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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.
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.
Women gather for group relaxation and therapy held by Women for Women International’s partner organization in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Photo credit: Alison Baskerville/WfWI 2016)
A participant at a program supported by WfWI in KRI attentively listening to local trainer (Photo Credit: Alison Baskerville/WfWI 2016)
Participants are pictured during a relaxation therapy class. Beyond the emotional support of these therapy sessions, the classes also provide social support to the women, as they make new friends and can share experiences. (Photo credit: Alison Baskerville/WfWI 2016)
- 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.
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
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:
- Engage experts within your organizations as early as possible. Local and regional expertise was critical for this project.
- 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.
- 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 email@example.com, Leanne MacMillan, IRCT Director of Research Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Samantha Ducey, Hilton Prize Coalition, at email@example.com.
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
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
WATCH THE VIDEO