HPC Fellow: Daniela Muenzel, ECPAT International

Daniela Muenzel is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with ECPAT International. At ECPAT International, Daniela worked alongside the communications team on their social media channels. In her blog, Daniela reflects upon how her work and ECPAT’s World Tourism Day campaign inspire ECPAT’s audience to take action against child exploitation. 

How to spend all day on Facebook and get work done
Daniela Muenzel

After 8 months of working with an NGO in Nepal, I knew I wanted to continue my career in international development work. But the desire to continue doing work where I could directly engage with communities and everyday people, coupled with a sense of inadequacy when I went on fieldtrips where I could contribute little due to the language barrier, had me wondering about how I should proceed. Whilst very aware of the issues of both brain-drain and need for more localized skills development and utilization, being of Japanese and German heritage and having moved around the world since I was 2 years old, I never knew where I would pursue a career in my “own context”.

But from marine engineering to psychology, public health, and then child rights, the one thread that has been running through my personal and career lifespan had been my interest in people. Having worked with the elderly, disabled people and other marginalized communities and individuals, I learned how to build relationships and communicate with a wide range of people. Over the years I have realized that my ability to connect with individuals from various backgrounds and cultures was a unique strength that I should build on in my professional career.

In the midst of such reflection and contemplation, I was offered the placement as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with ECPAT International’s Communications Team.

Communications with the public is a key component of charity and international development work. It is not only a tool for awareness raising, advocacy, fundraising, or network building, but should be employed for public mobilization and involvement in planning, implementation, and improvement of the work organizations do. But often research findings, policies, and other crucial information are limited to high level, technical language, and even though efforts are ongoing to reach the masses through campaign efforts, a lot more can be done to fully engage and involve those communities to whom it matters most.

From my previous experience in advocacy and community engagement, I learned that it is crucial to take active approaches such as providing information in an accessible way, without technical jargon, and to give people something they can actually do something with to support the cause, instead of numbers that might shock them for a moment before they move on with their lives.

ECPAT’s 104 worldwide member organizations aim to end child trafficking and sexual exploitation globally.  The communications team at ECPAT uses various methods such as social media streams, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as media and relationships with member organizations, to strengthen partnerships, awareness raising, public mobilization, and advocacy efforts worldwide. Striking the balance between communicating and engaging with impact, while maintaining a sensitive approach to a topic as dreadful as child sexual exploitation can be a challenge. Highlighting trends and news on child sexual exploitation on a daily basis can be mentally exhausting, and with our success measured by the number of likes, shares and comments, it is sometimes difficult to grasp the ground level impact my work has.

But when I think about how our most recent World Tourism Day campaign, which aims to raise awareness among tourists and travelers on how to recognize potential victims and motivates them to report potential cases, I get a sense of what can be achieved by hours spent developing creative, attention grabbing content, and running those campaigns on Facebook. If even a handful of the nearly half a million people who we reached through the campaign are now more likely to speak up, and could remove even one child from a life of exploitation, that already makes my work incredibly rewarding.

I am grateful to the Hilton Prize Coalition and ECPAT International for the opportunity. The training opportunities such as the “Social Media in Emergencies” webinar provided by the Hilton Prize Coalition have been particularly helpful, allowing me to further learn how communications could be applied in various contexts. The experience has given me the base for an important step to come up with a focused aspiration to develop my professional skills and experience in communications, allowing me to integrate my multicultural background, passion for interpersonal relationships and people, and writing and creative abilities, to find my role within international development work.

(Photos courtesy of ECPAT International)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Refuge: HelpAge International

The Refuge series, a production of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program, chronicles how Coalition members are addressing the global refugee crisis. The second film in the four-part Refuge series features HelpAge’s work to improve the lives of older Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon. To see how HelpAge makes an impact, watch the film in the series, Refuge: HelpAge International and read the article below by Kate Bunting, the CEO of HelpAge USA. In her reflection, Kate describes the unmet health care needs of older people in local communities and how HelpAge fills this gap.

What it’s like to be an Older Syrian Refugee.
By Kate Bunting

Today, there are 25.4 million people who are refugees. Within this population, there is great diversity—not just in terms of nationality and socioeconomic background, but also in terms of age.

Older people are not commonly thought of as refugees. But increasing life expectancies and the protracted nature of many humanitarian crises should force us to rethink assumptions about who is displaced. These are important realities to consider because people in later stages of life have specific health and care needs.

It’s why HelpAge’s work in Lebanon to support Syrian refugees and host communities is so important. In a joint study with Humanity & Inclusion, we found that 77% of older Syrian refugees have specific needs and that one in seven is affected by a non-communicable disease (NCD). Many refugees, however, lack access to medicine and treatment for these conditions.

Amin’s story is a case-in-point. He is a 62-year-old Syrian refugee who has lived in Beirut, Lebanon, for the past five years. He has hypertension, but his medicine is no longer available at the local health center. He now experiences constant headaches and trembling as a result. Because he can’t afford the fee for medical appointments ($1.30 USD), he doesn’t go see the doctor. “It’s hard to say, ‘I don’t have money,’ so I’m not doing any tests or taking any medication.”

It’s precisely because so little was being done to address this urgent need that HelpAge made it our focus. HelpAge works with local partners to provide health care for older people like Amin who have an NCD, including medical consultations, laboratory tests, and medication. HelpAge supports local organizations to be more inclusive of older people—as opposed to establishing our own facilities—because we know that for change to be sustainable, it must first be endemic. We began bringing health services to the camps for this same reason—not only to increase access to care, but also as a way for refugees (who may be too afraid or unable to leave the camps) to engage with the outside community.

The challenges of being an older refugee, not to mention the life-altering change and trauma many have experienced, are overwhelming. As a result, many older refugees have health needs beyond just their physical wellbeing. In response, HelpAge provides psychosocial support activities such as peer counseling sessions, referrals for specialized mental health services, and recreational activities. These are some of the most important programs to older Syrian refugees—it’s one of the clearest messages that comes across in Refuge: HelpAge International, the second film in the four-part Refuge series.

We are so grateful to the Hilton Prize Coalition for helping us tell the story of older refugees. It’s as much a story about inclusion as it is about dignity, because for us, the two are deeply connected. The support services we provide are not just critical for health and well-being, they also help restore a sense of humanity to those whose belief in it may be shaken. But, don’t just take our word for it. Together with the Hilton Prize Coalition, we invite you to see it for yourselves when it’s released in early November.

(Photos courtesy of HelpAge USA)

About HelpAge USA

HelpAge USA is the U.S. affiliate of HelpAge International, a global non-profit dedicated to promoting the well-being and inclusion of older people. In a time of unprecedented demographic change, HelpAge advocates for health systems and policies that meet the needs of an aging world. Our programs provide older people and their families with resources and services to manage their health including screenings for non-communicable disease and eye exams to prevent blindness. In Lebanon, HelpAge has provided care and treatment to 4,000 people and trained over 600 care providers on early detection of NCDs. To learn more about HelpAge programs as well as the health challenges of an aging world, visit www.helpageusa.org.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

 

HPC Fellow: Adrien Gaussen, Aravind Eye Care System

Adrien Gaussen is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with Aravind Eye Care System. At Aravind Eye Care System, Adrien worked alongside individuals at Aravind’s internal consulting and training division to set up the infrastructure necessary for properly creating, testing, implementing, monitoring, and updating patient educative materials. In his blog, Adrien reflects upon Aravind’s operational efficiency and patient education model. 

Including the Patient in the Fight Against Needless Blindness
By Adrien Gaussen

Within the world of Ophthalmology, regardless of the country, everyone regards Aravind as a leader in the struggle to eliminate avoidable blindness. The impact Aravind has had both directly and indirectly on eye care in emerging markets is incredible. As my Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow colleague, Shazzad Khan, accurately describes in his blog, Aravind is well on its way to one day preventing needless blindness.

While many factors have contributed to Aravind’s ever growing achievement of offering eye care to millions of patients in such a short period of time, the way Aravind is run and its operational efficiency has allowed it to make leaps and bounds, whereas so many other non-governmental organizations have struggled. Aravind treats thousands of patients a day, using the revenues from paying patients to finance those receiving care for free. While many NGOs rely highly on outside financing (whether it be external aid, grants, or subsidies) especially in the realm of healthcare, where costs are so high, Aravind has reached a point where the sheer number of patients that they see makes the institution profitable and completely financially self-sufficient.

And while Aravind could very well rest on its laurels, the organization still runs on all cylinders to try and grow in new ways so that one day no person be needlessly blind.

During my time at Aravind, I worked on structuring the process of developing, maintaining, and advancing patient education. As with any fast growing company, the need for a structured method in carrying out any operation becomes increasingly important to ensure quality and uniformity across the entire organization.

India remains a country where many people are unaware of the importance of visiting an ophthalmologist and receiving care. And yet patient education in ophthalmology is incredibly important, especially given that it is a therapeutic area where most diseases are non-curable. What this means is that, even after providing some of the best eye care in the world (Aravind’s complication rate following cataract surgery is lower than many US or EU hospitals at 1.01-1.11% [1], depending on the surgery type) in many cases, if a patient waits for symptoms to manifest before going to see a doctor, treatment will not restore the lost vision.

Working alongside individuals at Aravind’s internal consulting and training division (LAICO), we went about setting up the infrastructure necessary for properly creating, testing, implementing, monitoring, and updating patient educative materials. The first month and a half saw me travel across a variety of different Aravind hospitals to speak to all different types of stakeholder; from mid-level ophthalmic personnel (MLOPs) who help in screening patients to counselors who answer patient questions to doctors to Heads of Departments to C-level executives. During this time, I was able to see how educative materials are currently made and discover the difficulties in creating effective materials. I also was able to truly see how Aravind functions as an organization.

After getting a firm grasp of how Aravind operates and the current norms and infrastructure in place for creating patient educative materials, we went about creating a set of protocols that could easily be followed to ensure patients are adequately educated through the use of posters, videos, brochures, or any other medium.

Since I had lead this initiative, my biggest fear was in ensuring what had been created would not fall by the wayside after I had gone. Therefore, my last month with Aravind was dedicated to setting up a team that would champion and be responsible for patient educative materials. Over the course of the month, I worked alongside a team, made up of a Doctor, a Counsellor, and someone from the design department, to familiarize, implement, and test the protocols that we had created.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I have valued my time at Aravind. It is truly an amazing company filled with people who are dedicated to dealing with one of the most debilitating disabilities in the world: blindness.

[1] Haripriya, Aravind, et al. “Complication rates of phacoemulsification and manual small-incision cataract surgery at Aravind Eye Hospital.” Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery 38.8 (2012): 1360-1369.

(Photos courtesy of Aravind Eye Care System)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

 

HPC Fellow: Oyuntugs Bayaraa, Clubhouse International

Oyuntugs Bayaraa is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with Clubhouse International. At Clubhouse International, Oyuntugs completed an intensive New Clubhouse Development training and developed an action plan designed to start a Clubhouse in Mongolia. In her blog, Oyuntugs reflects upon why she was drawn to the Clubhouse model.

Mongolia’s First Clubhouse
By Oyuntugs Bayaraa

The Vision

Gateway is the premier adult mental health resource for the Greenville, South Carolina, community.

I am honored to be a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow at Clubhouse International. Clubhouse International recognized the need for the Mongolian people to have community-based rehabilitation and an inclusive facility for the mentally challenged. The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program assisted my journey and training within the Clubhouse International group. I recently completed my master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Arkansas and my Clubhouse International training, and I am back home in Mongolia to work toward my goal of establishing a much needed Clubhouse. Clubhouse International’s vision is to create a world where people with mental illness recover and are an integral part of society. I share their vision and also want to include the physically challenged people of Mongolia in my mission since I am blind. I humbly ask everyone to follow and assist me on this challenging journey of establishing the first Clubhouse in Mongolia. I am thankful to the Hilton Prize Coalition for helping me take the first step and to Clubhouse International for setting my compass in the right direction.

The Clubhouse Experience

During my training period in South Carolina, I felt very welcomed by all of the members and staff when they presented me with the flag of Mongolia.

When I arrived at a Clubhouse home, I was expecting to see a group of people sitting around leisurely enjoying the home. Instead, I found a large family working together and independently on projects and assignments. The members and staff were working on assignments and goals as you would expect from a friendly and supportive family. They each proudly accepted their duties and took ownership of their responsibilities. The Clubhouse was more than a comfortable home, it was a school, a shelter, and a safe place to be themselves.

(Photos courtesy Clubhouse International)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

HPC Fellow: Ryan Pilkington, Operation Smile

Ryan Pilkington is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with Operation Smile. At Operation Smile, Ryan  worked on Operation Smile’s 27th annual International Student Leadership Conference. In his blog, Ryan reflects upon his work researching foundations and building lasting relationships.

Creating Change One Person at a Time
By Ryan Pilkington

Operation Smile, I have discovered, is an immense organization. I have been granted an equally immense challenge to serve as a volunteer, a student, and a 2018 Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow. The honor is shaping my future and will no doubt provide a foundation for me to pursue dentistry while contributing to a world of change.

As a college student, I served in Operation Smile’s Office of the President to understand the complexities of the organization and to help foster initial stages of celebrity engagement. To see how a nonprofit functions behind the scenes, globally, is truly astounding, especially given conditions of geography, culture, funding, and personnel. Despite growing up in Operation Smile’s hometown and being part of annual school events and local projects, I had no idea what it takes to run one of the world’s leading medical, volunteer-based, children’s charities. While Operation Smile seamlessly performs thousands of safe surgeries to those born with a cleft lip, cleft palate, or other facial deformities, there is a daily hands-on approach to the humanity involved. No decision or project is executed without consideration first given to those immediately affected, without bias towards religion, politics, gender or socio-economic barriers. The commitment is always to the child, the healing, the solution.

As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, I worked as an in-office and on-site assistant for Operation Smile’s 27th annual International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) held July 16-22, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. While reporting directly to Operation Smile’s Co-Founder and President, Kathy Magee, and coordinating logistics, I came to understand that headline speakers from Amazon, Microsoft, Align Technologies, and the Gates Foundation were far more than simple conference participants. The involvement of these organizations and their representatives matched the very messaging that Operation Smile consistently uses to challenge students to find their passion, to think, to contribute, and to act.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Create Change.” Align Technology — the company that pioneered invisible orthodontics — was the Advocacy Sponsor. I learned that the speaking engagement was a celebration of Align Technology’s “smilestones”, which are the milestones celebrated for each millionth patient treated with their Invisalign® product. I saw that corporate giants can carry as much dedication as individuals.

ISLC speaker Hugh Chang of the Gates Foundation also reinforced Operation Smile’s long-held philosophy that people and relationships are the real foundations behind facts and figures. Stats won’t tell the full story, he said. “It’s that ability to learn from all perspectives and to understand the drive it takes to make it work,” said Chang.

My role in pushing this messaging forward culminated with responsibilities to assist in the production of Operation Smile’s Create Change concert during the conference. We secured the headline performer, Seva, who was a celebrity showstopper for the students. As a former American Idol contestant, Seva traveled to Hollywood as the show’s first Kurdish-Iraqi singer after fleeing Iraq with her family during the years of war. While English is her fourth language, Seva had no trouble communicating her message to the ISLC audience for a night of music, strongly inspiring the students to create change and keep pursuing what they believe in. Seva joked with us later that she signed up for a 40-minute gig but ended up with a lifetime commitment to Operation Smile. She is now planning to travel with Operation Smile to Amman, Jordan in 2019.

I learned that to build lasting relationships means including anyone and everyone who is ready to offer something of themselves, whether a word of support, a talent, a skill, a donation, a service, a kindness. Or even a song. While trying to guide performers and assist staff members on site during ISLC 2018, I was suddenly asked to close the conference with a performance of my own, leading 500 participants in the singing of Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah. In doing so amid my loud inner doubts, I realized that this was by no means a solo act. It was a test, through and through, of trust and of the ability to be part of something greater than myself. On stage, with support from conference organizers, from the Co-Founders, from American Idol’s Seva, and from a willing guitarist, I sang and pulled together an auditorium of students who will never forget their week with Operation Smile.

As part of my Hilton Prize Coalition fellowship, I was also charged with conducting research into foundations that might support Operation Smile. I was given the start-to-finish opportunity to identify a funding lead, speak to the funders, draft a proposal and submit a request. With the Office of the President, I helped pursue introductions with different agencies to gain possible celebrity partnerships through online fundraising. Operation Smile and I will continue to promote engagement with celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, Gaten Matarazzo, and Taylor Swift, among others. Such goals are notoriously difficult, as schedules and agents can be immovable. However, I had deliberately sought this path with Operation Smile as I feel very passionately that celebrity support, aligned correctly, has the potential to make a significant difference in the world. Social status can and should be used for good.

I am now beginning my path towards dentistry, my first spark of inspiration when I started volunteering for Operation Smile. I was excited to get to know the organization and hope to eventually use my profession to make a difference in the world. For now, I am humbled by the opportunity granted by the Hilton Prize Coalition to improve myself while improving the world. The teachings of the fellowship, meanwhile, will last a lifetime.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

HPC Fellow: Alexandra Barber, SOS Children’s Villages – USA

Alexandra Barber is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with SOS Children’s Villages – USA. At SOS Children’s Villages – USA, Alexandra worked as a Marketing and Fundraising Fellow. In her blog, she reflects upon her work with emergency response programs and her growth in both offline and digital marketing and fundraising.

The Draw of Disaster Relief Work
By Alexandra Barber

Studying at James Madison University, I discovered my true passion to work on and be a part of something that made a change in the lives of people all around the world.

For my senior thesis, I constructed a development plan for Haiti that mainly focused on disaster response. My senior thesis’ focus on disaster response is ultimately what drew me to apply for the fellowship at SOS Children’s Villages – USA (SOS).  Although their emergency response programs weren’t quite the same as the work that I did with my senior thesis, this position would allow me to combine another passion I had: working for children and ensuring their rights to a great future.

As the largest NGO dedicated to the care of orphaned and abandoned children, SOS Children’s Villages utilizes a comprehensive approach to build loving and stable families for children in over 135 countries. SOS originated in 1949 following World War II when 40 Austrian children were taken to safe homes after becoming orphaned. This event led to the overarching mission of providing safe homes to children in need. SOS is able to accomplish this goal through their core pillars and model: prevention, long-term care, empowerment, and movement building. Through prevention, SOS Children’s Villages provides the resources to strengthen families and protect children from threats to their safety. For those children who do not have parental care, they are brought into SOS homes and provided long-term care of a loving and stable family. SOS children are then set up for success and provided resources, such as vocational training and life skills development, to feel most empowered and reach their full potential. Finally, SOS Children’s Villages works with other developmental agencies and communities to advance initiatives that help children and families and raise awareness of the rights of children.

Alexandra Barber (left) with SOS Marketing and Fundraising Intern

In my position as a Marketing and Fundraising Fellow for SOS Children’s Villages, I have been fortunate to add to my experience in both offline and digital marketing and fundraising. However, my work with the major gifts department on grant proposals directed towards emergency response programs has been most interesting.

One of SOS’s most inspiring initiatives is their emergency response programs, which began in order to provide support and care to children before, during, and after a large crisis or emergency. Humanitarian crises are extremely frequent and can occur in the wake of political instability, poverty, environmental causes, or weak institutions. Various projects I have been able to have a hand in have highlighted some of the things that SOS Children’s Villages – USA has been able to do to combat these important issues. These are projects that range from grant proposal research for projects helping those affected by the conflict in Syria, to others that show the steps taken to advance our four pillars: empowerment, prevention, advocacy, and long-term care.

SOS utilizes locally led teams placed in the wake of conflict or disaster to provide children with protection and care for as long as they require. To do this, they provide food, clothing, medical care, and psychological support. They also work to reunite children with their families, deliver aid to affected families, and provide special protection to traumatized children.  They work with other NGOs and governments to provide the most impactful disaster response programs.

I think what makes SOS Children’s Villages unique is their availability to these people all over the world and their dedication to each disaster. SOS doesn’t just respond in the moment and provide families with food and water, but they also stand by and help those affected, pick their life back up and rebuild.  What makes their work stand out is their ability to continue providing support, years after the conflict has occurred.  Their work with international development is different in that it’s lasting, and that’s one of the most important aspects of this field.

So far this fellowship has acted as much more than another job; it has acted as a learning experience. The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows program and SOS Children’s Villages provided me with an environment where I feel comfortable and accepted for everything I can bring to the table. Every project or task I have completed has contributed to the growth I have experienced in this field as well given me clarity of the work I want to do in the future.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

HPC Fellow: Thuva Kandasamy, IRCT

Thuva Kandasamy is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with IRCT. At IRCT, Thuva worked on the GATE project team, which aims to fight torture by using data. In her blog, she reflects upon the project’s collaboration of 15 torture rehabilitation centres spread across five different regions, who every day are faced with the reality of torture as survivors of torture reach them to seek help.

Fighting Torture with Data
By Thuva Kandasamy

When I started my fellowship at the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), my knowledge on torture survivors, and the fight against torture in general, was very limited.

As a Human Rights student, I had, of course, come across the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the international human rights treaty that aims to prevent torture. However, having guidelines on a paper and implementing these principles in reality are two completely different things, and I had yet to learn how this was taking place in reality.

Therefore, my excitement was great when I became part of the GATE project team, which aims to fight torture by using data. This two-year project is a collaboration of 15 torture rehabilitation centres spread across five different regions, who every day are faced with the reality of torture’s grim face as survivors of torture reach them to seek help. Every year the centres encounter 100s and in some cases 1000s of victims who had been subjected to torture and who are severely traumatised. While doing their best to support the survivors, many centres also have to deal with an unstable political environment where the eradication of torture or support of victims of torture does not take up much space in either the public or political discourse.

The GATE project aims to change this and works towards achieving three different goals. First, the project seeks to provide rehabilitation services to victims of torture. The services comprise of medical assistance, psychological support, and legal support depending upon the needs of the survivor. The second focus is on gathering data and increasing the knowledge capacity of the involved centres. Finally, the project aims to engage in advocacy to influence laws and policy to the benefit of the survivors. At the centre of this is the Anti-Torture Database. This is a record-keeping tool developed by the IRCT with the vision of capturing information from torture survivors and using that information to analyze the patterns of torture on a local and global level.

One of my very first tasks was to conduct desk research on gender-sensitive approaches to torture rehabilitation. However, despite how much I searched, I could simply not find any numbers on how many victims are female or from the LGBTQI community. It appeared that this number simply did not exist. It is exactly issues like this that the centres try to overcome through this project. By keeping records, centres aim to plug similar knowledge gaps. In the long-term, the hope is that the information gathered by each individual centre can be shared on a global level and used in the fight against torture. Ultimately, this project seeks to accomplish two things. On the one hand, it seeks to prevent torture in the future and fight impunity today. On the other hand, it seeks to improve rehabilitation services and illustrate the consequences of torture, so we can argue for the very right to rehabilitation.

Every day has been a learning experience, whether I have been working on news stories, reports, or communicating with rehabilitation centres. The people that I have met during this journey have taught me the most. Their passion for what they do and their will to continue carrying out their work even in the most difficult settings has inspired me greatly.

My understanding of not only the torture rehabilitation sector but also the complex world of human rights and development has increased on many levels. It is full of challenges and hardship, but the compassion of the people I have met during this journey beats everything. I hope that when I embark on the next step of my journey that no matter what, I will be able to bring this passion and motivation with me.

Therefore, I am immensely grateful for this opportunity provided by the Hilton Prize Coalition and the IRCT. Throughout this fellowship, I have received great support from both organizations, which has made this learning opportunity even more fruitful.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Collaborative Models: Landscape Analysis and Collaboration Assessment

Together, BRAC and Landesa created a program to assess the landscape of Bong County, Liberia. The resulting program report will include findings and recommendations on delivery mechanisms for closing the gaps on land rights. 

Assessing Land Rights in Bong County, Liberia
By: Margi McClung

Around the world, land and agriculture are intrinsically linked. In Liberia approximately half of the population lives in rural areas and land and agriculture are a primary source of employment and income. Late last month, the legislature passed the long-awaited Land Rights Bill indicating Liberia is set to embark on an ambitious and robust land reform effort. As the country looks to further empower its farmers, taking a comprehensive approach to integrating land rights and agriculture could be a timely and powerful opportunity.

In Liberia, two non-profit organizations, BRAC and Landesa, take different approaches to achieve a similar end – the alleviation of poverty among rural women, men, and families. BRAC’s goal in its Breaking the Cycle of Poverty and Malnutrition by Investing in Smallholder Value Chains project is to improve rural livelihoods through agriculture, livestock, and poultry rearing which necessitate access to land. Landesa’s Land Rights for Sustainable Development project gives rural populations more stability to enable longer-term labor and capital investments into land-based livelihoods.

In August 2018, the two organizations conducted a field assessment of their respective operations in Liberia through the Hilton Prize Coalition’s Collaborative Models program. The Coalition draws together past Laureates of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize, including BRAC and Landesa, to create opportunities for collaboration among Laureates, facilitate knowledge-sharing, and deepen understanding of best practices in sustainable development. These collaborations lead to improved services for millions of people.

The field assessment in Bong County, Liberia, where both BRAC and Landesa currently operate, revealed a number of implications and opportunities for their work on land and agriculture.

For Landesa, the assessment uncovered widespread challenges for youth. In Liberia, this population is defined as young people ages 15 to 35. The assessment found that youth struggle to access agriculture extension services, training, and labor to optimize their use of land, with female youth especially challenged. In Liberia, most agriculture and livelihood support programs are focused on adult farmers, with male farmers receiving the greatest benefits. This compounds existing inequalities in Liberia with the majority of rural land governed under patriarchal rules and customs that already favor men.

Alternately, the assessment revealed how some farmers encounter vulnerability to their land rights in the course of accessing agriculture services. Rural land in Liberia is often held under community tenure with a counsel of leaders stewarding access and use of land. To help its farmers improve access to land, BRAC has negotiated short-term use of fallow community land. But local leaders frequently revoke access once the land has been cleared and cultivated, perhaps recognizing the potential productivity in land once thought poor or useless.

What can we learn from these findings? First and foremost, it may be possible for Landesa and BRAC to synchronize their respective programs in Bong County so that beneficiaries receive both Landesa’s land rights programming and BRAC’s livelihoods support in one comprehensive service package.

There is a more comprehensive option for partnership that would provide further integrated support to farmers. Expanding the scope of Landesa and BRAC programming across Liberia could enable all farmers participating in BRAC’s Breaking the Cycle project to receive land-related legal awareness training from Landesa. Landesa beneficiaries under the Land Rights for Sustainable Development program could in turn receive agriculture support services from BRAC.

Both Landesa and BRAC already work with Liberian civil society organizations (CSO) on their respective projects. Forging new CSO relationships that bridge both organizations could better leverage the efforts of local partners. For instance, Landesa could partner with a CSO that operates a nationwide network of paralegals to offer direct legal assistance to BRAC farmers, helping them negotiate stronger lease terms and resolve disputes.

At this critical juncture, organizations like BRAC and Landesa, working collaboratively and alongside the government and civil society, can help ensure that the potential benefits to land rights and agricultural opportunities are enjoyed by millions of rural Liberians.

(Photos courtesy of BRAC USA)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

HPC Fellow: Deniz Kocas, Fountain House

Deniz Kocas is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with Fountain House. At Fountain House, Deniz worked in External Affairs, supporting the coordination of an international conference: Healthier Longer Lives for People with Serious Mental Illness. In her blog, Deniz reflects upon what it means to build community.

Tackling Disparities through Active Recovery
By: Deniz Kocas

Sitting in my Brooklyn living room on a sunny day in summer 2017, I typed “mental health organizations” into my laptop’s browser. I had just moved to New York after spending years in England, Belgium, and Turkey – I trained as a Pharmacist, completed a master’s degree in Health, Community, and Development at the London School of Economics, and worked several years in the pharmaceutical industry. Through this experience, I was able to gain a solid understanding of global health by advocating for access to medicine, but I always had a passion for mental health, which is why I decided to study for my MA in Psychology at The New School. I was eager to supplement my degree with practical work in an organization working in the field, and luckily, Fountain House popped up with a vacancy for someone exactly with my experience and skills.

Fountain House is committed to improving the lives of people with serious mental illness (SMI), a group that is often neglected, stigmatized, and discriminated against across the globe. Did you know that people with SMI die on average 10-25 years earlier than the general population? Fountain House tackles such disparities by taking an innovative approach where people with SMI become active participants in their own and others’ recovery. Alongside staff, Fountain House members operate employment, education, housing and wellness programs. Compared to other people with SMI, Fountain House members show higher rates of employment and education, and lower rates of homelessness, re-hospitalization, and incarceration.

My role at Fountain House has primarily been in External Affairs, supporting the coordination of an international conference: Healthier Longer Lives for People with Serious Mental Illness. This convening is hosted by Fountain House in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Global Mental Health at Columbia University Medical Center, Grand Challenges Canada, and citiesRISE, with technical support from WHO. World-renowned researchers, policy-makers, philanthropists, and civil society organizations dedicated to SMI will participate to raise awareness of the crisis of excess mortality and comorbidities among persons with SMI, to share innovative solutions that are improving and extending lives, and to establish commitments from participants to take action on implementing evidence-based best practices. This is only the beginning of the journey to improve the lives of people with SMI, and I am excited to witness the fruit of our efforts in the months and years to come following this conference.

What gives me more joy than the “external” work I am conducting as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, however, is watching the daily activities unfold at Fountain House. Seeing members come here and participate in productive work with staff, and observing how they are valued and cherished, reminds me every day of how essential it is to support one another and to be a community. To say that Fountain House is solely a “mental health organization” is a massive understatement. Fountain House not only helps people with SMI lead better lives, it reminds everyone of something that is often forgotten in metropolitan cities such as New York – the things that make us human: love, care, compassion, compromise, patience, and kindness.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

HPC Fellow: Mia Perez, BRAC USA

Mia Perez is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with BRAC USA. At BRAC USA, Mia worked on the Learning, Empowerment, and Adolescent Development (LEAD) team in support of BRAC’s education and girls’ empowerment programs in Africa and Asia. In her blog, Mia reflects upon how the BRAC Play Lab Project utilizes community-led decision-making.

Confronting Global Educational Inequity and Enabling Children to Reclaim their Fundamental Right to Quality Education
By: Mia Perez

My experience navigating the American education system has deeply informed how I conceive of educational access and opportunity.

As a first-generation college graduate, I firmly believe in the power of educational access and opportunity. However, having attended a public school with a 40% dropout rate and a private boarding high school with a $318 million endowment, I am uncomfortably familiar with the reality of inequitable access to quality education.

While I am fortunate to have accessed a quality education, my story is not the common one, nor is it proof of a well-functioning meritocratic system. Instead, my experience of the two vastly different worlds of educational possibility unveils a system that unabashedly asserts education is a privilege and not a right.

After pursuing a Master’s in International Affairs and development, my experience has come full-circle. Education has enabled me to name and disrupt systems of inequity and has rerouted my trajectory towards supporting programs that help children and youth reclaim their fundamental right to education.

After completing my masters degree, I had the opportunity to begin my career in international development as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow at BRAC USA, an affiliate of BRAC, a global leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programs to assist the most marginalized people in extremely poor and post-disaster settings. At BRAC USA, I have worked on the Learning, Empowerment, and Adolescent Development (LEAD) team in support of BRAC’s education and girls’ empowerment programs in Africa and Asia.

As a southern-led NGO, BRAC is an expert at promoting community-led programs that not only bolster the voice and agency of poor and disadvantaged communities, but champions them as a part of the solution. This development approach, particularly in developing countries which are often made dependent on conditional foreign aid, is particularly powerful. Unlike BRAC’s approach, the majority of education policies that I have witnessed are seldom reflective of community need. In many cases, they deny people their agency and right to a quality education.

Community-led decision-making and program design is core to the BRAC Play Lab Project, a program that I have spent a good deal of time working with while at BRAC. In collaboration with the LEGO Foundation, the BRAC Play Lab project provides a low-cost, high-quality, play-based early childhood development (ECD) model for children aged 3 to 5 in Uganda, Tanzania, and Bangladesh. Play Lab activities are complemented by deep community engagement and advocacy. BRAC has trained 480 adolescent girls from local communities as Play Leaders for the Play Labs, creating a new career track for girls and young women in the community, and boosting the local ECD workforce. Play Labs engage volunteer caregivers in Play Labs, facilitating monthly parent meetings and material development workshops to create low-cost, contextually appropriate play materials for Play Labs.

Beyond the Play Lab project’s community-led model, the Play Lab model also ensures children are able to reclaim their right to quality education. Research evidence around the role of play-based learning in a child’s development of socio-emotional, executive function, resilience, and self-regulation skills has made the BRAC Play Lab project even more instrumental in transforming the lives of children in the communities BRAC serves. These outcomes are particularly important in ensuring that children in low-resource settings have the educational foundation to ease the transition into primary school, set the foundation for future success, and prevent school dropout rates from climbing as high as they were in the community where I grew up.

As I reflect on my time at BRAC, and the future of educational access and opportunities, I am hopeful about the direction the field is going. Most recently, I have been working on the BRAC Play Lab Toolkit, which will equip BRAC’s partners, governments, and international early childhood development stakeholders with the tools to learn from, adopt, and contextualize the BRAC Play Lab model at scale. Community-led early education models enable communities to claim their right to educate their children and access the tools and training to teach and advocate for early education at the local level. Promoting these models among governments is key to a future of widespread access to quality, sustainable education.

It is this vision of widespread international access to quality education and my work at BRAC USA through the Hilton Prize Coalition fellowship that moves me to continue to equip myself with the knowledge and needs of disparate worlds; and to continue to connect resources and advocate for every individual’s right to receive a quality education.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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