New fund aims to help endangered LGBT people flee

Denis LeBlanc, Editor

Click image to link to the Safe Passage Fund.
Click image to link to the Safe Passage Fund.

A new emergency fund is seeking contributions to help LGBT people and allies flee from “immediate threats of arrest, attacks, violence and persecution in countries where harsh laws have fostered a climate of extreme homophobia.”

This global, United States-based fund joins several existing Uganda-based funds that are assisting LGBT people during the crisis triggered by passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill there.

A Ugandan health worker sought by police for alleged “support of homosexuality” at an HIV clinic is the new fund’s first case.

The HIV clinic volunteer, Dorcas Awena, would be flown to Canada if the remaining cost of her airfare is raised, The Advocate reported.

The new Safe Passage Fund is sponsored by the longstanding Urgent Action Fund.
The new Safe Passage Fund is sponsored by the Urgent Action Fund.

The announcement of the Safe Passage Fund by its sponsoring organization, the Urgent Action Fund, states that contributions “will be used exclusively for emergency support to help individuals in immediate danger seeking refuge elsewhere.”  The announcement did not mention costs of resettlement and the expenses incurred in the asylum process.

ill be used exclusively for emergency support to help individuals in immediate danger seeking refuge elsewhere – See more at:

Any additional funds that are raised will be disbursed among LGBT people and activists in Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and elsewhere seeking immediate safe passage out of homophobic environments, the Advocate article said.

As of April 19, the fund had raised $2,820 of its $5,000 goal.

Image from Kenyan protest, used to promote the Rescue Fund to Help LGBT People Escape Africa
Image from Kenyan protest, used to promote the Rescue Fund to Help LGBT People Escape Africa

The Safe Passage Fund was created more than a month after the Rescue Fund to Help LGBT People Escape Africa was launched by South Africa native Melanie Nathan, an advocacy blogger in  California. She raised $14,000 in emergency funds through an Indiegogo campaign.

That fund came under attack by several activists, including social commentator Melanie Judge, who wrote for The Guardian:

The forced flight of LGBTI from persecutory regimes will require interventions to provide places of refuge and safety. However, promoting an “escape” from Africa to “greener” US pastures, without simultaneously addressing the underlying conditions that force this migration, is dangerous and opportunistic.

Dislocated from Africa-based struggles for social justice, these feel-good interventions offer no long-term solution to the systemic issues that drive homophobia. At best they are palliative and patronising, at worst they reinforce the victimhood of Africans and the saviour status of westerners.

This is part of the logic that keeps the “homosexuality is un-African” discourse in play.

Nathan responded:

Some people have questioned the use of the word ESCAPE – concerned it taps into sterotyping views of Africa.  Allow me to explain. I have received scores of heartbreaking letters from persecuted LGBTI people who all have a common phrase:- “Please help me escape” – I am sorry to say but in the instance of this form of persecution – Africa had earned the truth! The truth being that there are thousands of Africans seeking to escape those who believe their love is “UNAFRICAN!”   Let me ask you – had Ann Frank said “Please help me escape?” Would you have denied her the use of the word?  Then why should Africans in hiding for persecution be forced to use another word?  I honor the request of the survivors of this persecution and will keep using the chosen word.

Nathan reported that her fund has provided shelter, safe housing, transport, passports and food for more than 30 LGBT people in Africa. On April 18, she launched a second fund on Indiegogo, LGBT Africa Rescue Fund 2, which seeks $5,200 to provide food, shelter and medicine for LGBTI Africans in hiding, as a result of new anti-gay laws.

These North America-based funds are in addition to Uganda-based fund drives.

Uganda-based funds

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Photo courtesy of
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Photo courtesy of

The Safety for Uganda LGBT Community and Court Cases fund drive was launched last week by Ugandan activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera on behalf of the coalition of Ugandan organizations fighting the anti-gay law, it seeks donations to help people under threat because of that law, including “safety funds, relocations and other emergency actions,” as well as lawyers’ costs and, if necessary, evacuation from the country. The fund was established on in response to “illegal arrests and detentions, cases of suicide, evictions by landlords, beatings and lots of death threats,” in order to allow “LGBT Community Security Team [to] carry out its work effectively.”

So far, the fund has raised $2,780 of its $20,000 goal.

Also on, gay-friendly Bishop Christopher Senyonjo has launched a campaign called Help St. Paul’s Provide Emergency Support to LGBT Ugandans in response to death threats targeting members of his St. Paul’s Reconciliation and Equality Centre (SPREC) in Kampala.

Senyonjo said he will disburse funds based on his assessment of community members’ greatest needs, including costs such as $24 for transportation to a rural community for safety, $40 for food for a month, $60 for emergency medical treatment for an injury and $200 for safe housing for three months for a community member who has received threats.

The first focus is on John and Claude, “loyal members of SPREC’s chapel,” who were warned by a group of motorcyclists before President Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-gay bill on Feb. 24, “Once Museveni signs the bill, we will beat you. If we get the chance, we will kill you. This is your warning.”

This fund has so far raised $2,690 of its $4,000 goal.

Those are in addition to the Protecting LGBT Ugandans from Mob Violence fund, also on, launched in February. It has raised $7,796 of a $10,000 goal to support a Ugandan LGBT security team.

That money is for “supporting grassroots LGBT Ugandans to relocate to safer areas, funding security training, providing emergency support in times of dangers,” including $600 for security training for 70 high-risk community members; $250 per person for safe housing (which is in high demand); $50 per case for verification, documentation, and liaison with lawyers; $100 per week for a security hotline; and $50 per week for a safe meeting space for the security committee.

Eastern Uganda

At the new Safe Passage Fund, the first appeal focuses on Dorcas Awena, the HIV clinic volunteer at Gender-Equality and Health Organization (GEHO) who is reportedly facing arrest in Jinja, eastern Uganda. Activists there state:

Uganda map
Uganda map

Dorcas Awena is on the run.  She avoided arrest attempts three times this week. Her alleged crime: support of homosexuality.

Dorcas has worked since 2008 as a volunteer at an HIV program. Under Uganda’s draconian new Anti-Homosexuality Law, her actions are now deemed suspect and a possible crime.  Dorcas is in hiding, after her name was broadcast on six local radio stations in Eastern Uganda.

By the time you read this, it is possible Dorcas’ need for U.S. $300 for a flight out may have been met. However, the fund is seeking ongoing support to respond rapidly to the many probable pleas for rescues.

The Safe Passage Fund is an initiative of the well-established woman’s group, the Urgent Action Fund, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt and tax-deductible charity in the United States, and their sister group U.A.F.-Africa. The fund’s objective is to help the most desperate individuals to get to safety and, if required, evacuate them quickly with “rapid grants,” usually made within one to seven days.

Here’s a link for donations to the Safe Passage Fund. Donations can be made by credit card, debit care or with PayPal.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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