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Jo Anne D.P. Villarosa

Asian Pacific Fund

There’s a large cultural tapestry that thrives in California. Woven into part of that picture are people from every corner of Asia. And like any community, they have their share of issues – the Asian Pacific Fund (APF) was setup for that purpose. Since its inception in 1993, APF has been involved with linking donors to community organizations serving Chinese, Indian, Cambodian, Korean, and Thai (to name a few), addressing issues “ranging from health and human services to cultural preservation”. Their success and effectiveness have helped to distribute millions of dollars into the communities, helping to improve the lives of countless Asians in the Bay Area. Make sure to read up on APF in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.


Asian Pacific Fund






Jo Anne D.P. Villarosa




Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila, Philippines

Current residence

Castro Valley, CA


Bachelor of Arts, Major in Rhetoric – Bates College, 2006;
International Baccalaureate – Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, 2002;
Secondary Education – Manresa School, Philippines, 2000.

Work Experience

Asian Pacific Fund, Scholarship and Project Coordinator, 2006-Present



About the non-profit

The Asian Pacific Fund is a community foundation established to improve the well-being of all Asians in the Bay Area. The Fund connects donors to pressing community needs and helps them fulfill their charitable goals. By providing services and awarding grants to more than 80 Bay Area organizations, the Fund also supports a broad range of local groups that provide vital services to Asian Americans. These organizations serve Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese and other Asians in the region, and they run programs ranging from health and human services to cultural preservation. Since its inception in 1993, the Asian Pacific Fund has distributed nearly $3 million in grants and awards.

Most notable milestones

  • January 1995 – Launched “Growing Up Asian in America,” largest celebration of Asian American heritage month in the nation.
  • April 1996 – Published first research: “Perceptions & Realities,” an analysis of financial stability of Asian community organizations in the Bay Area.
  • September 1997 – Collaborated on national strategic planning for Asian American philanthropy.
  • December 1997 – “Growing Up Asian in America” community exhibit expands and reaches one million public library patrons a year for the first time.
  • Received first endowment gift.
  • February 1999 – Selected as a Grantee of The California Endowment under an intiative to expand Asian American philanthropy.
  • June 2000 – Completed distribution of first million dollars in grants and awards.
  • September 2001 – Published first health report, “A Chance for Lan & Her Family,” detailing health issues that disproportionately affect Asians.
  • January 2002 – Expanded support from The California Endowment under its $10 million Focus Funder initiative.
  • July 2002 – Renewed support as a Strategic Partner of the United Way of the Bay Area to raise and reinvent more philanthropic resources in the community.
  • June 2003 – 84 organizations eligible to receive grants; historical total of grants and awards: $2 million.
  • September 2003 – Released “Asian Outlook,” a first of its kind report on the state of Bay Area Asian Americans in need.
  • July 2004 – Received a million-dollar matching grant opportunity from anonymous donor. To date, the Asian Pacific Fund has raised $650,000 and is working to raise the remaining balance before the challenge expires in December, 2007.
  • May 2005 – Celebrated the 10th anniversary of our youth art and essay contest, “Growing Up Asian in America.” As of 2005, this program has distributed in excess of $250,000 in scholarships and prizes to hundreds of students.
  • June 2005 – Reached $2.5M in total grant distribution to community agencies.
  • September 2005 – Nationally distributed “Healing the Spirit: Treatment of Depression Among the Asian Elderly,” a unique health education film available in nine languages (English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hindi and Korean), to 2,000 libraries, health care and community based organizations.
  • May 2006 – Launched the Chang-Lin Tien Education Leadership Awards, in honor of Dr. Tien, the first Asian American to head a major American research university as chancellor of UC Berkeley from 1990 to 1997. The purpose of this award is to support the recognition, professional development and advancement of Asian Americans as leaders of colleges and universities. Each award recipient receives an unrestricted grant of $10,000.
  • June 2006 – Met million-dollar matching grant received in July 2004, 18 months ahead of schedule.v

What’s the niche?

The Asian Pacific Fund is uniquely positioned to respond to the needs of the Asian American community. The Fund works with over 80 affiliate agencies that provide a range of services to the diverse Asian and Pacific Islander ethnic groups. Some of these groups offer health and human services while others run art and cultural programs. The Fund makes grants in the seven counties of the Bay Area: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Solano.

By supporting the Fund and relying on our expertise, donors not only learn about and help address the urgent needs of today, but they also have the opportunity to invest in the future and build an institution that responds to the emerging needs of tomorrow.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

People who want to give back to the community, organizations that want to become affiliates and receive grants in the future – especially from underrepresented communities, anyone and everyone who is interested in the work that we do.

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Best way to keep a competitive edge

Regarding my work at the Fund and my life personally, paying attention to the details is really key in staying on top of things and keeping that competitive edge.

“Think in epic images, but be ready to sweat the small stuff,” I read somewhere. I remember getting wrapped up in the bigger picture, in wanting to make that big change, in being able to make that big difference. While all these are noble and good and necessary, I had to realize that I have to tackle the small things first, the details, because those are the foundational blocks of the big major ones. So there, be on top of everything, even, or most especially, the little things.

Of course, as a fortune cookie told me the other night, “work[ing] a little harder” gives you that edge, too.

If you just wake up each day thinking about how you’re going to get ahead of the rest or how to earn a million dollars so you can get your dream house or dream car, then really, what’s the point?

Guiding principle in life

I always go back to Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata every now and then. (Here’s a link to the text: http://hobbes.ncsa.uiuc.edu/desiderata.html)

And I’ve always been a firm believer in living a life that is not just about yourself, your needs and your wants. Simply put, living a life for others. If you just wake up each day thinking about how you’re going to get ahead of the rest or how to earn a million dollars so you can get your dream house or dream car, then really, what’s the point?

Yardstick of success

How many people whose lives you’ve changed for the better.

Goal yet to be achieved

The major life goal is to do something truly substantial for my homeland, the Philippines.

Other goals include: backpacking/NGO-hopping around the Philippines or the whole of Asia, getting my Master’s and Ph.D. and having a solo print exhibit someday.

Best practical advice

Again, attend to the details to get a really good big picture.

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

“It’s your life, do what you really want to do.” – Cernan Villarosa (Kuya Cern), my eldest brother, on pursuing a non-profit job/career (instead of more conventional and lucrative occupations such as being a doctor, lawyer, etc.).

Like best about what you do?

All the learning that’s going on. I love how I handle a lot of different programs and get to really learn hands-on – about policy, program design, etc. I also like the interaction I have with our college scholars. Seeing them go through a phase of life that’s really intense, and being able to help them get through it, in one way or another, is quite rewarding. Of course, the fact that what i do matters – that it impacts other people’s lives in a good way – is a big plus.

Like least about what you do?

The fact that I use a lot of paper! We recycle and print double-sided, but it still makes me feel bad to be killing all of those trees. We’re trying to convert to paperless applications and such, but it’s still an ongoing process.

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to join the Air Force of the Philippines.

What was your first job?

My first job was at the Security Department of Bates College (Maine) as a Safewalker and Dispatcher. This was for the student safety program on campus.

As for my first “real” job, that would be my current position as a Scholarship and Project Coordinator at the Asian Pacific Fund.

Biggest pastime outside of work

Aside from hanging out with family (boardgames, karaoke, movie-watching, etc.), I pull prints (a.k.a. printmaking/etching/intaglio).

Person most interested in meeting and why?

I’d love to meet Muhammad Yunus, or someone like him. I’d love to just discuss revolutionary and practical ideas that can really bring about social change. A day (or more!) of bouncing such ideas back and forth would just be amazing.

Three interesting facts about yourself

  1. As much as I believe in hard work and determination, I also believe that luck – being at the right place at the right time (and being ready when the right moment comes, of course) – plays a pretty good role in our lives.
  2. I can’t cook (except fry things here and there), but I can say that my fruit salad is an event in and of itself.
  3. I love planning and covering all the bases, but for the most part of my life, something better and quite unexpected almost always comes up at the last minute and, as long as my gut agrees to it, I just go for it.

Three characteristics that describe you

  1. Kakaiba (unique, strange, peculiar)
  2. Driven and Focused
  3. The “epitome of grace under pressure,” as our vice-president put it, and that’s thanks to my dad’s extremely calm and cool demeanor.

Favorite cause

I’ve always been supportive of Ashoka’s work in supporting social entrepreneurs.

Recently though, I’ve been reading up on human trafficking. Although I care about a lot of other causes such as fighting poverty, maintaining cultural diversity, etc., combatting human trafficking is something that really stands out to me. Having had a good and rewarding life that I am very thankful for, it’s very hard for me to know that there are people whose lives aren’t even theirs to live – especially kids as young as six years old who are being enslaved and abused and robbed of their happiness (or their basic humanity) at such a young age. In a world that’s becoming more and more globalized, human trafficking is a problem that really needs to be addressed, and I want to actively be part of the solution.

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Interview by Vanessa Chan
Introduction by Kaiser Shahid
Edited by Valerie Enriquez

Also this week

Ariel SantosTheeba Soundararajan

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