Sarah Baker recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with SOS Children’s Villages – USA. Sarah holds an MA in International Media from American University and graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Communication from Auburn University at Montgomery. In this blog post, Sarah reflects on her experience supporting media relations and communication initiatives as a member of the communications and marketing team at SOS headquarters in Washington DC.
Becoming a Global Communicator through My HPC Fellowship
by Sarah Baker
Growing up at the foot of an extinct volcano in Germany’s Swabian Alps didn’t make me strive to become a great global communicator—being uprooted from there and plopped onto the dry, red clay roads of Alabama did.
It took me a long time to realize the value of living a life between two very different cultures, but when the realization came, it profoundly influenced my professional ambitions. I came to understand that in order to be effective in most anything—both professionally and personally—one must be able to communicate.
Equipped with this revelation and an endless supply of idealism, it only made sense to try to put my experiences and education to use effecting meaningful change in the world. Being named a Fellow by the Hilton Prize Coalition has given me a foothold in the non-profit world as well as an unmatched opportunity to learn about what it takes to succeed in a fast-paced, globally-minded and dynamic communications team.
I believe that one of the key components to solving global issues of all sorts is effective communication. For non-profits, one of the most impactful ways to spread their message is through the creation and implementation of communications campaigns built on strong, cause-driven narratives. At SOS Children’s Villages, I have been afforded the opportunity to advance and contribute to such campaigns.
SOS Children’s Villages builds families for orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children in 134 countries around the world. The organization’s most recent campaign implores donors to “Invest in a Girl” and complements its mission of child protection and empowerment by focusing on a group that often finds itself facing many more barriers than other segments of the global population.
Studies have shown that investing in girls creates long-term social and economic benefits for the whole world. If a girl has a stable family, an education and a healthy and safe environment, she can lift herself and her community out of poverty.
This belief in the idea that meaningful investment is integral to success permeates every part of SOS—from its work in the field to its management of its offices. Decisions there are made to promote long-term success rather than short-term gain. And so it has been for me throughout my fellowship.
As a marketing and communications fellow, I’ve been regarded as a full-fledged member of the team and have been tasked with eye-opening responsibilities that are nothing short of crucial in furthering my professional development. My time at SOS has been spent doing media outreach, crafting media pitches, copy writing, brand management, exploring potential editorial opportunities for our various campaigns and so much more. At SOS, my ideas are welcomed, my input is valued and my contributions are recognized.
One of my earliest assignments was an exercise in brand awareness and campaign promotion that led to me receiving a byline on Global Moms Challenge, which supports the United Nations’ Every Woman Every Child Initiative to help women and children around the world lead healthy lives. The story I wrote revolves around Olympic soccer star and SOS alum Mavis Chirandu. Mavis cites her experience growing up in an SOS Village in Zimbabwe as the reason she felt empowered to pursue her dreams of soccer stardom. It was inspiring to read about her success and to see just how right SOS is about the importance of providing a home and family for every child.
This type of experience was not unusual. Another media outreach effort for which I was given sole responsibility led to positive engagements with a number of renowned media outlets, including TIME magazine. Yet another work day found me attending an event on Capitol Hill with my teammates, where we were able to share the impact and importance of SOS’s work to provide families to abandoned, orphaned and otherwise vulnerable children.
The SOS team’s focus on ensuring that my time with them was meaningful, coupled with my own desire to contribute to the organization’s mission, made it easy and enjoyable for me to invest myself in my work. The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program has given me an incredibly valuable experience that I know will influence me both personally and professional throughout my life.
Meaningful investment can take many forms—for me it manifested itself as genuine support and guidance from a team that is truly committed to its mission. What has set this experience apart from any other that I’ve had is the willingness that the SOS team has shown to invest its time and energy in me. It’s clear to me that the organization’s nearly 70-year track record has been made possible by its focus on making meaningful investments in all areas, and that in order for me to succeed that I, too, must make meaningful investments.
HPC Fellow, Sarah Baker, was put to the test in an Escape Room Live experience with her SOS – USA team.
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.
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.
Community vegetable garden at Mtambani
Community members from Mwndapole A, doing regular exercises in the early morning before sunrise
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.
Women from different communities displaying their own initiative — handmade products — at the Learning Festival in Kibaha
Bibi Elizabeth Nkwela checking her blood pressure at the health desk during the festival
Participants from Mtambani village at the Learning Festival
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.
HPC #Fellow Stefania Doebbel shared her experience at the recent #GlobalChangemakers event, co-hosted with @AtlasCorps
@HI_UnitedStates: We’re hiring a @hiltonfound @PrizeCoalition Fellow for a #disability #climatechange study. Apply by 2/8:
For almost 50 years, Landesa has worked to provide secure land rights to families in the developing world. To date, these reforms have helped “alleviate poverty, reduce hunger and ease conflict over land.” With a presence in over 50 countries, the organization seeks to advance and raise awareness around all facets of land rights, from food security to women’s economic empowerment to agricultural productivity. Landesa was awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2015 for “partnering with governments to help provide secure land rights to an estimated 115 million families since 1967.” Through research, partnerships and innovative programs around the world, the organization is a leader in the field of sustainable development.
Partnerships and Programs
Landesa partners with governments, local communities and other stakeholders to carry out its programs and advance legal and policy reforms. Government partnerships are crucial to implementing this work, as is a deep understanding of the respective country’s culture and history.
One such partnership in India with government agencies led to an estimated 500 people receiving legal aid from trained paralegals and their local government partners. Another collaboration between Landesa and Namati, a grassroots legal organization, resulted in a joint report from the organizations, highlighting the importance of pro-poor land policy in Myanmar, a prominently agrarian society. The report explores ways for farmers to advocate their land rights and delves into data and fieldwork in the country. By collaborating with various NGOs, government agencies and local communities in myriad capacities, Landesa demonstrates how partnerships are vital to advancing secure land rights for long-term sustainable development.
Landesa and the Hilton Prize Coalition
Landesa remains committed to the goals of the Hilton Prize Coalition, most recently through its involvement in the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program. In 2016, Gloria Jimwaga completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship at Landesa in Seattle, conducting desk research for the organization’s Center for Women’s Land Rights. She examined large-scale land-based investment in Tanzania and its implications for women’s land rights in the country. “The fellowship is a great way to learn how to incorporate gender relations within the issue of land rights,” says Gloria. Through presentations, networking opportunities and mentorship, Gloria gained a great deal of knowledge not only about Landesa and its work in Tanzania, but about the organization’s global footprint and extensive resources.
Read more about her experience here.
(Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Gloria Jimwaga with Landesa Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Roy Prosterman)