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MacArthur Foundation awards go to 11 nonprofits

/ Source: The Associated Press

A group that promotes sexual health in India, a Chicago-based center that fights to end poverty and an environmental group in the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan are among the 11 winners of the 2010 MacArthur Foundation grants for nonprofit organizations.

The awards of $350,000 to $1 million announced Wednesday recognize creative work "by organizations that deal with the hardest problems humanity faces," said Bob Gallucci, the Chicago-based foundation's president.

Recipients of the 2010 "Award for Creative and Effective Institutions" include an organization named for R. Sargent Shriver, the former Peace Corps director, who died Tuesday at age 95.

"We're delighted, humbled and excited about getting this award," said John Bouman, president of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago. The timing of the award's announcement, coinciding with Shriver's death, is "tinged with irony," he said.

The awards go to groups with budgets under $5 million, such as the San Francisco-based Bay Area Video Coalition, which teaches artists and filmmakers to use digital technology to inspire action.

"It's a huge lift," executive director Ken Ikeda said of the $1 million award the coalition received. "It's nothing we aspired to, nothing we thought about, so it truly was a gift."

The awards have been given since 2006 by the same group that bestows $500,000 no-strings-attached "genius grants" to individuals. They are aimed at organizations that previously have received help from the MacArthur Foundation, which does not seek or accept nominations for the awards.

The Chicago-based National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities had received MacArthur support to study how Mexican and Salvadoran migrants generate income for the national budgets of their home countries when they send money back home. The group will use its new $350,000 grant to build a reserve fund, said executive director Oscar Chacon.

"With the recession and the growing anti-immigrant feelings, this encourages a group like us to keep on, to continue moving forward and to feel we're not alone in this difficult journey," Chacon said.

Other winners include Action Research & Training for Health, which promotes sexual health in Rajasthan, India; the Royal Society for Protection of Nature in Thimphu, Bhutan; the Urban Institute's Tax Policy Center in Washington; REDRESS in London, which fights for justice for torture survivors; the Social and Economic Rights Action Center in Lagos, Nigeria; and the Sociedad Mexicana Pro Derechos de la Mujer in Mexico City, which protects the rights of Mexican women.

The MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent group that has assets of more than $5 billion. It hands out about $220 million in grants a year.