Aqua = Leading Building Transforming
By Julie Balter | She Magazine • 1st Feature | January 2011 • Volume 12 • Issue 12
Aqua Foundation for Women: Leading, Building, and Transforming South Florida’s Community.
For many of us the Aqua image is associated with bikinis and beach parties. However, Aqua Girl® is growing up, thriving as a major fundraiser for its beneficiary, Aqua Foundation for Women (AFW), and – in turn – transforming the LBT community. In fact, AFW has emerged as Florida’s leading funding catalyst for LBT wellness and equality, awarding $369,000 in grants and scholarships since 2004.
As a result of Aqua Girl®’s philanthropic contributions, along with a growing list of donors and members, AFW has expanded its geographical outreach across South Florida and created year-round programs which impact essential LBT needs: equality, education, health, empowerment, leadership, mentoring, and cultural enrichment. “Aqua Foundation for Women is an invaluable and integral part of the South Florida LGBT fabric,” says Steve Adkins President and CEO of the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. “As the voice of LBT equality in our area, we rely on their leadership and focus to help direct our outreach and initiatives. AFW philanthropy has become a relied upon financial resource for many important local organizations and, the fund directives ensure the advancement of LBT awareness in many crucial areas.”
A core task for 2011 involves LBT women’s wellness. Health concerns are compounded for the LBT population because they will often delay or forgo medical assistance as a result of discrimination, mistreatment, or in some cases, just ignorance on the part of medical professionals.
AFW will actively address these concerns through a grant which will fund training for physical and mental health care professionals. The educational program calls for improved communications and best practices in servicing/caring for LBT women, and a directory of qualified, sensitively aware professionals who could be recommended for referral.
AFW will also spotlight unique community issues, including their sponsorship of the second annual Transgender Conference (Transcon). This year’s program will focus on legal issues. “The local and national transgender population lacks support and legislative traction,” says Schwartz. AFW is doing its part to influence awareness and progressive change.”
Another under-recognized area on the AFW radar is South Florida is LBT families, who sometimes lack substantive connections to other LBT families. “There’s a strong desire and need for these families to spend time with one another,” said Schwartz. “With this in mind, we will have a family barbeque in 2011.
AFW will still fix a firm focus on its hallmark scholarship and grants programs. In 2010, the foundation awarded $45,000 in scholarships to LBT women pursuing secondary and graduate degrees. “One of our main goals is to mentor young women as leaders, activists, and role models for our community,” said Laura Steckler, AFW Chair. The focus of the grants 2011 program is LBT families, Youth Empowerment and Transgender wellness and equality.
Since AFW’s philanthropy is directly tied to donations and member drives, it’s all the more meaningful to support festivals like Aqua Girl and all the Foundation’s events. Fortunately, for the AFW and greater South Florida, more activities will be scheduled throughout the year, On schedule so far: a breakfast before the Miami Beach Pride parade, the return of Aqua Affair, and events in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“AFW’s theme is Leading, Building and Transforming the LBT community in South Florida,” said Schwartz. “We, the board and staff, will lead, but it’s all of us together – the entire community – that will determine how we build and transform.” To find out how you can be involved, visit AFW’s website.