HPC Fellow: Sarah Allen, BRAC USA

Sarah Allen is a current Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with  BRAC, the largest development organization in the world, which is devoted to empowering people living in poverty. In her blog, Sarah reflects on World Refugee Day, June 20, and the work BRAC is doing to ease the plight of the Rohingya people who fled Myanmar to seek shelter in makeshift settlements in Bangladesh. 

Fellowship Reflections for World Refugee Day
By Sarah Allen

I first encountered BRAC during an introduction to international development course in college, where my professor praised it for its dedication to scientific rigor, business acumen, and global south-led solutions. Subsequently, BRAC’s name continued to pop up in my life in various subtle ways: I found it in a textbook; I stumbled upon it in an article in the The Economist.

Only days after I made a cross-country move to New York City, I read an article in The New York Times citing BRAC as one of the key organizations responding to a devastating humanitarian crisis that was, at the time, just beginning to rapidly escalate. As the Myanmar government began a violent new crackdown against the Rohingya, an ethnic minority group residing in its Rakhine State, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled over the border and into Bangladesh, where BRAC had been working for over four decades.

I was fascinated by BRAC, but I never imagined that I would one day have the chance to work for the organization. So when I was presented with the opportunity to complete a fellowship with BRAC USA, I jumped at the chance.

Now, as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow at BRAC USA, I support BRAC’s work to create opportunities for people around the world by raising awareness and mobilizing resources to support its programs. Working on both the Communications and Business Development teams, I play a joint role and complete projects that range from developing social media content and writing press releases to conducting prospect research on potential funders and supporting relationship management with institutional donors.

But throughout all of these varied projects, my time at BRAC USA has been marked by the Rohingya humanitarian crisis. It’s something that permeates my work every day, whether I am identifying prospective donors who might support our response efforts, conducting digital marketing campaigns to raise awareness about the crisis, or reporting to donors on the latest updates from the field.

Woman and baby

Tahera with her newborn son

As World Refugee Day approaches on June 20th, I have begun to reflect on my time as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, and in particular, how my work has intersected with displaced people around the world. A big aspect of my job is storytelling – communicating the stories of those BRAC serves to our donors, partners, followers, and friends. I come across stories from Cox’s Bazar, the border region of Bangladesh that is now home to over a million displaced Rohingya people living in makeshift settlements, on a daily basis. Recently, the story of a new mother struck me.

Tahera was pregnant with her first child when government forces in Myanmar targeted her community, killing families and burning down homes. Her home was burnt to the ground, forcing her to flee on foot. She ran for two weeks through jungles, mountains, and across the sea before finally arriving in a makeshift settlement in Cox’s Bazar where she gave birth to a healthy baby boy at a BRAC delivery center. Tahera says that her baby traveled more before he was born than she expected him to in his lifetime.

When I learn of stories like Tahera’s, I feel incredibly lucky to play a role, albeit a small one, in supporting families like hers who have been forced out of their homes. And thanks to my time as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow at BRAC USA, I have been inspired to continue this work – in fact, following my fellowship, I will join BRAC USA full time as a Communications Associate. In my new role, I will continue to tell the stories of resilient women like Tahera to mobilize awareness and resources to support the programs that are helping families like hers.

I have deeply enjoyed my time as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, and I have gained so much more than I could have imagined from my time working with BRAC USA. I am grateful for the investment that both Hilton Prize Coalition and BRAC USA have made in me from the beginning, and I am so excited to continue to learn and grow as I transition forward.

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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