Family Independence Initiative Announces 3rd Annual Torchlight Prize Winners

Oakland, California (EastBayDaily) — Family Independence Initiative, a national nonprofit organization that reveals and accelerates the initiative that families take to improve their own lives, today announced four winners of its 2014 Torchlight Prize. Each self-organized group will receive a $10,000 reward for their work to strengthen families, build resilience, and increase self-determination among residents in their communities.

“The Torchlight Prize puts a spotlight on the power of collective action,” said Mia Birdsong, vice president, Family Independence Initiative. “Prize winners don’t wait for policy-makers, service agencies, or philanthropy to improve their communities—instead, they work together, pool resources, and make their own change. We congratulate this year’s winners and look forward to elevating the impact of their hard work.”

The 2014 Torchlight Prize winners are:

El Valle Women’s Collaborative, a Ribera, New Mexico-based organization that enhances the lives of local women and their families in the areas of economic and environmental sustainability and mental and physical health. The group was created when women from the Pecos River Valley came together to find ways to support one another. Within a month, the group had established a thrift store that allowed customers to pay what they could afford, instead of a set price. This model would help ensure that everyone in the community had access to what the store could offer. El Valle Women’s Collaborative now sends its overstock to support non-profit organizations in larger communities such as Las Vegas and Santa Fe.

HOLA Ohio, a Painesville, Ohio-based grassroots organization that focuses on community organizing, advocacy, and civic engagement. HOLA Ohio began as an informal group of northeast Ohio Latino immigrants looking for ways to protect themselves and their families from anti-immigration policies. It has grown into a movement encompassing four chapters with hundreds of members whose work has influenced local and national immigration policy and saved many families from separation due to deportation. Its members have been empowered through political education and civic engagement, after previously living in fear in the margins of society.

KhushDC, a social, support, and political community group in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. KhushDC is volunteer-supported group that provides a safe and supportive environment, promotes awareness and acceptance, and fosters positive cultural and sexual identity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ), and additional gender or sexual minority South Asians. The group’s membership includes a broad array of identities and represents countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and subcontinental diaspora communities from Africa and the Caribbean. KhushDC regularly collaborates with other D.C.-area LGBTQ organizations to host discussion groups, to participate in Gay Pride, and to host other events to further build a sense of community and belonging among its members.

North Oakland Restorative Justice Council, a Bay Area group that was organized in response to the violent murder of a community member, aims to break the cycle of violence in North Oakland—whether institutional or interpersonal—by helping to heal the victims and the offenders. Every month, the group reviews the month’s evictions, shootings, and other local conflicts and together they organize monthly trainings, fundraisers, healing circles, and impactful ways to advance policies around a restorative justice alternative to sentencing for youth in North Oakland.

“We often hear that families in low-income communities lack ambition or work ethic, or that they’re helpless and in need of direction. These assumptions blind us to what’s really happening,” said Mauricio Lim Miller, founder, president, and chief executive officer, Family Independence Initiative. “Across America, people come together everyday to counsel each other, to hold one another accountable in achieving their goals, and to create pathways to a brighter future for their families. By promoting their efforts, we hope to encourage others to invest in and help amplify the impact of these resident-led initiatives so that we can all have an equal share in the American Dream.”

For more information please visit To request an interview with a Torchlight Prize winner, contact Arron Neal at 213-568-3334 or arron(at)cfoxcommunications(dot)com.

ABOUT THE TORCHLIGHT PRIZE The Torchlight Prize was established in 2012 by Family Independence Initiative as a way to recognize and reward groups of everyday people for their efforts to strengthen their communities. To be considered for one of up to four annual $10,000 awards, nominated groups must be able to demonstrate a positive impact on their community. In addition, groups must live and act in the United States, and their origins must be informal, and not initiated by an organization, nonprofit, or government program or service. The Torchlight Prize is named after the Freedman’s Torchlight, one of the nation’s first black newspapers, established in Weeksville, a self-¬sufficient and thriving community built by African Americans, for African Americans in New York before emancipation. For more information, visit

ABOUT FAMILY INDEPENDENCE INITIATIVE Family Independence Initiative (FII) is a national nonprofit that collects information that reveals the capacity, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and talents of low-income communities and families. Applying this deeper understanding of what low-income families are already doing, FII collaborates with influencers and communities to reinvent the approach to resource development and ignite collective action towards greater economic and social mobility. Family Independence Initiative was founded in 2001 by Social innovator and MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Mauricio Lim Miller. Learn more at


Arron Neal