Executive Director, PWRDF
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) addresses not just immediate needs, but systemic ones as well by supporting local partners to respond to community priorities.
In 2011, the world saw 38.54 million displaced people and refugees, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Compare that to 2021, when that number rose sharply to a staggering 89.32 million people. This number translates to 1 in every 88 people on earth having been forced to flee their home. And now, the war in Ukraine is making that number rise even higher.
As bleak as this is, some agencies are making a difference.
Home is where the hope is
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) is one agency that fights the good fight, addressing not just the immediate needs of refugees but systemic ones as well.
Will Postma is the Executive Director of PWRDF. “We support internally displaced peoples overseas by first ensuring they have safe transitional shelter,” Postma said. “And then we work with partners to resettle refugees in neighbouring countries. At the same time, we we work to support a safe and healthy return to their own homes.”
This is just one area in which the humanitarian organization works, however.
Getting to the root of an issue
Ending poverty is considered foundational to all of PWRDF’s work.
“Sometimes this means ensuring that ‘smallholder’ farmers have the right crops for their field,” Postma said. “Often, when we’re providing emergency food relief, we ensure that communities have seeds with which they can plant anew, that they have tools with which they can care for their fields, that they have knowledge that may be appropriate in their context to grow vegetables, fruit, or other kinds of staple crops so that poverty isn’t just addressed in the short term — there’s a mid-to-long-term response, an intentional response, in the design of a program.”
The agency believes that the best way to address local issues is to engage with local partners who understand the minutiae of the challenges being faced — this includes in Canada, working with a cross-country advisory committee of Indigenous leaders focused on Indigenous-led priorities.
“Our local partners are the ones on the ground who understand the community context. They’re the ones who come up with innovative solutions,” stated Postma.
“One example would be our work in Kenya. One of our partners has seen less and less water availability in their community. They’ve come up with a solution to build sand dams in rivers. These dams slow the torrential waters that can fall during a rainstorm and allow for more of that water to sink in and replenish the aquifer, which can then be released through wells,” Postma said.
“Our role is to help vetted partners find a solution, support that solution, assist in providing what’s needed, and then share these best practices with our network of about 50 partners to perhaps enable them to help their own communities in even greater ways.”
PWRDF’s work centres around key philanthropic ideas of universal justice, health, and peace. The agency has aligned itself with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 in addressing climate change, food security, and water safety.
For this work, PWRDF is ranked in the Charity Intelligence Top 100, something it is honoured to be a part of.
“It allows us to look even deeper into how we can embed local agency in greater and greater ways and give more space, more scope, more priority to the voice of communities as they develop programs for funding,” Postma said.
PWRDF is supported in large part by donations from Anglicans and churches within the Anglican Church of Canada (the Primate is the head of the church), but it works separately from the national body. “We’re a human rights organization which supports the most vulnerable — those that are suffering indignity upon indignity,” added Postma. “It can be a difficult world when we see the needs around us, but there’s a lot of encouraging progress, where people’s lives are being improved, and that’s inspiring.”