In 2012, WASH’s first year, we were inspired by the creative, practical, and progressive work of the NY-based organization, The Laundromat Project, and through the visionary leadership of Zaw Win, Friends of the Buffalo Story, and with the generous sponsorship of Houghton College, Belle Center and Buffalo AmeriCorps, as well as the Richard W. Rupp Foundation, came into being at that time.
In its short history (which included a temporary 6 year relocation from our original digs in 2016ーyep we’re back:) WASH has received tremendous amounts of council and support from local shoulders including the Small Business Development Center, eco_logic studios, Charles Gordon Architecture, the Oishei Foundation, and most notably PUSH Buffalo, who purchased WASH’s original building at 417 Massachusetts Avenue in 2014 and has been advocating for us ever since.
In more recent history, since 2015, WASH along with 10 other local orgs comprising the Crossroads Coalition, has been generously funded primarily by the Chorus Foundation, a visionary, philanthropic organization funding intersectional justice work in frontline communities. The nature of this work centers around climate, economic, and racial justice, the framework for which is referred to as “Just Transition,” that is, transitioning from extractive economies to regenerative economies.
Over the past 20 years approximately 30% of the refugees resettled in New York State have come to Buffalo – more than have been resettled in New York City – and the majority live on the West Side. Many arrive here from refugee camps in Burma, Thailand, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, etc. where there have been limited opportunities for education.
Without the arrival of refugees, the population loss of the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Public Schools during the past 25-30 years would have been significantly greater, and consequently left our city much less diverse, and too, that much less of a global learning laboratory.
Helping this recent wave of refugees and immigrants thrive in their new home is a far greater task than the Buffalo Public Schools can meet. Certainly, there are multiple ways to address the myriad issues facing children, adults and families as they struggle to put down roots and become self-sustaining and contributing members of our neighborhoods and communities. The WASH Project proposes one way to do this, and that is by integrating free arts, access, advocacy and action at the street level.