Posts Tagged ‘Fellows Program’

A Letter from a Future Leader at Operation Smile

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.

Sincerely,
Ana Rabogliatti
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.)

Winter 2016 Fellow: Giovany Delgado, Casa Alianza Nicaragua

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.

Spring 2017 Fellow: Chytanya Kompala, PATH

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.

Spring 2017 Fellow: Judith Bagachwa, HelpAge Tanzania

2017 Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Judith Bagachwa is currently completing her fellowship with HelpAge International Tanzania (HAITAN). She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from Hubert Kairuki in Tanzania and is the founder and director of the Jb Geriatric and HIV Center in Dar Es Salaam. In this blog post, Judith describes her experience working on the “Afya Kibaha – International Health Ageing through a Life Course Approach” project to promote healthy living practices across generations of community members in Tanzania.

Pictured above is Judith in discussion with a community member from Bamba village about the village’s 2-acre farming activity.

As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with HelpAge Tanzania, I have learned and gained a lot from working on the “Afya Kibaha 2025” project, a community-based approach designed to promote healthy living practices across all ages. This project takes a life course approach to health in view of the role that intergenerational relationships, families, and communities have in promoting health across all ages. It integrates a community-based approach to “reduce modifiable risk factors for non-communicable diseases and underlying social determinants through creation of health-promoting environments.” The project further seeks to increase a sustainable youth engagement and strengthened intergenerational partnerships to support healthy living practices.

The goals of the Afya Kibaha 2025 project are to:
1. Support health promotion and improve health among all ages
2. Prevent/delay the onset of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
3. Support the health and functioning of older persons with non-communicable diseases.

Project Training and Community Life Competence Approach
During the project, we conducted a total of five training sessions involving 240 participants from 10 communities: Mlandizi, Mtambani, Mwendapole A, Mwendapole B, Boko Mnemela, Mnemela Kibaoni, Mharakani, Bamba, Picha ya Ndege and Kongowe. Through the use of our CLCP approach (Community Life Competence Process), community members were trained and asked to come up with their own health projects that would benefit their communities. The CLCP process aims at promoting self-reliance by stimulating older persons to appreciate their strength and abilities. The CLCP facilitates the empowerment of people and communities to discover and use their own strengths to address life concerns.

Participants planning and strategizing about their community dream

Family Health Mentors
During the trainings, six intergenerational family health mentors from each community were selected and given the task of educating their respective communities about health issues, especially on non-communicable diseases, and guiding families to live healthy lives by visiting health clinics, doing regular exercises, and setting up vegetable gardens. The aim of the trainings was to ensure that healthy lives are promoted and advocated to all ages (Children, Youth, Adults and Older Persons). Community dreams and action plans therefore focused on promoting intergenerational healthy practices to better protect communities from health risks. As the participants who attended the trainings represented their respective communities, they were able to identify challenges within their communities and later come up with ideas on how they can solve the health-related issues. As a team, these community members explored all the opportunities and developed action plans towards achieving their community dreams.

Outcomes from the project observed to date:

  • An increasing number of people are understanding the importance of doing physical exercises and joining the active ageing groups.
  • Community members had been encouraged and motivated to have vegetable gardens, both at family level and community level; as a result, family members are now eating nutritional food staff from their own gardens.
  • More youths, adults, and older persons are going for health checkups.

Celebrating at the Learning Festival
In March 2017, all ten communities were invited to come and share their experiences at a learning festival. During the festival, video clips from the different communities and their projects were shown. Through these and the testimonies of how the Intergenerational project had helped children, youths and older persons, all were able to see how the CLCP approach had a positive impact on people’s lives in Kibaha. The CLCP approach required people to use their own resources and strengths to achieve their goals at both the family and community level, guiding them on how not to be dependents and instead to seek out and apply their own resources. The festival helped people realize that they can do something better for themselves and improve on their lives.

I am so thankful I was able to conduct this project. I have been able to see how a young generation can work with an older generation and bring change in the community. Through HelpAge and the Hilton Prize Coalition, a door has been opened for me and my organization.

Spring 2017 Fellow: Samantha Acosta, HelpAge USA

Samantha Acosta is currently a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with HelpAge USA, an organization which advocates and empowers older persons to secure, active and healthy lifestyles. In this capacity, she focuses on the organization’s Healthy Aging Programs, conducting research related to fundraising, partnership building and grant management.

Samantha recently graduated with her Master’s degree in Social Work from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, where she explored gerontology infused courses with both a national and international focus. She has also conducted field research in Uganda, where she collected data on older persons’ quality of life, along with perceived needs and barriers. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Cultural Anthropology and Politics in 2014.

In the blog post below, she writes about her experiences in Uganda and the implementation of the Healthy Outcomes Tool.

Oli otya, Greetings from Uganda

In May 2016, I embarked upon my first trip to Uganda, where 12 Dominican University students and I had the opportunity to work closely with Health Nest Uganda, addressing the health needs and concerns of older persons by utilizing the Healthy Outcomes Tool (HOT). HOT is used as an assessment tool to evaluate an older person’s health status, functionality, access to health services, safety, and self-care. During this process, we traveled to four rural communities, where we followed up with older persons for the second round of data collection. By promoting the Healthy Outcomes Tool, the team was able to clearly identify barriers and obstacles that the older persons’ were facing in everyday life. Some of the obstacles addressed were mobility, distance to the health centers, whether medications were readily available, cost of medications, fear of being abandoned by family members, and property being taken. As we were able to gather and evaluate the given data, we addressed these issues and concerns with the leaders of each community. We gathered qualitative data on simple programs that could be implemented in order to create possible solutions for the barriers that were addressed. During our final meeting, a leader from each community joined to discuss what their personal community had decided to implement. The ideas were magnificent and suited each community in their own special way. I said my goodbyes to Uganda and the communities I worked with in May 2016, not knowing when I would return.

(Key older person leaders and Dominican University students, May 2016)

Thankfully, my story and work with Uganda and with Health Nest Uganda continued. Following graduation and after receiving my Master’s degree in Social Work, I decided to focus my studies on Uganda and how older persons are affected throughout the world. I collaborated with Kristin Bodiford, Health Advisor at HelpAge USA, learning about the issues of older persons and HelpAge’s mission to tackle those barriers. Through my work as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, I was able to return to Uganda in February 2017. During the second phase of my fieldwork, I was able to see the incredible progress that was made. Some communities incorporated singing, dancing and exercise programs in their regimen (photo below), while others focused on sanitation surrounding the latrines and handwashing, enhancing nutrition by building their very own catering business, and setting up regular check-ups within the community to test and treat non-communicable diseases. Witnessing this first hand was absolutely fascinating.

(An older person from Bugonga Village showing a Dominican University student the way they use dance and singing to promote healthier living and lifestyles)

I’m so thankful I was able to explore these issues in-depth and better understand the barriers that older persons experience daily through HelpAge and my Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship. This opportunity not only provided me with the opportunity to return to Uganda and continue my direct field experience, but I gained deeper insights on how HelpAge is working to address and assist older persons to be recognized more readily around the world and within local and national regulations.

Weeraba, Farewell, until next time.

Spring 2017 Fellow: Stefania Doebbel, Covenant House International

Stefania Doebbel recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with Covenant House International (CHI) in New York City, the largest network of shelters for youth experiencing homelessness across North and Central America. Originally from Chile, Stefania recently graduated from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), with a Master’s Degree in International Affairs.

In this blog post, she writes about her experience developing culturally sensitive training curriculum for youth and staff, in Spanish, to foster greater sensitivity and build the capacity of staff service for LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and/or Intersex) youth.


I had first visited Mexico with a team of Columbia University graduate students to assess Casa Alianza’s service delivery for LGBTI homeless youth and help improve their capacities. Casa Alianza, as Covenant House is known in Central America, is the leading youth shelter organization in Mexico and Central America. As part of our initial research, I conducted more than 40 interviews with the organization’s staff.

One client named Gerald often came up in the conversations. Gerald was a 16-year-old transgender girl who had fled her home country, Honduras, where she had experienced persecution and harassment for being LGBTI. While facing the daily dangers of living on the streets, Gerald had begun transitioning from her assigned-at-birth male identity to her female gender identity, taking non-prescribed hormones and injecting silicone in her chest. She had been doing this without the aid or support of any relatives or networks. Finally, she found refuge at Casa Alianza in Mexico City, where she was able to receive shelter and care in a safe community.

Unfortunately, Gerald’s case is far from unique. LGBTI youth are often victims of constant violence, discrimination, and victimization. They experience rejection from their communities very often by their own families. Furthermore, there is often limited cultural tolerance for sexual diversity in Central America which can lead homeless LGBTI youth to experience rejection by many shelter organizations.

Casa Alianza has been working hard to address the unique needs of LGBTI homeless youth. After the research I conducted in Mexico with Columbia University, I came back to the organization as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow. In this capacity, I led a wonderful team of practitioners and experts from each of the organization’s sites in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico to develop a training curriculum to provide high quality services to the sexually diverse youth population they host, and also began the process for human-rights-based internal policies that support the full development of LGBTI youth.

I was lucky to travel to Nicaragua during my Fellowship, and spent a week with a selected team developing a detailed and culturally sensitive curriculum that will allow the organization to increase their knowledge and expertise on LGBTI issues. The final curriculum contains four Modules and covers topics such as Basic Terminology, Psychological Development of LGBTI Youth, Anti-bullying Techniques, and Sexual and Reproductive Health, among others. The curriculum is built from the experience of Casa Alianza counselors and the expertise of other well respected organizations working with LGBTI homeless youth.

The ultimate goal is that through this training, Casa Alianza staff across Central America continue to develop a greater understanding of the norms that many times guide our behavior and perceptions, and have the right knowledge and practical experience to give LGBTI youth in need the best chances of developing their highest potential.

(Girls participating in a Pep Rally in La Alianza Guatemala)

The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship has been an unforgettable experience. It has enhanced my professional development as a human rights international practitioner, has improved my leadership and cross-cultural communication skills, and most importantly, has strengthened my commitment to work for the empowerment of the most vulnerable populations.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the trainings and policy reforms that Casa Alianza is implementing to protect and fulfill the needs of LGBTI youth, working to empower the future of many kids like Gerald throughout Central America.

          (Boys from Casa Alianza Nicaragua starting a running race on a football court in Managua)

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