Hometown associations (HTAs) are organizations created by migrants to connect their community of residence with their community in their country of heritage, providing a forum for migrants from the same area to gather, exchange experiences, and work together on issues of common interest. In addition to promoting their ethnic culture and heritage, these associations are platforms for diaspora philanthropy as they help to fund public works and social projects in their homeland communities. In 2005, for example, Mexican HTAs raised about $20 million. This type of giving back to the community is different from sending remittances because remittances are usually sent back to a few specific households, and have the biggest impact on those households. The money collected and fundraised by HTAs and sent back to hometowns helps to fund community projects that benefit everyone and can have a broader positive development impact.
In general, HTAs are voluntary and are usually led by a board of directors or elected officers. One of the primary activities of HTAs is fundraising for various projects in their home countries or for programming in their community of residence. Fundraising activities can include cookouts, cultural events, concerts, raffles, pageants, sports tournaments and more. In many ways, these activities provide a dual purpose, as they not only raise funds for development projects but they also fulfill the goal of promoting and celebrating their culture. In addition, while an HTA might have only 10 or 20 members, through its activities it can help to involve hundreds of people in the community. You can read more about HTAs and their development impact on the Migration Policy Institute’s Migration Information Source.
To scale their impact and understand community needs, some HTAs partner with organizations in their hometowns or with the government. For example, in Mexico’s Tres por Uno (Three for One) program the federal, state, and local governments match the funds that an HTA raises for development projects at a rate of three dollars for every one dollar the HTAs contribute.
Under the scheme, the town of Atacheo de Regalado in the state of Michoacán has implemented five projects with funds from US-based HTAs. Using these funds and matched money, Atacheo de Regalado has built turkey and goat farms, hydroponics green houses to grow vegetables and flowers for export, a factory for building loudspeakers and baffles, and a bull-fighting ring. Approximately 340 families have participated in the development and implementation of these projects.
In addition to fundraising money in order to promote development in home communities, HTAs also provide an integrative and supportive environment for recent immigrants. For example, the Nigerian Committee of Brothers Associated, a Nigerian HTA in Ghana, helps its members with settlement problems like finding accommodation. Such associations can also serve as a source of financial assistance for taking care of medical costs. HTAs are also important because they can promote their culture by celebrating traditional music and dance, dress, and food.
Are you part of a hometown association? If so, have you taken part in organizing any development programs in your home community? How has the hometown association been an important part of your integration and experience in the United States? We are eager to hear about your experiences.