It is our great pleasure to present this publication summarizing 20 years of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation’s activities.
The establishment of the Foundation was made possible thanks to the success of the Polish-American Enterprise Fund. The Enterprise Fund was created at the initiative of President George H. W. Bush under the “Support for East European Democracy Act” passed by the U.S. Congress in 1989. In the nineties, the Enterprise Fund played an active and important role in supporting the development of a market economy in Poland. Due to its effective investment operations, the Fund was able to generate a significant profit from the original $240 million granted to it by Congress. In 2000, based on an agreement between the governments of Poland and the United States, the Fund returned half of its initial capital – $120 million – to the U.S. budget, while the other half, along with the entire surplus, was earmarked for the newly established Polish-American Freedom Foundation’s endowment. This amounted to a total of $255 million.
The founders of PAFF had two primary goals in mind: helping consolidate the results of the Polish changes triggered by the momentous events in 1989, and sharing Poland’s experiences in its transformation with other countries. Such broadly defined objectives had to be narrowed down. In its activities in Poland, the Foundation decided to focus on those communities and groups that needed the most support during the period of transition, especially in villages and small towns. As a result, two leading issues have dominated PAFF programs since inception: levelling the playing field in education along with improving the quality of education overall, as well as supporting development of local communities and building social capital within them.
Over the 20 years of activity, the Foundation has launched 37 programs for which it provided almost $216 million of its own funds and attracted nearly $210 million from outside sources. Those funds enabled us to grant more than 30,000 scholarships for university studies to young people from low-income families, to offer training workshops on modern teaching methods to 110,000 teachers, and to run 16,000 local projects in which hundreds of thousands of people took part. Those funds also allowed more than 14,000 student-volunteers to carry out 40,000 educational projects for 390,000 children and youth, and over 30,000 local leaders and NGO managers to participate in professional training to improve their qualifications and skills.
As a result of cooperation with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PAFF received a grant of $31 million to implement the Library Development Program in Poland, part of the international “Global Libraries” undertaking. The Library Development Program transformed almost 4,000 Polish libraries in villages and small towns, turning them into modern centers of education, culture and information teeming with civic activity. About 10,000 librarians participated in training workshops, while their institutions received modern computer equipment, software, and free access to the internet.
A few years ago, a unique institution – the School of Education of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and the University of Warsaw – was opened in Warsaw. This innovative program was created in close cooperation with Columbia University Teachers College in New York. The School of Education is the first full-time postgraduate study program in Poland that combines theoretical classes with practice lessons at school, equipping students to enter the teaching profession fully prepared.
From the beginning, the Foundation has been active in sharing the experiences gained by Poland in the course of her systemic transformation and integration with the European Union. PAFF has supported more than 1,000 projects of cooperation between Polish NGOs and their partners in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia. PAFF study tours have enabled almost 10,000 university students and young professionals from the East to visit Warsaw and many other Polish cities, along with smaller localities. If you add to that the number of Lane Kirkland Scholarships Program participants, this means that more than 14,000 people have visited Poland thanks to PAFF programs since 2000.
For nearly 10 years the Foundation has had its own building in Warsaw where its Representative Office in Poland is located. This investment proved very useful as it considerably increased the ability of our organization to carry out numerous activities. Thanks to its modern conference infrastructure, nearly 1,000 events in the Wilanów office have been organized since 2011. They included workshops, seminars, training sessions and other meetings. Every year these events are attended by more than 2,000 participants of PAFF programs.
All those numbers clearly show the broad scope of PAFF’s activities. They are the product of the huge engagement and hard work of many people. In this special 20th anniversary year, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all the partners, civic leaders, NGOs and other institutions involved in the implementation of PAFF’s undertakings. First of all, we express our great appreciation to those organizations that took on the role of PAFF Program Managers; our successes are achieved thanks to their teams of experienced, creative, and enthusiastic individuals.
We would also like to express our tremendous gratitude to the Members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. We can always rely on their unwavering support, good will, knowledge, and experience. We truly regret that some of them left us before they were able to witness our 20th anniversary. We are missing John P. Birkelund, who served as Chairman of the Board of Directors until 2012, Zbigniew Brzeziński, Robert G. Faris, Nicholas A. Rey, John H. D’Arms, Aleksander Koj and Frederic M. Bohen.
Finally, we want to emphasize that none of our activities would have been possible without the everyday involvement of the PAFF team. We have had the pleasure of working with a truly amazing group of people from the very beginning of our operation. We would like to take this opportunity to warmly thank our exceptional staff members.
The past 20 years was a very good time for the Foundation. We were able to achieve the goals we set for ourselves and regularly adapt our activities to the continuously changing environment. We firmly believe that the experience we have gained and the valuable support we have received from our partners will allow us to continue our mission successfully in the years to come.
Chairman of the Board of Directors
President and CEO
New York/Warsaw, March 2020