Alumni Roundup 2016
Humphrey alumni have had a busy 2016 establishing schools and research centers, fighting for more open media, and advocating for better policy in their home countries. Read more about their stories below.
Dr. Tawatchai Apidechkul Establishes Research Center for Minority Hill Tribe
Dr. Tawatchai Apidechkul opened the Hill Tribe Health Research Center in January, a project he wrote about in his original Humphrey application in 2013. The Hill People are a historically marginalized people that inhabit the border regions of northern Thailand. Dr. Apidechkul says that after 20 years as a health professional in the northern region, “I have a great passion to help the Hill Tribe people who are facing many problems including health problem in northern Thailand. Before, joining the Humphrey program I decided to devote to work for the Hill Tribe people particularly in HIV/AIDS prevention program development.” The mission of the research center includes doing research in the field of genetic related diseases, infectious disease, non-infectious disease, and health care system development for the Hill Tribe people. The center has also expanded to be the training center for degree and non-degree certificates for health care professionals in this region. Dr. Apidechkul credits his experience in the Humphrey Program for his ability to mobilize international contacts to support his project and also is grateful for the time he was able to spend with his Humphrey coordinator at Emory University, the late Dr. Philip Brachman, who said, “[Dr. Apidechkul's research center exhibits his] drive, strength, and dedication to the Hill People. [He] certainly demonstrates the merits of the Humphrey Fellowship Program." Dr. Apidechkul participated in the program during the 2013-2014 program year.
Said Nazir Featured in Al Jazeera Documentary
The Tribal News Network (TNN), which was cofounded by Humphrey alumnus Said Nazir, was featured in a documentary on Al Jazeera's 101 East series. The documentary covers how TNN reports the news in the tribal areas of Peshawar, Pakistan and particularly highlights the struggle to promote female journalists in this conservative area. TNN is one of the few news networks in Pakistan that employs female journalists.
Mr. Nazir says of his Humphrey year,
“During my Humphrey year, I learnt a lot about different formats of radio programs particularly in NPR and Radio Free Europe. The fellowship helped me learn about the use of modern technology in dissemination of news and information, and our mobile project is one example. I am using those skills to produce two-minute news segments for delivery via mobile phone in tribal areas of Pakistan.
[The Humphrey Program] also broadened my view about women’s participation in the media and public sphere, without which a society cannot make progress. This is why I am now trying to bring gender equity both at office and home.”
Mr. Nazir was hosted by the University of Maryland, College Park during the 2014-2015 program year.
Dr. Nang Pann Ei Kham Fights for Drug Policy Reform in Myanmar
Dr. Nang Pann Ei Kham has been diligently working to reform drug policy in Myanmar. Support. Don’t Punish, a global advocacy campaign calling for better drug policies that prioritize public health and human rights, published a video highlighting the struggles of punitive drug policies in Myanmar in March. Dr. Kham spoke in the video about the need for Myanmar's drug policies to focus on harm reduction and treatment services in lieu of the current policies, which lead to "oppression and penalization.” In April, Dr. Kham addressed the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem and urged support for impoverished opium farmers in developing countries whose livelihoods are threatened by increased policing and regulation. Dr. Kham says of her Humphrey Fellowship year,
“The Hubert Humphrey program contributed enormously to my professional development, especially becoming a strong advocate in reforming health and human rights based drug policies in Myanmar. It was a great opportunity for me to make networking relationships with professionals in the substance abuse field, those who are not only based in US but also from countries across the world. In this way I learned about various responses to drug dependence in terms of prevention, treatment and policy making. The guidance of my supervisor and coordinators from the Virginia Commonwealth University in building up my skills in presentation, critical thinking and analytical writing also helped to further develop me into a strong professional in drug policy advocacy and public health thematic area.”
Dr. Kham was a Humphrey Fellow during the 2013-2014 program year.
Omar Mohammed Tasked with Bringing Digital Data to Tanzania
Omar Mohammed became the country lead for the “Code for Tanzania” chapter of “Code for Africa,” an initiative that seeks to make data digitally accessible to everyone in order to build civic technology capacity and establish a more robust and free watchdog media. Mr. Mohammed's new position will include establishing local chapters of the global Hacks/Hackers community as well as a flagship civic technology “CitizenLab,” comprised of a team of software engineers, data analysts and digital journalists who will work with local newsrooms and social justice NGOs. Mr. Mohammed says that the Humphrey Fellowship contributed enormously to his professional development, saying, “Without my time in the US, it's difficult to see if I would be in a position I am in today. The Humphrey program helped me become an international journalist and that led me to where I am today.” Mr. Mohammed says that Code for Tanzania is progressing well.
“We have established partnerships with civil society organizations and newsrooms to help them better leverage open data for their reporting and helping the public better access information about their communities, particularly in health and education. I am in the process of hiring a team that will help me execute those projects.
I have also been spending a lot of time working with journalists to help demystify the whole idea of data driven story-telling. A significant number of reporters in Tanzania tend to find dealing with numbers intimidating, so talking to them about ways in which they can use data and employ tools to visualize that data helps enormously in this regard. So I spend a significant amount of time visiting newsrooms and evangelizing on the importance of incorporating data in daily reporting.”
Mr. Mohammed was hosted by Arizona State University during the 2013-2014 program year.
Simone Fernandes Publishes Report with the World Bank
Simone Fernandes coauthored the World Bank report, "Protecting Children from Cybercrime, Legislative Responses in Latin America." The report focuses on combating violence against children in Latin American countries by identifying problems shared by the different countries, identifying the gaps in legislation, and highlighting good practices in the prevention and protection of minor victims of online sexual exploitation. Ms. Fernandes says of her time on the program,
“The Humphrey Program is certainly the most important experience I had, outside my career, to enhance my professional skills. My experience as a Humphrey Fellow was wonderful and has been immensely helpful to me to achieve my professional goals. I do recommend the new Fellows to get the most out of the program, while you are not submersed in your professional duties, to be proactive and try really hard to increase your network, because it is going to make all the difference in your professional lives when you come back.”
Ms. Fernandes is from Brazil and was hosted by American University during the 2012-2013 program year.
Judith Sakubu Brings Vocational Education to Rural Burundi
Humphrey alumna Judith Sakubu had the idea to start a school in rural Mwaro, Burundi in 2012. She says, “I visited a rural area where I was born and I heard how parents were having a hard time to send their children to vocational schools which were located in the capital city of Burundi, Bujumbura. Not only was it far away, but also the school fees and other expenses were very expensive for them.” Along with her husband and a few relatives, Ms. Sakubu began working on a project to open a vocational high school in Mwaro. While she was on her Humphrey Program, Mwaro Technical High School opened its doors in 2013 to twelve students. Ms. Sakubu returned from her Humphrey year in 2014 and put her new skills to work, improving publicity, growing the school to 85 students, and securing national certification for diplomas. Now, graduates have the option of continuing to university. Ms. Sakubu was hosted by Pennsylvania State University during the 2013-2014 program year.
In the photo: Dr. Tawatchai Apidechkul works at his Hill Tribe Health Research Center