Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’

Spring 2017 Fellow: Sarah Baker, SOS Children’s Villages – USA

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.

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)

Hilton Prize Coalition and Atlas Corps Gather Emerging Leaders for First Global Changemakers Event

On April 13, 2017, the Hilton Prize Coalition and Atlas Corpsan international network of nonprofit leaders that facilitates overseas fellowships, co-hosted the first Global Changemakers event in Washington, DC. Both collaborative Fellows Programs were celebrated at the event, which brought together the two groups for an evening of networking.

With more than 70 in attendance, the evening consisted of remarks by Atlas Corps and Hilton Prize Coalition representatives, as well as stories from two Fellows, Maxi Salmon and Stefania Doebbel. Guests included staff and partners from both organizations, Fellows from both programs, mentors, and young professionals from the DC area interested in international affairs and nonprofit innovation. The themes of the event, which included the importance of coalition building and the value of expanding networks to create social change, resonated throughout the evening.

Maxsalia (Maxi) Salmon, an Atlas Corps Fellow from Jamaica currently serving at the Council on Foundations, shared her appreciation for the new partnership and the global footprint that will continue to grow from this effort. She shared with the audience reasons why this collaboration is remarkable, saying it is incredibly important that “both initiatives focus on building the next generation of dynamic leaders in the social sector.”

(Maxi Salmon speaking at the Global Changemakers Networking event, April 13, 2017)

Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Stefania Doebbel shared the impact of her Fellowship through stories of LGBTI youth she met during her placement. At Covenant House International, Stefania is creating culturally sensitive training curricula for staff in Central America that is meant to build the capacity of staff service for LGBTI youth. She also highlighted the influence this placement has had on her professional development, ultimately allowing her to learn more about human rights policies in Central America.

A blog post by Stefania will be published soon on the Hilton Prize Coalition website.

Visit the Coalition’s Flickr album to view more images from the event.

Collaborative Models: Reflections on Working with Survivors of Violence and Torture

In this post by youth psychologist Gabriela Monroy, readers are offered a glimpse inside one of the projects currently being implemented under the Hilton Prize Coalition’s Collaborative Models Program. Coalition members Covenant House International and the IRCT (the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims) are working together to develop a comprehensive set of materials on issues related to trauma informed care. These materials will be used for training and as reference for healthcare workers and specialists to better understand the effects of trauma and how to approach traumatized youth.

Reflections on Working with Survivors of Violence and Torture
by Gabriela Monroy

I am a psychologist at La Alianza, Covenant House International’s (CHI) safe house for trafficked and sexually exploited girls in Guatemala. I am also the CHI regional coordinator in Latin America for the Hilton Prize Coalition’s Collaborative Models Program on trauma-informed care, which is being carried out by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) and CHI. I was invited to attend the 10th International Scientific Symposium organized by the IRCT in December 2016 in Mexico City. When I received the invitation, I very much looked forward to the opportunity to learn from survivors of torture and those who work to support them. I knew I had much to learn and much to share. After three days of listening to the presentations and experiences from different countries, I began to realize that in many countries across the globe like mine, “normal” is similar to a war zone where death, torture, rape, abuse and abandonment of children is the norm and life is a continuum of traumatic events. The exception is a moment of human and humane interaction–which is what we strive to accomplish at La Alianza.

At La Alianza, young girls who are survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation find an environment that offers them the opportunity to finally be treated as human beings, in a dignified, respectful and non-violent way. For some of them, the violence in their lives has been so overwhelming that it can feel traumatic to be treated in such a humane fashion. Using a trauma informed care lens in my day-to-day work as a youth psychologist, I see, after some time of working with them, that the impact on their lives is visible. Society seems so surprised at the transformation that care, affection, and dignified treatment can produce. It is ironic because acting in a humane way should be the most common thing we do as humans, yet it still surprises us even more than the violence itself.

Every single presentation at the Symposium presented the testimonies and experiences of survivors on this continuum of violence and torture as examples of integrity and dignity. This simple reflection on my experience of this symposium hopefully will be a recognition and a homage to their courage and an expression of my respect for each one’s journey and all they have gone through.

When we work with persons who have been tortured or victims of violence without seriously questioning and denouncing the existence of this continuum of violence, we run the risk that our support can become yet another act of violence, even without intending so. And because of this, as professionals and as members of humanitarian organizations, it is necessary to develop an internal alarm system sensitive to this reality.

Also, we need to realize that best practices for dealing with survivors of torture and violence need to be based in respect for their day-to-day experience and respect for the ways they have survived, and if we can recognize this then we may be able to transform the norm that violence has become into the exception. This is my hope. I am grateful to the Hilton Prize Coalition for giving me the opportunity to be a witness to such courage.

(Gabriela Monroy, right, with one of her patients at La Alianza in Guatemala) 

Winter 2017 Fellow: Hilda Nyatete, IRCT

Hilda Nyatete recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with the IRCT – the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. The IRCT serves as an umbrella organization for over 150 member centers that aid survivors of torture in more than 70 countries, advocating for the right to holistic rehabilitation and providing victims with clinical, legal and social assistance. Originally from Kenya, Hilda has a deep background and expertise in trauma counseling, particularly in the area of gender based violence. She holds a Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. 

In this blog post, she writes about the importance of comprehensive clinical documentation and the IRCT’s Data in the Fight against Impunity (DFI) project.

(Participants from different organizations working on clinical documentation under the DFI project with support from the IRCT; IRCT Scientific Symposium in Mexico City)

My work at the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) revolves around ensuring that victims of torture and their families receive psychological support both at the individual and group level. IMLU has been a member of the IRCT for many years, and has become the premier organization supporting victims of torture in Kenya. It supports an average of 500 victims of torture annually.

Working with survivors and families of victims of torture is not an easy task. Listening to survivors recount painful, dehumanizing and degrading memories of torture in the hands of the government invokes a hunger and drive to keep fighting for the rights of the underserved. One of the challenges my team constantly has to tackle is the victim’s fear, which often leads to a low level or a complete lack of cooperation when reporting cases of torture. This is due to intimidation by the perpetrators, who not only deny any accusations of wrongdoing but may also put forward fabricated charges against the victims, which piles onto their fear. The fear and intimidation have caused us to be very intentional in involving clients throughout the process of reporting, entering data about their case from intake, during service provision, and until the client is released from active medical support and counseling; that way, the clients understand the critical role their information plays in allowing them to achieve justice.

With 25% of cases going to court, IMLU works with a network of professionals who provide critical documentation of torture and ill treatment in legal proceedings. These evaluations and subsequent documentation take place all over the country. The purpose of the medical and psychological evaluation is twofold: to provide an expert opinion on the degree to which findings correlate with the alleged victim’s allegation of torture, and to effectively communicate the clinician’s findings and interpretations to the judiciary or other appropriate authorities. It is key that clinical documentation is done diligently and in a clear and concise manner to ensure that justice is served.

To face the challenges of threats, intimidation, and a tedious documentation process, IMLU developed a database system which was officially launched in 2015. The system goes beyond data entry about the clients’ respective cases, enabling the staff to manage individual and group calendars and diaries; that way, those who work with clients but do not engage with data entry on a daily basis still find it useful. My work as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow has revolved around continually engaging staff in this comprehensive clinical documentation, as well as supporting other organizations in the process, which ultimately serves to enable victims to achieve justice.

It remains paramount that organizations such as IMLU collect and document data on these human rights violations. During my Fellowship, I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico City for the IRCT’s 10th International Scientific Symposium in December 2016. I met colleagues from various organizations who are also working at IRCT member centers and participating in the Data in the Fight Against Impunity Project, who are just beginning to establish their own database system. Sharing my experience of how the IMLU system has made our work easier while ensuring that clients are involved in documentation, was exciting and meaningful. Little did I think that the work we were doing at IMLU would be of such great impact to colleagues in the sector. Being a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow has given me a boost of confidence and allowed me to learn a great deal not only in matters of clinical documentation but on leadership, networking, and quite a bit on humanitarian work. I am truly grateful to have been accorded this wonderful platform and opportunity to learn, grow, and to contribute to the common good.

(IMLU’s poster presentation during the IRCT symposium)

(My tour around Mexico City) 

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