Julia Song

Julia Song, 20, is a filmmaker and NYE Tisch student dedicated to social activism.

DTLA’s Julia Song is one of eight global youth activists and social changemakers who launched the Juntanza Fund. 

The inaugural grantmaking fund from Comic Relief US’ Youth Advisory Council will further empower and resource youth-led organizations, leaders and activists. 

Youth Advisory Council members in this first cohort are from the United States, Colombia, Cambodia, Kenya and Somalia and are driving social change within their communities. The Juntanza Fund — which means “a union to help one another and achieve a common goal” and originates from the practices of Afro-descendant communities in Colombia — brings youth leaders to the table to decide where and how funding is granted.

Song is a 20-year-old filmmaker and NYE Tisch student, who hopes to voice the narratives of underrepresented stories with authenticity.

The council developed the proposal criteria and vetted 175 grantee applicants. The mission of the Juntanza Fund was to support youth from low-income backgrounds who have a vision to address challenges in their communities, including hunger and sustainable agriculture, improving access to quality education and mental health care and fostering youth leadership. 

Applicants were evaluated based on the level of youth-designed and inclusive approach to the program while also concentrating on the intersections of racial and gender equity. For this initial phase, the council awarded five grants between $5,000 and $10,000 to youth-led programs and campaigns with a registered nonprofit or fiscal sponsor.

“Youth will bring forward solutions to end the cycle of intergenerational poverty, and the Youth Advisory Council has emboldened our grantmaking approach in many ways,” said Alison Moore, CEO of Comic Relief US. 

“The Juntanza Fund is a powerful initiative that reflects our commitment to innovate by centering, elevating and empowering the voices and lived experiences of young people.” 

Juntanza Fund grantee partners receiving the initial investment include: 

• Arable Community Based Organization in Kenya: supporting youth, especially women in vulnerable and hard-to-access communities to adopt sustainable farming practices and better income security in arid and semi-arid lands.

• Diversify Our Narrative in the U.S.: championing a more diverse and anti-racist U.S. education system through student advocates and student-led programs.

• Fundacion Maleua in Colombia: providing mental health services for Afro-descendant communities, migrants and others living in vulnerable conditions and creating the first network of youth promoters of mental health in the region.

• Hawa Feminist Fund in Somalia: training young female activists to join the women-led coalition in offering mental health and psychological support for survivors of gender-based violence.

• Pepy Empowering Youth in Cambodia: helping girls and youth in rural areas of Cambodia access education and improve career readiness.

“As part of our grantmaking strategy for Comic Relief US, we have made a commitment to fully involve individuals who have experienced these issues firsthand, opening up our portfolio to the best ideas and innovations from young people and social entrepreneurs who are leaders in the communities,” said Ayo Roach, Comic Relief US’ vice president of grants. 

“What the sector needs now is to listen to, fund and partner with grassroots organizations that are addressing poverty through an intersectional lens and placing community needs at the center of their work.” 

Besides Song, the inaugural members of The Youth Advisory Council include:

Giuliana Bryan Alvarez, 24-year-old Colombian political scientist, ambassador of the One Young World organization, and project coordinator for youth and community empowerment at Manos Visibles (Visible Hands), a nonprofit organization in Colombia.

Olja Busbaher, 25-year-old whose family came to the United States in 1997 following the ethnic genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is currently a grants officer at the Malala Fund.

Fardosa Hussein, 26-year-old documentary photographer and filmmaker based in Somalia whose work ranges from covering humanitarian work to everyday life in Kenya and Somalia.

Rattana Mai, 24-year-old from Siem Reap, Cambodia, who serves as a scholarship project officer at PEPY Empowering Youth, an organization helping young Cambodians from rural areas continue their studies so that they can pursue careers, improve their quality of life, and uplift their communities.

Jordan Ott, 19-year-old Native American of the Sac-n-Fox Tribe of Oklahoma, who is enrolled at Haskell Indian Nations University and focused on mental health advocacy.

Alexis Ramon,18-year-old freshman at the University of Southern California who is passionate about social justice.

Shamyah Williams, 19-year-old student at Howard University and established public speaker with a passion for creating change for girls of color on a global scale.

“When you create a safe, supported and informed space for young people, it’s incredible how strong their voices grow,” said Madison McCormick, grant programs and communications manager, who spearheaded the Youth Advisory Council. 

“Too often the wisdom that young people hold from their lived experiences can easily be overlooked in an organization’s strategic decision-making process. Through the Juntanza Fund, Comic Relief US is recognizing the brilliance of our council members and authentically carrying out our commitment to invite youth into our work.”  

This year, the Youth Advisory Council will establish its second cohort with Comic Relief US. The newly launched $10 million Innovation & Growth Fund will support the council’s growth and the Juntanza Fund’s vision.

Comic Relief US harnesses the power of entertainment to drive positive change to create a just world free from poverty. The nonprofit has raised over $300 million by mobilizing donors of all ages to engage with causes through powerful content-driven campaigns and new digital platforms. 

Since 2015, Red Nose Day, Comic Relief US’ signature campaign to end child poverty has fundraised $275 million and positively impacted over 29 million children in the United States and around the world. Donations are invested in grantee partners and social impact programs that ensure children are safe, healthy, educated and empowered and that address the root causes of poverty in communities most impacted.