AAPIP Voices

Conversation with 25 Leaders in Action: Roselma Samala


To commemorate AAPIP’s 25 years of building a more democratic philanthropic sector, we asked you to help us identify 25 leaders who are making a difference in your local community and/or nationally. The 25 Leaders in Action honorees represent a diverse group spanning a wide range of organizations, years of experiences, roles and sectors.  We invite you to learn about these outstanding leaders, their inspiring work and what keeps them going in our blog post series.


Roselma Samala, Program Officer, The Carl & Roberta Deutsch Foundation, and member of the Circle of Change giving circle

1. Why are you passionate about advocating for AAPI communities?

As a Pilipino American woman and first generation college student, I have experienced some of the most pressing needs of our community. And my friends and family have faced the challenges that many community-based organizations address by the services provided. If it wasn’t for people before me and the opportunities offered to me by those who cared about my success, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I guess it’s a bit of a pay it forward. If it wasn’t for my cultural identity and heritage or the strength of my community, our history, those who have fought for me to be here… I owe them a lot.

2. What do you believe are the most critical issues facing AAPI communities today?

The silence – we have to learn to be able to express the struggles faced as immigrants and Americans, the biases and cultural differences as well as reach out to those who could help.

3. In what ways do you strive to address the unmet needs for AAPI communities?

By speaking up and educating others on the issues of the community and by the choices I make as to which issues to support and promote. As board member for the Center of Pacific Asian Family, I choose to speak up about domestic violence prevalent in our homes. Through the Circle of Change and other giving circles, I hope to support those AAPI LGBT communities and smaller, grassroots nonprofit organizations. As an avid viewer of Kayaman ng Lahi’s cultural performances, I honor my heritage. There exists so many important issues and organizations to support it’s often hard to choose, but these  issues are the ones that my friends and family have experienced and I support these groups in honor of them.

4. What keeps you inspired?

I am constantly impressed by my community. Speaking with the variety of people working in the nonprofit field to serve those most in need, and in the public or private sectors wanting to break the stereotypes, the glass ceiling to better themselves and their families. Our community struggles at all levels as we are still seen as foreigners in a majority of this country. The humbleness of our people keeps me inspired. Knowing that little steps taken now can help in the long run. Our community is a silent giant that has done a lot of great work and where often the work alone inspires them to keep going.

Roselma Samala joined The Carl & Roberta Deutsch Foundation (CRDF) as Program Officer over five years ago. Working in the field for over 15 years, Roselma began her career as a Fiscal Officer for UCLA BruinCorps. She has worked in various roles, ranging from student advising and program development to fiscal and grants management, and today philanthropic giving. Prior to CRDF, Roselma was a Program Officer for the Merage Foundation’s Children First and Artist in Residency Initiatives and worked at Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP), managing their $5.2M Early Care and Education Workforce Initiative. Roselma serves on the Board of and as Gala Co-Chair for the Center for Pacific Asian Family and Steering Committee for Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy – LA Chapter (AAPIP-LA). A native Southern Californian, Roselma is a proud daughter of three girls of immigrant parents from the Philippines. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in Sociology and Asian American Studies, and later received her MBA from the Yale School of Management. She is also an alumni of the Riordan Pre-MBA program at UCLA Anderson School of Management. A resident of Downtown Los Angeles Arts District, Roselma is an avid traveler, enjoys culinary delights, and has become a budding entrepreneur.