WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
28 Jun 2016 | Press Release

WOLA Announces Recipients of its 2016 Human Rights Awards

Honorees Show Unwavering Commitment to Human Rights in the Americas

Washington, D.C.—WOLA (the Washington Office on Latin America) is proud to announce the recipients of its prestigious Human Rights Awards for 2016. Each year, WOLA presents this award to organizations or individuals who exemplify a commitment to WOLA‘s vision for the future, where human rights and social justice are the foundation for public policy. The 2016 Human Rights Awards recipients have shown unwavering dedication to advancing human rights in the Americas. This yearWOLA is honoring:

  • Bill and Paula Clapp, founders of the Seattle International Foundation (SIF), for their visionary and catalytic commitment to human rights and economic development in Central America.
  • Casa Alianza, a network of shelters for youth at risk in Honduras, for their critical and courageous work to protect and empower children and adolescents.

Describing this year’s recipients, WOLA’s Executive Director Joy Olson said, “At a time when we’re seeing extreme and widespread levels of violence and poverty in Central America, we want to recognize people who give us hope. The Clapps and Casa Alianza do just that. They show us how people in very different circumstances can work to address both immediate human needs and the root causes of violence and poverty.

Bill and Paula Clapp are being recognized for their decades of philanthropy in Central America. The Clapps first pioneered new approaches to microfinance at Global Partnerships, a social impact-investing firm they co-founded in 1994. They have since helped create Seattle’s internationally renowned culture of philanthropy, working with other local leaders to found the Initiative for Global Development and Global Washington, before launching the Seattle International Foundation in 2008. The Seattle International Foundation works to reduce poverty and promote equality in Central America by supporting high-impact organizations driving social change in the areas of leadership development, research, and public policy. At a time when so little U.S. philanthropy is directed to Central America, their commitment is catalyzing others to follow their lead in directing needed funds to the region.

On receiving the 2016 Human Rights Award, Bill Clapp said, “Over the past decades we have seen a disappointing level of change in Central America, where violence and lack of education and opportunity have continued to be the norm for far too long. We cannot fathom our country’s lack of support for a region that is both our close neighbor and increasingly, a source of new U.S. citizens. However, we see growing concern and leadership from younger generations in Central America and local organizations, which gives us hope that change can come about. We are honored to receive this recognition and are fully aware of the many people who daily and at some risk serve the poor and disenfranchised of their countries. We hope one day that will not be necessary.

Casa Alianza in Honduras is a network of shelters protecting children and adolescents who face the devastating effects of violence. They provide shelter and support to youth at risk who have fallen victim to violence, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, substance abuse, and increasingly, deportation from the United States and Mexico. Under the leadership of National Director José Guadalupe Ruelas, Casa Alianza is providing valuable lessons on how to disrupt violence and turn around the lives of youth at risk. In recognizing Casa Alianza, WOLA is also commending the courage of Ruelas and his staff, who work selflessly and often times at the expense of their personal security.

On receiving the award, Ruelas said, “WOLA’s recognition means so much to us. We work with children who are fleeing unimaginable levels of violence, in a country whose government has not been able to adequately deal with the grave situation these kids are in. Parents often times have no one to turn to when their children are under threat. We’ve stepped in to fill the void, but the country needs long-term solutions.

Past award honorees include Colombian human rights organization Justicia y Paz, Senate aide Tim Rieser, former Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, Sen. Tom Harkin, Rep. George Miller, Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, Executive Director of the Myrna Mack Foundation Helen Mack, and the Salvadoran online newspaper El Faro.

The awards ceremony will be held in Washington D.C. on October 13 at 7p.m.


Kristel Mucino
WOLA Director of Communications
+1 (202) 797-2171