2017 HPC Fellow: Ana Rabogliatti, Operation Smile

As a 2017 Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, Ana Rabogliatti was immersed in many facets of global public health programming through her placement with Coalition member Operation Smile, an international medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities. Ana is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Global Studies at the University of Virginia, with a focus on Environmental Sustainability. In this post, Ana reflects on her experience engaging with diverse groups of students, donors and stakeholders while working on Operation Smile's annual International Student Leadership Conference and other important projects.

Opening the Doors for Change
by Ana Rabogliatti

As a university student selected to serve as the 2017 Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow at Operation Smile, I learned immediately that the organization has a miraculous effect on all who step foot through their doors. The collective vision to change lives captures people who’ve often had no prior experience working inside a global non-governmental organization, like me, and fold them organically into the vision. Operation Smile is all about helping children, but they instill knowledge, action and passion for continued impact all the way around. The mission of Operation Smile is deep and boundless. I’ve been changed, and am honored by the challenge and responsibility to embrace this experience as the beginning of a journey.

Operation Smile has been making a global impact through research, surgical missions, and medical education for the past 35 years. When I walked through the front door on my first day, I was welcomed into the complexities of programming that Co-Founder Kathy Magee and her team tackle on a daily basis, playing a supporting role to a variety of simultaneous projects.

Most of my focus was devoted to a Student Program “Until We Heal” campaign that culminated in Operation Smile’s annual International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC), this year held in Rome, Italy for almost 700 high school students, university students, chaperones and staff from 35 countries. Joining together to celebrate the accomplishments and progress of student-driven initiatives throughout the year, these select student leaders led forums, rallied regional clubs, engaged in problem-solving, learned more about safe surgery and global health, practiced CPR, and welcomed global speakers.

Students hold up their signed "Until We Heal" pledges (Photo: Operation Smile)

Mentoring came from motivational speakers like Santo Versace, Operation Smile Italy board member and head of Versace house of fashion; Michelle Poler and her “100 Days Without Fear” story; Ferrari race car driver, Michela Cerruti; and representatives from the United Nations and Global Fund who were once Operation Smile student volunteers themselves. The highlight of the conference – and one of my biggest responsibilities – was to help produce a musical concert promoting the Until We Heal pledge that Operation Smile “will not stop until we heal every child with a cleft.” As production assistant, I managed the venue, helped with team communication and messaging, coordinated performers and speakers, and assisted with all logistics related to sound, lighting, cues, and run of show. The celebration was a call to action for all students to get involved and make positive change in the world. Illustrating Kathy’s view that “the youth are filled with optimism,” please see the 3-minute highlight video of Operation Smile’s ISLC.

I was also a part of a large project that allowed me to increase my proficiency in research, global health, study techniques and what it takes to actually “do” research. Operation Smile and its academic partners at the University of Southern California (USC) and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) conduct the International Family Study, which is research Operation Smile initiated to identify the genetic and environmental risk factors related to cleft deformities. The research team has collected more than 12,000 individual DNA samples from 9 countries during Operation Smile missions so far. Research indicates potential risk factors such as smoking and vitamin deficiencies contribute. With increased funding and more samples, they will soon be able to process entire genomes of genetic information, which will eventually yield more comprehensive results and preventive programs.

Another area of strong focus for my Fellowship included support for the Birdsong Peanut Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) Nutrition Program, which is a new arm of intervention for Operation Smile. Malnourished cleft patients who are denied surgery due to underweight issues now have a therapy available to restore nutrition and increase eligibility for surgery. This eliminates one of the barriers in accessing safe surgery, and can enhance nourishment for an individual for up to a year. Since this project is relatively new, with the peanut-based RUTF distributed in just 8 countries so far, I was able to understand the program development, phased growth, obstacles and potentials involved with the start-up of an extensive global project.

I plan to continue my program interests as Operation Smile’s intern this fall, expanding my experience to advance the existing university program within Operation Smile’s Student Program landscape. To do this, I’ve enlisted the help of a selected University Committee to develop the first-ever National University Conference in January 2018 for university-only students. With a leadership focus, the conference will be designed to support college-level curriculum. Speakers are being selected in a way that will best aid college students in their graduate and post-graduate opportunities with Operation Smile, and other NGOs and health organizations.

I requested to continue my work with Operation Smile not because I must, but simply because I choose to follow what Operation Smile instilled. A desire to do more, contribute more, and help lead the charge for positive global impact. Thanks to the support from the Hilton Prize Coalition, I gained an unyielding sense of determination to further my own humanitarian efforts, and will forever be an Operation Smile ambassador, opening the doors for change.

(Photos courtesy of Operation Smile)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Driving Innovation in Global Development: Why We Need Next-Generation Leaders

The Hilton Prize Coalition is pleased to present reflections on the Coalition's Fellows Program from the perspective of organizations that have been hosting these emerging leaders. Katharine Kreis is the director of strategic initiatives and the lead of nutrition innovation at PATH. This post originally appeared on the Philanthropy News Digest Philantopic Blog on December 13, 2017.

Driving Innovation in Global Development: Why We Need Next-Generation Leaders
by Katharine Kreis

The face of global development is changing. Shifting priorities, new organizations, new technologies — the landscape of the field is in flux. And in this era of sustainable development, a new generation of global leaders is poised to play a leading role in catalyzing change.

The Challenges Ahead
Despite decades of progress, the global community continues to grapple with urgent challenges such as poverty, malnutrition, and environmental degradation. Global trends such as urbanization, income inequality, climate change, and technological disruption increasingly are driving the scale and intensity of these challenges, forcing us to think differently and more collaboratively. The United Nations' 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is emblematic of this changing landscape. The message is clear: business as usual is no longer an option.

Edible insects

In the area of global nutrition, these trends are already having a profound impact. Malnutrition remains one of the most pervasive challenges and is the leading underlying cause of child mortality worldwide. As the planet becomes more populated and prosperous, food production and consumption patterns are changing and stressing our fragile natural resources. With the global population on track to hit 9.8 billion people by 2050, the field of nutrition is ripe for innovation. The task at hand is significant, if not daunting: How do we sustainably meet the nutritional needs of a growing global population?

To address hard problems like these, we need to consider new approaches and sustainable solutions. The health and livelihoods of many vulnerable communities — and the planet we all share — depend on it.

Engaging Emerging Leaders
Harnessing the insights and talents of the next generation of global leaders will be critical to unlocking innovation for sustainable development. With an eye to the future, early-career professionals can help us examine problems in new ways, elevate diverse perspectives, and surface creative new ideas. We should not underestimate the value of the entrepreneurial energy that early-career professionals bring to the table. By questioning age-old assumptions and confronting problems with analytic, data-driven vigor, they can help us chip away at some of the barriers that have slowed our progress.

The author with Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Catherine May

For PATH, the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program has provided an invaluable opportunity to engage future leaders from around the world in tackling some of today's most persistent challenges. From investigating the potential of edible insects as a sustainable animal-source food, to unpacking the relationship between tobacco use and nutrition outcomes, to exploring the many synergies between agriculture and nutrition, our team's Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows have drawn on their diverse backgrounds to help PATH facilitate bold cross-sectoral solutions aimed at improving nutrition for people around the world.

while we have valued their creativity and contributions, they have gained professional development opportunities to advance their careers. During their time at PATH, our fellows have developed their skills, cultivated their networks, made friends, and completed a project that addresses the next generation of health and development challenges. But the time our fellows spend with PATH is only a small part of their professional journeys, as they each embark on careers focused on creating a brighter future for people and the planet.

Investing in the Future
The scope and scale of the challenges we face necessitate immediate action. Addressing these challenges will require new ideas, creative thinking, curiosity, and humility. Our future will soon be reality for the next cohort of global development leaders. To achieve the aspirational goals we've set for ourselves for 2030, let's make sure that the next-generation thinkers of today have a seat at the table.

(Photos courtesy of the author)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Leading Thoughts: Pierre Ferrari, Heifer International

The Hilton Prize Coalition continues to present reflections about the work being conducted by Coalition members to build resilience in communities across the world. This latest clip from the "Leading Thoughts" Storytelling Program series features Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO of Heifer International. In it, Pierre describes the process of working with communities to understand and put in place the resources and supports that will help community members create a dignified and sustainable way of life.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Guest Blog: Tiffany Basciano on Responsibility-Sharing for Refugees

In advance of International Human Rights Day, December 10, today’s post was written by Tiffany Basciano, Associate Director and a professorial lecturer in the International Law and Organizations Program at Johns Hopkins – School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). At SAIS, she founded the International Human Rights Clinic, which provides a unique experiential learning opportunity for graduate students.

Professor Basciano's academic interests include international human rights law and rule of law development. She has provided expertise at various meetings with external stakeholders, such as discussing human rights education with a visiting delegation from China, as well as briefing the government of Myanmar on the Convention against Torture.

In this post, Professor Basciano advocates for more responsibility-sharing in the refugee crisis, providing snapshots of three refugee-hosting countries: Bangladesh, Uganda, and Turkey. Views are the author’s own.

All Hands on Deck: Responsibility-Sharing of Hosting Refugees
by Tiffany Basciano

Considering that the grant of asylum may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries, and that a satisfactory solution of a problem of which the United Nations has recognized the international scope and nature cannot therefore be achieved without international co-operation.
-Preamble, The Refugee Convention, 1951

At the end of 2016, developing countries continued to host a staggering percentage of the world’s refugees at 84%. With the recent movement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh, as well as South Sudanese refugees topping the one million mark in Uganda, the disproportionate weight on certain countries is coming painfully into focus. Indeed, although the media gave much attention to the genuine difficulties faced by Europe in addressing migratory outflows from Syria and North Africa, it was Turkey, in 2016, that once again hosted the largest number of refugees in the world with close to three million, mainly Syrian, refugees. The mass movement of people fleeing from terrible violence is all too frequent. It is beyond time for developed countries to breathe life into the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and ease the inequitable, unsustainable, and unwise burden on the developing world. Below are snapshots of three refugee-hosting countries: Bangladesh, Uganda, and Turkey that illustrate the need for improved responsibility-sharing in the management of refugees.

Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated and poorest countries in the world, is hosting over 800,000 Rohingya refugees with 600,000 plus arriving in the past few months. The preexisting conditions in Bangladesh are just not conducive to addressing a cross-border humanitarian crisis of this scale. Surrounding communities in Bangladesh are already feeling the economic strain brought on by the refugee flow. Due to the current demands on resources and the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters, the potential for hardships for Bangladeshis and refugees alike is significant.

The hope is that the Rohingya refugees will be able to return voluntarily to Myanmar and live in peace. However, it is indeterminate when the point for safe return will arrive. Even if that point does arrive, will individuals choose to return, and if they do, will they be able to reclaim their land? Still, if the Rohingya were to remain in Bangladesh, the robust protections afforded to refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol are unlikely to transpire, as Bangladesh is not a party. In any event, Bangladesh is hesitant to grant refugee status to the Rohingya. Complicating matters further for the Rohingya is the oppressive legal black hole of statelessness. Thus, it will be an uphill battle to find an amenable resolution for all parties, which also adequately protects the Rohingya.

Refugees continue to cross from Myanmar into Bangladesh. With a tempered response from the United Nations Security Council due to pressure from Russia and China, it is unclear when the violence will stop. The conditions in the camps are dreadful with aid and direct assistance needed now. More of the international community must step up to protect the Rohingya refugees and help Bangladesh manage this crisis.

In 2016, Uganda, a small landlocked country in Central East Africa, registered the most refugees, largely South Sudanese, of any country. Currently, Uganda is facing several critical challenges, such as poverty, food security, and public health concerns. Their public health initiatives range from containing an outbreak of the Marburg Virus to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic to reducing Malaria infections. Such demanding priorities on top of hosting refugees complicates Uganda’s ability to manage a widespread crisis over the long term.

Often praised for its progressive policies, Uganda offers small plots of land, freedom of movement, and work authorization to refugees. Uganda’s famous hospitality has tangible benefits, such as clearing unproductive land and the growth of local businesses. However, there are also difficulties. A recent report indicated that some refugees in the Palorinya camp, suffering from a delayed food delivery, crossed back into South Sudan in search of food – a choice between starvation or risking death by conflict is not a choice at all. The conditions for local Ugandans have likewise been challenging. A devastating drought resulting in food shortages led to instances of Ugandans pretending to be refugees to receive food aid. Given underlying issues of poverty and food security, it is unsurprising that aid distribution to refugees has caused some tension with local communities.

Donor funding is desperately required to meet the needs of refugees in Uganda, but developed countries must also ease the strain of physically hosting over one million additional people. Because of the continuing conflict in South Sudan and corresponding refugee flows, it is hard to imagine how Uganda can sustain its hospitality indefinitely.

The case of Turkey adds a layer of complexity to the narrative. Although it is a story of the successes and challenges of hosting the largest refugee population in the world, it is also the story of how the European Union (EU) sold its soul to stem refugee flows into Europe and corral them in Turkey.

Turkey, which borders Syria, became a host-country for refugees, as well as a transit point for migratory flows into Greece. To prevent this type of perilous migration, in March 2016, the EU and Turkey brokered a deal. The deal called for Turkey to prevent refugees from crossing into the EU and for new irregular migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey to be returned to Turkey. In exchange, the EU would resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey on a one-for-one basis, provide significant financial support to care for refugees in Turkey, and fast-track visa liberalization for Turkish citizens. Since then, arrivals into Greece have decreased significantly, but not stopped, and the percentage of returns to Turkey of new arrivals has been minimal.

This deal came with significant political and moral costs for the EU. The EU is now at the mercy of Turkish President Erdoğan with refugees used as bargaining chips. Meanwhile, Turkey’s human rights record continues to complicate its accession to the EU but is conveniently good enough to be a third-party state to return irregular migrants – calling into question the EU’s principled leadership on human rights.

As much as European countries were concerned with integration issues and political backlash from the migration flows, Turkey also has similar, though seemingly underappreciated, concerns. Erdoğan faced a backlash at the suggestion of allowing Syrians to apply for Turkish citizenship. With millions of refugees, a language barrier, a high unemployment rate, and other factors, integration is bound to cause tension in Turkey.

The EU-Turkey deal is tenuous. It could unfold due to domestic politics within Turkey, or a souring of relations between the EU and Turkey. A failed deal would make the EU’s moral compromise all for naught. It is unfair and misguided to allow Turkey, a country approaching 81 million people to host almost 3.3 million refugees. As such, the EU needs to correct the imbalance and go beyond the deal to increase resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey to the EU.

One must commend Bangladesh, Uganda, and Turkey for providing safe haven to so many. However, global refugee crises of this magnitude cannot and should not merely be “contained” locally. These crises are an “all hands on deck” moment that requires developed countries to host a fairer share of the world’s refugees. To move forward, leaders need to condemn any rhetoric that unconscionably and wrongly scapegoats refugees for political gain (See U.S. President Trump for what not to do). The creation of welcoming political climates will make it easier for third-party countries to increase resettlement numbers or start resettlement programs – one of the several ways in which wealthier countries can improve the equity among refugee-hosting countries.

Stemming the violence that creates refugee flows would be an ideal charge of the international community, but it is wishful thinking in the current international security apparatus. Refugees and citizens of the developing world deserve the opportunity to not only survive but also thrive – a birthright for many living in the developed world. Whether for humanitarian, security, moral, religious, political, legal, or a combination of reasons, developed countries need to meet their global civic duty and ease the burden on the developing world for protecting refugees.

Links for References

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

2017 Fellow: Ruby Holmes, Handicap International

As the International Day of Persons with Disabilities approaches on Sunday, December 3, the Hilton Prize Coalition presents some reflections by Ruby Holmes, a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow based in Silver Spring, MD with Handicap International (HI), where she supported HI’s role in planning and executing the 2nd annual Harkin International Disability Employment Summit and co-authoring "Good for Business: Promoting Partnerships to Employ People with Disabilities." Ruby is currently working on her Master’s degree in international peace and conflict resolution at American University and received her Bachelor’s degree in international/global studies from the University of Oregon. In this post, Ruby reflects on the discrimination and marginalization of people with disabilities during times of peace, conflict, and natural disasters.

International Disability Rights: Accessing Waged Employment
by Ruby Holmes

People with disabilities around the world face extreme levels of discrimination, marginalization, exclusion in societies and are often left out of government policies. Many countries lack legislation that address disability rights and when they do, these laws often fail to be implemented. Research during my time as a graduate student has revealed that a country’s economic, legislative, physical, and social environment may create or maintain barriers to the participation of people with disabilities in economic, civic, and community life. Even with existing legislation in the United States such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), discrimination and barriers exist. I’ve witnessed this throughout my life as close friends and family members with disabilities experience different levels of exclusion in various aspects of their lives. Barriers can include inaccessible buildings, lack of accessible transportation, inadequate health, education, and employment standards, lower levels of services and funding for those services, as well as inadequate data and analysis for evidence-based, efficient, and effective policies.

Additionally, members of a community often see people with disabilities as a burden and inadequate compared to non-disabled members of the community. These social attitudes add another level of discrimination that people with disabilities face; their communities do not support their ability to thrive and reach their full potential in society. This systemic marginalization means that people with disabilities face daily battles through direct violence, the inability to access buildings such as schools or places of employment and the absence of social services. All of these instances deny people with disabilities the ability to fully participate in society, to achieve their full potential and personal dreams.

While the marginalization of people with disabilities can be a reality in many communities during times of peace, this discrimination becomes compounded and especially true during times of conflict or natural disasters. It is a known fact that the instance of disability increases dramatically during times of conflict and disasters, increasing the population of people living with a disability. Perhaps most known is the instance of landmines and other explosive devises causing mobility and physical disabilities, as well as psychological traumas, loss of hearing and eyesight, and a vast array of other impairments. However, both natural disasters and situations of conflict have no limit on the types of disabilities that result and can cause hearing and visual disabilities as well. Just as important, non-apparent disabilities are caused during times of disaster and conflict. Post-traumatic stress, psychosocial, and other mental health disabilities affect individuals at alarming rates yet are often ignored or treated with less priority. Individuals and entire communities can be directly affected, experiencing all different disability types, needing support and services to recover in the short and long term.

The Harkin Summit

Given these realities and witnessing the hardships those close to me have gone through, I have found a deep passion to work towards the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout peacebuilding efforts. With the current, horrific global state of affairs, it is easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. However, I am optimistic and extremely fortunate that I have had the honor to meet and work with empowered individuals with disabilities around the world who are working hard to fight for their rights. Economic development and access to waged employment is just one of the many factors that contribute to successful peacebuilding, which organizations like Handicap International are working toward. I give many thanks to the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program for providing me with the opportunity to contribute to this work. During my time as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow at HI, I sat on the planning committee for the Harkin International Disability Employment, where I supported the team on event logistics and was a co-author for Good for Business: Promoting Partnerships to Employ People with Disabilities, HI’s white paper that was showcased at the Summit. The paper provides practical information and lessons learned on how multinational corporations can fully include people with disabilities into the workplace. Building off of information provided in HI’s 2016 white paper, Situation of Wage Employment of People with Disabilities: Ten Developing Countries in Focus, this paper offers solutions.

The Harkin Summit convened high-level representatives and grassroots implementers from around the world, who are all working to increase the employment of people with disabilities. The Summit offered a space for representatives from business, disability advocacy, government, education, foundations, and civil society to identify and create strategies to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. More than 300 experts from 40 countries shared knowledge on employment opportunities in various settings, and honored pioneers in disability employment.

I’m grateful for all that I learned and the people I got to meet at the Harkin Summit. I met individuals from multinational corporations who expressed a passion for and commitment to employing more people with disabilities around the world. I witnessed partnerships form between NGOs and corporations to collaborate so businesses can hire and retain more employees with disabilities. There is still much work to be done in the world of international disability rights and peacebuilding, but events like the Harkin Summit help to ensure we keep the momentum moving forward. In fact, Senator Harkin charged the audience with a new goal: to double the rate of employment of people with disabilities in the next decade.

(Photos courtesy of the author)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Coalition Member Spotlight: Women for Women International

In honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which falls on November 25, the Hilton Prize Coalition shines a spotlight on 2006 Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureate, Women for Women International, and the work they are doing today with women who have been displaced by war and conflict in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and around the world.

Yazidi women attend a training session supported by WfWI in Khanke, Kurdistan. These weekly sessions include English, literacy, women's justice and gender-based violence training. (Photo credit: Alison Baskerville/WfWI 2016)

For nearly 25 years, Women for Women International (WfWI) has worked in some of the toughest places in the world to serve the most impoverished and marginalized women. In 2015 in the light of crisis in Iraq and Syria, we began working with local partners in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to serve Yezidi survivors of violence as well as other displaced Iraqi women and Syrian refugee women. Through our local partners, we’ve already been able to serve more than 500 women and provide them with socio-economic empowerment trainings, psychosocial services and trauma counseling, as well as referrals for legal aid. Women who participate in our program learn valuable vocational and business skills and about their health and rights, and begin healing from the emotional trauma of war and violence.

Four million refugees and displaced people are struggling to rebuild their lives in Iraq. Displaced for months or years, women who have been forced out of their homes by conflict face particular challenges that threaten their basic security, economic well-being, and even survival. The needs of women refugees in KRI are immense. In addition to facing violence and discrimination due to being women and refugees, many face severe poverty. Especially after losing male family members to conflict, more women are becoming heads of households—but without skills and opportunities for employment, they struggle to pay for their families’ needs. In fact, one in four of all the refugee households in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon is headed by women, and only one in five holds paid jobs and one in five has support from other relatives. One third say they don’t have enough to eat. At WfWI, we know that we need to invest more in refugee women and make sure that their particular needs are met. To do this, earlier this year, we opened a dedicated country office in KRI. Through our country office we hope to serve thousands of more refugee and displaced women in the coming years.

Beyond the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, since 1993, WfWI has served more than 462,000 women survivors of war in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan. With a long-term vision for sustainable change and development, WfWI works with the most marginalized and socially-excluded women so they have the skills, networks, and tools they need to rebuild their lives, communities, and nations. Through Women for Women International’s comprehensive 12-month program, women learn about their rights and health, and gain key life, vocational, and business skills to access livelihoods and break free from trauma and poverty. In 2006, we proudly received the prestigious Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize for our transformative work with women around the world.

An Update on the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program

  • Now entering its third year, the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program continues to yield rewards and promise for the humanitarian sector. The participation of Coalition members in the selection and rigorous training of Fellows ensured a high-performing cohort in Year Two, with eight nationalities represented and placements in 16 cities around the world. Fellows developed expertise in topics that spanned the international development and humanitarian sectors.


Here are just a few of the program's successes:

  • Sarah Baker was recruited from her recent role as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with SOS Children’s Villages to become their Senior Coordinator of Corporate Partnerships. As a Fellow with the Brand, Marketing & Communications team, Sarah focused on media outreach, crafting media pitches, copy writing, managing the brand, and developing organizational one-pagers. She will now focus her strong communications background and her experience in grant writing and account management on overseeing SOS's Workplace Giving & Employee Engagement accounts as well as providing support for several of their corporate partners. Read about Sarah’s experience here.
  • Danielle Harris completed her Fellowship with Landesa  and has now accepted a contract position as their Business Development Assistant. During her three-month fellowship, Harris created new tracking tools for donor relations and helped with important research projects. In her new role, Danielle continues to work on fundraising programs to build relationships with donors and partners and communicates with Landesa colleagues globally to share the organization’s best practices and expertise. Read about Danielle's experience here.
  • Harry Shepherd completed his Fellowship at the IRCT and is now supporting UNFPA's national advocacy to promote sexual and reproductive rights in Ghana, working with traditional and religious leaders and lobbying local authorities on investing in appropriate family planning services and sexuality education. Read about Harry's experience here.
  • Also with the IRCT, Alexandre Leal de Freitas is participating in an internal review of the organization and is also involved in the development and fundraising for a project with the IRCT’s network to provide specialized rehabilitation services for LGBTI victims of torture. His Master's thesis was recently awarded and selected to be published on the Global Campus of Human Rights website; it focuses on the oppression faced by trans and gender-diverse sex workers and calls for the implementation of legislation and public policies primarily aimed at protecting them from human rights violations and abuse. Click here to read the paper.

To learn about the Fellows and what they are working on, click here.

2017 Fellow Chloe Baury, ECPAT International - Thailand

Chloe Baury is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow based in Bangkok, Thailand with ECPAT International, where she conducts research and analyzes information on national laws and legal procedures related to the sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia and Mauritania. Chloe graduated with a Master’s degree in International Law from Assas University (Paris) and a Master’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from Jean Moulin University (Lyon) in 2015. She also studied European Human Rights Law at Oxford University and has done volunteer work in Cambodia and for Cameroon. In this post, Chloe reflects on how she was able to put her education and experience into practice working for the protection of children’s rights.

Joining the Fight against Child Sexual Exploitation
by Chloe Baury

After graduating from university, it took me time to find out what I wanted to dedicate my life to. I had spent a number of years studying law but could not picture myself working in a law firm; I wanted to make a real difference and work for a non-profit organization. So I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Political Science and International Relations, and during this time I quickly developed a strong interest in children’s rights. Following graduation, I left for Cambodia to work in the field of access to education. When I returned to France, I wanted to apply my newly acquired skills and knowledge to a research role in an NGO focusing on children’s rights. As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, I soon joined the international secretariat of ECPAT in Bangkok in June 2017. ECPAT is an international NGO network dedicated to the fight against sexual exploitation of children.

When I arrived, I quickly realized that my knowledge of the subject was limited. In my mind, the sexual exploitation of children was an issue that mostly happened in developing countries and was related to tourism or trafficking. However, what I learned at ECPAT was that this phenomenon happens everywhere, and can take many forms: sex tourism, pornography, trafficking, child marriage, prostitution. Children—girls and boys—are at risk in low, middle or high-income countries. No child is immune, and no country is untouched.

Since I had lived in Cambodia, my first task was to write a report on child sexual exploitation there. I had to collect information on facts, the legal framework in Cambodia, preventive measures, international and regional cooperation mechanisms, child-sensitive justice and child participation measures. The amount of reports and articles on the matter was impressive, even though accurate data is difficult to obtain due to the secretive and clandestine nature of this crime. While writing the first draft, I thought back to all the bars and karaoke places I had seen in Cambodia where ‘child prostitution’ can potentially take place, and I realized that I might have crossed many children who were being sexually exploited whilst walking around the riverside neighbourhood of Phnom Penh or in the streets of Sihanoukville.

I then wrote a report on Mauritania and faced the opposite problem: a complete lack of information on sexual exploitation. Sexuality was a strongly taboo subject, and many customs were strongly entrenched due to religious laws and beliefs; so even when such customs were detrimental to young women, the crime was pushed underground. However, I soon realized that there were also common challenges that were most likely shared with many other countries: a lack of law enforcement, and cultural barriers that would instill a fear in victims to report such crimes. Law enforcement officials are often corrupt, and victims often are ashamed or fear social exclusion. Even worse, victims of trafficking themselves are sometimes punished for engaging in prostitution, even though they were coerced to do so. Young girls are often treated as criminals, by way of local beliefs and traditions, because they are perceived as having had extramarital sexual relationships.

Whilst writing these reports, I felt frustration, anger and a strong urge to join the fight against child sexual exploitation. The reports illustrate how vital it is to change states of mind, to raise awareness among communities, and to work with governments as well as religious leaders. Preventive measures are as important as any protective measures.

My family and friends often ask me if it is not too difficult, emotionally speaking, to read about cases of abuse and exploitation every day, all day long. I answer that I can handle it, but never get used to it. My colleagues and I are often gasping discreetly when we read testimonies or data reports. It is also difficult not to think about it outside of work: every now and then, when I cross middle-aged foreigners with a local girl or boy, I cannot help but think: “Is this girl/boy underage? Is this a case of child sexual exploitation? Should I do something?” I am now more aware of the extent of this crime, and I hope the reports will contribute to raising awareness and creating solutions to fight it.

These past four months of my fellowship have been both professionally and personally rewarding. The fellowship made it possible for me to put my education and experience into practice. The Coalition provided me with online training courses to further improve my knowledge on the protection of children’s rights. I have learned a lot and I cannot thank enough my supervisors and colleagues at ECPAT for their teaching and guidance. The experience has reassured me that working for the protection of children is the professional path on which I wish to continue.

(Photos courtesy of the author)

The Power of Collaboration: Helping Children Cope with Trauma

The Power of Collaboration: Helping Children Cope with Trauma
by Jennifer Balios

This article originally appeared in The Philanthropy Journal November 6, 2017.

For more than 20 years, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has been awarding nonprofit organizations for their extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering. During this time, the 22 recipients of the prestigious Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize formed an independent alliance called the Hilton Prize Coalition to achieve collective impact in humanitarian assistance, human rights, development, education and health.

In the fall of 2016, the Hilton Prize Coalition’s Secretariat, Global Impact, received a profound idea for a new collaboration from one of its award-winning members, Casa Alianza, the Latin American arm of Covenant House. The proposal centered on launching a “Trauma-Informed Care Models” pilot project to help children affected by multiple forms of trauma in Latin American countries.

The Casa Alianza team had extensive experience and success in providing shelter, protection and rehabilitation for children and teenagers abused, trafficked, or abandoned; however, they noticed a lack of resources on this subject for Spanish-speaking care providers. The goal of the pilot project became to leverage the proven work being done in the U.S. by one of Covenant House’s Medical Directors, Dr. Ken Ginsburg, M.D., M.S. Ed. Dr. Ginsburg had decades of experience working with adolescents as a pediatrician specializing in Adolescent Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The team was inspired to translate and adapt Dr. Ginsburg’s findings to create culturally-sensitive reference and training materials for these care providers.

At this time, another Coalition member, the International Rehabilitation Council of Torture Victims (IRCT), identified this topic as a need in common and a capability to provide valuable resources through their Latin American networks. IRCT was interested in learning from the Covenant House approach and applying this to the context of survivors of torture, modifying the approach in accordance to IRCT’s practice and experiences in the region. Once this connection was made, IRCT was brought in as a co-lead for this project.

“Each organization brought particular strengths to the collaboration,” said Samantha Ducey, Director of Partner Solutions at Global Impact, the Secretariat of the Hilton Prize Coalition. “Most importantly, both teams were willing to openly discuss ideas and different perspectives to find the best path forward.” Ducey worked alongside these nonprofits, making sure parameters were set early and deadlines were met over a year-long process.

Local experts within the organizations were identified and brought in. Gabriela Monroy, Covenant House’s psychologist and regional project lead in Guatemala, played a key role in translating concepts and providing context based on the trauma-informed care model that Dr. Ginsburg pioneered.

IRCT experts who analyzed the trauma-informed care approach based on their work with survivors of torture included Dr. Emma Bolshia of the Institute of Therapy and Research (ITEI) and the Coalition Against Torture in Bolivia and Dr. Edith Escareno of the Collective Against Torture and Impunity in Mexico.

“This project opened doors for local collaboration,” said Roberto Cubero Espinal, IRCT’s Regional Associate for Latin America. “At times this work can be isolating, so having a strong network of peers is invaluable.”

Covenant House echoed IRCT’s sentiments about synergy. “When collaboration can happen directly at the local level, you find real richness and expertise,” said Meredith Fabian-Ludke, Vice President of Latin America and Project Lead at Covenant House’s international headquarters in NYC. “We learned a lot about our own processes while gaining valuable insights from IRCT’s practices, curriculum development and cultural knowledge of other Latin American countries.”

Covenant House and IRCT offered 3 key tips for nonprofits starting a collaborative process:

  1. Engage experts within your organizations as early as possible. Local and regional expertise was critical for this project.
  2. Meet in person when possible, especially for a first meeting. Relationship-building is an important part of the work, and the investment in one-on-one connection supports the collaboration.
  3. Discuss the decision-making processes in each organization. Then, co-design goals and processes.

Leanne MacMillan, IRCT Director of Research Development and Project Lead, recommends defining the decision-making processes in the beginning. The plan should also include who and how to ensure a smooth process because there are different organizational cultures to account for.  Also, the facilitation of the relationship by a third party, in this case Global Impact, was crucial to keep the collaboration moving and to navigate different types of organizational setups.

Fabian-Ludke added, “You will most likely think and operate differently, so instead of trying to fit into each other’s way of operating, learn about your differences and leverage what you have.”

In November, the teams plan to roll out a co-authored background paper, “Cultivating Resilience,” and a training package, which was inspired by Dr. Ginsburg findings as well as “Reaching Teens: Strength-based Communication Strategies to Build Resilience and Support Healthy Adolescent Development,” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The materials will be made available for download on the Hilton Prize Coalition website.

For further information on this collaboration, please contact: Meredith Fabian-Ludke, VP of Latin America, Covenant House at mfabian@covenanthouse.org, Leanne MacMillan, IRCT Director of Research Development, at lm@irct.org, or Samantha Ducey, Hilton Prize Coalition, at samantha.ducey@charity.org.

Jennifer Balios is a public relations consultant based in Northern Virginia. She helps nonprofits and businesses tell their stories. Connect with her on Twitter @jenbalios

Covenant House, headquartered in New York City, is the largest private charity serving homeless, abused, abandoned, trafficked and migrant children and youth in 31 cities across six countries in the Americas. In Latin America, Covenant House is known as Casa Alianza in Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, and La Alianza in Guatemala. Over a 35-year history in Central America and Mexico, the organization has become highly respected for providing shelter and a portfolio of multi-disciplinary services to help exploited children and adolescents, ages 12 to 18, reclaim their lives.

The International Rehabilitation Council of Torture Victims (IRCT) is a health-based membership organization that supports the holistic rehabilitation of torture victims and the prevention of torture worldwide. IRCT’s members comprise more than 150 independent rehabilitation organizations in over 70 countries. Today, it is the largest membership-based civil society organization to work in the field of torture rehabilitation and prevention with over 40 years of experience. Eleven IRCT members providing torture rehabilitation services and carrying out anti-impunity and torture prevention work have a longstanding presence and firm roots in Latin America.

The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations and led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

(Photo: Gabriela Monroy, right, with one of her patients at La Alianza in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Casa Alianza/Covenant House)
Read a related post by Gabriela Monroy: Collaborative Models: Reflections on Working with Survivors of Violence and Torture

Guest Blog: Wendy Pearlman on Storytelling in Syria

The Hilton Prize Coalition invited scholar and author Wendy Pearlman to offer some insights from her work interviewing hundreds of displaced Syrians across the Middle East and Europe. Pearlman is the Martin and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, where she specializes in Middle East politics. She is the author of We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria (HarperCollins, 2017), Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement (Cambridge University Press, 2011), and Occupied Voices: Stories of Everyday Life from the Second Intifada (Nation Books, 2003).

In this post, Pearlman describes her journey to present the voices of everyday Syrians navigating through years of conflict and violence, and reinforces the importance of storytelling in humanitarian work. The resulting book has been hailed as “essential reading” by the New York Times and selected by the American Library Association for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction longlist. Views are the author’s own.

Author Wendy Pearlman

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria
by Wendy Pearlman

Between 2012 and 2016, I traveled across Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Sweden, and Germany, interviewing more than three hundred displaced Syrians about their experiences, feelings, and reflections on the conflict ravaging their country. My new book, We Crossed A Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria, weaves these individual testimonials into a collective narrative that chronicles the lived experience of the Syrian uprising, war, and refugee crisis.

An introduction offers a mini-primer on Syria, providing factual background on the full sweep of the conflict from its historic origins until the present day. The next eight sections bring to life the same chronology through first-hand testimonials.

  • In Part I, Syrians’ stories and reflections convey the silence, fear, and sense of suffocated possibility that gripped Syria under the authoritarian regime established by Hafez al-Assad in 1970.
  • In Part II, testimonials track citizens’ hopes for change after the young Bashar al-Assad assumed power in 2000, as well as their frustration as promises of reform went unfulfilled.
  • In Part III, Syrians’ memories recreate the tentative steps and then euphoric leaps through which they, inspired by the budding Arab spring, launched mass peaceful protests early 2011.
  • In Part IV, testimonials reveal the shocking violence of the regime’s efforts to repress the protest movement, as well as the protesters’ efforts to sustain the movement, nonetheless.
  • In Part V, rebels who took up arms explain that decision, while other citizens reflect on the escalation of an increasingly multidimensional war.
  • In Part VI, ordinary people recount everyday stories that paint a portrait of the lived experience of war.
  • In Part VII, a cross-section of society describes how they fled their homeland as refugees, the dangerous journeys that brought them to exile, and the challenges of making life anew.
  • In Part VIII, Syrians of different backgrounds take stock of the conflict, reflecting on how it has transformed them, and what it means for the future of the region.

To write this book, I journeyed deep into the spaces where refugees were making their lives anew. In a makeshift rehabilitation center, I met with civilians, injured in the crossfire, who told jokes to keep up their spirits as they nursed their wounds with ice and ragged bandages. In a one-room apartment in Jordan, I admired the wares of a housewife who crocheted scarves in revolutionary colors and gradually established a knitting collective teaching some fifty women to produce crafts for export. In an outdoor café on the Turkish-Syrian border, I spoke with rebel fighters enjoying an evening of leisure before they headed back to the frontlines. Inside tents in an unofficial refugee camp in Lebanon, I sat with mothers who battled gravel and mud to give beauty to the space that their children now called home. In a defunct airport in central Berlin, I learned how other families had smuggled themselves across the Mediterranean in rubber dinghies, trekked through the Balkans for weeks on end, and were now living in hangars. In northern Sweden, I joined still other families to break the sunrise-to-sundown Ramadan fast, which in June ended after 10:00 pm.

As a whole, the book aims to give Western readers the knowledge they need to form educated judgments about critical current events. Moreover, it serves as a platform for Syrians to make their own interventions. After decades under a state that used fear to silence its population, Syrians talking is itself an assertion of dignity and a call for freedom.

If my work offers any lessons for NGOs or others engaged in humanitarian activities, it is something that most people who have spent time with refugees already know well: the importance of listening. And here I would add that it is important not only to listen to accounts of the horrors of how refugees were forced from their homes and their current plights in exile, but also to open a space for the displaced to tell the longer stories of their lives, hopes, and dreams. That past forms part of the legacy that refugees carry with them when they flee. Aid agencies must understand it if they are to serve refugees adequately, and new host societies must understand it if they are truly to welcome refugees as new neighbors.

Stay tuned for more stories from Syria as the next project of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program launches in Fall 2017.  

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