Consider the Importance of Mental Health Care in Society: Alumni Spotlight

** Content warning: Violence and genocide

Patient Kwizera is an alum of the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows. In this blog, Patient reflects on his fellowship placement and where he is now in the humanitarian space. 

According to the World Health Organization, if we don’t act urgently, by 2030 depression will be the leading illness globally.

When it comes to responding to that crisis, it’s hard to imagine that developed countries have one psychiatrist for every 2,000 people. There are other countries—in Africa, Asia, and also in Latin America—where there is only one mental health worker for one million or more people. This shocking fact was stated by Dr. Shekhar Saxena, who oversaw the WHO’s efforts on mental health in 2016. When one digs even deeper into these details, there are even more appalling facts to be found. In the same year,there were 31.1 million new internal displacements by conflict, violence and disasters. This is the equivalent to one person being forced to flee every second. When it comes to women, mental health is a nightmare. 35 percent of women worldwide say they had experienced violence in their lifetime, whether physical, sexual, or both. One in ten girls under the age of 18 were forced to have sex, leaving them with unbearable psychological consequences.

By all accounts, mental health is, of course, a serious and widespread issue around the world. In order to understand mental health in my country, I must take you back to April 1994. During this time in Rwanda, the horrific genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi was taking place. This atrocious act left about one million people dead in a period of only three months. Neighbors went after neighbors by means of guns, machetes, and sticks by conducting house-to-house searches and by creating roadblocks and central congregation points to hunt for individuals. People also looted, destroyed peoples’ property, and committed other genocidal acts, such as murder and sexual violence. These hellish experiences that Rwandans endured 25 years ago has resulted in serious lifelong mental suffering—not only affecting individuals, but often families, communities, and even future generations. While sometimes the consequences of the genocide are very apparent, other times it remains obscure until it becomes threatening.

It used to be very difficult for me to understand why s0 little was done to address the problem of mental health care. It really shouldn’t be that hard, right? Without mental healthcare, a large number of people in Rwanda cannot function within the family, community, and workplace. Recent studies have shown that a frightening number of people cannot even participate in the socioeconomic development of the country. This lack of mental health care frustrated me deeply, but also inspired me to create an organization to address this problem. Build2heal focuses on the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality of mental health care in Rwanda.

For the past three years, I have been advocating for mental health care. I continued this advocacy through the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program I completed my fellowship at Clubhouse International and learned how to develop my own Clubhouse. I studied the extensive documentation on the Quality Standards and the process of Clubhouse Accreditation, and I examined how to run a successful Clubhouse.

During my fellowship, I found Clubhouses to be a perfect match for Rwanda because their model of care responded to the genocidal experience. During the genocide, social bonds were completely destroyed. Clubhouse offered people living with mental illness the opportunities for friendship, employment, housing, education, and access to medical and psychiatric services in a caring and safe environment.

After the fellowship, I shared my knowledge with my colleagues from Build2heal in Rwanda, and we have made huge progress in addressing mental health problems. We have designed a concrete plan to start many clubhouses in Rwanda, and we are currently reaching out to volunteers and many other organizations to partner with them in addressing the barriers of mental health care in Rwanda.

There is no doubt a large number of the Rwandan population that is seeking mental health care, and there is no reason they should not receive it.

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 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.

Supporting Rapid Needs Assessments in Venezuela: HPC Fellow, Mary Dimitrov

Mary Dimitrov is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with HelpAge USA. At HelpAge USA, Mary developed content including thought leadership pieces, briefs, and various communications assets to further HelpAge USA’s mission. Read on to learn about his placement as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow.

If you have not already experienced a disadvantage because of prejudice, just wait — you will.

Everyone who is fortunate enough to live into older age will join a group of people that faces constant discrimination solely based on their age, regardless of other factors.

When I started my work at HelpAge USA, unlike many other prejudices, I knew little about ageism and admittedly even accepted it in some situations. After my fellowship, I realize that like all the other prejudices we have, ageism is harmful. And, with the world soon experiencing the greatest demographic shift in history, with more people over sixty than under ten, denying ageism and addressing older people’s needs is more important than ever.

My work at HelpAge USA enabled me to draw upon my Journalism and Public Policy double major. I developed content including thought leadership pieces, briefs, and various communications assets with the hope our audience would realize HelpAge USA’s message: that everyone deserves a dignified, healthy, secure life regardless of their age. We want others to join our mission to address the needs of older people around the world by working with them.

Through these projects I have gained tremendous respect for not just what HelpAge USA supports, but also how they do so — especially from a Public Policy perspective. My favorite project, writing a funding request to support a Rapid Needs Assessment in Venezuela, exemplifies why HelpAge USA’s work is so necessary and why our method of working directly with older people — not just for them — is uniquely effective.

Venezuela faces a dramatic humanitarian and refugee crisis in the wake of a political crisis. Mismanagement has increased, employment and salaries have plummeted, basic services are no longer being provided. Peoples’ lifesavings have been reduced to nothing as inflation is projected to grow to ten million percent this year, up from 112 percent in 2015.

For the RNA request, I explained to potential donors how in this crisis, and all crisis’ of this magnitude, older people face heightened health and security risks; for example, more older people die of malnutrition and respiratory diseases than any other age group, including children under 15. 

From being exposed to the multitude of emergency planning and responses HelpAge USA is involved with, like in South Sudan, Syria, Malawi, and Indonesia, I learned these challenges are rarely accounted for. For example, in Yemen during the Civil War, 50 percent of older women and 60 percent of older men were unable to access healthcare, and 90 percent of older people didn’t have access to any income. One of the HelpAge International studies I analyzed during my internship showed that less than one percent of humanitarian aid targets older people or people with disabilities.

Often relief efforts aren’t targeted to older people because little is known about their challenges in a crisis. International and national surveys, such as the Demographic Health Survey, remain age-capped. Further, older people are frequently consolidated into a 65 plus age group, which does not consider people’s different issues at different stages of later life, leaving their experiences invisible and poorly understood.

What is so profound to me is that our Rapid Needs Assessments bridges this gap in humanitarian assistance by directly speaking with and interviewing older people in areas of humanitarian crisis. Through my public policy studies at the University of Maryland I have learned that fully assessing the situation and understanding the problem is a crucial step to creating a public policy solution. The funding request that I wrote will allow HelpAge USA to get the funding they need to take this first crucial step in the process to help older Venezuelans in need.

The feedback obtained through the Rapid Needs Assessments is then used to create solutions to older people’s problems. When summarizing these solutions and writing summaries of those personally affected by Rapid Needs Assessments, I feel grateful for that the Hilton Prize Coalition and HelpAge USA allowed me to play a role in helping older people in need.

I am so appreciative of this opportunity and the continued support I received from both the Hilton Prize Coalition and HelpAge USA throughout the fellowship. I appreciate their involvement in allowing me to further my experience with Journalism and Public Policy and helping me become a better humanitarian by exposing me to issues that I don’t think I would have otherwise, or at least until I (hopefully) reach old age.

It is my hope that my work at HelpAge USA allows other people to become more aware of this issue and inspires them to take action towards solving what is, in my opinion, an underrepresented issue.

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 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.

Welcome Cohort Four! ECPAT International, Neha Gauchan

The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program seeks to develop a robust pipeline of leaders who possess not only subject matter skills and expertise, but also the soft leadership skills needed to succeed in the workplace, and who understand and value the importance of collaboration for humanitarian and development organizations to increase effectiveness throughout the sector. 

This year the Coalition ushers in the next cohort of Fellows. Neha Gauchan is one such Fellow joining Coalition member ECPAT International, a global network of civil society organizations combating all forms of child sexual exploitation. 

Read on to meet Neha and learn how she will plug into ECPAT International in order to grow as a future humanitarian leader over the course of her fellowship. 

WHAT WILL YOUR ROLE BE AT ECPAT International? 

My role at ECPAT International is to be a Research and Policy Fellow. My main tasks include drafting country reports through desk-based research and supporting the research and policy team with other program-related work.

WHAT ABOUT ECPAT INTERNATIONAL’S MISSION APPEALS TO YOU?

ECPAT International is a global network of organizations working to combat sexual exploitation of children in all forms. Through its partnership with various civil society organizations all over the world, ECPAT has been working endlessly for children’s right to live free from sexual exploitation and abuse.

YOU ARE A PART OF THE NEXT GENERATION OF HUMANITARIAN LEADERS. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO LEAVE A MARK AT ECPAT INTERNATIONAL?

I am privileged to be a part of the Hilton Prize Coalition and join the next generation of humanitarian leaders. As a humanitarian leader, I hope to contribute fully and work endlessly through my role as a Research and Policy Intern at ECPAT International. I hope to maximize my skills through the tasks that I have been assigned to. Hopefully, I will be able to work in ECPAT groups and member organizations in Nepal and continue to work for children’s rights  for the betterment of every human being to live their life freely and without coercion.

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. 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.

Fighting Ageism for a Sustainable Future: HPC Fellow, Isak Christensen

Isak Christensen is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with HelpAge USA. At HelpAge USA, Isak works with social media and website development, and as part of this, works on Google Analytics and Google Ads. Read on to learn about his placement as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow.

During my time at HelpAge USA, it has become evident that older people are stakeholders in their own and their family’s future. When we leave older people behind, especially those that need help, we fail to achieve a sustainable future. Similarly, when we leave children behind and do not provide for their safety, basic needs, nor their future, we fail to achieve a sustainable future. We exclude important stakeholders in our shared present and future when we exclude older people.

Two years ago, I worked for a Danish non-profit called The Youth Bureau that wants to engage young people more in society and democracy to make sure their voices are heard and perspectives included. In a time where young people attend protests instead of school to highlight the fact that they will deal with the environmental consequences of past and current generations’ over-consumption, including their perspectives are vital.

If we want to provide for the needs of children and give them the best possible future, we need to make sure that the grandparents and community, who care for the children and support them, are able to do exactly that. 

This summer my work has centered around older people in low- and middle-income countries, the other end of the age-spectrum. In a time where everything has to be new, adaptable and fast, we tend to pay little attention to what is not new nor adaptable.

The question we need to ask ourselves is how we can reconcile the interests of the age groups that feel excluded from the debate on where we, as a world, are going and should be going. There is generally little discussion on why young people should be included in this debate, as young people are viewed as the ones that will deal with the future’s problems. Discrimination due to age, also called ageism, is oftentimes the reason that older people are excluded from the labor market and rarely considered a stakeholder in everyone’s future. However, global population aging disproves this notion, as older people today live longer than previously.

A consequence of ageism is that we lose knowledge, wisdom and expertise which older people have acquired throughout their life-time. For example, older people in low- and middle-income countries are often caregivers for their families and play important roles in their communities, and this expertise should be passed on to their children and grandchildren for the benefit of the family and community.

My work at HelpAge USA has centered around promoting ideas like these through development work and marketing. It can be hard to get people’s attention to older people and their needs, when everything has to be the latest and most up to date.

According to the UN, in order to achieve the sustainable development goals (and thus a sustainable future), we must leave no one behind. To achieve the sustainable future we often talk about, we need to make sure we include the perspectives of older people alongside those of the younger generation. If the world’s leaders are willing to listen to a 16-year old girl’s concerns about climate change and her hopes for the future, they should also listen to an 80-year old woman’s experiences of exclusion from the health care system and her advice on sustainable development in her community.

The art is to include older and younger people’s perspectives and find the common ground – it’s a lot easier to find than we think it is.

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 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.

Congratulations to the Newest Hilton Prize Laureate, METAdrasi

Please join the Hilton Prize Coalition in congratulating the newest winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian PrizeMETAdrasi 
 Action for Migration & Development. As the 2019 recipient of the Prize, METAdrasi joins the ranks of the world’s most accomplished humanitarian organizations—the Hilton Prize Laureates—who over the course of the past two decades have been recognized for their extraordinary contributions to the alleviation of human suffering.

Based in Greece, METAdrasi’s mission is to support the reception and integration of refugees and migrants with consistency, compassion, and the flexibility to adjust to needs as they emerge. Since 2009, METAdrasi has supported the reception and integration of nearly one million refugees and migrants throughout Greece. METAdrasi has developed a host of pioneering programs—primarily focused on interpretation, protection and education—to support the needs of unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable groups entering Greece.

It is this spirit of innovation that unites the Hilton Prize Coalition, as members continue to explore solutions together through collaborative initiatives that leverage the expertise of each Laureate. We welcome and look forward to working with METAdrasi.

For more information, please see the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s press release and this announcement video.

(Photos courtesy of METAdrasi and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation)

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 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.

Welcome Cohort Four! PATH, Anna Mowell

The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program seeks to develop a robust pipeline of leaders who possess not only subject matter skills and expertise, but also the soft leadership skills needed to succeed in the workplace, and who understand and value the importance of collaboration for humanitarian and development organizations to increase effectiveness throughout the sector. 

This summer the Coalition ushers in the next cohort of Fellows. Anna Mowell is one such Fellow joining Coalition member PATH, an organization that works to accelerate health equity through technological development, innovation, and collaboration. 

Read on to meet Anna and learn how she will plug into PATH in order to grow as a future humanitarian leader over the course of her fellowship. 

WHAT WILL YOUR ROLE BE AT PATH? 

I will be working as an intern with the Nutrition Innovation team to explore the potential role of plant-based proteins in a sustainable global food system.  

WHAT ABOUT PATH’S MISSION APPEALS TO YOU? 

PATH works collaboratively with public and private organizations to enhance health equity. I appreciate their cooperative efforts, innovation, emphasis on research, and dedication to working with community partners. 

YOU ARE A PART OF THE NEXT GENERATION OF HUMANITARIAN LEADERS. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO LEAVE A MARK AT PATH? 

I plan to utilize knowledge from my nutritional sciences program to work with PATH’s Nutrition Innovation team to better understand the potential health and environmental implications of plant proteins. I plan to leave a mark at PATH by fully dedicating myself to the project and producing quality work that can serve as a useful resource for other teams and individuals within the organization. 

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. 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.

Strengthening Health Systems: HPC Fellow Akshatha Kiran

(Photo by Rebecca E. Rollins / Partners In Health)

Akshatha Kiran is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with Partners In Health. At Partners in Health, Akshatha worked on assisting with research surrounding tuberculosis treatment delivery, policy analysis, and advocacy. Read on to learn about her placement as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow.

Trained in the tenets of servant leadership and service learning, I sought to apply my public health background to health systems strengthening. Having previously worked in underserved areas within the United States and abroad, I understood that accessing care requires more than the availability of care in a neighborhood–it calls for empathy and open dialogue to ensure all individuals are supported in obtaining needed resources.

So, when presented with the opportunity to engage in a hands-on experience while pursuing my Masters of Public Health degree at the Yale School of Public Health, I wanted to learn at Partners In Health (PIH). Believing in the heart of PIH’s mission, I wanted PIH-ers to direct my first dive into the realms of health policy and guide my understanding of serving in partnership with patients. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from dedicated, compassionate and insightful colleagues who make up every branch of the organization. Over the course of my Hilton Prize Coalition fellowship placement at PIH, I worked on assisting with research surrounding tuberculosis treatment delivery; policy analysis; and advocacy.

Partners In Health is a global leader in health systems strengthening. To increase access to high-quality health care and provide a preferential option for the poor, PIH not only builds and bolsters health systems in settings of poverty, but stays in those communities to ensure their needs continue to be met, and even surpassed.

Through community empowerment, resource mobilization, and advocacy, PIH provides a broad spectrum of services to its patients, ranging from preventive care to oncology. Each year, PIH-trained clinicians and staff help patients realize their desired health outcomes at rates that at times outperform those in developed nations.

Despite the world often insisting that high-quality care cannot be given in developing nations, PIH dares to say otherwise. In Malawi, Rwanda, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kazakhstan, Haiti, Mexico, Peru and Navajo Nation, PIH is changing the lives of patients and their communities and bringing the seemingly impossible to life.

At Partners In Health, I am fortunate to have been challenged to engage with projects in unfamiliar thematic areas. Through literature reviews focused on innovative tuberculosis screening and treatment delivery, I learned not only the technical knowledge necessary for clinical treatment, but also the cultural context within which care needs to be delivered. In analyzing high-level United Nations policy for universal health coverage, I observed the nuances of policy creation and the importance of accountable implementation to address community needs. In the true spirit of global health and teamwork, the individuals who worked alongside me taught me what it means to serve in partnership with our communities on a daily basis.

I believe health care must meet patient needs beyond clinic doors. To this end, I am continually inspired by PIH’s collective efforts to ensure that ‘taking care of our patients’ means more than handing out a prescription. Reading the stories of our patients whose lives were changed by PIH’s comprehensive approach to care, I feel remarkably lucky to have played some small role in supporting the realization of their desired outcomes.

The potential of patient advocacy has informed my experiences at Partners In Health. In all it does, PIH places patients and their communities first. Since its conception, PIH has been an avid advocate for underserved and marginalized communities. From the organization’s work alongside HIV/AIDS advocates to today’s focus on universal health coverage, advocacy plays a crucial—and irreplaceable—role in ensuring the policies we create have the intended effects.

Supporting PIH’s advocacy efforts developed my broad-scale perspective of health care. Assisting in the creation of policy briefs for policymakers during a lobby day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., I was inspired by the dedication of student supporters of PIH who traveled across the country to mobilize and speak with their leaders to push for better health care for all.

My time as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow has been monumental in my development and understanding of global health and care delivery. I am grateful for both the Hilton Prize Coalition and Partners In Health for their ongoing support and investment in me, and I am excited to experience the challenges and growth on the horizon. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to continue working with Partners In Health following this experience as a research assistant and am looking forward to mobilizing resources, advocating for patients through policy, and pushing the status quo of health care for the poor.

(Photo caption: Masentebale Letima (far left) and other expectant mothers spend their final month of pregnancy at a maternal waiting home in Nkau, Lesotho)

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. 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.

Welcome Cohort Four! Fountain House, Gytis Simaitis

Gytis Simaitis is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with Fountain House. At Fountain House, Gytis conducts research to help clubhouses run more effectively and to help engage members with programming that works. Read on to learn about what inspired his placement as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow at Fountain House.

The world abounds in humanitarian need. Yet I found my mission at home, in New York City, a place perceived at times as an “oasis of privilege,” quoting a European participant at a recent socio-economics conference. This does not describe the New York City I see most, even if its most celebrated facets meet said criteria. Read on, to hear what I do see.

When I leave my working-class, immigrant neighborhood in the South Bronx on a stroll to the crystalline spires of Gotham, I walk through public housing projects; through neighborhoods dense in drug treatment clinics, homeless shelters, and social service agencies; through abandoned housing stock and the detritus of the Industrial Revolution. And the people? Who do I see? I see plenty of those working-class folks taking care of business or reveling in the day. But I see far too many destitute families, some with wobbly double strollers. I see half-shod, shirtless men wrecked beyond belief, emaciated, covered in sores, and talking to no one in particular. Impulsively, I invest a few bills to their betterment. 

What else can I do? I see transient encampments made possible by Amazon’s cardboard, though this paper ‘hood is mostly vacant on a spectacular summer Sunday afternoon. In the shade of brand-new, stout temples extolling marginal religions (Why build here? Could it be to entice the down-and-out?), I see women squatting. They are older, but it’s hard to tell how old. Compressed like sparrows, they either chirp for change or sort their clinking fortune of aluminum cans and glass bottles.

I boil with rage. This wonderful, fantastic, wealthy-beyond-imagination country I live in cannot manage a serviceable safety net for its most vulnerable. Community is sacrificed to self-interest—is the individual accumulation of wealth so rewarding? I am deeply ashamed to be a citizen whose tax payments are a minuscule cog in this machine of denial. Underfunded and understaffed agencies grind out what they can. Infernal infrastructures host environments of hopelessness, shame, defeat, and meaninglessness. If one wasn’t born with organic mental illness, I can’t think of a better breeding ground for sprouting one afresh. The roster of this marginal world is plump with brains afflicted by Severe Mental Illness (SMI).

And yet— I find an answer to my earlier question: “What else can I do?”  That answer is: “You do what you can.” I am so lucky to work and be at Fountain House:  a clubhouse, and the founding one, of what has become a worldwide movement.  We are communities which weave together members diagnosed with SMI, staff who work side-by-side with them, and the infrastructure to lift people by their strengths—with relationships, work, housing, education, wellness, and food. (As my co-worker and co-Fellow Jen Yoon shows more broadly in her blog post).

Bottom line: it works. Not for everyone, not all the time, but I am profoundly sure that some of those working or eating beside me could have been in that urban purgatory, myself included.

But am I on the front line? Hardly. What do I do? I pound away on a keyboard, wrangling and washing data collected at Fountain House and other clubhouses. I watch columns of numbers cascade down my screen, values happily twinkling in the right spot, like that preternatural meme in The Matrix. How does this help? With a driven team, we are helping clubhouses run more effectively, engaging members with programming that works, reporting to agencies less intrusively, and providing the cold, hard data on Clubhouse effectiveness that foundations yearn to see.

But apprehend now the crowning achievement, drumroll please: we will use “big-data” techniques on our sparkling data stack to illuminate and even predict the complex patterns of engagement which lead to positive outcomes.  I believe the Clubhouse model will find more footings and gain more funding so that clubhouses will rise and expand and welcome more of those suffering just a few subway stops distance from the steely towers of international commerce.

The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program powerfully encourages me onward and releases a warm glow of validation for what has been, mostly, a labor of love. I obsessively extract and normalize on bright weekends—or when I could have been helping a citizen in the moment, in person. Jen, co-Fellow, and I are uniquely positioned as researchers inside the research, privy to key nuances and stronger for the exertion. I will keep at it until it is done—which by design is never, thus I’m at it, well, forever.  On my future stroll to Gotham, the need will be a little bit less because people will be doing what they can–and clubhouses will be filling the void.

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. 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.

Welcome Cohort Four! Humanity & Inclusion, Elizabeth Heideman

The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program seeks to develop a robust pipeline of leaders who possess not only subject matter skills and expertise, but also the soft leadership skills needed to succeed in the workplace, and who understand and value the importance of collaboration for humanitarian and development organizations to increase effectiveness throughout the sector.

This summer the Coalition ushers in the next cohort of Fellows. Elizabeth Heideman is one such Fellow joining Coalition member Humanity & Inclusion, an international NGO that works alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.

Read on to meet Elizabeth and learn how she will plug into Humanity & Inclusion in order to grow as a future humanitarian leader over the course of her fellowship.

WHAT WILL YOUR ROLE BE AT HUMANITY & INCLUSION?

My role will be to support the Inclusive Livelihoods division with research and knowledge management related to economic empowerment projects for persons with disabilities in developing, conflict, and recovery settings.

WHAT ABOUT HUMANITY & INCLUSION’S MISSION APPEALS TO YOU?

As a lifelong advocate for persons with disabilities and other marginalized populations, I deeply admire Humanity & Inclusion’s rights-based approach, which focuses on empowerment—rather than charity.

YOU ARE A PART OF THE NEXT GENERATION OF HUMANITARIAN LEADERS. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO LEAVE A MARK AT HUMANITY & INCLUSION?

I’m passionate about promoting innovative new models to address the rights of asylum-seekers and displaced persons with disabilities on a global level. During my fellowship, I look forward to learning more about Humanity & Inclusion’s approach to this issue and the chance to infuse some new ideas into their model for empowering this population.

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 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.

Welcome Cohort Four! Amref Health Africa, Malat Habtewold

The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program seeks to develop a robust pipeline of leaders who possess not only subject matter skills and expertise, but also the soft leadership skills needed to succeed in the workplace, and who understand and value the importance of collaboration for humanitarian and development organizations to increase effectiveness throughout the sector.

This summer the Coalition ushers in the next cohort of Fellows. Malat Habtewold is one such Fellow joining Coalition member Amref Health Africa, an organization that strengthens health systems and trains African health workers to respond to the continent’s most critical health challenges.

Read on to meet Malat and learn how she will plug into Amref Health Africa in order to grow as a future humanitarian leader over the course of her fellowship.

WHAT WILL YOUR ROLE BE AT AMREF HEALTH AFRICA?

Knowledge Management Officer

As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, Malat Habtewold is supporting Amref Ethiopia with knowledge management and M&E in addition to supporting the development of programs and project profiles.

Specifically over the course of Malat’s six month fellowship, she will review existing knowledge storing platforms and determine specific needs for Amref Ethiopia’s knowledge management then adapt or design one platform for knowledge management to be accessible by all staff, providing a toolkit and necessary training for staff.

WHAT ABOUT AMREF HEALTH AFRICA’S MISSION APPEALS TO YOU?

Malat is excited to help build lasting health changes particularly for women and children.

YOU ARE A PART OF THE NEXT GENERATION OF HUMANITARIAN LEADERS. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO LEAVE A MARK AT Amref Health Africa?

Malat plans to develop a Knowledgment Management platform to be accessible to all Amref Health Africa staff in Ethiopia.

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 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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