On Tuesday, September 19, 2017 a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico, killing more than 220 people to date. At least 11 Hilton Prize Laureates operate in the surrounding region. Through protocols established under the Hilton Prize Coalition Disaster Relief and Resiliency Program, the Coalition is facilitating communications between these organizations to share information that might help to support collective relief efforts. Responses may include resource-sharing among Coalition members in the countries or regions affected to assist with recovery.
Laureates responding in the region include Casa Alianza/Covenant House, ECPAT, Heifer International, IRCT, Landesa, MSF/Doctors Without Borders, Operation Smile, Partners In Health, PATH, SOS Children’s Villages, and The Task Force for Global Health.
Collaboration between the affected organizations is supported by the Coalition’s Clearinghouse, a central repository of information about each respective Laureate organization and its operational capacities. The Clearinghouse function was developed to increase the organization's knowledge of each other’s activities that would promote their ability to work in concert with one another.
Updates on the response efforts underway by Coalition members are being collected and shared on the Coalition's Twitter feed.
(AP Photo: People walk through a neighborhood in Jojutla, Mexico, where many buildings collapsed the day before.)
In this second post of a series, Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program Director Steve Connors provides context on the plight of Syrian refugees at the European border, setting the stage for the Coalition’s next Storytelling project, a series of vignettes featuring the work of SOS Children’s Villages, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), HelpAge International and Handicap International. (Photo is from one of the short films.)
Stranded In Transit
by Steve Connors
“We are at present largely no longer enforcing #Dublin procedures for Syrian citizens.”
This innocuous statement, tweeted out in the middle of an August night by Germany’s Office for Migration and Refugees, signaled an open border policy for Syrian refugees and helped set Europe on the path to a political upheaval unprecedented in the history of the European Union. Two years later, tens of thousands of displaced people remain stranded on the EU borders, unable to go forward and desperate not to go back.
Overwhelmed by refugees from the Syrian and Iraq wars, the Lebanese and Jordanian governments had recently closed their own borders. People fleeing the ongoing violence in their homeland began to head north and west in search of safety. First they arrived in Turkey, which was already sheltering close to three million Syrians. With news of the German government’s relaxation of its border policies, hundreds of thousands then made their way toward Europe - either by sea to Greece or through Bulgaria by land. None of the countries involved were in any way prepared for this mass influx of despairing humanity. None of the countries involved had the capacity - whether infrastructural or economic - to cope with the sheer volume of traffic that approached them.
They weren’t only Syrians. Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile communication, others already displaced by violence, politics or economics saw an unmissable opportunity. Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Iranians, sub-Saharan Africans and even a few Cubans, reset their course and headed for Europe's borders.
Almost all those on the move had Europe as their desired destination, and all the countries along the way were thought of - not only by the refugees but also by the host governments - as transit points along the way. The last of these transit countries has been Serbia.
In the summer of 2015 Serbia had barely recovered from the worst floods ever recorded, and now faced a flood of another kind. The first responders to the crisis were the Serbian people themselves. Being no strangers to the plight of refugees during the wars of secession that carved up the former state of Yugoslavia, people saw the desperate condition of the people arriving on their doorstep and volunteered in the thousands, loading up their cars with food and water and delivering it along the routes being traveled by the refugees. Meanwhile, the Serbian government quietly worked in the background to renovate abandoned motels, barracks, and government buildings to create habitable transit camps where refugees could be registered, and much needed services could be delivered to those on the move.
Initially, with border controls being barely recognized, people passed through quickly and easily. The non-Syrians, if they had arrived in the early weeks, were also able to pass through in the chaos, but as time went by and the Syrian wave slowed down, border controls were soon reinstated, and the transit camps began to take on a permanence for which they were not intended.
Bordered on three sides by EU countries - Bulgaria to the east, Hungary to the north, and Croatia to the west, Serbia had become a cul-de-sac. The welcome that had been extended to the Syrians was now seen to have been fulfilled, and the countries forming the European Union’s south-eastern border had become a bulwark against further passage. At these borders, refugees face hostility, and even brutality.
Still they come: Fatima (right) and her sister-in-law, Amina, newly arrived at a makeshift refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. With the official border crossings closed to Syrian refugees, the women, along with Zeinab’s husband and sons, traveled for three days across rough mountain tracks to reach safety. Amina, who was born with a club foot, was carried across the mountains by her brother and nephews.
Among the thousands still in the Serbian transit camps, perhaps the least fortunate are the Afghans. Refused refugee status because Afghanistan is deemed by the international community to be a safe country in which to live, they are stranded in Serbia waiting for their names to reach the top of a list of people allowed to cross into Europe. But even when that day arrives, most will likely be refused asylum and sent back across the border.
The sense of crisis may be fading from world headlines, but with thousands of adults and children desperately yearning for safety and an end to their journey, the mantle of responsibility for their care will continue to fall on the shoulders of international NGOs. Among those still committed to providing that care in Europe and the Middle East are the stalwart staff of the Hilton Prize Laureates.
Beginning in early October, the HPC Storytelling Program will be rolling out four short videos featuring the work of HPC Laureates in Lebanon and Serbia. The first of these vignettes will follow the experiences of Handicap International as they’ve innovated and adapted to meet the needs of Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley and Tripoli. The second will focus on HelpAge International’s work with Lebanese partner organizations in Beirut, while the third will provide a glimpse into the daily work of IRCT member The Restart Center, which has been providing psychotherapy to patients living with trauma. The series concludes in Serbia, where teams from SOS Children’s Villages continue to provide for the needs of families as they transit through the country, seeking safety in Europe.
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.
This article by Peter Laugharn, President and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, offers a perspective on the current migration crisis, with reference to Syrian refugees and those displaced by impacts of climate change. A shorter version of the article was published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Many Prize Coalition members are working to face this crisis, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), who is mentioned in the article. Four other Coalition member organizations currently working in Lebanon and Serbia will be featured in the next Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program project: Handicap International, HelpAge International, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) and SOS Children's Villages.
Mobilizing for a Century of Dislocation
By Peter Laugharn
Nearly 35,000 people flee war or persecution each day. These brave men, women, and children join a record 65 million others — nearly 1 percent of the globe’s population — who can’t return home. Not even World War II uprooted as many people.
Migration will only worsen in the years ahead. Political and economic disorder continue to reign supreme across much of the world — and climate change will soon make life untenable in many communities.
Humanitarian organizations, donors, host countries, and their citizens can mitigate the suffering caused by the coming century of dislocation — but only by cooperating on sustainable development initiatives.
The Syrian civil war is the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. Already, 13.5 million Syrians — more than half the pre-war population — have fled their homes. And the flow of migrants shows no signs of abating.
In our lifetimes, rising sea levels and desertification will force tens of millions to leave their homelands. Widespread flooding, and the resulting economic strain, could displace 15 million people in Bangladesh alone by 2050.
The humanitarian community must better prepare for these unprecedented refugee flows. Its aid distribution system dates to the post-WWII era. Then, most refugees needed donations of food and clothing as they waited out conflicts in camps.
Nowadays, three in four refugees live outside a camp. Nearly nine in ten reside in low- and middle-income nations, often those bordering their home countries. Lebanon, for instance, has taken in 1.5 million Syrians, who now make up a quarter of the tiny Mediterranean nation’s population.
Host governments frequently view these arrivals with suspicion, worrying that they’ll destabilize fragile political systems and take jobs from citizens. So they box refugees out of the labor market and make them dependent on charity or black-market work. Those fleeing the hell of war and disaster find themselves in purgatory — unable to return home but barred from building new lives.
Unfortunately, the current administration is limiting the number of refugees being resettled in the United States and is proposing cuts to our foreign aid budget at a time when we need it most. Instead, our government is turning to other sources of funding, like philanthropy, to fill the gaps.
That’s not sustainable. It’s time for new approaches.
Consider Oxford’s Alexander Betts, who heads up the university’s Refugee Studies Centre. He urges host countries to allow refugees to work, pointing to Uganda as a model. Over 20 percent of refugees in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, “own a business that employs other people, and 40 percent of those employees are nationals of the host country.”
Host nations have a choice. They can either let refugees burden the economy — or contribute to it.
If refugees join the labor force, they’ll inevitably disperse into cities and towns. It’s logistically difficult for aid organizations to deliver food or clothing to these dispersed populations. That’s why David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee — which my organization previously honored with the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize — urges donors to simply give refugees cash.
Cash — which currently accounts for just 6 percent of all humanitarian aid — empowers refugees to buy exactly what they need. IRC studied 90,000 Syrian refugee families in Lebanon who received pre-loaded ATM cards. Families overwhelmingly spent the money on food, water, winter clothing, and shelter. And cash keeps kids in school — “households receiving cash assistance were half as likely to send their children out to work,” according to IRC.
Cash and work permits help refugees contribute to the economy and become partly self-sustaining.
But refugees can’t reach their full potential without an education. Two-thirds of refugee children aren’t in school. Yet less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid was devoted to education in 2016. My organization is working with international nongovernmental organizations, including Save the Children and Theirworld, to demonstrate how education initiatives for the most vulnerable young people are a smart investment for future peace and sustainability. Together, we’re supporting education programs for the children of Syrian refugees close to the epicenter of the crisis.
A long-term vision has been articulated in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its 17 Global Goals and 169 targets for improving lives around the world. By collecting and tracking more data on different aid projects, donors could better identify best practices — and make funding contingent on host nations adopting those practices. Donors could also preemptively identify areas where environmental migrants will likely flee — and work with local governments to make sure they’re able to handle large migration inflows.
Regular Americans can encourage this shift by making financial donations to organizations that implement modern approaches to humanitarian aid. They can also volunteer locally to support refugees who are beginning their new lives in the United States.
Conflict, a lack of economic opportunity, and climate change will make this a century of dislocation. By quickly adopting new approaches, aid agencies, donors, and host nations — including the United States — can turn the challenges of mass migration into opportunities.
(Photo by Jodi Hilton/IRC)
Reprinted with permission of The Hilton Foundation
July 30th marks the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, as recognized by the United Nations since 2013. Human trafficking is defined as the illegal transporting of persons between countries, typically for labor or sexual exploitation purposes, and is often referred to as modern-day slavery. It is the 3rd most lucrative illegal trade practice in the world. Human trafficking is an issue that crosses borders, leaving a trace in every country on the globe. 21 million people around the world are estimated to be trafficked for forced labor or sexual exploitation; 71% of them are women and girls, while one-third of them are children.
The global community recognizes this day in order to raise awareness for the victims of human trafficking and promote their rights as the fight to put an end to this illicit trade continues. Hilton Prize Laureates ECPAT International (ECPAT) and SOS Children’s Villages (SOS) are among the organizations at the forefront of this battle. In honor of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the Hilton Prize Coalition would like to shine a light on the work these organizations do.
Leading the effort for 25 years, ECPAT is the only international NGO that is dedicated exclusively to advocating against the sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT began in Thailand but has since grown to have a presence in 88 countries. A recipient of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2013, ECPAT provides crucial research, programs, and campaigns that contribute to their vision of a world without child sex trafficking.
Tourism creates a hotspot for child sex-trafficking, and as it increases globally, it puts more of the world’s children at risk. ECPAT leads initiatives in raising awareness of this massive problem and forging strategic partnerships to combat it. This July in Madrid, ECPAT served as one of the co-hosts for the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Transition Meeting on Implementation of the Recommendations of the Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (SECTT), demonstrating their expertise and global leadership on the subject. This meeting placed pressure on the global community to prioritize the protection of children in lieu of the increase in tourism and its positive correlation with sex trafficking. Reports that resulted from the meeting are available here.
SOS Children’s Villages
2002 Hilton Humanitarian Prize winner SOS is dedicated to the care of orphaned and abandoned children. The organization provides care, education, health services, and emergency response for children who have lost their families or are at risk of losing them, with a priority on ensuring the rights of children and giving them a safe space just to be kids.
Displacement in areas such as Syria puts millions of children on the move and can often lead to the separation of families. Children in such areas under the pressures of conflict or socio-economic stress are at higher risk of becoming victims of child sex-trafficking. SOS Children’s Villages Emergency Response programs bring shelter and safety to vulnerable children in areas experiencing violence; these measures protect children who have lost everything from becoming victims of sexual exploitation.
The work of SOS to protect children in Syria and the surrounding region will be featured in the next project of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program. Stay tuned for updates.
(UN Photo by Alessandro Scotti)
June 20th marks World Refugee Day as recognized by the United Nations. This year the world has reached unprecedented numbers of people fleeing their homes for fear of persecution or violence. On this day, the international community honors and recognizes the profound struggle of those who have no choice but to abandon their homes and face a future of impermanence and instability. As the refugee crisis persists, many agencies fight to advocate for and provide humanitarian assistance to the voiceless.
Hilton Prize Coalition members are at the forefront of response to the refugee crisis, providing leadership in their practices and partnerships. The Hilton Prize Coalition’s next Storytelling project will shine a spotlight on some the powerful and collaborative work being done by Coalition members in their efforts to aid refugees in the Middle East. Storytelling Program Director, Steve Connors, is spending the month of June traveling throughout Lebanon and Serbia to connect with Coalition members as they work with refugees in the region. The project will feature SOS Children’s Villages, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), Handicap International, and HelpAge International. Read more about the Storytelling project in this blog post.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “What is at stake is nothing less than the survival and well-being of a generation of innocents.” In honor of World Refugee Day, below are some more highlights of work being done by Coalition member organizations to respond to the crisis.
Women for Women International (WfWI)
The winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2006, WfWI leads the world in empowering marginalized women in regions plagued by humanitarian emergencies. They harness the skills of women and provide them with the necessary resources to support themselves and their families, promoting community development.
In the context of the refugee crisis, WfWI offers invaluable resources to women and their families around the world. Programs include mental health counseling to women who have suffered the trauma of being forced to leave their homes and who often take on the leadership role for their families. WfWI also has a strategic partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, which have been long been affected by displacement. Programs under this partnership combine their areas of expertise to teach women useful skills that help create economic opportunities for them as they search for stability in an unfamiliar place.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC)
The IRC received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1997, and has been a global leader in response to humanitarian crises for 83 years. In regions all over the world, the IRC provides best-in-class aid, promoting safety, health care, education and economic development for people affected by disasters and conflicts.
One recent initiative illustrates the power of collaboration and technology in the response to the refugee crisis. The IRC has recently partnered with Air BnB, the popular home rental service, in the creation of their “Open Homes” platform. This philanthropic endeavor will allow the IRC to connect refugees with Air BnB volunteers around the world who are willing to temporarily open their homes to refugees—for free. Temporary housing will then give the IRC time to resettle the refugees in a more permanent home.
Stay tuned for more stories about Coalition members as they continue to lead efforts to alleviate the suffering of refugee populations around the world.
Photo: Syrian women from a refugee camp in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley plant seeds in a local farmer's field. (Steve Connors)
Lynn Croneberger, CEO of SOS Children's Villages. "Overlapping Opportunities"
WATCH THE VIDEO
Ms. Tsega Teffera is currently a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with SOS Children’s Villages USA, an international NGO that builds families for orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children in 134 countries and territories, including the United States. Originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, she recently received her Master’s Degree in Communications Management from Webster University. In this blog post, Tsega writes about her increased knowledge of the international development sector as well as the projects she supported throughout her Fellowship in the Marketing department.
From my first day at SOS Children’s Villages USA (SOS), each person, in their own way, made me feel like part of the team. Everyone that I met genuinely believed in the organization’s mission. And soon, I understood why.
SOS has a unique approach to a problem that is all too common – orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children. The organization provides the most basic yet foundational element of every child’s upbringing and life – a family.
The SOS Model is simple: there are villages, homes, siblings and mothers – in short, families. The SOS Village is a supportive community that offers psychological and medical support, schools and recreational facilities. The home is a safe environment where children have a sense of belonging and responsibility both for their home and for each other. Biological siblings are kept together, not separated. Most important of all is the SOS Mother, a trained caregiver who loves and cares for the children.
(Tsega Teffera – bottom row, second from left, with SOS USA staff)
As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, my projects this summer and fall ranged from developing communication materials for internal and external use to conducting research and collecting content. I was tasked with telling the inspiring stories of SOS families all over the world and supporting the organization’s efforts in building awareness about SOS in the United States. These projects definitely helped me to sharpen my skills and to take my know-how from theory to practice. More than that, it allowed me to discover that sweet spot where my interests and skills could be used to better people’s lives.
SOS is changing kids’ lives and giving them the opportunity to fulfill their potential. This is evidenced by the many success stories I learned of through the course of my fellowship, including that of Gebre, a little boy in Ethiopia who found his way to an SOS Village after losing his family to famine, and ended up at Harvard University on a full scholarship; and that of Mavis, a young girl raised in an SOS Village in Zimbabwe who made it to the Rio Olympics as part of the national soccer team. Seeing these changed lives has motivated me to work hard and put in the extra effort, because not only is the outcome worth it, but the positive effects are lasting.
As I wrap up my time at SOS, I see a future for the organization that is exciting and impactful thanks to corporate partners, individuals, SOS alumni and other groups who believe in the organization’s mission. Of these partners is one that I was able to meet in person was 11-year-old Capri Everitt. Capri was so moved by the plight of vulnerable children that she decided to use her voice to raise awareness and funds for SOS. For nearly a year, the young girl traveled to 80 countries and sang the national anthem of each country in the national language (41 languages total). Being involved in this project taught me that there is always something that I can do, no matter what my position or resources. Capri’s story is proof that anyone can help, if we are creative with what we have.
(Capri Everitt with children from an SOS Children’s Village in Nongkhai, Thailand)
This fellowship gave me the opportunity to discover what I, as a young African woman and leader, can do to serve my community. I’ve learned that it is possible to provide holistic support to individuals, and also that the various factors that impact people are interconnected and therefore require a multifaceted approach. As I aspire to work in the international development sector, this fellowship has broadened my thinking and taught me to consider both the short and long term impact, which is critical for sustainable development. There are many development-related issues that need to be addressed to support kids and people in general, but after my time at SOS, I’m confident that I can contribute to positive change and make a difference in my community and communities around the world.