Class 16

Mohammed Eid, Palestine

Global Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mohammed is from Gaza Strip, Palestine, where he has spent his life working. The Gaza Strip is one of the worst conflict zones in the world, yet it is a very beautiful and lovely country. He has studied applied linguistics at the University of Southampton in England. He then began working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in 2011, as a youth education specialist. He has worked on many programs and initiatives related to education development and youth empowerment.

During the rise of conflict in 2012, Mohammed worked in the refugee centers where they hosted refugees and provided them aid. In the following four years, his country was subject to two fierce wars, the crisis was unprecedented and the humanitarian situation deteriorated rapidly.

He applied for the Rotary Peace Fellowship, as he saw this as a chance to earn significant skills and knowledge, specifically within the Department of Global Studies. A knowledge that he hopes will help him coordinate with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other NGOs, in an attempt to reform the humanitarian relief program and present a new system that is capable of functioning during a large-scale crisis. Above all, he firmly believes that he will contribute to ending the violence and reaching a lasting solution that will save thousands of lives.


Natalie Emery, Italy

Master in International Development Policy, Duke University 

Natalie has over 14 years’ experience in starting and running humanitarian programs in developing countries, including India, Nepal, Mozambique and South Africa. Originally from Verona, Italy, she has dedicated her life to poverty alleviation and sustainable development, with a special focus on providing access to quality education and skills development. Her passion for helping others ignited at the tender age of 14, when she decided to spend several months volunteering in India, first in the desert of Gujarat, after a major earthquake, as well as in an orphanage of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Since then, her goal has been to strive for poverty eradication, increased access to human rights, sustainable development and women empowerment.

She spent an additional 3 years volunteering in Delhi, working with slum children through grass-roots initiatives. After that, she worked with local NGO’s, both in Mozambique and Nepal. She currently is the co-founder and Managing Director of Change the World Trust, a non-profit organization that sets-up and provides free IT Training to unemployed youth and high school students across South Africa.

Natalie holds a Degree in Human Resources, is a HIV/Aids counsellor and was awarded a Laureate Global Fellowship in 2015. Through her Master in International Development Policy, Natalie aims to build on her dream of making a significant impact in the lives of underprivileged girls and children, providing them with the means to get out of the cycle of poverty. She also plans to improve her skills as a leader in the humanitarian work environment.


Sakun Gajurel, Nepal

Master in International Development Policy, Duke University

Sakun Gajurel was born in Nepal. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Sociology with a minor in Leadership Studies) from Methodist University in North Carolina. After receiving a one-year master’s degree from University of Bologna in Italy, she joined the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, where she supported advocacy for food security, agricultural development, poverty reduction, gender equality, and partnerships for development.

After two years in Rome, in 2014, she returned to Nepal to continue her professional path in the development sector. Sakun has worked with the FAO as well as the World Food Programme (WFP) and served as communication and advocacy personnel promoting the strategic objectives of the organizations through public relations. She worked closely with the vulnerable communities in rural Nepal in the aftermath of the April 2015 earthquakes. As a development sector professional, she has worked closely with many communities. She has facilitated smooth communication between organizations and the local communities and has given voice to the need of the local people through need assessment, stories, photos, and videos. She has also supported advocacy on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) as well as One-Health issues in Asia and the Pacific Region.

Through her studies at Duke University, Sakun hopes to expand her skills as a leader in the international development sector. She aims to contribute in the areas of poverty reduction, labor migration and refugee issues, by investigating different methods to address the needs of migrants as a necessary step in resolving conflicts, peace building and ensuring sustainable development.


Nigel Heywood, Australia

Department of Folklore, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Nigel Heywood originally comes from Manilla, Australia, where his family farmed for four generations. He studied Visual Arts at The Australian National University in Canberra. From 2001 – 2012, he worked in leadership training and community development programs with Initiatives of Change (IofC). Based in India for three years, Nigel took on the coordination of these programs as they expanded their fieldwork into more than 20 countries throughout Asia, the Pacific, Eastern Europe and Africa. This established an ongoing network of social entrepreneurs with around 100 graduates that continue to deliver peace and development projects globally.

Through contact with communities recovering from conflict, Nigel began to focus on reconciliation and dialogue work between ex-militia and victims. This led to work in the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and the training of 200 Peace Mobilizers in partnership with the South Sudanese Government in 2013. Nigel has continued to work with the South Sudanese community in Australia, running training and forums focused on advocacy for humanitarian aid and the key role of the diaspora in building peace within South Sudan.

From 2013 – 2017, Nigel worked with the Red Cross Emergency Services in Australia, designing and delivering training programs to 1000+ volunteers, particularly focusing on service needs and psycho-social well-being of the community during emergencies.

Nigel is passionate about peace building work, storytelling and the creative alternatives that come out of a community when it decides to respond with non-violence. He hopes to understand more about a holistic approach to peace that includes all levels of society from the grassroots to government with his Masters in Peace building and Folklore.


Sajjad Hussain, Pakistan

Global Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Sajjad was born in Quetta, Balochistan, the southwestern province of Pakistan which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Balochistan has been home to low-level Baloch insurgency and increasing sectarian violence. In the face of genocidal violence against Shia Hazaras, Sajjad stepped up as a voice of resistance. The Hazara community has been cited as a community whose nonviolent protests have appealed to the conscience of the larger Pakistani masses. Sajjad is one of the few members who served as informal representatives, bridging his community and the larger Pakistani intelligentsia, activists and journalists. Academic institutions have invited him to give talks on issues concerning human rights, religious extremism, and the political crisis in Balochistan.

As a graduate of the University of Engineering & Technology Lahore, with a degree in Electrical Engineering, the situation in Balochistan motivated him to study Peace and Conflict Resolution (PCS) at the National Defence University, Islamabad. His online and offline activism has been acknowledged by civil society organizations in Pakistan and abroad. Since April 2013, he is proudly associated with Alif Ailaan, a campaign for education reforms in Pakistan. Sajjad is also a member of the Swedish Institute (SI) alumni of its Young Connectors of Future (YCF), a leadership program for emerging leaders from South Asia.

As a Rotary Peace Fellow, he plans to embark on an academic journey to study Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is eternally grateful to the Ummat Educational & Cultural Center, Quetta where he met his first mentors, that inspired him with the passion for volunteerism and community work, which he vows to continue lifelong. Through the knowledge and skills gained at UNC, he wants to join the cohort of moderators and global activists who are facilitating socio-political conversations between communities and societies often described as ‘incompatible’.


Christian Lara, Colombia

Master in International Development Policy, Duke University

Chris Lara is a political scientist who worked as a Protection Specialist with the US Department of Children and Families, before starting his graduate studies on humanitarian action and peace and conflict studies. This experience allowed him direct contact with humanitarian stakeholders in occupied Palestinian territories, Bosnia Herzegovina, and Colombia. He has been working on issues related to Humanitarian Affairs with the United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) in Geneva (Emergency Services Branch), and New York (Coordination Response Division), and since 2010 with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) on humanitarian Mine Action issues, peace-building, gender, and Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR).

During the last Ebola crisis in West Africa, as a member of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), he worked within the National Ebola Response Centre, as the Situation/Emergency Room Coordinator in Freetown, Sierra Leone – subsequently seconded to the Senior Management Office of WHO Sierra Leone, worked on coordination, emergency preparedness and response, and early recovery issues.

Before becoming a Rotary Peace Fellow, Chris served with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), leading the Relief Reintegration and Protection (RRP) team at the epicenter of the relief activities performed by the United Nations in Unity State (border State with Sudan and Abyei). In February 2017, a major famine emergency response was declared and Chris was involved in the administration of the largest protection of civilians (PoC) site in the world with approximately 120,000 internally displaced people (IDPs): one of the most complex humanitarian, peacekeeping, and protection operations in our time.

As a mid-career professional, his interests have been on the potential of cross-sectorial policy development in enhancing the efficiency, efficacy and impact of multidimensional interventions in the fields of humanitarian action, human rights and public health, as a powerful enabling resource for peace-building.


Shannon Longhurst, Australia

Global Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Shannon Longhurst holds a Bachelor of Socio-Legal Studies (1st Class Honours) from the University of Sydney, Australia. Over the past ten years, she has volunteered and worked for a variety of not-for-profit, human rights and community sector organisations. This has included advocacy and policy work across a range of topics, specifically gender and human rights, poverty/inequality, and Indigenous peoples’ rights – with a focus on criminal justice reform, family violence, child protection and Indigenous intellectual property and cultural rights. Most recently, Shannon was Principal Advisor to the Change the Record Coalition, a group of leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, legal, community and human rights organisations working collaboratively to address the disproportionate rates of violence and imprisonment experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Prior to this, she worked in a number of research assistant roles, including at the Australian Council of Social Service, a national advocate for action to reduce poverty and inequality and the peak body for the community services sector in Australia. She has also been an active member of Amnesty International Australia, having served in a number of leadership roles, including Convenor of the New South Wales (NSW) Women’s Network, and member of the NSW Branch Committee and National Board’s International Issues Committee.

Shannon has a particular interest in applied research, with a focus on exploring parallels and intersections between major domestic and global public policy challenges. Throughout her studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, she hopes to expand her understanding of themes related to peace and conflict across the global landscape, to act as a basis for analysing policy trends across jurisdictions.


Alhousseyni Maiga, Mali

Master in International Development Policy, Duke University

Born in Bamako, Alhousseyni is from the Timbuktu region, in the north of Mali. He started his schooling in Mbouna, a village in the Timbuktu region, continued his high school and college education in the Mopti region, in the center of Mali. In 1996, he graduated from the ENSUP (Ecole Normale Superieure) located in Bamako, the capital city of Mali, with a BA in English to work in both secondary and high schools, as an English teacher. A few months after graduation, he started to work for a Malian local NGO called Grade Banlieue. He was in charge of the supervision of all activities related to their Community School Program, including building community schools in the neediest communities, identifying and training teachers and Project Support Committee members for the new schools.

In January 2001, he joined buildOn, a US based NGO working in the field of education in developing countries, including Mali. He began as a translator, then, worked his way up to the position of Country Director. He Lead all buildOn Mali Programs, including construction of schools in Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso. Under his leadership, they also developed an Adult Literacy Program, where buildOn trains locally literate people to teach parents and grandparents literacy and numeracy. Through this innovative methodology, community members decide on curriculum topics and focus lessons on relevant subjects such as micro-enterprise, gender balance, prenatal care, improved agriculture and more. More than 60% of all their students are female. Alhousseyni is particularly proud of the fact that in 2002, he developed a post-literacy program for high-achieving students to ensure sustainable skills.

In 2012, a civil war broke out in Mali, which ultimately left Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in charge of two thirds of the country where they enforced sharia law. Since the war began, Alhousseyni has continued to lead the team to build more schools.

He likes travelling, interacting with villagers, meeting new people and discovering new cultures. Our world faces incredible educational and development challenges. A Master in International Development Policy (MIDP) will prepare him to help give the most appropriate response to these challenges, especially in the interest of the rural population of some of the poorest countries of the word.


Branka Panic, Serbia

Master in International Development Policy, Duke University

Branka Panic is a civil society professional, committed to advancing international development, human rights protection and effective altruism. She started her career at the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, where she worked on strengthening peace, democracy and human rights. She later joined the European Fund for the Balkans (EFB), where she designed and implemented initiatives focused on strengthening democracy, regional cooperation and European integration. She has extensive experience in capacity building through advanced leadership programs and policy development through evidence-based research and advocacy. Her most recent project at EFB is the Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkans, a platform that promotes sustainable dialogue between decision makers, activists, grassroots organizations, researchers and other representatives of civil society.

Branka has a BA in Political Sciences and a MA in International Security from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, with a focus on securitization, societal security and discourse analysis. She is passionate about restoring the rights and dignity of victims of social and political injustice and conflicts. As community leader, she was active in providing humanitarian aid to refugees passing through Serbia at the height of the refugee crisis, and organizing community activities in order to make the integration process effective. She is the founder of a local craftivism movement, empowering citizens to express their creativity through crafts – later donated to refugees.

As a Peace Fellow at the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Centre, Branka aims to study effective strategies of conflict prevention, resolution and making peace sustainable. She is eager to tackle those challenges by using new technologies and digital tools. Branka is interested in designing democracy in fragile and divided states. With her experience in building Balkans’ post-war societies, she believes she can contribute to this topic, and learn new methods on successfully achieving this in other settings throughout the world.


Venera Urbaeva, Kyrgyzstan

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

Venera is a national of Kyrgyzstan, located in the heart of Central Asia. She has bachelors in international and comparative politics and a master’s degree in international human rights.

Venera has recently completed her tenure at the UNICEF Country Office in Ukraine, coordinating a child protection programme in a non-government controlled area of Donetsk, affected by a conflict since 2014.  Venera has been with UNICEF for the past seven and a half years and has worked on the development of programmes to provide psychosocial support to children and their families affected by the conflict as well as enhancing their resilience and preparedness. She has focused on developing programmes to prevent and respond to violence against children, to prevent institutionalization and child delinquency through development of child-centered, age and gender sensitive services.

Venera is thrilled to have become a Rotary Peace Fellow. Her experience with Rotary began during her undergraduate studies, when she was an active member of Rotaract. During those three years, she led charity projects to fundraise for nursing homes and taught human rights and English classes at orphanages and rural schools to promote social justice. This has exposed her to the values and mission of Rotary and the philanthropy and social corporate responsibility of Rotarians.

Through her studies in Maternal and Child Health at UNC’s School of Public Health, Venera hopes to increase her expertise on health promotion by applying a life cycle approach and analyzing the impact of social and cultural factors on mother/child/family wellbeing. She wishes to continue her work on promoting the wellbeing and development of all children in all settings (including in conflict and natural disasters) to support them to become fully-fledged citizens of the world, keen on making a meaningful contribution to world peace.

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