedy, 1965 Connecting Great Achievement with Great Potential: In late 2011, the RFK Center partnered with Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union to create 16 new human rights lessons based on Nobel Peace Prize winners. In April 2012, the Nobel Peace Prize winners fanned out across the city, visiting 17 schools in Chicago that included STTP as part of their curriculum. Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders: In 2012 and 2013, the RFK Center will work with the Washington College of Law to create a training seminar program for law school students to teach high school students about human rights. High school students will learn empathy, tolerance, and discover valuable role models. Law students will gain experience and training to better translate rights-based concepts to a diverse audience. LGBTI Rights in Uganda: The RFK Center held meetings with members of Congress regarding LGBTI rights in Uganda. Congressman Barney Frank helped arrange an official meeting between a member of the Ugandan Parliament and one of Uganda’s only openly gay activists: Mr. Frank Mugisha. In 2011, the RFK Center partnered with Uganda activists to convince key Kenyan legal organizations to end their silence and speak out against the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Success in keeping funds available for the Gulf Coast: The RFK Center helped hundreds of New Orleans residents travel to the District of Columbia in 2006 to protest announcements that federal disaster recovery funding would soon end. Attendees met with government officials; the federal recovery funding was reinstated. Zimbabwe: Despite the Zimbabwe Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld their right to assembly, police have continued to arrest and harass members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). The RFK Center will assist WOZA in filing a petition to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR). Recently, the RFK Center secured a $10,000 U.S. State Department grant to provide security and a new office for WOZA. In addition, the RFK Center will help digitize WOZA’s extensive handwritten archives. Advocacy: The RFK Center continues to urge the UN to include human rights monitoring in its Western Sahara mandate. In 2010, staff members helped gather an international coalition to file a written submission to Morocco’s Universal Periodic Review. The RFK Center brought Aminatou Haidar to the U.S. where she met with members of the United Nations and the U.S. government in preparation for the vote on the mandate’s renewal. In June 2012, the RFK Center presented its submission to the Council in Geneva. In August 2012, Kerry Kennedy led a delegation of human rights experts to Western Sahara and Morocco. The media attention given to this mission resulted in several attempts to tamper with our website, traced back to Morocco, and a threat of kidnapping Ms. Kennedy (not substantiated). Global advocacy efforts: Through the RFK Center’s persistent advocacy work, the U.S. State Department has called on the Dominican Republic government to end these discriminatory policies. The U.S. State Department has consulted with the RFK Center, created a federal working group, and empowered the UNHRC to open a field office in the country. Organizing: Since 2007, the RFK Center has led a coalition of U.S.-based human rights groups working on nationality and migration rights issues in the Dominican Republic and arranged several congressional briefings, monitoring trips, and conferences. Most recently, the October 2011 Dominican Republic advocacy week enabled the U.S. government to demonstrate its public support to the cause and encourage the Dominican government to open a productive dialogue with the RFK Center’s coalition. Cases of Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú: The RFK Center works to pressure the Mexico government to transfer cases of military abuse of citizens into civilian court. In 2011, two cases such cases were successfully transferred to the civilian Attorney General’s office. In both of these cases women were raped and tortured by soldiers; the cases had languished in military jurisdiction for almost a decade. RFK Center secured a precedent-setting decision by Mexico’s supreme court giving victims of military violence the right to try their cases in civilian court. Press coverage: The RFK Center uses its resources to bring substantial press coverage to Tlachinollan’s emblematic cases and arrange regular delegations to the area led by Kerry Kennedy. Protection: The RFK Center pressures the state government to ensure basic protections for Tlachinollan’s work. We helped restore an office that had been closed since 2009 following to the murders of two indigenous defenders and attracted representatives from numerous embassies and NGOs to the opening. We organized the state government to provide police protection for the office during business hours. Release from arrest: The RFK Center intervened when Mixtec human rights defender Maximino Garcia Catarino was arbitrarily imprisoned and subjected to false charges in 2012. In response to our campaign, Maximino was granted unconditional release by a Guerrero tribunal after two months of detention.

Programs: The RFK Center has a successful history of collaborations with NGOs, universities, legal clinics, and the media on behalf of oppressed communities. It has six programs, whose goals are: o To create genuine partnerships with courageous human right activists around the world and help them achieve their goals over a six-year period (Partners for Human Rights) o To create change by introducing students an innovative curriculum, based on courageous human rights defenders, now used by over 500,000 students worldwide (Speak Truth To Power) o To work with fiduciaries and investors to factor human rights, environmental degradation, and governance (like corruption) concerns into their calculation of risk (Compass) o To support investigative journalists and authors who bring light to injustice (RFK Book and Journalism Awards) o To develop a presence in Europe for advocacy, STTP, and human rights training (RFK Europe) o To help develop effective policy for adjudicated youth transitioning to freedom (Juvenile Justice Program)

Community Stories

16 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 5

Last year my students and several staff members of my school participated in the Speak Truth to Power video contest sponsored by RFK center and NYSUT. In working on the video, our entire vocational training and special education center came together. The experience allowed our students to see a world beyond our classrooms and beyond our community. In addition several of the social justice lessons were valuable in helping my students to understand more about themselves and about the power of one. Through the project we were able to create a sustainable craft room that can be used both as at type of art therapy and as an aid for raising funds for charities. In the end, I can firmly state that without this opportunity several students may have abandoned their education. The contest and the curriculum became a very bright and positive spot at our center.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I absolutely love the compassion and commitment this organization brings to the movement of protecting human rights around the globe. Through the simple act of educating youth with the STTP project, they affect the generation that has the power to effect social change. They arm and empower people by bringing awareness to the atrocities that otherwise go unheard. And they tirelessly fight to recognize those who have devoted their lives to making an impact, those who would do so with or without recognition, but who are deserving of such. Inspirational is an understatement.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

It appears that Ms. Kerry Kennedy is now involved with a Scientology front group, Artists for Human Rights, and is using the reputation behind the RFK Center to promote the aims of a dangerous cult. Scientology has been under FBI investigation for Human Trafficking, Forced Abortions, Child Labor violations, just to name a few of their human rights abuses. One only needs to read the recent book by Pulitzer Prize winner, Lawrence Wright, titled "Going Clear" to scratch the surface on the human horrors placed on its members, critics, and adherents.

I would think that she would not want to sully her father's good name by associating with Scientology, which creates a Google footprint that I don't think this organization will want to have. Artists for Human Rights is a subsidiary of Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a hate organization that claims psychiatry was to blame for the Holocaust, and claims that homosexuals are hostile and should be disposed 'quietly and without sorrow'.

I really wish that Ms. Kennedy would do her research before risking the good name of this organization by associating with the front group of a destructive cult. She's making the RFK Center, by proxy, a front group for Scientology's recruitment activities and endorsing an organization with one of the worst human rights abuse reputations.

Review from CharityNavigator

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I had the privilege of serving as the Director of the Center for Human Rights for several years. The RFK Center is carrying out the impossible task of carrying on Robert Kennedy's unfinished work. His spirit of walking with those in the midst of struggle drives the human rights work. They do not work on the easy or most popular issues and they understand that change does not happen in a year or two, but requires a resource and time-intensive commitment over several years. The partnerships are genuine- combining the expertise and power of the activists with the RFK Center's access, resources and knowledge. Together, the RFK Center and its partners transform human rights situations, empower communities, and often save lives. Individual communities from Haiti to Chad have benefited from this work and the global human rights movement has been enriched by the RFK Center's example.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am a lawyer and human right advocate from Chad. I win RFK human right award in 2004 and it has chaged my life. the award has raised my profile in Chad and internationnaly. For six years I received RFK technical support that allowed me to establish the first Public Interest Law center in Chad to helppoor people have access to justice. RFK Center has also helped me meet organize advocacy for the best use of oil money and for peace in Chad. Even when my time is I continue to get support from the RFK center and that makes my life and my work a lot easier.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been working in human rights advocacy for more than a decade, and I would rate my collaboration with the staff and laureates at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights to be one of the most professional and effective work that I have done to advance human rights and protect vulnerable communities across the globe. Beginning in 2007, I worked with the RFK Center on a project to protect and advance the right to education of Afrodescendants and indigenous peoples in the Americas. Aside from its talented and creative staff, the RFK Center's strength is its collaborative work and constant support of its laureates to further local human rights advocates' goals and projects. During the course of our work, we were able to advocate effectively on the ground at the grassroots level, as well as take our findings and recommendations to the highest levels, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. I would highly recommend this organization in the future toward guaranteeing that voices are heard and action is taken to protect the rights of vulnerable individuals and communities globally.

Frank Mugisha

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

In 2011, I received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights. For a year now, I have been working with the RFK center on advancing LGBT rights in Uganda. Within this period together with the center, I have been able to reach religious groups , members of congress, artists & human rights groups in the United States to support my struggle in Uganda. Most importantly when, RFK center visited Uganda I was able to start a dialogue with Ugandan members of parliament political leaders & key members of civil society, some have come out to support my struggle. This has also opened doors for the LGBT struggle in Uganda and my organization Sexual Minorities Uganda - SMUG in creating a dialogue with Ugandan politicians and getting support from more NGOs in Uganda. This kind of work is greatly helping me and my colleagues in Uganda to fight the anti homosexuality bill that was introduced in the Ugandan parliament this bill would criminalize homosexuality to life in prison and death in some instances if passed into law.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have been working on human rights for more than 35 years, most recently as Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. At the end of 2011 I was asked to do an in-depth evaluation of the RFK Center's human rights program. What I found was a unique, powerful and highly efffective model of working in genuine partnership with individuals and organizations that are on the front lines of some of the most challenging human rights situations in the world. The RFK Center establishes a long term relationship with these couragenous human rights defenders by listening carefully to their needs and developing a mutally agreed on action plan to help them in winning concrete victories for advancing human rights in their countreis and regions. The RFK Center, based on years of experience and a rich set of contacts and skills is able to offer each of their partners traning opporuniteis, the capacity to bring their demands to the attention of the U.S. government and congress, media attention that offers then both protection and a tool for advancing their objectives, and the mobilization of peoole around the world on their behalf. Through these partnerships the RFK Center has helped to free and protect human rights defenders, bring the violatiors of human rights to justice, establish policies that fufill the rights and improve the lives of thousands of people, and strengthen organizatations and movements that will continue to advance human rights long after the RFK Center has moved on to other partnerships, creating the ripples of hope of which Bobby Kennedy spoke and for which he lived. I have seen first hand the power given to those struggling for their rights in knowing that they are united with a global organization that is using all its resources to help them win their fight for freedom and dignity. I can honestly say that in all my years I have not seen any orgnaization better at working with and contributing to groups on the front lines of the human rights battle. This expereince of working in depth with people who are giving their all for human rights informs every part of the RFK Center including their important efforts to educate the public and inspire young people to follow the example of human rights defenders around the world by becoming involved in their own communities. In this way the RFK Center's work is not only life changing for those who suffer directly from the violations of human rights but all who are in a postion to defend those rights. I can not rate thier work highly enough.

Merrill P.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I enthusiastically recommend the RFK Center for the 2012 Top-Rated Nonprofits List. The RFK Center is a well-established organization with a more than 40 year history of supporting the work of individuals who speak out against injustice, often at great personal risk, to make the world more fair, just and peaceful. Whether honoring authors and journalists in the U.S. for documenting and reporting injustice or partnering with human rights advocates from around the world, the RFK Center first brings attention to the issues and then partners with advocates and organizations to help end problems such as discrimination, unfair labor practices and child labor, violence against women, lack of access to health care and many other societal problems. Robert Kennedy believed that together individuals could make a difference in the world and that we all must try. The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights is an organization dedicated to this vision and has had great success over the years improving the lives of people in all corners of the world.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am very happy to be writing a review of the Robert F Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. i currently work as a volunteer basis in the NY office as Coordinator of Special Projects. In that role I interact on a daily basis with all aspects of the organization and much of the staff. I am unequivocally impressed by the passion, dedication and professionalism of the members of the RFK Center team. The Center's role is to advance human rights and alleviate suffering by encouraging individual action. They do this in a multitude of ways and involve a large number of projects and events designed to raise money, of course, but also awareness of the human rights violations around the world and the Center's goal of alleviating those abuses. I work on a daily basis with the development team and the administrative staff and various others working in the programming parts of the group. I have seen hard work and teamwork based on specific goals lead to successes in terms of and educating students and adults alike in human rights violations currently underway, and changing the lives of groups of people who need help. I love working at RFK because of that very reason...seeing what individual actions and the power of Robert F. Kennedy's legacy in action.

Advisor

Rating: 5

The RFK Center is a vibrant and active organization that is making real changes in poeple's lives around the world. Their focus on education and action is accurate and effective. I have worked with the RFK Center for the past two years on their Speak Truth to Power curriculum. I wrote the elementary curriculum for Speak Truth to Power and worked with several members of the organization. I am a kindergarten teacher at The Hewitt School and we served as the pilot school for the new curriculum last year. Now I am working with teachers from other schools, and educators from the RFK Center, to spread the word and get human rights education into K-3 schools around the world!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am delighted to offer comments and my wholehearted endorsement for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and especially the work on curriculum about human rights defenders, Speak Truth to Power. STTP is an initiative and curriculum the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights developed in collaboration with my union, the New York State United Teachers. The curriculum introduces students from elementary to high school to the field of human rights and human rights issues. It does so through the stories of courageous women and men from around the world who defend those very rights, giving voice to the voiceless from the most remote regions of the globe to the heavily populated urban centers right here in the United States.The Speak Truth to Power lessons provide a rich curriculum aligned with rigorous common core learning standards. Parhaps most importantly, the lessons provide opportunities for students to submit their own ideas and make their own judgments about the world around them. The lessons' focus on practice encourages young minds to see how they, too, can take action and become defenders in their own right. The universality of the defenders engages students from all socio-economic backgrounds and provides examples of how people in desperate circumstances have empowered themselves and others to speak up and speak out.
This commitment to educate the next generation of human rights defenders lifts the RFKCJHR above many other worthwhile advocates by understanding and making part of its mission passing on the obligation to defend those who advocate for social justice and, yes, when necessary, speaking truth to power even in the face of tyranny and personal danger. The record demonstrates that, led by President Kerry Kennedy, the center is willing to travel to places of great danger to expose human rights violations and to defend those who speak out against oppression and the denial of basic human rights. Taking this to the next step by educating future generations is indeed a continuation of Robert F. Kennedy's understanding that educating our youth is the greatest weapon in defense of social justice. As a board member, partner and witness to its work, I know that the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is truly a gift to those who advocate for and defend justice throughout the world.

verastrem

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

My name is Vera Stremkovskaya, I am human right defender from Belarus, who lives now in Sweden. I am one of the human rights defenders fI took part in many events of the STTP, as well as presentation of the book in USA and Qatar, exhibitions of the portraits and educational program of the RKF in Europe, Italy that year, as a speaker. I think the activity of the RKF is very important, and mostly in a field of the promotion and defending human rights in the world. After the information about human right defenders and there praktikal experiences was collected and summarized in the book, very important to share that information now with everybody who working ore study in a field of human rights. There for I was make the exibition from the book and infromation about RFK and STTP on the day of the human right in Göteborg that year, on September 8, 2012, and I will continue to share that information throught the exibition about STTP and RKF in the Hissingen Lbrary in Göteborg from the november 13, 2012. I am very much appreciate the RKF office in Washington, and RKF office in Europe for there help with the organisations of that programs and exibition, with the matherials they had sent to me and all information I was provided by them. I am very much happy to participate in a STTP and RKF programs in Sweden, as well as presentation of the book which will be in October 26 in Stockholm and the Bingolotto event for human rights and STTP in May 2012., in Stockholm. I think it is very important activity. And I am glad i can take part in that activity now. I enclose a few photos from our exibition in Göteborg, on October 8, 2012, with the collegues from the Cultural department of the lundby city Göteborg, and more photos from the educational program on May 2012 in Italy, RKF in Europa, and STTP and Bingolotto event in Stockholm on May 2012.

Advisor

Rating: 5

As a career educator, I've long held the belief that a fundamental goal of schooling should be to develop within students an understanding of human rights and the inspiration to take action toward assuring social justice for all. In aiming to fulfill that goal as the Superintendent of Schools of a school district in suburban NYC, I found a powerful partner in the RFK Center's remarkable 'Speak Truth to Power' program. Reflecting RFK's deep passion and relentless drive toward defending the rights of others, STTP - the book, play and lesson plans - profoundly transforms students' view of the world and inspires them towards social activism. Simply stated, it changes lives!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My first Experience with the RFK Center is when I worked on a RFK curriculum project through my State teachers union--New York State United Teachers. Of all the big ideas that can be taught in social studies, one could argue that teaching students to value each other as human beings is perhaps the most important. Whether it is in appreciating diversity, understanding our shared humanity, or seeing that civilization is fragile, this concept is at the heart of who we are as a society and as educators. The RFK center understands this and provides outstanding human rights resources and opportunities for educators though the Speak Truth To Power program.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My first RFK Center volunteer experience was soon after the Tiananmen Square crack down. The Center helped organize one of the largest demonstrations outside the Chinese Embassy. Juggling many interests and concerns, the Center helped pulled together not only a large demo but one that was on message and clear regarding human rights. From that point on, I have always looked for ways to partner and/or volunteer with the center. One opportunity that came my way was to help develop the Center's human rights education program, Speak Truth To Power - this experience has been amazing, transformative and at times a little challenging. The RFK Center does so much, touches on so many issues that at times it can be a little overwhelming but in the end, the work is important and someone has lead the way.