By Jassi Kaur Sandhar, Global Research Fellow

On August 9th 2021, twenty-four grassroots leaders from 19 different countries, representing diverse backgrounds, communities, languages and experiences, came together to embark on a four-month long journey through the Goldin Institute’s Global Fellows Program. Twenty-four fellows, working with over 24 communities, to impact the lives of thousands of people through community-driven social change. During the 18-week program, Fellows utilised GATHER – a tablet-based mobile learning tool, used to empower communities of practice, to identify what is already working in their communities and centre solutions around those most impacted by local and global challenges.

Now that the Program has come to an end, Fellows are GATHER-ing as a collective to raise $24,000 by the new year to support their individual and collaborative community-based projects. This fund will be equally distributed among the 24 Fellows, and so your contribution will support a portfolio of activities around the world, such as greening projects in Nigeria, supporting the rights of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, and even providing justice education in Bangladesh.


But what moves these fellows to do what they do? Especially when what they do it not for their own gain but for the benefit of others? Their work may be different but their stories are ultimately ONE. A story of love, a love that fills our hearts with empathy, compassion, care, drive and strength. A story that can resonate with each and every person. A story of community.

We can tell you about the work of Mathias from Cameroon, who lost his brother to the scourge of drug abuse and was propelled on a pathway to help change the fates of other youth tumbling down that path, especially those susceptible to recruitment as child soldiers in the ongoing conflict in the country. And of Chhavi from India, who has spent the last year covering the farmers’ protest in India’s capital, Delhi, against unjust laws. Waking up every morning to motivate the forgotten heroes who we owe the wonderful meals on our tables to. And of Lillian from Nigeria, who chose to spend her time and energy motivating and empowering young people to change the narrative of what it means to be a leader in Africa. And of Andy from the Philippines, who recognized the harms of the human trafficking industry and chose to help create an environment of healing, transformation and safety for the survivors in his country. Or how about Arpeeta, an academic and Lawyer from Bangladesh, who is driven to create an academic environment which allows for students to better challenge socio-cultural stereotypes through justice education.

We also draw inspiration from Fatmire from Macedonia, who works to build nonviolent conflict resolution methods for peaceful coexistence between the various ethnicities in Macedonia. And also from Reverend Berry, a minister from South Africa, whose biggest inspiration is to see people happy which encourages her to find ways of bringing different faith-based groups together to facilitate interfaith dialogue. Indeed it is through dialogue and stories that we evolve. That is why Blake from Atlanta built Vngle an app to check the origin of where, when, and how stories are captured and to draw attention to underrepresented stories across the United States of America.

At the grassroots is where these 24 Fellows conduct their work, because top-down approaches cannot elicit the results desired. For example, Jennifer Kuwa knows first-hand the challenges facing the LGBTQI community in Liberia and therefore works to champion for their rights and facilitate access to justice for them. For John from Liberia, who promotes citizen-police relations in the country, this grassroots work involves including those most affected by social challenges, listening to their needs and incorporating their ideas – approaches which are central to the GATHER philosophy and principles which unite the 24 Fellows.

But “the core of what drives us is love, through this work is how I believe love is expressed to the world” says Mahdar, our fellow from Malaysia who is working to build spiritual awareness for Malaysian youth through talks and community projects on arts. Working with youth is central to many of our Fellows work, like Zeenat from South Africa who says “I believe that service to others is the core of what makes us human. I enjoy working with my community and especially, youth, because I feel that children are the essence of a community.” Our youngest Fellow, Luc, a 21-year old from DRC, has taken advantage of his skills in mechanics and programming to empower youth who have no access to education to train them in mechanics to create income-generating activities for them. Another one of our Fellows working closely with youth, but using accessible and engaging ways of doing so, is Lupai from South Sudan who uses radio to amplify youth voices in Juba and provides a platform to discuss social change and peacebuilding through media.

Alongside the empowerment of youth is the belief in the power of education. Sri Ram from Nepal, who is motivated by bringing joy and happiness to those around him, works with Nepalese students on non-violent communication practices and on building emotional intelligence to support greater connectedness among people. Shazmin from Malaysia values education for the most marginalised and supports refugee children, with a focus on Rohingya children, to achieve their full potential as productive individuals through education and skills training workshops in Malaysia. Our colleague Dr Gopal designs hands-on curriculum in the UK which addresses climate change and the sustainable development challenges. Munyaradzi from Zimbabwe is driven by her desire to support women become entrepreneurs and offers motivational seminars to support the economic empowerment of youth and women. For David, decentralising institutional knowledge is vital and so he promotes Spanish literature from emerging Latinx authors as a way of offering new pedagogical experiences. And for Valerie, this desire to support education projects is showcased by her work providing assistance and guidance to low income migrant families in Montreal with their children’s schooling needs.

What are some of the characteristics Fellows possess? Patience, community consciousness and an inherent desire to give our best. Be it Ismail’s Tree Plantation campaigns in Nigeria, or Lilian’s socio-governance projects to entrench accountability, or Nicholas’ fight against violent extremism in Kenya, or Nonnel from Florida’s work on environmental justice and community engagement, or Luz Jennifer from Colombia’s projects on environmental, cultural and personal growth.

Our communities held out their hands to us, we took it. Now, we ask you to take ours.” – 2021 Goldin Global Fellows

Join the Global Fellows on the next step of their journey together, by contributing whatever you can to community change globally. Every dollar counts and is extremely appreciated.