We were thrilled to receive this letter from 2017 Fellow Ana Rabogliatti that offers a glimpse of the work she is supporting through her placement with member organization 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. The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program seeks to develop and nurture emerging humanitarian leaders by providing opportunities for them to work with these best-in-class organizations. Thank you, Ana!
Dear Hilton Prize Coalition,
I am writing to inform you of my past month as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow and to express my appreciation for the opportunity that has been granted to me. Within such a short period of time I have already gained a much greater appreciation of the humanitarian work in which both the Hilton Prize Coalition and Operation Smile are immersed.
I have always been fascinated by the medical field and the belief that there are issues that need to be addressed on a global scale. This is a core belief of Operation Smile and I am so proud that I have the chance to share my compassion and values with them. I owe it to the Hilton Prize Coalition for making this all possible. This Fellowship has allowed me to work firsthand to combat health obstacles faced in many countries, known as the barriers to care, and the difficulties faced when there is a lack of access to safe and timely surgery. Although I am thousands of miles away, by experiencing the procedures, organization, and undertakings an NGO as large as Operation Smile [operates across the world] on a daily basis, I have been able to work on the front lines with some of these issues and broaden my competence in the logistics of engaging in both the business industry and humanitarian field.
In this last month, I have worked closely with [co-founder] Kathy Magee and the Office of the Co-Founders, collaborating in several projects, which include coordination regarding IFS research (International Family Study) for identifying the genetic and physical determinants leading to cleft lip and palate, the Birdsong Peanut RUTF Program that provides malnourished individuals with a Ready To Use Therapeutic Food that enhances nourishment in order to achieve the optimal weight for safe surgery, and involvement in the logistics and development of Operation Smile’s International Student Leadership Conference in Rome, Italy.
I am also helping to organize Operation Smile’s 35th Anniversary gala in November. Operation Smile has taken this anniversary not only to celebrate the progress achieved in the past but to move forward in the future, with the goal of eradicating the backlog of cleft. To be part of this ambition is an honor, and I cannot express my gratitude enough for the opportunity to be so involved in such influential affairs. The Hilton Prize Coalition’s consideration and enthusiasm for the humanitarian mission is helping set a new standard for the future of Operation Smile and for philanthropic aid entirely, and I cannot wait to see the subsequent progress of my involvement, the Coalition’s relationship, and global development with Operation Smile.
2017 Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, Operation Smile
(Operation Smile Photo-Marc Ascher. Child Life Specialist Jennifer Kreimer in the OR during Operation Smile’s first mission to the Dominican Republic.)
Giovany Delgado recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with Casa Alianza Nicaragua (Spanish for Covenant House). Giovany holds an MS in Latin American Development from King’s College London. He completed his BA degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Miami and received a Diploma in International Relations from a European Perspective from the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain, where he was a Benjamin Gilman Scholar, an initiative spearheaded by the U.S. State Department.
In this post, Giovany reflects on his experience working with at-risk adolescent youth in his native Nicaragua and its effect on his career goals. (All photos appear courtesy of the author.)
Reconnecting to My City through Grassroots Development
By Giovany Delgado
Ever since I came back to Nicaragua after my studies abroad, I’ve been reconnecting with the bustling city of Managua, Central America’s 2nd largest capital city. I call this city home. Yet, I hadn’t lived here for over a decade when I began my fellowship with Casa Alianza Nicaragua.
Youth participating in the annual Peace Festival, an activity developed to promote peace, unity, respect and solidarity among adolescents, their families and local communities.
At a midpoint in my career, I had dedicated my goals to strengthening civil society organizations and implementing development projects. The fellowship I was awarded by the Hilton Prize Coalition allowed me the opportunity to connect directly with one of its member organizations in my native country. For eight months, I worked with Casa Alianza, an organization with over 19 years of experience helping at-risk youth facing homelessness, drug addictions and multiple forms of violence, including human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
My fellowship made it possible for me to put my education and experience into practice, working to solve the complex in-country problems NGOs face in terms of economic sustainability, program development, evaluation and implementation. Casa Alianza is one of the few civil society organizations in Nicaragua with a unique and holistic approach to supporting at-risk youth in terms of protection and care. Its programs include social work support, health and medical care, family reintegration services, psychological support, legal services, a rehabilitation from substance abuse program and recreational, cultural and sporting activities. Throughout its 19 years, Casa Alianza has managed to provide recovery services to over 50,000 at-risk youth.
At Casa Alianza Nicaragua, adolescents have an opportunity to participate in alternative therapies as part of their recovery process. Yoga, floral therapy and Reiki are among the options available to them.
While working at Casa Alianza, I had the opportunity to go out on community site visits with the Street Outreach Program, and was able to witness the extensive network of services available to youth residing in either of Casa Alianza’s two residential centers. I worked to improve this network of services, re-organizing the services and implementing a strategy for their monitoring and evaluation. This strategy helped track and record the quality and number of services provided by the program while finding areas that needed further improvement and innovation. Additionally, I developed a methodological framework to enhance data collection for the family reintegration program, a community research tool responsible for investigating the socio-economic dynamics of each adolescent and his/ her family within the program.
During my fellowship I also assisted in elaborating a fundraising strategy focusing on international cooperation agencies, private sector companies and multilateral organizations. I used my multimedia communication skills to develop and market the Casa Alianza Nicaragua brand both nationally and internationally, boosting the overall online presence of the organization by 80%.
Lunchtime – Listening to the adolescents’ stories regarding their hopes and dreams brought meaning to the operational and administrative work I was performing.
These past eight months of my fellowship have been professionally and personally rewarding, as this work has allowed me to reconnect with Nicaragua and contribute to development efforts here. I have witnessed, through a grassroots lens, the work implemented and complexities faced by civil society organizations such as Casa Alianza. I have participated in developing short and long-term programmatic solutions. Moreover, seeing my work contribute to positive results in the recovery process of the adolescents whom I encountered was truly a touching and unforgettable experience. Thanks to the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship, I have reassured myself that this is the professional path on which I wish to continue.
Chytanya Kompala is currently completing a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with PATH, a global health and innovation NGO based in Seattle, WA. Chytanya holds a Master of Science in Public Health degree in Nutrition from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In this blog post, Chytanya writes about her experience working with PATH’s Nutrition Innovation team to explore the effects of tobacco use during pregnancy on childhood stunting. She is also currently drafting a policy brief to highlight interventions that could help to reduce chronic undernutrition.
Stepping Out of the Silo: Advocating for Interdisciplinary Approaches to Undernutrition
By Chytanya Kompala
Global nutrition is my passion. In graduate school, I was trained to think about nutrition problems in the developing world from a certain perspective. My training came from nutritionists and did not emphasize collaboration with sectors outside of nutrition. My peers have been nutritionists. All of my previous work experiences have been completely focused on nutrition. As a global health nutritionist and researcher, I was eager to work with the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH and gain an insider’s perspective into one of the most reputable global health NGOs in the world. When I started my fellowship in February 2017, I was expecting something similar to my previous nutrition-centric experiences. I was anticipating joining a team that worked similarly to other organizations in this field. I was expecting to rely on my existing knowledge of nutrition. Instead, I had an entirely different experience. I found myself learning so much about new topics from a team with diverse backgrounds and next-generation ideas.
The issue of chronic undernutrition (technically known as stunting) has been at the center of my fellowship research. Chronic undernutrition among children under age five is one of the largest burdens of malnutrition and is an unavoidable topic in the developing world.
Chytanya Kompala at the PATH 40th anniversary celebration in Seattle, WA (courtesy of Kelsey Miller)
Early this spring, I attended a presentation at PATH’s headquarters by Roger Thurow, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the author of The First 1,000 Days. “Stunted children have a life sentence to under-performance and under-achievement,” he said. As Thurow described, stunting during childhood impacts a child for the rest of his or her life. Long-term consequences of stunting include reduced educational attainment, impaired cognitive function and development, poor economic productivity, and even an increased likelihood of having stunted children. Stunting is an intergenerational condition that hinders the growth and development of individuals, families, communities, and even countries.
The Lancet 2013 Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition was a seminal set of papers that acted to coalesce the nutrition and development communities around a set of proven, “nutrition-specific” interventions to address stunting. They estimated that scaling up 10 nutrition interventions to 90 percent coverage would reduce stunting by about 20 percent. While this finding gave the community renewed focus, it also highlighted how much we still do not know about the complex determinants of stunting. What about the remaining 80 percent?
One of the aims of PATH’s Nutrition Innovation team is to help answer that question. During my six months at PATH, I worked on two projects: an ongoing systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of tobacco use during pregnancy and its association with stunting, and drafting a corresponding policy brief on “nutrition-sensitive” risk factors that may be contributing to stunting—those that were not highlighted in The Lancet 2013 Series.
I never thought that my research would be focused on tobacco use. At first, I was skeptical about researching this topic. I have no background or experience working on tobacco, and I was unsure about how relevant tobacco would be to stunting. But through our meta-analysis, my eyes have been opened to the idea that much more cross-sectoral research still needs to be done to explore the intersection and overlap between different health and development issues and nutrition outcomes.
“Meet the Future” panelists discuss innovation and diversity at the PATH 40th anniversary celebration in Seattle, WA (courtesy of the author)
Working on the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH has taught me an invaluable lesson about the interdisciplinary nature of global health and nutrition. Too often, people try to do great work in silos. Echoing this message at PATH’s 40th anniversary celebration in May, a diverse panel of innovators and young leaders discussed the importance of making connections across sectors to solve the world’s problems. By working collaboratively and moving away from the “business as usual” mindset, we can achieve greater impact. Thinking about stunting outside of the “nutrition-specific” lens enables us to better understand the complex and broad, sweeping determinants of the problem. Our research on tobacco is just one example of this.
We are currently in the process of drafting our policy brief with the aim of broadening the conversation about stunting to address issues beyond the nutrition interventions highlighted in The Lancet. We are exploring sound evidence on additional determinants of stunting, such as household air pollution, tobacco use, hygiene and sanitation, education, and delaying the first birth and birth spacing.
Part of our message is to advocate for more interdisciplinary approaches among people working in different sectors—to encourage researchers, program implementers and policymakers to expand their approach to include cross-sector indicators in their research and programs. Many health and development studies and programs do not include stunting as an outcome of interest, even when evidence indicates that there may well be an effect. We hope our work can help guide the conversation out of the box and lead to new, creative, and interdisciplinary approaches to end undernutrition around the world.
I am grateful for this fellowship and exposure to the great work of the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH. My time here has greatly expanded and shaped my perceptions and approach to thinking about global nutrition.
Ms. Houda El Joundi recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship through Handicap International, an NGO supporting people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations living in conflict, disaster zones and in situations of exclusion and extreme poverty. Houda graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in May 2016 from Kenyon College, where she studied Economics and Chinese. In this blog post, she writes about Handicap International’s programs as well as the campaigns she worked on throughout her Fellowship.
Two years ago, I came across Handicap International (HI)’s projects in Morocco, which is my home country. It was one of my first encounters with any substantial efforts being deployed to improve accessibility and rehabilitation services for people with disabilities in the country, and I learned about HI’s work advocating for disability rights as well as political, social, and economic inclusion.
One in four households in Morocco is affected by disability. Despite governmental efforts, people with disabilities are still heavily excluded from development. This is an infringement of their human rights and an equal hindrance to Morocco’s development, at a time when the country is undergoing a democratic and social transition requiring all factions of society to join forces and work together. Unfortunately, Morocco is only one of many developing countries where people with disabilities lack their basic rights of active participation and access to services. HI works in Morocco as well as in over sixty countries to improve the lives and livelihoods of people with disabilities, putting disability at the forefront of the development agenda.
Both my passion for HI’s work in promoting the rights of people with disabilities and my commitment to international development found solid ground this summer when I was named a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with Handicap International US. I was provided with an insight into the behind-the-scenes work of international development. It was fascinating to see how the values and mission of the organization translated into the everyday work and interactions of the HI-US team.
Throughout my fellowship, I learned a great deal about the history and comprehensiveness of HI’s work. HI was initially founded to fill the gap in humanitarian action and ensure that help was provided to the most vulnerable groups, including but not limited to people in situations of extreme poverty and people facing discrimination and exclusion. Through its projects, the organization aims to create sustainability by emphasizing the importance of local civil society organizations (CSOs) and disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) in the development process, and prioritizing capacity-building efforts. As such, HI ensures that local organizations and local staff in the countries in which it operates are partners and active participants in its inclusion, rehabilitation, prevention, and advocacy projects.
I was fortunate to assist with the launch of the Stop Bombing Civilians campaign; a powerful campaign the organization is carrying out as part of its advocacy efforts to ban the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. This campaign complements HI’s 30 years of advocacy work against anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions, which are weapons that are killing, maiming and displacing people daily in different parts of the world. These efforts have led to the creation of the Ottowa Mine Ban Treaty of 1997 and the Convention of Cluster Munitions (the Oslo Treaty) in 2008. The Stop Bombing Civilians campaign hopes to enforce international humanitarian law (IHL) and put an end to the unacceptable targeting of civilians in armed conflicts.
© PASCAL GRAPPIN / HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL
(HI’s annual Pyramid of Shoes campaign encourages communities to mobilize against landmines and cluster bombs – each shoe represents a life or limb lost to a landmine or cluster bomb)
My Fellowship has given me an appreciation for and a familiarity with the magnitude and range of HI’s development and emergency work. It has given me the opportunity to get a closer look at the various programs the organization is involved with, from exclusion to landmines, and the innovative and efficient ways in which it is addressing these issues. Handicap International is truly filling a gap in global humanitarian action.