Class 14

Marianna-revMariana Abdalla, Brazil

School of Journalism & Mass Communications, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

As a child and adolescent, Mariana Abdalla lived abroad from her home country, Brazil, for eight years, both in China and Colombia, where she was involved with social and voluntary work as well as multicultural and international communities. Since returning to Brazil, she has gained solid work experience in the health development and humanitarian field, working both for the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). At DNDi, a patient needs-driven, non-profit R&D organization for neglected diseases, she first started as an intern and subsequently joined core staff as the Chagas Clinical Research Platform Coordinator. Mariana then joined Doctors Without Borders (MSF) as a Benchmarking Officer in Somaliland and in Kenya. In this role she was assigned to conduct a comprehensive comparative human resources study in the field, so as to understand and guide the impact of MSF’s employment conditions and remuneration policies. This was an immense challenge for her both professionally and as a human being. After six months of field work she returned to DNDi’s office in Latin America as a Communications Analyst, organizing international events and developing publications, multimedia content and press relations.

Mariana holds a BA degree in International Relations from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. She is currently conducting her MA studies in Strategic Communication at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she aims to obtain the necessary tools and knowledge to better and more profoundly engage in integrated humanitarian and social communication projects in the future.

AFE: Cycling Without Age, Copenhagen, Denmark



Ignacio Asis, Argentina

Master in International Development Policy, Duke University 

Ignacio has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the Universidad Católica Argentina, a Postgraduate degree in Negotiation and has taken several courses in Conflict Transformation and Peace Building, with a focus in Latin America. He started his career in the public sector at Unilever Argentina. He then volunteered at a social enterprise based in Nairobi, Kenya, where he spent five months doing fieldwork with projects that sought to create solutions to the disputes arising from the improper use of natural resources in East Africa. Before receiving the Rotary Peace Fellowship, he worked as a program coordinator at Fundación Cambio Democrático, where he developed and implemented projects oriented to the transformation of social conflicts (in topics such as climate change, waste management, extractive industries and organized crime), designed and facilitated multisectorial dialogues and developed collaborative processes and trainings for public policy advocacy. He also worked as an Assistant Professor for the Development of Negotiation Drills in International Economy for the Political Sciences and International Relations degrees at Universidad Católica Argentina.

He co-founded and volunteered with friends at “A Pulmón”, a Civil Society Organization that works with indigenous people and schools in small communities in Formosa Province, Argentina. He coordinated the Argentinian Consensus for a Palestinian-Israeli Peace, an initiative aimed at bringing together members of respective diasporas in LATAM and promoting peace through multitrack diplomacy.

Upon completing the program he would like to pursue a peace-building career and work either for an international agency in regional or global conflicts, or return to Argentina to implement development policies through a conflict transformation/human security approach, either for the government, an NGO, or as an independent consultant.

AFE: UNDP, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Listen to: The Chronicles of Peace: The Middle Ground


Gabriel Maisonnave, Argentina

School of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Gabriel Maisonnave is a young professional in the field of international relations and conflict resolution; he holds a BA in International Relations from the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires. His first approach to conflict transformation came after the Rotary Youth Exchange program in Grand Canyon, AZ in 2005. This experience motivated him to work towards a more culturally aware world, thus he joined the Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales (AIESEC), a global platform for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential. For three years he worked with the outgoing exchange program, and was responsible for over 300 university students who traveled abroad for either a social or professional exchange in 40 different countries.

Gabriel has also worked in the private sector as a junior export associate for 3 Teks Medical, a Turkish based company, where he was charged with expanding its market to South America. While he was successful in this field, he ultimately decided that his passion for working in international relations and conflict resolution was more important and resumed his work with non-profit organizations. An internship at Search for Common Ground in Washington DC, ignited Gabriel’s interest in the role of media in conflict situations and since then he has continued working in several non-profits such as the Centre for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Soliya Program and the International Facilitators Community of Practice for Business and Human Rights.

Through earning a Master’s in Journalism and Mass Communication, Gabriel plans to develop innovative ways to transform conflict using new and traditional media.

AFE: Children Peace Initiative, Kenya & Center for Conflict Resolution, Uganda

Listen to: The Chronicles of Peace: Storytelling for Peace


Siddharth Dixit, India

Master in International Development Policy, Duke University

Siddharth is a mechanical engineer and graduate of the Manipal Institute of Technology. He also holds a Post-Graduate Certificate in Liberal Arts through a collaborative effort with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, Carleton College and Sciences Po. In the past, he has worked with Ashoka-Innovators for the Public, as a consultant with their rural innovation and farming department. He has also worked with John Deere as a design engineer in their tractor division. During his time at John Deere, he was involved in initiatives that focused on children’s education through the Pankhudi Foundation and DISHA, John Deere’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program. He also co-founded the Acacia Foundation – a not for profit crowd funding organization aimed at finding donors to fund the education of differently-abled children.

Siddharth is passionate about reducing rural poverty and increasing the incomes of rural poor and small farmers. After finishing his Masters in International Development Policy Program, he wants to work with international organizations and government agencies to influence policies in the agriculture sector, particularly for making farming economically viable for marginalized farmers. He also plans to use his skills on the implementation side of the policies by building new value chains and institutions that are inclusive and compassionate to their needs.

AFE: World Bank, Washington DC (Enabling the Business of Agriculture)

Listen to: The Chronicles of Peace: No Limits



MajaMaja Muminagic, Bosnia

Global Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

For the past two-and-a-half years, Maja has been working as a Project Officer at UNICEF, Country Office for Bosnia and Herzegovina, providing technical support in the development, preparation, implementation, and monitoring of child protection related projects. Previously, she worked as an intern at the United Nations Office at Geneva and in the NGO sector in Vienna, Austria. She holds a BA degree (Cum Laude, Hons.) in International Relations and Psychology from Webster University, and an MA degree in Political Science from Stockholm University. Even though fighting for human and child rights is her passion, she has decided to return to her other passion: academic research.

Throughout her previous studies, she was interested in researching conflicts, ethnic segregation, nationalism, and especially in linking the psychological concepts and explanations of human behavior to hatred, exclusion, intolerance and other social dynamics that help perpetuate resentment and discordance. One research area she is interested in exploring further, is the myriad of implications the globalized world has on immigration and vice versa, as well as the juxtaposition thereof with nationalism and “otherness” globally, but especially in Europe.

After graduating from the Department of Global Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, she wants to contribute to the scientifically relevant research areas of contemporary global significance that will help shape sensible responses to intolerance and conflict.

AFE: Institute for Conflict Research, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Listen to: The Chronicles of Peace: Growing up in a Divided city


SNitsova_RotarySilviya Nitsova, Bulgaria

Global Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Silviya Nitsova holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from Leiden University, the Netherlands, and a Bachelor’s degree in European Studies from Sofia University, Bulgaria. During her four years of experience with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and specializations at the European Commission and European Parliament, she has developed substantial professional expertise in the field of European Union foreign policy, democratic transitions and human rights. She has observed elections in Armenia, Albania, Ukraine, and Tajikistan with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR), volunteered as an independent election observer domestically, and organized elections abroad with the Bulgarian foreign ministry.

Upon completion of the Rotary Peace Fellowship program and MA in Global Studies, Silviya intends to contribute to international efforts to achieve sustainable peace in countries in transition. She would like to become engaged in the development and implementation of policies and trainings on electoral processes, including election observation and electoral assistance, political campaigns, youth political participation, and participation of women and national minorities. Additionally, she wants to work with civil society organizations and policy makers on constitution building and institutional reform.

AFE: Council of Europe, Kiev, Ukraine


GonzaloGonzalo Pertile, Uruguay

Master in International Development Policy, Duke University 

Gonzalo Pertile is a social entrepreneur and public sector consultant. He holds a BS degree in Business Management from the University of Montevideo (Uruguay) and a certificate in Crime Prevention at the Local Level from the Institute of Public Affairs from the University of Chile. Originally from Uruguay, Gonzalo has extensive international work experience, both in the private and public sector. During his initial professional career he worked for a multinational corporation in the oil and gas industry, focusing on the supply chain division and as a business process redesign consultant in the Scotland branch of the company. Later, he moved to Guatemala where he worked at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) as an international consultant in the bank’s Reform/Modernization of the State Division. During this time he contributed to developing an intervention model named Coaching for Results, which is an innovative approach to strengthening public institutional performance. This model was introduced as a new IDB initiative that seeks to address institutional management weaknesses in the public sector in a short time frame, with minimal investment and with measurable impacts within public institutions. Under this project Gonzalo worked closely with the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare, Ministry of Public Finance and the Ministry of Interior of Guatemala.  He continued his consultancy experience in Guatemala with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in a project aimed at reviewing and updating the structure and processes of the Departmental Offices of the Ministry of Education of Guatemala.

Gonzalo has always had a social orientation and interest in development, and this is how – after living in Guatemala for a while – he decided to embark on a personal endeavor and co-founded The Mayan Store, a social enterprise that provides sustainable job opportunities for more than 550 artisans around Guatemala. The organization was awarded the 2013 Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise( SME) Exporter of the Year and implements social projects to foster better livelihoods for artisans in Guatemala in collaboration with the Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund, Ministry of Economy of Guatemala, Feed the Future, Save the Children and Guatemala’s Exporters Association.

AFE: United Nations Development Programme, New York, NY

Listen to: The Chronicles of Peace: A Different Approach to International Development



Divina Sabino, Seychelles

Master in International Development Policy, Duke University

Divina Sabino joined the Seychelles’ National Office for Disaster Risk Management in 2010. She served as the national counterpart for international and regional projects, where she was responsible for Planning & Policy and International Commitments. She developed and managed the Disaster Risk Management Information System, which had a tremendous impact in improving effectiveness of communication, documentation and reporting within all emergency first responder organizations. She played a key role in leading the formulation of the National Disaster Risk Management Act, 2014 and influencing the National Disaster Risk Management Policy, 2014. Divina’s recommendations to the government resulted in the establishment of the National Vulnerability Assessment Committee. This committee has both national and regional influence, brings together expertise from key sectors of government and tasks each sector with their responsibilities towards disaster risk reduction and accountability.

Divina’s ultimate goal is to support both Seychelles’ and regional governments, including all members of the African Small Island Developing States (SIDS), to establish a regional disaster risk management platform. This would improve communication and information-sharing between all member countries, build regional capacity and make the most of regional expertise; similar to many regional platforms already established around the world. These platforms support disaster risk reduction in the region by helping governments prepare, respond and recover from the human and economic impact of disasters. Divina truly believes that this is one of the most effective strategies in poverty reduction for the Indian Ocean region and African SIDS.

Divina was awarded a full joint scholarship by the Government of Seychelles and the Chinese Scholarship Council and holds a B.Sc. in Geography from Northeast Normal University. She was also awarded the UNESCO-Great Wall Scholarship and pursued a postgraduate certificate in Environmental Science from Beijing Normal University.

AFE: Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, Barbados

Listen to: The Chronicles of Peace: Finding Purpose


Barbara Santibañez, Chile 

Global Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Growing up in a post-dictatorship Chile, Barbara became interested in social issues and human activism from a very young age. With a background in political science and journalism, she strongly advocates for human rights education, historical memory and conflict resolution as key tools in promoting social justice. Throughout the last eight years, she has worked for international organizations such as Amnesty International (France) and the Inter-American Development Bank (USA), in an effort to further develop her multicultural mindset and gain the skills necessary to build bridges among multiple stakeholders. Before joining the Rotary Fellows at Chapel Hill, she worked for an international education initiative (WISE) where she designed and managed a youth program that identifies and engages young leaders from all around the world, in an effort to equip them with the skills they need to foster positive change in their own communities. She is also involved as a volunteer and member with youth projects in the fields of leadership, advocacy, and citizenship, through organizations such as Generation Europe Foundation, Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe (AEGEE), and Preparing Global Leaders Foundation.

Barbara holds a BA in Social Communications (University of Chile) and a Master of Research in Political Sciences (University of Paris). She has chosen the Masters in Global Studies at UNC as it offers the possibility of exploring global policy issues through a trans-disciplinary approach. Upon completion of the Fellowship, she wants to work on designing and implementing education policies oriented towards the progressive inclusion of human rights education in the national curricula.

AFE: Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France

Listen to: The Chronicles of Peace: Human Rights in Chile


Natsuko SawayaNatsuko Sawaya, Japan

Department of Maternal and Child Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

While working at an international preschool in Tokyo, Natsuko Sawaya was awarded the Ambassadorial Scholarship of the Rotary Foundation to study at Bologna University in Italy. While her major was in early childhood education, she also focused her studies around the development and problems of children growing up in institutions. During this time, she traveled to different countries in Africa to see an orphanage, an abandoned children’s center and several centers for infants. After graduating from Bologna University in 2009, she moved to Senegal to work at a children’s center where she arranged training courses for the local caregivers. In 2011, she began working at the Japanese Embassy in Mauritania as an administrative staff member. After three years, she was given an additional opportunity to work in Mauritania with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). She has been involved in projects related to border management and community stabilization, financed by the Japanese Government and the European Union. Through these opportunities, she was given the rare chance to see the evolution of Japanese funded projects, initially from the Embassy side, and now as a member of the project team in the same country.

Natsuko will be studying in the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She will focus her studies on stabilizing the environment around maternal and child health, an area critical in developing communities and countries. Natsuko also plans to gain skills and experience in emergency preparedness, especially in responding to the needs of pregnant women, mothers, babies and young children during outbreaks of disease, refugee and migrant movements, and natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

AFE: MaiKhanda, Lilongwe, Malawi

Listen to: The Chronicles of Peace: The Scars that don’t Heal


Nkole Zulu Thompson, Zambia

Master in International Development Policy, Duke University

Nkole holds a degree in Development Studies from the University of Zambia. She has six years experience working as a humanitarian aid worker for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with the first three years being in the service of the United Nations Volunteers. Currently, her focus is on mainstreaming age, gender and diversity, to ensure access to protection and assistance for refugees in Zambia. This approach places the focus on women and children in settlements, but also with the elderly and people with disabilities. She has worked in various refugee camps and refugee settlements in Zambia. The interventions put in place during this time were implemented in partnership with the Zambian line ministries of Education, Health, Community Development and the Ministry of Home Affairs through the office of the Commissioner for Refugees. Nkole has worked in UNHCR operations where she has witnessed all three of their durable solutions of repatriation, resettlement and local integration, all which help bring an end to refugee status.

At Duke University, Nkole will deepen her understanding of development economics and the various aspects of the economic policy implementation cycle. To help further her interest in working in a global environment, Nkole plans to gain skills in conflict management and acquire the ability to speak Spanish.

AFE: InStepp, Durham, NC & ISHR – Columbia University, New York, NY

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