Goldin Institute Summer GATHERing: The Power of Solidarity

We invite you to join us for the 2023 Goldin Institute Annual Summer GATHERing on XX from YY to ZZ at ABCD place. This year we'll celebrate those on the front lines of building the trust and solidarity necessary to defuse situations when they arise. More and More.

Progress in the Peace Negotiations in the Philippines

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signifies a great milestone of peace negotiations over decades of talks in the Bangsamoro region in southern part of the Philippines. It is significantly the compilation and sum total of all the agreements, declarations, joint statements, principles and mechanisms reached and agreed upon between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from the start of the peace talks in 1997 up to March 2014.

The principles of the negotiation recognized the justness and legitimacy of the cause of over 3,256,140 Bangsamoro people, their aspiration for the meaningful autonomy through a democratic process, the aim of finding a solution to the Bangsamoro question with honor, justice and dignity and the aim to end the fighting between the government and the MILF. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region seeks to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a political entity that shall possess broader powers to address the decades-long aspiration of the Moro people for meaningful self-rule over their ancestral homeland, and that is where the Bangsamoro government now.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law realized another step to continue the infrastructure of peace process as stated in the CAB. This is to put in place and frontline the clear roadmap that will provide direction to transitional justice and reconciliation measures for the Bangsamoro struggle. It serves as mark of the commitment for peace as it proposes conflict transformation mechanisms on the ground.

The existence of normalization bodies in the CAB ensures human security and helps build a society that is committed to basic human rights where individuals are free from fear of violence and long held traditions and values. Under of which is the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) which undertakes the process of normalization, Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) that develops policies and operational guidelines for the effective partnership of the JPSTs and Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs) as working for the maintenance of peace and order and the stability of the areas mutually identified by the GPH ( refers to Government of the Philippines) and the MILF. On the other hand, Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) is mandated to oversee the process of decommissioning of the MILF forces and weapons.

The socio-economic programs were intensified on development efforts for rehabilitation, capacity building initiatives, reconstruction and institutionalizing programs to internally displaced persons (IDPs), and poverty-stricken communities. The Joint Task Force for Decommissioned Combatants and Their Communities (TFDCC) was established also to assist the panel to identify and implement socio-economic priorities and development projects for decommissioned MILF combatants and their communities.

The ceasefire mechanism including the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), International Monitoring Team (IMT) and Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) are collaboratively working in the commitment to a general ceasefire necessitated to the ongoing peace talks and in the ironing out security issues and concerns in accordance with the security protocols agreed between the GPH and MILF. These are the on-going work and established commitment of both parties that will be reinforced its implementation.

There would be struggles in the transition period.

Lo Ivan Castillon

But, the pressing support and collaborative participation of international community to the Bangsamoro government provides significant account on the covenant established and put in place the sincerity of the government leaders to pursue it. There would be proactive and reactive measures in accompanying the transition phase, education, continuing campaign against potential bottleneck and organized working group to explore alternatives.

This would be an opportune time for the Bangsamoro leaders to serve and govern the Bangsamoro community as to ascertain their confidence and capacities on moral governance in responding to basic needs, reducing poverty, bridging social gaps, eliminating anti-social activities, improving human security, improving peace and enhancing unity within the territory.

Opportunities offer to challenge various stakeholders and sectors in government, private and civic organizations to work hand in hand in developing different conceptual issues, methodologies, analytical language and institutional practice and strategic approaches on theory and practice of moral governance in the Bangsamoro government.

The future leaders and general public are called for their active involvement in the exploration of the existing and potential linkages in support to Bangsamoro homeland. Moreover, there is a need to strengthen advocacy on peacebuilding, culture of peace, conflict transformation, active non-violence and peace process as long-term goal through series of campaigns, public consultations, fora, research and information and education campaigns among others. This will provide venue in acquiring rich knowledge, experiences and insights of diverse educational communities to benefit mutually through collaboration and solidarity among all stakeholders.

The processes are not just aiming to have the absence of war but are aiming to have a society wherein social justice prevails, economic system creates equal opportunities to all, ecological balanced establishes, respect and honor for uniqueness of one’s culture, traditions and beliefs and development of full human potentials made available.

Indeed, the CAB is the achievement of the present government that concludes the 16th congress and showcased its relevance to peace process and to the Bangsamoro government. As Bangsamoro, there are more to do, more opportunities to grab, more collaborations to link with, and more advocacies to work on towards the Bangsamoro aspirations to have shared vision (with the national government for national unity and reconciliation and within the Bangsamoro for peace and economic stability), shared leadership, good governance, improved peace and security, adequate and proper management of resources and more inclusive dividend of peace.

SHYNE On You Crazy Diamond

For two weeks starting on January 17, Shyne San Diego—founded and led by Global Gather alumnus Cynthia Austin—partnered with area organizations in the San Diego and Orange County area to mount a first-of-its-kind exhibition on sexual and human trafficking entitled, “Behold Her: Portraits of Survivors of Human Trafficking” at You Belong Here, a co-working and community events space in San Diego.

An exhibit of photographic portraits of trafficking survivors by Amari DixonPhotography, “Behold Her” is the first photo exhibition undertaken by SHYNE. More than 100 people attended the premiere evening, and Cynthia said the highly successful endeavor was the culmination of a long-held dream.

Cynthia supporting Women in Business at the #linkedinlocalsd kick off 2020 event in San Diego hosted on January 31, 2020.

“I knew from the beginning that the survivors’ voices were the key to reshaping the public’s view of then,” she explained.

“The message I believe people took away from the show is hope. Each image represents 1000 victims of trafficking in San Diego every year. These women give hope to those victims as examples of what is possible with community support and a desire for change. Each image also represents a woman giving back to other victims by providing services, work opportunities and resources to assist with healing.

One of the survivors, Jessica, said it best:

"Nothing that has happened to me in the past will hold me back. I am here. I am empowered. I am a new person. I am breaking all stereotypes...Something that somebody else did to me is going to put a label on me? I don't think so! That’s not going to happen. That's not who I am.’”

The city of San Diego, California, ranks eighth-highest in the United States for intensity of Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and drives an estimated $810 million in the underground sex economy.

“My vision for SHYNE in 2020 [is to] continue building the Survivors Business Network, where survivors and businesses with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) work collaboratively to support the women, girls and children who survive trafficking.”

Two days after the exhibit opening, a Survivor Business Pop-Up Boutique was held at You Are Here. The timing of the show was not coincidental, as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month is observed annually each January in the United States.

Cynthia participates in the January 24th Media Symposium: Changing the Narrative/Media Impact on the Human Trafficking Movement hosted by the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking with Amy McClelland Bril and Ana Mony.

Cynthia and SHYNE’s journey began a little over a year ago, and she remains steadfast in her desire to not only provide holistic support to survivors, but also to let “people know that [survivors] get caught in a life of exploitation due to their upbringing, where some form of abuse occurred making them vulnerable to predators.

"When a victim can feel their inherent value and understand it wasn't their fault, that there's nothing wrong with them, there is a turning point in their lives. I hope this work will perhaps help society to stop blaming victims for the suffering they've endured. I hope it gives people empathy, compassion and understanding about exploitation, it's nature and what we are up against with sex trafficking.”

After the show, “Keelin,” a pseudonym for one of the women whose portraits was hung as part of the exhibition, wrote to Cynthia. Eerily, the exhibition was on the same street where she’d been first sold for sex by the individual who trafficked her. "You have helped me share my voice and my story and it means the world to me,” Keelin wrote to Cynthia. “I will always cherish our friendship and will support you in any way I can."

Building On Our Assets Workshop with the Nsongwa Community in Cameroon

Dear Friends and Supporters:

I hope this missive meets you well.

Just to inform you that we met with the community leaders of Nsongwa Mile 90 recently. This community is amongst the four noted with high recruits of child combatants and separatist fighters. Also, the land is not fertile.


After the meeting, the community leaders promised to rally and mobilize community members for a workshop which will be facilitated by us called “Building on Community Assets” on a date to be scheduled by them.

We would be training them on beekeeping, tree and flower planting. We also located an asset in the community - a community member who has been carrying out some activities worth building on.


He termed his startup “Many Colors,” is planting flowers, and is into eco-house decoration as well.

We advised him to think of a botanical garden which will serve as a relaxation park and a site for sports, among other activities. We will be working with him to come forth with a botanical garden in the community.

We also used this opportunity to talk about Global Network for Religion of Children (GNRC).

I will update you on the upcoming workshop.


Leading Lights Shine in South Africa

Dear All,

It has been a while since I provided updates about my grassroots project as a GATHER Fellow and I thought with so much happening at the Global Leading Light Initiative (GLLI), it would be nice to share some of the news. I must warn you that this will be an unusually long missive from me. Please excuse my excitement...


Red Bull Amaphiko Academy

I am excited to share with you this video which Red Bull recently produced about me and GLLI as part of their promotional materials. The Academy will be held in Durban June 14-23 during which we will, with the help from some renowned global entrepreneurs and coaches, co-create an 18-month strategic plan which they will be supporting us to accomplish, post Academy. It will end with a Red Bull National Festival, during which each of us will have a stand to exhibit our organizations and call-on support.


Leading Light Tech Academy

In April, we opened calls for applications for our grassroots IT training and Tech business incubation recently funded by IDC, an agency of the government. 213 youths applied for this program and we selected 12 to attend the interview, from whom to select five. Some community members, board members and IDC staff from Johannesburg attended the interview and were part of the selection committee. It was a very long day, with the first part of the interview in the form of a workshop during which we also asked interviewees to make presentations. We used the Marshmallow Challenge to check their technical skills and how they work in teams. At the end, it was hard to select five because they were all deserving and had gone through a thorough selection process to be shortlisted. So we selected seven and put three more on the waiting list, pending additional funding. Their nine-month program will begin July 1.


Annual General Meeting

We had a very exciting Annual General Meeting on May 25. This is one of our most important meetings where we report to members, stakeholders and the community. It is also the meeting where the governing body of the organization is elected. We are so excited to announce that Goldin Institute Executive Director Travis Rejman, Senior Advisor Jimmie Briggs and fellow GATHER alumnus Cynthia Austin joined our Advisory Team. GLLI relies on its Advisory Panel for technical and strategic advice. This is quite big for us! We produced the entrepreneurship curriculum for the Academy and Cynthia proofread and edited the manual. Our sponsors are very excited with this manual and how things are unfolding with this project.


Making Global GATHER Connections

We are working on our school curriculum and refining the concept. It will now serve as a community outreach activity for trainees of the Academy. According to their engagement terms, they will offer one to two hours weekly to teach students digital skills and entrepreneurship as well as act as mentors. I am very excited to announce that I had an online meeting recently with Peace Fellow Ms. Jacquelyn Moore, the outcome of which will bring lots of good things to our work in the school clubs. Jackie is working on providing some information and training to our trainers and students on robotics and will help us design a community website on robotics - I'm crazy about this.

I am very grateful to GATHER, the Goldin Institute and the Alumni network! As you can see, there is no way we would be here without them. #proudGATHERfellow!

Wishing you all a great week ahead!

Dieudonne Allo
Founder, Global Leading Light Initiative
GATHER Fellow Alumni, Mthatha, South Africa

One Year Anniversary of Shyne!

Hello to the global network from San Diego!

I am pleased to share an update on the work of Shyne on our one year anniversary!

The Social Garden, a new space designed to include holistic alternative therapies to assist with healing complex trauma, officially launched with their Sprang Thang on May 25, 2019. It's a space where Shyne held its first Leadership Retreat Day back in April. We are pleased to share that the Social Garden will be home for Project SEEN on a bi-weekly basis moving forward, providing artistic expression and creative writing classes led by survivors as well.

The Social Garden is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization based in Oceanside, California. It is the sister program to the Victory Garden Sanctuary that will include a tiny home village of safe homes for survivors of sex trafficking and cults.  Also, they’ll be partnering with more organizations that help survivors of sex trafficking by focusing on business development, professional development, leadership, and other survivor services.

[quote]At this time, Shyne already has 11 survivor-owned businesses in the network we are calling "The Velvet Tent."[/quote]

In the photo below is Naseem Murakami from Healing Sound Alchemy in Los Angeles. Her business partner, Andrea Saenz, is a friend of mine and they've been running events where they also support Shyne with donations.


We are working on some summer sound healing events for survivors, yoga classes free of charge, and an end-of-summer music event fundraiser. In addition to all this, Shyne has 10 new volunteers to train as soon as possible, so we’re creating those screening systems now and will launch Biz Dev LV2 on June 19 with 3 new survivor-owned businesses joining the class. Really what is being created is commUNITY - a place where survivors of sexual exploitation come to learn, share, connect, heal, find resources, network and listen.

Thank you for helping us celebrate our one-year anniversary of Shyne on June 9. I'm working to put out a newsletter soon with more updates about clients’ successes! Be inspired ❤

Finding My Brave

This journey I have been on for the last four years has seen real moments of me finding my voice, my inner power, shedding insecurities and finding my brave. It is a journey that has and is still changing my life.

It is March 2014, and I am at the Sexual Assault Awareness Month kickoff. Legislators, reporters, state elected officials, advocates, and constituents filled the Kentucky Capitol rotunda. The building was such a powerful yet beautiful space. Marbled steps led to the second and third floors with soapstone handrails. Pictures of past elected officials and the Commonwealth of Kentucky countryside adorned the hallways. The ceiling lined with beautiful windows with colored stained glass.

Legislators walked up to a podium with an oversized sign behind it saying "Sexual Assault Awareness Month" in bold teal letters. They spoke about bills and policies they were passionate about sponsoring. Confidence, dedication and passion filled the air of the room surrounding the tall bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln that sat powerfully in the middle. I was so furious, but intrigued by a resolution sponsored by state Senator Denise Harper-Angel and spoke about implementing a mandatory audit of the rape kits that were sitting untested and un-submitted in Kentucky. She was passionate, gracious and kind. Her fiery red, pixie-cut hair matched her attitude well. The executive director of the Kentucky Sexual Assault Coalition, Eileen Recktenwald, introduced me to the senator. 

[quote]Her stature was feminine and petite, but the senator's power and importance revealed itself as she spoke. I knew at that very moment that I was in a space that was life-changing for me. The senator changed the way I viewed legislation. I now saw an opportunity to use a horrific crime that happened to me so long ago and "reframe it."[/quote]

I wanted to help Senator Angel obtain the votes she needed and sent out letters to all our legislators to help her to obtain them.


For almost 20 years, I didn’t talk about my truth. I was only four weeks into my freshman year in 1994, a time where most people did not have cell phones or computers in most homes. My dad left a message that my childhood dog was dying. He felt that Buffy was waiting for me and wondered if I could drive up the next morning. I was upset and understandably needed some air. I took a bag of cookies and a glass of milk to the front porch of my home. I lived in a tall and slender victorian home in Cherokee Park, which is still named one of the three best places to live in Louisville, KY.

The late summer warm breeze felt good on my face. I thought of the good old times with Buffy and how much I will miss him. Something told me to go in and it was as vivid as if someone where talking to me. I told myself, ‘Just a few minutes more. The air feels so nice.’ Within seconds, I felt like I was falling. My feet hit the ground below and I heard a voice in the back of my neck and it was at that moment I knew someone had me with force. A stranger committed a list of crimes with me that night. He also found me again the next semester by calling me at my new apartment that was all in my dad’s name and on the other end of town. He said he could always find me. This instilled a fear in me that he could be anywhere and everywhere all at once.

[quote]I lived two decades not telling many people or talking about it. I gave up that he would be caught and felt like it happened to my body and not my soul. By keeping what happened to me at a distance, it was easier for me to go on with life.[/quote]

My offender's sentencing to 33 years in prison made me feel safe enough to come forward and start speaking out for survivors publicly. In 2014, I signed up for the White House initiative It’s On Us and volunteered with the University of Louisville’s Prevent Educate Advocate on Campus and Community (PEACC) program. PEACC Director Sally Evans was excellent. She encouraged me to volunteer and speak at campus events. I then met Eileen Recktenwald, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (KASAP) and a 30-year advocate. She is 64 years old with raven black hair and the smoothest complexion I have ever seen. Eileen was nurturing and empowered me to believe in myself, learn about boundaries, and how no one else but me is in control of my truth. She gave me the tools to become the advocate I am today and has never made me feel like a victim. I am where I am now due to the support she and so many others gave me.


After gaining confidence and support through my volunteering work, I started writing to legislators. Before getting involved in this, I knew nothing about legislation or the legislative process, but I did have my truth. I have always written in journals, so during my quiet breaks, while working as a nanny, I decided to write down my truth. I had heard about how contacting your own elected officials is the place to start, so that’s what I did. I used Google to find out who my legislators were and to find their contact information. I was very nervous my first time sending a letter to my legislator, Kentucky State Senator Julie Raque Adams. I was sharing something so intimate with somebody else, so I was worried about how legislators would perceive my letter, especially knowing how many people still engage in survivor-shaming.

I received notes from legislators thanking me and saying they were sorry for what happened to me so long ago, but wanted me to know that they supported Senator Angel's bill. I remember crying in gratitude because these senators acknowledged me and the pain I had suffered. These legislators were now going to use their power to create change, and that was the moment of empowerment for me. I saw that I could help change laws and hopefully help to prevent crimes or allow people victimized by crimes to have access to a more balanced justice system. By helping to create much-needed change, I began to feel empowerment I had never felt before.

[quote]My mind was racing and my heart was pounding with excitement for future generations. These new policies and laws would not save me from the pain I experienced, but they would help people victimized by crimes and their loved ones for generations to come.[/quote]

In 2016, then-Auditor Adam Edelen asked me to speak at a press conference he was holding about Resolution 20. He was passionate about implementing the resolution, which required his office to audit the untested sexual assault kits in the state. At first, I didn’t understand the terms “backlog,” “untested” and “un-submitted,” but I learned them as I advocated for reform. I then started speaking at more events. I went to counties around Kentucky for stakeholder meetings to talk about why testing all sexual assault kits is essential to me. Through my growing network, I was introduced to more advocates, such as Ilse Knecht with, who helps to end the backlog around the globe, and Jayann Sepich from, who helped pass legislation requiring the collection of DNA upon arrest for felony crimes in New Mexico and 32 other states. She is an incredible, courageous advocate, and I was proud to partner with her to advocate and testify in Indiana for DNA legislation passed into law and similar legislation which still needs to pass in Kentucky.

Advocacy has been a journey for me, and I have learned from everyone I have met along the way. I would not be where I am today if not for the unique relationships I have made and so many people willing to lift me up and share their podium with me in hopes I may be able to pay it forward.

I returned to college to reclaim an education that was stolen from me so long ago. This is my junior year in college and my hope is to secure a career where I may continue to help others rise above the crime that happened to them and rise above their fears by connecting them to the people who can help them in their journey. These last few years, I have learned how to build bridges to bring people together for better policies, awareness, education and laws.

Last year, I worked on a bill with Kentucky Senator Julie Raque Adams and we changed what constitutes rape and sodomy in Kentucky. I try to uplift others who were victimized by crime so they may rise.

[quote]With every stroke of a pen to a legislator, every call I make to support or oppose a bill, every time I speak out, testify for change in legislation, help a survivor, overcome my fears, go into my community and spread awareness and education, my offender loses his power over me.[/quote]

When people use their position and power to help others and help women climb, we are building stronger communities so she will rise.

I Am Unstoppable

Cynthia Austin is the founder and CEO of Shyne, an organization based in San Diego, USA, created by women, for women, and in collaboration with those who’ve gotten out of, or are seeking to leave sexual exploitation.[/hl]

When I was a little girl, my heart was pure and trusting. In those days, my bare feet in the grass, wind blowing through my hair, and sun rays kissing my cheeks were all I needed to feel comforted, happy and safe. It was a time when love lived in the fairy tales of my mind, a distant place in my imagination, still untouched by life experiences.


My imagination gave me reprieve from the verbal abuse those I loved inflicted upon me: “You’re worthless, stupid and good for nothing.” My fantasies became a way of living free from the abusers’ control over me. I built a fortress around my heart and pushed away anyone who attempted to get close to me. As my heart hardened, ongoing suffering became a daily affair. Through all my abusive relationships playing out over and over like a track set on repeat, there was a part of me that chose to patch my heartbreak and look for my lessons.

One lesson I’ve come to understand is that the roles I’ve played kept me bonded to my abusers by limiting my ability to listen, care for, and protect myself. The rebel, problem child, victim and caregiver were all roles given to me. They are not who I am, nor who I wanted to be. My journey towards healing has taught me a great deal about adaptability.

[quote]I’ve learned that loving myself, with all my battle scars, allows others to love me more fully.[/quote]

Over time, I’ve realized I’m not less than or stupid or deserving of abuse. Abuse happened to me, but doesn’t define me. All of these experiences are intricately woven into the fabric of my life. A part of my story, not the full story.

Each time I’ve looked within for the reasons I was abused it has led me towards personal growth, inner awakenings and new opportunities. My abuse has pushed me to be honest with myself, discover my passions, and helped me find grace through spiritual connection. I’m able to embrace authenticity, dance wildly, dive deeply into love and emerge each time closer to the real me.

There’s a saying “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I also think it goes a step further: “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger and wiser.”

Wisdom is my salvation, restoration and devotion. I am a truth seeker, a mother, a daughter and a friend, an innovator, a teacher, an artist and an advocate. I am a lover, a survivor, a healer and a woman.

I am unstoppable!

This is written to all the brave survivors who continue to believe in themselves despite what others say and love themselves more fully with every mistake they make.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” -- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Reflections on the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti

At 4:53 pm, January 12, 2010 an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale struck the island of Hispaniola, comprising the two nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, 15 miles southwest of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

“In ten seconds, everything the population took decades to build was destroyed,” recalled Goldin Institute Global Associate Malya Villard Appolon, co-founder of KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims). With additional damage from two aftershocks hours later, some three million people were impacted, one-third of the Haitian population. Over a million people were displaced as their homes were destroyed and between 85,000 and 316,000 were killed, based on varying estimates offered by USAID and the Haitian government with international relief agencies.

Global Associate Malya Villard Appolon, founder of KOFAVIV, reflects on the 2010 Earthquake.

Reflecting on the recently passed ninth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake, Malya recalled, “On that day, nobody had a roof on top of their head. Everybody took refuge on the streets and parks, which caused what we called ‘the camp phenomenon’ and led to women enduring inhuman and degrading conditions. At that time, basic services were non-existent, insecurity was the norm, and women faced very difficult situations.” Assisted by the Goldin Institute as well as various international NGOs, Malya and her colleagues at KOFAVIV not only provided basic reproductive and medical assistance to displaced female survivors of sexual assault and rape, but also trained male allies to be guardians of women and girls at risk of gender-based violence.

The months and years since the earthquake have seen additional disasters, natural as well as man-made. In October of the same year as the earthquake, Haiti was hit by a cholera epidemic following the discovery of cases in the areas around the Artibonite River, the longest in the country and a major source of drinking water. Identified as a South Asian strain of the cholera bacteria, the disease was quickly traced to Nepalese soldiers who were stationed in Haiti as peacekeepers at that time. Before the epidemic could be mitigated, 770,000 Haitians were sickened and 9,200 died.

Two years later, Hurricane Sandy inflicted further physical damage on the island of Hispaniola, setting Haiti even further back on its slow march toward rehabilitation. Then last February, an internal investigation by Oxfam UK was made public, revealing systemic, widespread use of sex workers - many underage - by Oxfam foreign staff since the 2010 earthquake.

Despite the loss of their physical offices due to insecurity and death threats, the volunteers of KOFAVIV and the women they serve endure and persist. Exiled to the United States, Malya’s dedication and connection to the KOFAVIV community is unwavering.

“Even after nine years of these unfortunate events, the situation in Haiti remains the same,” she observed. “The consequences of the earthquake continue to haunt women. Their misery is not over. Even today, they are homeless and their safety is more at stake. They are raped every day.”

Seeking Peace from Somalia to Dharamshala

Meeting for the first time in Dharamshala, India over the course of seven days in October, I had the opportunity to meet Goldin Institute team member Jimmie Briggs with whom I shared the unique opportunity to not only be in intimate dialogue with Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate the Dalai Lama, but be in community with nearly two dozen global youth peacemakers from around the world. The program which brought them together was the United States Institute of Peace’s (USIP) “Generation Change” initiative.

I was selected to participate as a grassroots youth leader based on my organizing work in Puntland, Somalia; while Jimmie attended as a mentor based on his past with the organization on the issue of child soldiers and SGBV (sexual and gender-based violence) against women and girls. In total, I was joined by 26 youth leaders from 14 countries spanning the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America.

Gather Fellow Abdiweli Waberi Meets with the Dalai Lama

Through a competitive call for online application to a youth exchange program for young peacebuilders from around conflict zones of the world, I was able to secure a position. I had high expectations for my trip to Dharamshala!  I was very excited to meet with inspiring and courageous youth leaders from across the world to learn from them and see and hear their experiences in bringing peace and change within their communities.

Goldin Institute’s Jimmie Briggs was one of half a dozen mentors present throughout the trip, including accompanying the youth leader cohort to meet with the Dalai Lama, as well as participate in group exercises and workshops. As Jimmie told me:

[quote]In fact, I met His Holiness a number of years ago at a peace conference in Derry, Northern Ireland, but this was my first opportunity to actually sit and have a true conversation. It was definitely a memorable visit. -- Jimmie Briggs, Goldin Institute Director of Community Learning [/quote]


My trip to Dharamsala was another step taking me forward toward a bright future in my career and life. I hoped to meet with thought leaders who were source of wisdom and experts in building sustainable peace for communities and I did. To listen to their powerful, personal and professional experiences -- as well as the choices they have made -- met, exceeded and surpassed my expectations.

[quote]The Dalai Lama said to me that ‘Humans are social animals and everyone needs a community survive.’ This statement taught me the importance of building strong connections between active citizens of my community to unite their efforts and avoid conflict of interest between them. [/quote]

I was able to participate in this unique opportunity as the Chairperson of the Somali branch of the African Youth and Child Network for Human Rights (REJADH), but also as a participant in the inaugural class of GATHER Fellows. It was a whirlwind trip, as I graduated as a GATHER Fellow exactly two weeks after returning home from India. Without question, my experience with the Dalai Lama and fellow youth peacemakers in USIP’s Generation Change improves the project I developed through GATHER and deepens my commitment to work for peace.

This reaffirmed my strong believe towards the old saying “Your network is your net-worth.”

You can learn more about the project I am working on and get involved by visiting my Indiegogo campaign!