The Gjelina Foundation
The Gjelina Foundation is a 501c3 registered nonprofit dedicated to uplifting communities through the support of programs committed to food, farming, arts, and environmental sustainability.
Born out of our experience and focusing on what we know best, food and art, the Gjelina Foundation focuses on providing students in Venice with high-quality hands-on learning opportunities centered around these two core tenents — with the aim to help keep kids in school, keep them engaged, and instill life lessons and skills.
We believe it is the responsibility of foundations, community leaders, and local voices to join together to take action in our communities — we’ve seen firsthand that when we step in to provide students with hands-on learning programs, something changes. Our goal is to serve every student in the Venice LAUSD.
Our Ongoing Work in Venice:
In 2009, Gjelina founder Fran Camaj started peeking into local public schools and was alarmed to find such an immense lack of resources at the schools in the Venice community. A former LAUSD school teacher himself, Fran began volunteering locally at Westminster Elementary School as a teaching assistant. Fran encouraged Gjelina staff to do the same, dubbing the efforts the Gjelina Volunteer Program (GVP). Since then, the Gjelina team has volunteered at over 75 events and has spent more than 2,500 hours with students at various public schools, as well as with farmers at many nonprofit organizations and businesses, to transform the way people think about food.
In 2015, in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Venice, GVP began investing in and upgrading the Venice High School Learning Garden and established the Chef’s Club and the Gjelina Apprenticeship Program.
In 2017, Venice High School chose to begin self-funding our program and hired former Gjelina Foundation director Angela Hughes on a full-time basis to run the garden and the Culinary Arts Program.
In the years between, Gjelina Volunteer Program transitioned into an official 5013C and launched as Gjelina Foundation.
To date, Gjelina Foundation has been exclusively funded by Gjelina Operations. Our current goals are to bring in external funding through private donations, grants, shared initiatives with other nonprofits and internal funding through restaurant initiatives within the Gjelina Group and public support of Gjournals.
We Also Support:
70% of our team is from or has family based in Oaxaca. Supporting the direct families of our team members — as well as connecting with organizations within Oaxaca — is a core part of our Foundational support.
Innovando la Tradición is a non-profit organization that works hard to revitalize the pottery tradition in Oaxaca, the most culturally diverse state in Mexico, through social and participatory design, solidarity economy, and cultural development.
Through their retail arm, Colectivo 1050°, the group has fostered an ongoing artisan-owned cooperative with potters from more than seven communities in Oaxaca and its surroundings. Their vision is to preserve the legacy of tradition while creating a prosperous future for local families, communities, and craft. Their simple and elegant designs bridge rural and indigenous worlds with urban modernity, the wisdom of tradition with the dynamism of innovation.
We will establish a Gjelina Group teaching kitchen and restaurant in Oaxaca that teaches transferable skills to be utilized both in our, and with any, restaurant group in the US. This will include hospitality training in all positions (including front and back of house), financial control and business management training, HR training, and ESL. Our aim is to allow for a faster track into better positions within hospitality, breaking some of the economic injustice experienced by people of color.
New York City
In searching for a way to support food education as we started to explore opening in NYC, in early 2016 we began a relationship with the Lower Eastside Girls Club, an organization connecting girls and young women to healthy and successful futures, which resonated strongly with Shelley based on teachings from Dr. Raj Patel and Paul Hawken on the education of girls and women with respect to the impact on environmental sustainability. The eye-opening education that the LESGC has offered over the last 25 years — particularly with regards to social justice — have also contributed to future POC female leadership.
Their 35,000 square foot community center offers a safe haven with programs in the arts, sciences, leadership, entrepreneurship, and wellness for girls in middle and high school, with facilities including a Maker Shop, biology lab, Alphabet City Art School, Center for Media and Social Justice, Sound Studio for music production and our radio station/podcast, WGRL (Where Girl Radio Lives); Design Shop for fashion design; a rooftop farm; full culinary kitchen and cafe; and 64-seat state-of the art, 30-foot dome planetarium. We offer over 50 unique programs a week, at no cost to girls and their families.
The Gjelina Group worked alongside the LEGC to help establish relationships with Upstate farms to provide and donate produce for daily meals in 2016-2017, and to assist in foundational food, produce, and gardening-driven programming that could be sustained internally on an ongoing basis. Continuing our relationship with the Lower East Side Girls Club, we will work to directly collaborate on extending and cultivating their existing farming and culinary programs for middle and high school students.
Learn More: https://www.girlsclub.org/
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