November 2018 Perennial Fellows

Wesam Alsaad, Iraq

Wesam firmly believes that all human beings have the right to be free and express their own ideas. A pharmacist by profession, Wessam has over 12 years working with activists and organizations on issues of human rights, democracy and refugees. His current mission is to establish a civil society organization that will focus on human rights issues in his city Basrah and defend the gay community’s rights to live with equality and dignity.  

While the gay community is rising in Iraq, no politician or human right activists speaks out to protect their rights out of fear. His community is religious and tribal, where being gay is a criminal offense. Wessam wants to change that. He understands that his work is challenging and can be very dangerous, but he also knows the importance of having the freedom to be oneself.

Gertrude Zoe Kabwazi, Malawi

Gertrude wants to live a purposeful life that leaves footprints for her children, her neighbors, her community, and her country to follow. Gertrude is the Country Director of Advancing girls In Education (AGE) Africa. AGE Africa, an NGO operating in Malawi, focuses on the empowerment of Malawian girls through education. Founded in 2005, AGE Africa’s mission is to provide life-changing opportunities for young women in Malawi through targeted initiatives in education, mentorship and leadership development.

The organization’s vision is that all girls in Africa will have equal access to secondary education and that young scholars will be empowered to finish school, leverage their education into viable opportunities for earned income and to self-advocate for their own life choices. Gertrude’s vision in life is to live like a seed; a seed that continues to sustain, nurture, grow, mentor, and support.

Samantha Croasdaile, Honduras

Samantha’s vision is to help others be their best versions of themselves. Samantha  is a communication and gender specialist by profession and a writer and trainer by passion. Born and raised in Honduras, she has  had the opportunity to work with international agencies like Save the Children, World Vision, CARE, and USAID, Honduras on issues like gender violence and education. During that time, she realized her passion lies in working with youth and has co-founded a youth focused organization that empowers young people to prevent gender based violence. Samantha is currently working with people in the development filed, helping them become better leaders, advocates and activists.

Baitali Ganguly, India

Baitali endeavours to reach underprivileged and vulnerable children in need of care and support and strives to equip and empower them to have a confident new lease on life. Baitali is the co- founder of Jabala Action Research Organization, a not for profit organisation formed out of social activism in 1992.  Having observed the plight of children of the red light area during an HIV/AIDs situational analysis, Baitali and her co-founder started their work with 150 children of commercial sex workers with an aim to prevent abuse and help them integrate into the society by providing education, health and cultural support.

Due to the work of Jabala being successful in preventing second generation prostitution of the girls and boys turning to crime, their work spread eventually spread to nine other red light districts and slums. Jabala’s work is now impacting thousands of lives.

Hashim Al-Rikabi, Iraq

Hashim aspires to establish an NGO that works on improving skills of young activists and serves  as a platform to exchange their thoughts and making their voices heard. Hashim is a Researcher at Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies in Iraq. Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies is an independent, nonprofit think tank based in Baghdad, Iraq. Its primary mission is to offer an authentic perspective on public and foreign policy issues related to Iraq and the region.  

Being raised in the Middle East, where bombing and explosion were the norm, Hashim was always aware of being in a political hot zone at the center of international disputes. He came to soon realize that as an Iraqi, politics is an inescapable part of his life. As his interest in politics grew, Hashim decided to pursue politics for both his undergraduate and graduate degree. Driven by the vision of having a peaceful and prosperous Iraq, Hashim decided to work at a think tank to pursue research in the topics of good governance, rule of law, and public policies.

Hang Nguyen, Vietnam

Hang believes that everyone living on this planet deserves to have the right to choose their own path. Hang is a social entrepreneur and works at REACH. REACH is a local non-profit organization which specializes in providing vocational training, career advice, and job placement services for Vietnam’s most disadvantaged youth. Hang oversees REACH’s over all training management and business network, while leading the team to achieve required targets. She also supports program officers and youth affairs in recruitment and mobilizing processes and works with other NGOs, key partners, and mass media.

Mary Magdalene Tal, Cameroon/South Africa

Mary believes every woman should experience dignity and respect. Mary is the founder and the Executive Director of Whole World Women Association. The organization aims to create safe and nurturing spaces for refugee and migrant women and their families, promoting and facilitating their safe integration into local communities in South Africa

Prior to starting Whole World Women Association, Mary worked for the Human Right Media Centre in Cape Town, South Africa. Her role involved creating the refugee and migrant project while researching, writing, and publishing challenges faced by refugees in South Africa through various media platforms including radio, television, books journal and articles.

Mary is also an external observer in the Gender studies honors class at the University of Cape Town’s African Gender Institute. She has a degree in LLB Law from University of Yaounde, Cameroon and a postgraduate LLM from University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Ana Cecilia Hernández Sandoval, El Salvador/Chile

Ana Cecilia is a resilient fighter and a survivor. Born in  a rural place in El Salvador, Ceci started working when she was 8 years old. When she turned 15, she was recruited by the guerrilla warfare and became a prisoner of war at age 16. As a survivor, Ceci studied and learned French and English and began travelling to overcoming the trauma she faced. With time, Ceci focused on her personal development, and began doing with what she loved the most, working with numbers.

Ceci is in charge of the Microcredit and Enterprise program in ASAPROSAR. ASAPROSAR is a non-profit organization with the mission to work with the neediest families in El Salvador to improve their quality of life. ASAPROSAR empowers the poor through health care, youth leadership training, environmental and nutritional education, micro-credit, and community development.

Shunas Abdalla, Kurdistan

Shunas has always cared deeply about politics in his homeland and has always applied himself to serve his people with the skills that he has learned. Shunas is the member of Diplomatic foreign affairs for the Gorran Party and also manages the Party’s TV channel. The Gorran Party was founded on the ideologies of fighting for democracy. This movement for change stems from the simple fact that it is a new, dynamic, fresh option in Kurdistan and it calls for an end to monopoly control of power.

Shunas strongly believes in the Gorran Party and it’s movement. He believes that there is a bright future for the Kurdish people in Iraq and everywhere else in the world.

Kevin Chen, Taiwan

Kevin is a passionate social entrepreneur focusing on Migration issue. Kevin is the founder of One-Forty Foundation. One-Forty Foundation aids migrant workers in cultivating personal goals and bridging the gap with the locals through education. One-Forty School teaches the workers skills that they need for a steady career in either Taiwan or back home, including Chinese lessons and business courses.

Kevin believes that social progress depends on how we engage people with different ethnicities, languages, cultures, and backgrounds. Working overseas is a long journey full of uncertainties to all migrant workers and Kevin hopes that One-Forty can make this journey both fascinating and worthwhile.  

Marlon Velasquez, Honduras/Nicaragua

Marlon believes that all children should have the opportunity to grow up in a healthy and nourishing environment. Marlon is the a National Director at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos.

Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), is a charitable organization that has provided a home for thousands of orphans and abandoned children since 1954. Currently there are NPH homes in nine Latin American countries. The official mission of NPH is “to provide shelter, food, clothing, healthcare and education in a Christian family environment based on unconditional acceptance and love, sharing, working and responsibility.”

Having grown up in an NPH home himself, Marlon is very dedicated to the mission and vision of NPH. As the National Director, he is in charge of 380 children and 160 staff that work in the different areas, such as the caregivers, administrators, international volunteers, and school teachers.