Interim Co-Executive Director
Office: Los Angeles
Whelma Cabanawan has 17 years of nonprofit management, human rights advocacy, and community organizing experience. As the Interim Co-Executive Director and previous Deputy Director of Administration and Finance, Whelma is focused on guiding the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) to be an innovative and sustainable organization.
After witnessing the historic May 1 March in Los Angeles in 2006, Whelma was inspired to volunteer with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). From 2007 to 2013, Whelma served as CHIRLA’s Administrator. She supported voter mobilization programs, community education initiatives, and advocacy campaigns that led to historic wins, such as the C.A. Dream Act, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, and DACA.
Her passion for social justice led her to pursue a human rights fellowship in Budapest. While in Europe, she interned with the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and consulted with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. From 2016 to 2017, she also worked with Organize Florida and the Fight for $15 Campaign. Whelma dedicates her career to fortifying the collaboration between the nonprofit sector, immigrant rights movement, and philanthropy to identify bold strategies that dismantle structural injustices.
Whelma sees her work for social justice and community leadership as a lifelong endeavor. She received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Central Florida, an MBA in Nonprofit Management from American Jewish University, and an M.A. in Human Rights from Central European University in 2015. Whelma was awarded the Good Trouble Scholarship, allowing her to pursue a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership at Adler University. She has participated in leadership programs with Resource Leaders, the Wally Marks Leadership Institute, and the Fundraising Bright Spots Program. In her work to carry the legacy of People Power, she currently serves as a board member at the Filipino Migrant Center.