2017 Fellow Catherine May, PATH & Heifer - USA

Catherine May is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow based in the Seattle office of PATH, an international nonprofit organization that is leading innovation in global health. As a Collaborative Fellow, she is looking at the intersection between food systems and human health/nutrition and development as part of research that will advance a collaboration between PATH and Coalition member Heifer International. Catherine is currently completing her MPA at the University of Washington. In this post, Catherine describes how an integrated approach that crosses sectors can lead to sustainable interventions and improved nutrition, health, and development outcomes.

Partnerships for Impact: Nutrition, Agriculture and Development
by Catherine May

In international development, problems are rarely simple and solutions never are. There are few silver bullets. This lesson has been a recurring theme throughout my education and professional training.

The first time I heard this message was during an undergraduate course on genetic engineering in agriculture. My professor described how projects were trying to improve health outcomes by enhancing nutrient content of staple crops, but were experiencing setbacks ranging from efficacy to public acceptance. Biotechnology could be a useful tool in rural development, but it requires outside support from other sectors to achieve impact.

Later, I rediscovered this lesson while working in a lab that studied the molecular mechanisms of metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. My colleagues and I were concerned with the global incidence of noncommunicable diseases, but we understood that no pharmaceutical alone could slow the increasing rate. Other solutions must also be implemented to effectively tackle such a complex global challenge.

Most recently, the importance of collaboration was reinforced during a graduate course on ‘Values in International Development.’ My classmates and I learned how a well-intentioned donation of t-shirts led to the crash of a textile industry in Zambia. Not only do single-sector interventions leave behind possibilities for greater impact, but also can lead to unintended consequences that might be avoided by taking a broader perspective.

The importance of collaboration is recognized by many. How else can we ensure that development efforts are effective, sustainable, and just? The United Nations has demonstrated a recognition of the importance of this work with the launch of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. In fact, Sustainable Development Goal number 17 focuses specifically on “Partnerships for the Global Goals.” So, why do projects in international development so frequently take a sector-specific approach?

In May 2017, I was thrilled to join the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH. This group seeks to “crowd in” knowledge from the many sectors that contribute to nutrition outcomes to combat the complexity of malnutrition through a collaborative approach. My research examined the intersections of agricultural practices and nutrition—and how integrate approaches across these sectors can lead to improved health and development outcomes.

Catherine May attends the PATH After Hours event with the Nutrition Innovation exhibit. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Zobrist)

This fall, I helped with the Nutrition Innovation team’s exhibit at the PATH After Hours event, which showcased global health innovations from across the organization. I interacted with doctors who were interested in our fortified rice work, which is compatible with existing dietary habits and could help address a number of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Investors and I discussed the potential for expanding the edible insects market, which could increase incomes for women farmers and reduce the environmental footprint needed to meet increasing demand for animal-source foods. PATH’s devices and tools team taught me that agricultural waste could potentially be pulped into sanitary pads—enabling girls to attend school more often. Not only do these examples highlight the potential to improve global health, but they also reinforce the importance of working with diverse sets of expertise.

Yet, today’s global and national systems still do not encourage cross-sectoral collaboration. Relationships must be cultivated in order to achieve the ambitious, shared goals that are out of reach of any single entity. Substantial effort is required to ensure that efforts are not happening in isolation, but rather as a piece of a larger strategy. It is often easier for an organization to stay within their own area expertise.

A Senegalese woman makes yogurt, which could be a way to increase women’s incomes, add value to milk on dairy farms, and improve gut health. (Photo courtesy of Megan Parker)

Building partnerships frequently leads to the realization that different sectors speak “different languages.” We are still learning how to communicate with each other about shared challenges. For example, consider yogurt. An agriculture-focused organization might think of the ability to increase incomes for dairy farmers. A health organization might think instead of the potential to improve gut health. Different priorities lead to different metrics.

Finally, the need for funding for cross-sectoral work cannot be overstated. The push towards stronger collaborations is dependent on donors who are equally committed to holistic, systems-level change.

Despite the many barriers to cross-sectoral collaboration, this fellowship has given me confidence that these are not insurmountable challenges. Thanks to the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program, I have had the opportunity to network with professionals who recognize the importance of partnerships, to experience the challenges of humanitarian work, and to work for PATH, an incredible non-profit that recognizes that innovation can transform lives.

There may never be a silver bullet solution for our complex, global problems. Yet working together across development sectors, with dedication and creativity, can lead to sustainable interventions and improved nutrition, health, and development outcomes.


(Cover photo shows an exhibit from PATH's Reproductive Health program at the PATH After Hours event. Photo courtesy of Catherine May)

Laureates Collaborate at Hilton Prize Coalition Annual Meeting

On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, 16 Hilton Prize Coalition member organizations convened at the Coalition’s Annual Meeting to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year and set a course for the next year’s collaborative initiatives. The meeting was held in Los Angeles to coincide with the 2017 Hilton Humanitarian Symposium and Prize Ceremony, which was held on Wednesday, October 11.

The annual meeting offered Laureate organizations an additional opportunity to gather as a collective and leverage the combined expertise, advancing the work of the Coalition and its members to innovate and achieve greater collective impact. The day’s activities included a discussion facilitated by Dr. David Addiss of The Task Force for Global Health on how the fields of humanitarian action and global health could be transformed through an invigorated and concerted focus on supporting the emotional and psychological health of staff. This conversation was followed by a preview screening of the first vignette in the new Storytelling Program series  around the Syrian refugee crisis, which will premiere this fall. Then, presentations around the Coalition’s Fellows Program and current projects  underway through the Collaborative Models Program afforded Laureates the opportunity to detail how their organizations have been able to implement lessons learned in other projects and otherwise amplify their work through the Coalition.

Welcome materials

The Laureate organizations attending included:

Also in attendance were members of the Hilton Foundation staff and its Board, as well as Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize jurors. Joining the Coalition for the first time was the newest Laureate, icddr,b, who was welcomed by all at this meeting and honored at the Prize Ceremony the next day.

Coalition Member Spotlight: Aravind Eye Care System

Preliminary exam at Kallupatti camp outside of Madurai

In honor of World Sight Day October 12th, the Hilton Prize Coalition would like to shine a spotlight on the 2010 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize winner, Aravind Eye Care System (Aravind). Founded in 1976 by Dr. G. Venkataswamy, Aravind operates with a mission to eliminate preventable, treatable, and curable blindness and to spread its model high-quality, patient-centric sustainable eye care throughout the world. From an 11-bed hospital in Madurai, India, Aravind has grown to a network of 12 hospitals and 61 vision centers, a world class research center, and a manufacturing division with global market share. Aravind Eye Care System provides eye care services to more than four million people a year and performs some 463,000 eye surgeries a year.

Thirukail Camp

Through its healthcare consulting group – Lions Aravind Institute of Community Ophthalmology (LAICO) – Aravind's work extends into other countries as well; LAICO has mentored more than 300 eye care facilities and trained at least 15,000 health care professionals across India, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Since winning the Prize in 2010, Aravind has continued to receive support from the Hilton Foundation for capacity development work with five hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa. LAICO provides support in the form of clinical and administrative training, provision of supplies and equipment,  marketing and community outreach – all with the purpose of helping eye care facilities and hospitals attract patients, provide services efficiently, and deliver the highest quality care possible.

Schoolchildren being fitted for glasses

In 2000, the Aravind Eye Foundation was established in the United States to facilitate relationships with other non-profits, universities, social enterprises, technology companies, and individuals and to sponsor programs that fall outside Aravind’s sustainable model. One program, Spectacles for Scholars, provides free vision screening and eye glasses to school children, resulting in improved performance in school.  Another AEF program is the Ring of Hope, which provides cost-free treatment for children diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a fast-growing, often fatal, eye cancer that strikes children under five years old. In the United States, retinoblastoma is 90% curable, but in India, 90% of children with the disease die because their families cannot afford treatment. The Aravind Eye Foundation has also built several Vision Centers to provide comprehensive eye care to rural populations. Each center is connected to an Aravind Eye Hospital, via the internet, where doctors can diagnose more complicated ailments.

By providing high-quality, sight-saving and quality of life-improving care to some of the world's poorest people, Aravind Eye Care System empowers the communities where its programs, centers, and doctors operate, exemplifying Hilton Prize Coalition values of collaboration and mentorship to create a more sustainable and resilient society.

(Photos courtesy of Aravind Eye Care System)

Leading Thoughts: Kenn Dudek, Fountain House

In honor of World Mental Health Day, the Coalition presents a clip from the "Leading Thoughts" Storytelling Program series featuring President of Fountain House, Kenn Dudek. In this clip, Mr. Dudek explains that around the world, people with mental health illnesses have lower life expectancies. He is certain it is because people with mental health diagnoses are too often treated as suspect, even by medical doctors, when they have real symptoms. He tells the heartbreaking tale of a regular Fountain House member who died of cancer because his symptoms were not taken seriously until it was too late.


2017 Fellow Megan O’Leary, Hilton Prize Coalition - USA

Megan O’Leary recently completed her Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship, which involved her in various aspects of marketing, administrative and backbone services for the Coalition. Megan is completing her senior year at The University of Austin, Texas, where she is studying International Relations and Global Studies. In this blog post, Megan reflects on her experience working alongside the various Coalition members as a member of the Secretariat team. Her fellowship bridged the gap between academic theory and the real world application of collaboration.

Bridging the Gap with Real Experience
by Megan O'Leary

As an International Relations and Global Studies major, my education has given me the chance to study, read, and write about my interests — but I always felt there was a gap between my understanding of the scholarly literature and how these issues actually play out on the ground. My fellowship allowed me to begin bridging that gap with the only thing that can: experience.

My path to a broader understanding of the global non-profit industry and to professional discovery led me to apply for a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship placement at the Secretariat headquarters. Here I found the seamless intersection of my many interests—international development, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, human rights, refugees—not to mention the opportunity to leave Texas and work in the Washington, D.C. area for the summer.

“Collaboration” is a word I encountered so frequently in my classes and readings that it began to lose its meaning. The consensus of my favorite class, ‘Complex Emergencies and the Humanitarian Response,’ was that collaboration is the key in the humanitarian field to overcome challenges and failures in disaster relief. This call for strategic partnerships and transparency was inspiring, but led to some frustration—where does this talk of collaboration become action? Who makes it happen and how?

With the Hilton Prize Coalition, I found my answers. As it turns out, “collaboration” is a word everyone in this field is struggling to define and to actualize. But through working with a passionate and dedicated team, what I once viewed as frustration became an exciting challenge. The Coalition is comprised of the 21 Hilton Prize Laureates, all best-in-class organizations that have been widely recognized for their humanitarian work. They have formed an independent alliance, which is supported by the Coalition’s Secretariat, Global Impact, where I am proud to have worked this summer.

My time with the Hilton Prize Coalition revealed the commitment that the industry does indeed have to collaboration, and how the individuals behind the scenes of humanitarian operations work tirelessly to convert all of that talk into action. For a small group of even the brightest people, the task of supporting a Coalition seems daunting: managing communications between 21 organizations, identifying strategic alignments between them, creating and implementing programs, all while trying to share this important message of collaborative work to a global audience. Through the Collaborative Models, Storytelling, and Fellows Programs, I was able to see how the Coalition navigates these challenges and creates a unifying force of its members with joint research and workshops, sharing people’s stories through documentaries, and forging a new generation of humanitarian leaders to prioritize collaboration in study and practice. These initiatives showed me what true collaboration can look like, and the surprising amount of creativity and tenacity it requires to make it happen.

Professionally, this fellowship has been a great learning experience. It has exposed me to the rewards and challenges of the humanitarian world that cannot be accessed from a classroom. I was able to support the Coalition members by conducting meaningful research and generating content on member initiatives to broadcast on the Coalition’s blog and social media platforms. To supplement the practical training I received on the job, I was able to complete a customized DisasterReady curriculum to better understand the theories governing humanitarian operations on the ground. I was able to attend meetings with Coalition members as part of the Secretariat team to brainstorm ideas to further the Coalition’s mission, something I will never forget. I have gained the professional confidence and real world experience I had been craving.

A huge thank you to the Hilton Prize Coalition for this opportunity! Although my time in Washington, DC has ended, I very much look forward to continuing my journey with the Coalition through the Fellows Alumni Network.

2017 Fellow: Harry Shepherd, IRCT- Denmark

Harry Shepherd recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with the IRCT (The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims). The IRCT serves as an umbrella organization for over 150 member centers that aid survivors of torture in more than 70 countries. Originally from the UK, Harry brought two years’ experience in the technology sector, working at the IRCT while completing his Master’s of Science in Global Development at The University of Copenhagen. In this post, Harry reflects on the challenges, lessons and results of working with 33 torture rehabilitation centers to build a clinical database as part of the IRCT’s Data in the Fight against Impunity (DFI) project

Fighting Torture with Data: The Challenges and Consequences of International Collaboration
by Harry Shepherd

The IRCT’s Data in the Fight against Impunity (DIF) project involved 33 torture rehabilitation centres from 28 different countries working across many time zones. Arriving partway into this project and being tasked with assisting the design and delivery of a database technology innovation that captures clinical data on victims of torture was daunting. It soon became clear, however, that the work to leverage patients’ data more systematically so that it could be used to fight against impunity for these victims of torture, would form a strong motivating force.

IRCT member centers designed the database themselves under the auspices of the DFI project, which captures systematic data on torture cases

The methodology of the DFI project was one of continual collaboration across the Secretariat team and between the members. This was critical in yielding the IRCT member centres’ shared expertise in order to design the clinical database. The database systematically records data about the victims of torture: their characteristics; how they were tortured; the context in which they were tortured; the presenting symptoms; and recommended rehabilitation treatments.

Of course the heterogeneity of the centres regarding size, location, breadth of rehabilitation services provided, types of victims treated, and respective resource limitations meant that achieving a consensus on how this should be designed was demanding. However, it is this same diversity across the IRCT’s global membership that makes the IRCT unique. The centres remained determined to leverage their breadth of insights to strengthen the overall impact of DFI.

Regional workshops, video conferencing, the IRCT membership site, and weekly project newsletters were among the devices used to yield the - internationally located- voices of the centres. Both operational and more academic challenges were overcome through these means. Everything, from how the informed consent form ought to be uploaded to the database, to how terms such as “secondary victims (of torture)” should be understood, were discussed. This consensus enabled the team in Copenhagen to manage an external IT consultant to create a database technology that captures the various data fields needed. And then, before the database could be implemented at the member centres, it required translation into the five languages used by the corresponding members. A number of upgrades were completed to evolve the database into a slick, useful, and secure tool based on centres’ feedback.

Staff from IRCT centers based in Sub-Saharan Africa discuss the database at a regional workshop held in Nairobi

I feel privileged to have helped coordinate this. Now that the project is over, at least under its current project cycle, I have learnt that close communication with centres and the development of a strong sense of community among them is the key to a successful project like DFI. This can of course be a significant challenge when working across countries, let alone continents; however, the use of technology platforms, underpinned by a strong culture of open dialogue, can enhance a project’s success.

As with all projects of this scale, trial and error allows the organisation to understand what works well and what does not. Compromises were, of course, made at times as local needs differ, project deadlines continually loom, and resources remain finite. Overall I feel extremely proud to be a part of a strategy that has enabled 33 centres to agree the contents, scope and design of a clinical database that is now being used to improve centres’ operational efficiency and human rights outputs. Thanks to this project, IRCT’s mission to ensure more patients can be seen, to support advocacy initiatives, and to contribute to the global fight against torture and the rehabilitation of victims is being realised.

I would like to say a massive thank you for the Hilton Prize Coalition for awarding me the Fellowship and allowing me to take up this opportunity at the IRCT.

(Photos courtesy of the author)

Coalition Members Responding to the Earthquake in Mexico

On Tuesday, September 19, 2017 a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico, killing more than 220 people to date. At least 11 Hilton Prize Laureates operate in the surrounding region. Through protocols established under the Hilton Prize Coalition Disaster Relief and Resiliency Program, the Coalition is facilitating communications between these organizations to share information that might help to support collective relief efforts. Responses may include resource-sharing among Coalition members in the countries or regions affected to assist with recovery.

Laureates responding in the region include Casa Alianza/Covenant House, ECPAT, Heifer International, IRCT, Landesa, MSF/Doctors Without Borders, Operation Smile, Partners In Health, PATH, SOS Children’s Villages, and The Task Force for Global Health.

Collaboration between the affected organizations is supported by the Coalition’s Clearinghouse, a central repository of information about each respective Laureate organization and its operational capacities. The Clearinghouse function was developed to increase the organization's knowledge of each other’s activities that would promote their ability to work in concert with one another.

Updates on the response efforts underway by Coalition members are being collected and shared on the Coalition's Twitter feed.

(AP Photo: People walk through a neighborhood in Jojutla, Mexico, where many buildings collapsed the day before.)

Stranded In Transit

In this second post of a series, Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program Director Steve Connors provides context on the plight of Syrian refugees at the European border, setting the stage for the Coalition’s next Storytelling project, a series of vignettes featuring the work of SOS Children’s Villages, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), HelpAge International and Handicap International. (Photo is from one of the short films.)

Stranded In Transit
by Steve Connors

“We are at present largely no longer enforcing #Dublin procedures for Syrian citizens.”

This innocuous statement, tweeted out in the middle of an August night by Germany’s Office for Migration and Refugees, signaled an open border policy for Syrian refugees and helped set Europe on the path to a political upheaval unprecedented in the history of the European Union. Two years later, tens of thousands of displaced people remain stranded on the EU borders, unable to go forward and desperate not to go back.

Overwhelmed by refugees from the Syrian and Iraq wars, the Lebanese and Jordanian governments had recently closed their own borders. People fleeing the ongoing violence in their homeland began to head north and west in search of safety. First they arrived in Turkey, which was already sheltering close to three million Syrians. With news of the German government’s relaxation of its border policies, hundreds of thousands then made their way toward Europe - either by sea to Greece or through Bulgaria by land. None of the countries involved were in any way prepared for this mass influx of despairing humanity. None of the countries involved had the capacity - whether infrastructural or economic - to cope with the sheer volume of traffic that approached them.

They weren’t only Syrians. Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile communication, others already displaced by violence, politics or economics saw an unmissable opportunity. Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Iranians, sub-Saharan Africans and even a few Cubans, reset their course and headed for Europe's borders.

Almost all those on the move had Europe as their desired destination, and all the countries along the way were thought of - not only by the refugees but also by the host governments - as transit points along the way. The last of these transit countries has been Serbia.

In the summer of 2015 Serbia had barely recovered from the worst floods ever recorded, and now faced a flood of another kind. The first responders to the crisis were the Serbian people themselves. Being no strangers to the plight of refugees during the wars of secession that carved up the former state of Yugoslavia, people saw the desperate condition of the people arriving on their doorstep and volunteered in the thousands, loading up their cars with food and water and delivering it along the routes being traveled by the refugees. Meanwhile, the Serbian government quietly worked in the background to renovate abandoned motels, barracks, and government buildings to create habitable transit camps where refugees could be registered, and much needed services could be delivered to those on the move.

Initially, with border controls being barely recognized, people passed through quickly and easily. The non-Syrians, if they had arrived in the early weeks, were also able to pass through in the chaos, but as time went by and the Syrian wave slowed down, border controls were soon reinstated, and the transit camps began to take on a permanence for which they were not intended.

Bordered on three sides by EU countries - Bulgaria to the east, Hungary to the north, and Croatia to the west, Serbia had become a cul-de-sac. The welcome that had been extended to the Syrians was now seen to have been fulfilled, and the countries forming the European Union’s south-eastern border had become a bulwark against further passage. At these borders, refugees face hostility, and even brutality.

Still they come: Fatima (right) and her sister-in-law, Amina, newly arrived at a makeshift refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. With the official border crossings closed to Syrian refugees, the women, along with Zeinab’s husband and sons, traveled for three days across rough mountain tracks to reach safety. Amina, who was born with a club foot, was carried across the mountains by her brother and nephews.

Among the thousands still in the Serbian transit camps, perhaps the least fortunate are the Afghans. Refused refugee status because Afghanistan is deemed by the international community to be a safe country in which to live, they are stranded in Serbia waiting for their names to reach the top of a list of people allowed to cross into Europe. But even when that day arrives, most will likely be refused asylum and sent back across the border.

The sense of crisis may be fading from world headlines, but with thousands of adults and children desperately yearning for safety and an end to their journey, the mantle of responsibility for their care will continue to fall on the shoulders of international NGOs. Among those still committed to providing that care in Europe and the Middle East are the stalwart staff of the Hilton Prize Laureates.

Beginning in early October, the HPC Storytelling Program will be rolling out four short videos featuring the work of HPC Laureates in Lebanon and Serbia. The first of these vignettes will follow the experiences of Handicap International as they’ve innovated and adapted to meet the needs of Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley and Tripoli. The second will focus on HelpAge International’s work with Lebanese partner organizations in Beirut, while the third will provide a glimpse into the daily work of IRCT member The Restart Center, which has been providing psychotherapy to patients living with trauma. The series concludes in Serbia, where teams from SOS Children’s Villages continue to provide for the needs of families as they transit through the country, seeking safety in Europe.

Related Links

Disability Inclusion in Climate-Related Disaster Preparation

In recognition of National Preparedness Month, this post is written by Marcie Roth, CEO of The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and an industry expert in global disability inclusive emergency management and community inclusion. Marcie has most recently been working with Handicap International, where she researched the impact of climate change on persons with disabilities.

Disability Inclusion in Climate-Related Disaster Preparation
By Marcie Roth

Since April 2017, with the support of the Hilton Prize Coalition, I’ve had the great opportunity to work with Handicap International (HI), and immerse myself in researching the global efforts to address the disproportionate impact of climate change on children and adults with disabilities. HI has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 35 years with a focus on responding to essential needs, improving living conditions, and promoting respect for dignity and basic rights. It is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines; the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997; and the winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2011. HI takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.

I share the organization’s very strong commitment to the rights of persons with disabilities and the imperative for equal access and full inclusion in all aspects of home and community living, before, during and after disasters. On September 13, 2001, while working for the National Council on Independent Living, I was asked by New York disability leaders to help New Yorkers with disabilities living in the "frozen zone" around Ground Zero. They weren’t getting their usual in-home services, due to an emergency operations decision to limit entry by non-residents. I reached out to government and non-governmental organizations to find someone who was leading an effort to address the emergency and disaster related rights and accommodations of children and adults with disabilities. I couldn’t find anyone leading the charge, so I worked with the White House and organized community groups to address the immediate unmet needs of these survivors.

This experience led to my work over the past 16 years transforming the nation's approach to addressing the civil rights of children and adults with disabilities before, during, and after disasters. Half of this time has been spent in leadership roles in non-governmental and disabled persons organizations. The other half was spent establishing and leading the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) throughout President Obama’s Administration. Through this work, real progress has been made on not only reducing the disproportionate impact of disasters on people with disabilities, but also older adults, people who are very poor, experience homelessness, have limited English proficiency, low literacy, and others who also have access and functional needs.

My work with HI consisted of an extensive review of climate change adaptation initiatives underway across the globe. As the CEO of the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, a membership organization bringing together local, state, national and global organizations with a shared commitment to disability inclusive emergency management, I organize and lead initiatives to help communities prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate disasters. My focus is on the increased frequency and intensity of disasters, including disasters associated with climate change.

There is a vast disconnect between the well-documented impact of climate change on the needs, rights and contributions of children and adults with disabilities and the organizational work being funded and implemented to prepare for and adapt to the devastating impacts of climate change across the globe. Almost all efforts to address the disproportionate impact of climate change on people with disabilities view the problem and solution as a health and medical “problem,” not a human rights imperative. This is a recipe for failure. There is an urgent and immediate need for a wholesale shift toward human rights, social justice, inclusion, and universal accessibility.

Climate change is causing immense and devastating hydrometeorological and other severe impacts across both developing and developed countries. Immediate and sustained climate change adaptation must involve everyone. This means planning with, not for, people with disabilities. This can only be achieved by including in all planning efforts the voices and accessibility needs of people with disabilities, older adults, women, indigenous people, and individuals who experience poverty at the center of every effort. Inclusion and accessibility will benefit impacted communities, allowing them to optimize limited resources and maximize whole community engagement.

Disability inclusion experts have a great role to play in guiding and leading climate change adaptation investments by governments, non-governmental entities, private sector, scientists, and civil society. HI has a track record of success in climate change-specific and related initiatives in communities across the globe. Their experience is needed more than ever, as it is ideally suited to address the immediate and ongoing need for the expertise of disability leaders in guiding whole community inclusion in preparing for, adapting to and surviving the devastating effects of global climate change.

The disability rights adage, “nothing about us, without us,” places persons with disabilities and their representative organizations firmly into the decision-making process. This has never been more vital to the future of the citizens of our planet. Although my time with Handicap International is drawing to a close, the work I did with them will be extremely valuable as I continue moving from words into action to reduce the disproportionate impact of disasters on children and adults with disabilities and communities impacted by extreme weather and other hazards facing the citizens of our planet.

September is National Preparedness Month in the US. It’s a good time to review your personal and family preparedness plan. Go to www.ready.gov for preparedness tips.

(Photos: Marcie Roth speaking at meetings of the UN Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, in 2015, and Cancun, Mexico, in 2017. All photos courtesy of the author.)

Coming This Fall: New HPC Storytelling Project on the Syrian Refugee Crisis

In June 2017, Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program Director, Steve Connors, traveled through Lebanon and Serbia to connect with several Coalition member organizations serving the most vulnerable communities among the millions of displaced men, women and children seeking refuge in places of safety. The resulting stories are the basis of the next Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling project, a series of short films that will provide a glimpse of what humanitarian work looks like today. Presented as vignettes, the films will focus on a few days in the life of staff at four Laureate organizations working in the region. (Photos below are from the films.)

  • Starting in Lebanon, Steve meets with Handicap International’s then Head of Mission, Chris Chenavier, along with his mobile teams of physiotherapists and social workers as they care for the injured and disabled who would otherwise have no access to treatment.
  • Still in Lebanon, Steve visits the HelpAge International team and their local partners as they provide support for the particular needs of older community members and their families.
  • Steve’s last stop in Lebanon has him following the redoubtable Dr. Sana Hamzeh, Clinical Director of The Restart Center, a member of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) in Beirut and Tripoli.  In session after session, we will see and hear Dr.Hamzeh, her team of psychologists, and the patients in their care as they recount details of their sometimes unimaginable suffering and resilience.
  • Finally, Steve travels to the European end of the refugee trail to work with the teams from SOS Children’s Villages. In the transit camps bordering the European Union, the organization steps in to provide a safe and nurturing space, not only for children but for the whole family.

The series will be launched at the Hilton Prize Coalition Annual Meeting on October 10, 2017.

More updates will be posted as they become available. In the meantime:

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