World Learning Celebrates 2015 Advancing Leaders Fellows in San Francisco
On Wednesday, Sneha Shrestha, the Nepali artist and World Learning alumna, had a key message for the seven Advancing Leaders Fellows who sat before her.
“I urge you to use your imagination and stay creative,” said Shrestha, who is also known by her graffiti street name Imagine. “Because that is what brings about social innovation.”
Shrestha would know. A veteran of SIT Study Abroad programs in Switzerland and Indonesia, she was awarded an Advancing Leaders Fellowship in 2013, which she used to open the Children’s Art Museum of Nepal. After Nepal’s devastating earthquake this past April, Sneha used the museum to provide psychosocial support to hundreds of Nepalis.
Projects like Shrestha’s are what the Advancing Leaders Fellowship was created to support. Open to alumni of World Learning programs, the fellowship provides comprehensive training in project management and social innovation, as well as grants of up to $5,000 to bring transformative projects to life.
On October 21, members of the World Learning community gathered at the City Club of San Francisco to honor this year’s seven Advancing Leaders Fellows. Each from a different country, the Fellows will return home to carry out widely varying projects that nonetheless share a common goal: to create more resilient, inclusive, and just communities.
Addressing the audience, many Fellows identified the roots of their projects in personal experiences. Frank Nunez described his childhood in a disadvantaged neighborhood in the Dominican Republic, where many of his peers fell into criminality or did not complete school. He attributed his success to the values his parents instilled in him from a young age.
“Whenever things got difficult, I held onto the principles that I got from my parents,” Nunez told the audience. “And it was those principles that kept me from making catastrophic mistakes. Most of my successes can be traced back to my parents.”
Drawing from this experience, Nunez’s project, Youth Support Network, will teach parents in vulnerable parts of the Dominican Republic how best to support their children, especially during difficult periods.
Other Fellows drew inspiration from World Learning programs. Omkolthoum Elsayed’s project, Reaching You, will use the latest communications technologies to boost the skills of medical providers in rural parts of Egypt, improving overall medical care in underserved communities. The model for Elsayed’s project is the University of New Mexico’s ECHO Project, which she learned of on a World Learning-run International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).
In a reception before the ceremony, Fellows mingled with one another, members of the World Learning board and Global Advisory Council, and other guests. The group bonded quickly during its time together in San Francisco, exchanging ideas, advice, and stories.
In remarks introducing the Fellows, Donald Steinberg, World Learning President and CEO, recalled Robert Kennedy’s description of each act of service as “a tiny ripple of hope.”
“These Fellows are going to be a tidal wave,” Steinberg said.