New York, NY – RTW Charitable Foundation (RTWCF), Areté Education and Hunts Point Alliance for Children today held an event to showcase their work helping South Bronx children and families, including those living in temporary housing, weather the COVID-19 pandemic and thrive. State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assembly Member Amanda Septimo joined them and discussed the impact of the pandemic on South Bronx families and the invaluable work the organizations are doing to help families in the area.
Founded as the charitable foundation arm of RTW Investments, LP, a leading healthcare-focused entrepreneurial investment firm with deep scientific expertise and a strong track record of supporting companies developing life-changing therapies, RTWCF partners with organizations conducting disease research and championing humanitarian causes.
While RTWCF has an initial focus on rare disease research, last year RTWCF quickly redirected its first round of funding to combat the devastating effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on many communities in New York City, with $1 million of gifts across 12 organizations. The lion’s share of the funding was awarded to 10 community-based organizations on the frontlines of some of the hardest-hit areas in the City, including Areté Education and Hunts Point Alliance for Children.
“The strength of the families and youth of the South Bronx was on full display today. The testimonials and conversations we had with students and leadership from Areté Education and Hunts Point Alliance for Children were inspiring and motivating. While the pandemic has presented significant obstacles to many who are already coping with institutional inequities, these organizations are supporting young people and families so that they can use their remarkable intellect and resilience to lift up both themselves and their communities. We are honored to be partnering with them on this work,” said Stephanie Sirota, president of RTW Charitable Foundation.
"Our students and alumni are learning how to be deeply compassionate to themselves, their families, other students, and our Mott Haven communities. The pandemic has given all of us new opportunities to re-evaluate our lives, our priorities, and what we can do to help others and ourselves survive and even thrive given the enormous barriers. Areté alumni in Mott Haven are at the front lines of our Areté Hope Network, a new program of expanded wrap-around supports we are now able to offer 25 families in the South Bronx and Harlem because of the RTW Charitable Foundation. Our community school model has allowed us to provide deep supports to families in temporary housing, but only to those families who are already able to advocate for themselves and find their way to us. Now, with RTW Charitable Foundation's investment in our organization's humanitarian efforts, we can systematically offer supports to families in our partner schools living in temporary housing. This enables us to begin removing barriers to children and teens accessing public schooling during the pandemic and reverse the learning loss we are seeing across the city and nation. It is truly humbling to see our alumni standing up to serve others in our community and showcasing the skills they have learned in our afterschool, summer, and internship programs," said Dr. Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg, executive director of Areté Education, Inc.
“The Hunts Point Alliance for Children believes that the continued inequities in health, housing, and food insecurity highlighted by the pandemic can only be truly changed by creating quality educational opportunities and economic pathways in the Hunts Point community. Through the support of the RTW Foundation, our responsive virtual tutoring program looks to the future on both counts – matching students with college tutors ensures that our younger learners have personalized academic attention and South Bronx college students acquire job skills and benefit financially,” said Jill Roche Gomez, executive director of Hunts Point Alliance for Children.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many cracks in our foundation –– from the persistent racial and economic inequality in our healthcare system, to the shortcomings of our social safety net. We have a responsibility to take care of our children and working families during these difficult times, while also ensuring our communities are better off than they were before the pandemic hit. We need to rebuild the systems in our society that perpetuate inequality and leave our children behind. The RTW Charitable Foundation, Hunts Point Alliance for Children, and Areté Education's ability to adapt in the wake of COVID-19 and serve our children, is a testament to the strength of their organizations. I am grateful for the many resources they are providing our children and for their longstanding commitment to our community," said New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, District 34.
"The South Bronx has been one of the hardest hit areas by COVID-19 in New York, and our neighborhood's children and families have borne the brunt of suffering in silence. I am grateful for the learning services and resources that RTW Charitable Foundation has provided during a time when systemic inequality has made it even more challenging for our families to survive and thrive. By centering the academic needs of young people and amplifying their voices, Hunts Point Alliance for Children and Areté Education have demonstrated today the power of community advocacy and partnership in effecting change," said New York State Assemblymember Amanda Septimo, District 84.
Before the program began, RTWCF packed 85 bags full of school supplies, with personalized notes, to give to students at both organizations. During the event, organization leaders, students, mentors and alumni conveyed the challenges facing their communities and how they are overcoming them through testimonials, a video presentation and discussions with students. The session concluded with a Commitment Circle facilitated by the Areté Education team where everyone present shared their personal commitments for the upcoming months to use their talents and energies to continue serving families and youth in the South Bronx.
In the spring, RTWCF will join Areté Education on a walking tour of Mott Haven to visit their partner school M.S. 223, The Laboratory School of Finance & Technology, and to see community refrigerators that various organizations and individuals maintain across the neighborhood as a grassroots effort to combat food insecurity.
In the coming weeks, RTWCF will hold days of action with other grantees, all of which are open to members of the press. On Wednesday, March 3rd, from 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM, RTWCF will, alongside grantees Harlem United and New York Cares, bring meals to homebound seniors in Harlem.
On Saturday, March 20th, in Jackson Heights, Queens, RTWCF and New Immigrant Community Empowerment will host a day dedicated to educating and helping immigrants access the COVID-19 vaccine. The time is TBD but will be in the midday hours.
In Manhattan’s Chinatown on Friday, March 26th from 12:00 - 2:00 PM, Send Chinatown Love, Think!Chinatown, Welcome to Chinatown and RTWCF will construct and paint outdoor dining spaces for Asian- and locally owned restaurants.