Advisory Board Spotlight: Christine Kim
The Community Fund for Women & Girls
There was a moment about a year and a half ago when Christine Kim felt she had to take a stand against the growing anti-Asian American hatred and violence in New Haven and across the country. She wasn’t sure she could.
“I was paralyzed with fear – emotionally, physically and mentally,” she says.
She thought about the women she served with on the Community Fund for Women & Girls advisory board and the women who ran nonprofits and came to share their stories and funding needs. When they saw a need or a problem facing women and girls in the Greater New Haven community, they went toward it and worked to solve it.
She felt a “great sense of connection and a responsibility to our greater community to step up myself and represent.” She founded aapiNHV, an Asian American Pacific Islander coalition. When she organized a rally covered by the news media, “a few hours later I was getting calls and so much support from the advisory board,” she says.
“The advisors are breakers of ceilings, barriers and walls, but they also are so dedicated to supporting future leaders,” she says. “They don’t rest on their laurels; they are always mentoring and supporting.”
She became part of the Fund’s advisory board in 2017 after her friend and former board chair Janna Wagner encouraged her. “It was my first foray into learning about local community philanthropy,” Kim says. “Philanthropy is something that’s very needed, especially as way to support the many small nonprofits and groups that do the serious work of making change.”
Encouraging women to find their voice and urging the next generation to discover new, creative ways to work on the many issues that matter to women and girls, has always been part of the vision of the Fund, she says.
She is proud of the work that’s been undertaken in this past year: the creation of the Girls of Color Mentoring Network and the ways the Fund remained resilient throughout the pandemic “keeping this work going even though we were virtual …keeping women and girls’ issues at the forefront in our communities.”
She also points to changes in the Fund’s grant structure. “We’ve had an amazing grants program, a great model providing grants to various nonprofits.” While she says that model has “plugged some of the holes in the dam, what the Fund is thinking about now is `How do we prevent the flooding in the first place? Where is this all coming from?’”
In response, Kim noted that the board has held deep conversations with legislators, policy makers and nonprofit leaders, discussing the ways signature grants could be used to make large changes in childcare policies to support family leave and how clinical perceptions of women’s health.
“Grantees are invited to speak, to tell their story. That’s the most powerful thing,” Kim says. “The Fund is not top-down, prescriptive. The kind of deep thought it seeks – getting into the roots of the problems and also the solutions to the challenges that women and girls face in our area – is very inspiring.”
Kim lives in New Haven with her husband and two children. It’s a city she loves and one she first called home as an undergraduate at Yale University. “I did a lot of feminist activism when I was in college,” she says. “I felt such a great community with women through the years, much more powerful than I’d ever imagined.”
She left to work in environmental policy in Asia and returned several years later and immediately began volunteering in issues she cared deeply about, including social justice, food justice and food sustainability issues.
One of her friends from college, Jennifer McTiernan, founded CitySeed, a New Haven nonprofit working towards a more equitable food system, and invited her to get involved. On the day of the first farmer’s market in 2004, Kim was there to help. “I think I dressed up as a tomato!” she says. Today Kim chairs the CitySeed board and is a member of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group.
As she begins her third and final term on the Fund’s advisory board and after having served as vice president for the last two years, she is excited about the influx of ideas that new members will bring to the board. And as the Fund moves towards its 30th year in 2024, Kim says with excitement that there’s much work to be done. “We’re very motivated by what’s going on in the national landscape, the 2024 election, the impact of the pandemic, which is still overwhelmingly affecting women and children, and the economy,” she says.
She hopes that her work with the Fund will show her children “what women and girls can do” and that it might also let them see “what the world should look like.”
“That’s something we never give up on,” Kim says. “We continually try to work on things. We can take steps back, but we always have to have hope. Having hope is being part of a community, listening to that community, showing up for that community and supporting it.”
This story was part of the Winter 2022 edition of the Community Fund for Women & Girls' newsletter.