Alumni Roundup - Elections, National News, and NGOs

News & Updates

Alumni Roundup - Elections, National News, and NGOs

Nawarathne Marasinghe in his Judicial robes

Welcome to our new Alumni Roundup series, where we will feature short updates on significant achievements of the Humphrey Fellowship Alumni. Humphrey Alumni have had some great accomplishments so far in 2015, including an elected president, a high court justice appointee, a founder of a successful NGO, and more. Please read further for more details regarding these stunning achievements.


Upon her return to Vietnam in 2013, Humphrey Alumna Huong Thi Lan Nguyen (Vietnam, University of Minnesota - Humphrey School, 2012-2013) established an NGO, Blind Link, to assist visually impaired people in her country. She is now a visiting Rajawali Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. We reached out to Huong to learn more about Blind Link and her other accomplishments and she replied with the following:

“Currently I am Co-founder of Blind-Link, Vietnam, an initiative [that] resulted from my Humphrey Fellowship in 2012-13. Blind-Link is a not-for-profit social enterprise providing employment, support, and training opportunities for Vietnamese people with vision disability, who account for nearly 4 percent of total population (or nearly 4 millions of people). Its core business is the massage service done by the blind young adults working in Omamori Spa chain.

Blind-Link’s business, the Omamori Spa has made it among best spas in Hanoi just one year since its open[ing]. We have provided thousands of services and 95.5% of our clients’ feedback [is] good and excellent. 60% of clients are foreigners-tourists and expats and 40% are Vietnamese. This pilot model seems sustainable because Omamori Spa [has broken even] and everybody is running the project without my direct involvement since August, 2014. My goal now is to scale-up this project so that Blind-Link can transform fundamentally the way our blind people are doing in this business sector and help them upgrade along the value chain of this billion-dollar-revenue-industry.”

Blind-Link recently won a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor. Find out more about Blink Link at their website.


Humphrey Alumnus Louis Oulon (Burkina Faso, University of Maryland - College Park, 2006-2007) was appointed director of national TV in Burkina Faso. We reached out to Louis to learn more about his position and to ask him about how the Humphrey Fellowship prepared him for this role. Here is his response:

“I am working to rebuild the [national] news team [to be more] committed to professional journalism. I have the responsibility to build a bridge of trust between the national TV and the populations. Yes my experience of the [HHH] helps well. My internship at CNN, VOA and journalism classes at UMD, definitely gave me a strong experience which serves me and my country now.”


Humphrey Alumna Tanja Popovicki (Serbia, Cornell University, 2011-2012) was elected President of the Serbian Fulbright Association. She is the first woman president in over a decade and she is the first Humphrey participant to lead the Association. According to the announcement, “Popovicki shared her ambitious plans for building the influence of the organization and engaging Humphrey and Ron Brown alumni as full, contributing members.”


Humphrey Alumnus Utku Cakirozer (Turkey, University of Maryland – College Park, 2008-2009) was elected to the Turkish Parliament as a member of the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP - Republican Peoples Party). He was elected from the City of Eskisehir. CHP is the main opposition to the ruling AKP Party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 


Humphrey Alumnus David Granger (Guyana, University of Maryland - College Park 1995-1996) was elected the President of Guyana. President Granger’s multiracial opposition party won the national election on May 11 breaking the ruling party’s 23-year old grip on power. President Granger was sworn in on Saturday, May 16 2015. President Granger is the first Humphrey Fellow to become a head of state. In his acceptance speech, he says:

“The elections are over. The Guyanese people have chosen their representatives. The Constitution has been respected. Our democracy has been fortified. Let us now put past rivalries behind us and work in unity to banish poverty, ignorance, fear and hatred.”

Video from the swearing-in ceremony can be found here.


Humphrey Alumnus Akin Ambode (Nigeria, Boston University, 1998-1999) was elected Governor of Lagos State in Nigeria. Following the announcement of the results, Governor-elect Ambode reached out to the leader of the opposition party and extended a request of friendship to work together and move the country forward. More information is available here.


Humphrey Alumnus Nawarathne Marasinghe (Sri Lanka, University of Minnesota – Law School, 2013-2014) was appointed a High Court Judge of the Republic of Sri Lanka. He took his oath of office before the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka on May 26, 2015. We reached out to Nawa to congratulate him on his appointment and to learn more about his role. His response is below.

“Yes indeed my attending Humphrey fellowship was helpful very much to achieve this goal! It is an appointment made by the president of Sri Lanka and I have to handle criminal matters and trials in the high court which is the highest criminal court in Sri Lanka. High court of is Sri Lanka is similar to the district courts in the USA! As a Humphrey fellow I was able to learn a lot on child protection, violence against women and children, victims of human trafficking, etc. Now as a high court judge I am expected to hear such cases among other things and do justice to victims! I had the great privilege of doing my PA at the Hennepin County Attorney's office in Minnesota and had opportunity of closely monitoring court proceedings and had constructive meetings with district court judges and family court judges. So my training in USA as a Humphrey fellow has been immensely helpful to me to administer justice to people in this country! I once again thank the IIE and the Hubert H Humphrey fellowship program!”


We at the Humphrey Program congratulate each of these outstanding Alumni as well as other Humphrey alumni who have had significant achievements this year!

Are you a past Humphrey Fellow with an achievement to share? Contact us at