Think Creative Fall 2020 Creative launches Center for Migration Trade Hub brings COVID relief to businesses Second chances in El Salvador By Creative Associates International
Profiles of service during COVID-19
snap shot Turn the page to learn the story behind this photo
Photo by JimHuylebroek
Ethiopia READ II By Jim Huylebroek, Photographer
What immediately struck me upon arrival in Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa was the sheer number of high-rise buildings under construction. Though I have worked in Africa many times, it was my first visit to this East African country. We were in Ethiopia for a 10-day multimedia reporting trip focusing on USAID’s Read II project. On our first day of filming, we visited a reading camp where I felt a level of energy from the students and volunteer instructor that I rarely experience. The children were enthusiastically singing and reciting letters of the alphabet, and their instructor joined in with matching joy. Throughout our cross-country trip — from the internally displaced persons camps on the Somali border to the remote villages in the beautiful Rift Valley — classrooms mirrored that same energy. These encounters underlined what I have learned from working around the world. Education is key to unlocking the next generation’s true potential, especially in fast-developing countries like Ethiopia. n
In this Issue
Behind the Mask 14 p.
Updates from around our world
08 // Creative launches Center for
Migration & Economic Stabilization
Trade Hub COVID Relief
09 // Field Notes 10 // The Trade Hub brings relief to businesses hit by COVID-19 11 // Opening doors to learning through community-based education 12 // In Focus: Global response to COVID-19 14 Cover Package Behind the Mask: Profiles of service during COVID-19
Global COVID Response
ON THE COVER: Mariela Tax, a community facilitator working for the Peacebuilding Project in Guatemala, holds a mask made with traditional cloth. Photography by Vivian Jacobs for Think Creative .
Think Creative by Creative Associates International
Letter from Leland Kruvant President & CEO Creative Associates International
CREATIVE SENIOR LEADERSHIP
Founder & Board Chair Charito Kruvant President & CEO Leland Kruvant Chief Operating Officer Pablo Maldonado Chief Financial Officer Oswaldo Holguin Senior Vice President Thomas Wheelock Senior Vice President Sharon Cooley VP, External Relations Jessica Kruvant VP, Global Operations Mario Vilela VP, Education Eileen St. George VP, Economic Growth Jim Winkler
Since the spring issue of Think Creative , our world has changed dramatically. We have all felt the impacts of COVID-19 on our families, friends, colleagues and communities. At the same time, there is no shortage of inspiring stories of ordinary people stepping up to do what they can to help. That’s what we want to celebrate with this issue of Think Creative . Inside, you’ll find profiles of 10 individ- uals making a difference, each selected by our field staff. I’m proud of how Creative is also doing our part as an organization. Through our “Respond, Recover and Thrive” COVID-19 action
plan, we’re working with clients, partners and beneficiaries to ad- dress the long-term effects of the pandemic. You’ll see a snapshot of these efforts on page 12. As the world grapples with COVID-19, the United States is also confronting the plague of systemic racism. Again, I’m proud of how Creative and our staff have stepped up to calls for justice and equality. We know those words need to be matched by actions. At Creative, we are having ongo- ing, thoughtful discussions and making commitments to promote racial equity, both inside and
outside of the company. As part of our strategy, Creative formed a Diversity & Inclusion Council, which is the focal point for engag- ing all levels of the company in support of this goal. We know there is much more to do, and these issues can’t be solved in a matter of months. However, we are committed to moving forward together. I hope you enjoy this issue of Think Creative. Sincerely,
22 // A Second Chance: La Factoría Ciudadana reintegrates former gang members in El Salvador
A Second Chance 22 p.
25 Creative Life A mission-driven community 26 // Staff Spotlight: Hind Audsley
Diversity & Inclusion Council
Meet Hind! 26 p.
A passion for Middle East development
27 // • Introducing Diversity & Inclusion Council • Q&A with Sandy Oleksy-Ojikutu 28 // Creative in Quarantine: Creative staff members share how they have adapted to work away from the office during COVID-19 30// Walk this Way: A day in the life of Olufemi “Femi” Adetola, Project Security Manager for the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub
For more information about Think Creative , please email us at ThinkCreative@CreativeDC.com
5301 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 700 Washington, DC 20015 + 202.966.5804 Creative Associates International
Photos by Skip Brown (Leland Kruvant, Hind Audsley); Carlos Diaz (top)
CreativeAssociatesInternational.com | 5
Creative believes that every child deserves a quality education whether they live in a stable community or a crisis-affected area.
Do you agree?
If so, consider joining our team dedicated to ensuring that all children can access education that unlocks their potential. CreativeAssociatesInternational.com to view current open positions in Education and other divisions.
Stronger Together Creative is dedicated to being an inclusive company where diverse backgrounds and perspectives lead to richer insights, programming and results. Every member of the Creative family has a role to play in shaping an inclusive environment, both within the organization and in the larger development community. Leading our efforts is the newly established Diversity & Inclusion Council at Creative. The Council’s goal is to advance our commitment to diversity and inclusivity as we work to create positive change in society.
To learnmore about Creative’s Diversity& Inclusion initiative, head to page 27
6 | Think Creative | Fall 2020
Di spa t che s
Updates from around our world
A tailor finishes sewing a cloth mask to be donated in Borno state, Nigeria.
Photo by Aniebiet Bassey Akpanudoh
CreativeAssociatesInternational.com | 7
updates from around our world
Creative launches Center for Migration & Economic Stabilization
Creative’s new Center for Migration and Eco- nomic Stabilization aims to drive innovation and program responsiveness to an ever-present global phenomenon. “Our launch is timely since COVID-19 has generated new urgencies around migration,” says Creative President and CEO Leland Kruvant. “This Center will combine technical rigor and ingenuity with Creative’s on-the- ground programmatic experience to address the pressing challenges that lure migrants into risking it all.” The Center for Migration and Economic Stabi- lization builds on Creative’s 2019 groundbreak- ing research on the drivers of migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle. Pablo Maldonado, Creative’s Chief Operating Officer, says those motivations to migrate north remain as present as ever and will combine with the effects of the pandemic to generate a powerful impetus to migrate. “Migration is connected and overlaps with oth- er systemic challenges facing Central America, West Africa and elsewhere,” Maldonado says. “Unfortunately, long-standing development
challenges will intersect with the economic hardship of COVID-19 to create a perfect storm for migration. We will see shifts in migra- tion activity and trends, including changing attitudes, internal migration and relocations across borders all caused by the economic squeeze.” The Center will serve as a hub of thought lead- ership on the issue of migration both as a cause and byproduct of other development challeng- es. Its focus will be on serving the underserved, those who are not typically touched by more traditional economic development, including youth, women and those working in informal economies. The Center will continue and expand on Creative’s earlier migration pursuits, including methodical data gathering to track migration and its drivers, demystification of popular migration beliefs that are not supported by evidence and, more broadly, the creation of programs that are material to the decision to migrate —mostly in the economic arena, Maldonado says. “The Center will help us stay at the forefront
Creative’s 2019 study found that intention to migrate among youth was highest for Honduran women like Dayra.
Photos by Janey Fugate
8 | Think Creative | Fall 2020
Migration most affects young people like Alberto, seen here with his younger sister in San Salvador.
m Communities in Transition ALSP Phase II
Agriculture and Livelihoods Stabilization-Partnerships, Phase II: A new project in Syria will address food security and economic revival in rural communities, with a focus on agriculture and skills development. Community, Family and Youth Resilience USAID’s CFYR program hosted a virtual Regional Learning Exchange that drew organizations, experts and community members from around the Caribbean to share insights on youth crime and violence prevention programs and strategies. Nigeria Lake Chad Basin NLCB has been awarded $1.4 million to anticipate, prevent and respond to increasing violence and threats against civilians, including those based on their religion, in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region. It is funded by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives. The MoroccanMinistry of Education officially released its newly redeveloped Arabic language primary school curriculum and will continue its nationwide rollout this fall. Development Aprendo y Emprendo The Nicaraguan Aprendo y Emprendo program, in partner- ship with local organizations, launched a nationwide TV show teaching sign language to the deaf in a 12-part series. Reading for Success— National Program for Reading
Through the Center, I hope to provide valuable insights to ensure that Creative’s programs help mitigate the causes of migration.”
ernance, citizen security and more to enrich programming and identify opportunities to respond thoughtfully to migration. Most recently Senior Director of the In- ter-American Dialogue’s Migration, Remit- tances and Development Program, Orozco also led Creative’s 2019 study into the drivers of migration fromHonduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. “After getting to know Creative’s high-caliber work and its dedication to fully understanding the causes of migration, I’m honored by the opportunity to join the team and help Creative continue being a leader on this global topic,” Orozco says. “Through the Center, I hope to provide valuable insights to ensure that Creative’s programs help mitigate the causes of migration.” The need for added expertise and leadership on migration became more urgent as COVID-19 spread across the globe, leaving already fragile communities reeling and indicating a major impact on migration patterns for years to come. “We know that COVID-19 will have a profound effect on migration,” Maldonado says. “With the creation of the Center for Migration and Economic Stabilization, we can meet this looming challenge and better serve communi- ties and families grappling with the fallout of the pandemic.” In addition to his new role at Creative, Orozco is a Senior Migration Fellow for the Center for International Development at Harvard University and Senior Migration and Remit- tances Advisor for the International Fund for Agricultural Development. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Texas at Austin, anM.A. in public administration and Latin American studies, and a B.A. in interna- tional relations from the National University of Costa Rica. n
A young woman and her niece at their home in Guatemala.
of understanding these issues and ultimately lead to better, locally focused programming to mitigate the causes of migration. It will be a much-needed resource for fresh thinking on migration,” Maldonado says. Thought leader, practitioner to direct the Center Manuel Orozco, Ph.D., joins Creative to lead the Center after more than 20 years at the Inter-American Dialogue. Orozco, a recognized researcher and analyst of global migration flows, including remittances, will complement Creative’s technical expertise in economic growth, youth, education, gov-
Photos by Evelyn Rupert
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updates from around our world updates from around our world
Newmodels for impact investing From staffing cuts to border closings, a myriad of factors has made getting products from pro- ducers to consumers extremely difficult. A Trade Hub survey of companies in its pipeline found that 68 percent of respondents said they would continue with their planned investments. Thirty percent of the respondents who made staff cuts said they laid off at least a quarter of their workforce. In many cases, a re- duced workforce has slowed down transporta- tion. Eighty-six percent of survey respondents reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had adversely affected their ability to sustain their operations and financial situation. One survey respondent left this comment: “We have lost a lot of our onion and tomato produc- tion, because the weekly farmers markets were suspended and we lack storage capacity.” The Trade Hub’s findings are in line with the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa’s data showing that 19 million jobs have been lost across the continent, underscoring the need for the rapid deployment of working capital to the private sector. Even before the pandemic, the Trade Hub was preparing to pilot newmodels for impact in- vestment ventures that include SMEs. Plans to channel working capital to thousands of small trucks, customers and small businesses moving goods in the formal and informal sectors in Nigeria could bring relief on a scale unmatched by the agency before. As the economy faces a prolonged downturn from the pandemic, these kinds of ventures will become more urgent. Women entrepreneurs and COVID-19 One of the Trade Hub’s benchmark metrics is the creation of 40,000 new jobs —with half for women — during the next five years. Because economic losses from the global crisis are not gender neutral, this standard is vital to sus- taining gains made by women entrepreneurs in recent years. The National Survey on the Impact of COVID-19 onWomen Businesses in Nigeria, commissioned by several Nigerian government agencies, reported on the acute vulnerability of women-led micro, small and medium-sized businesses. One woman representing the agricultural industry who responded to the Trade Hub’s survey said: “We are now very low on farm inputs, which we get fromKaduna and Abuja, because the supplier is having serious challeng- es getting to us.” Another respondent echoed the predominant sentiment that supply chain disruption is per- haps the most daunting challenge.
West Africa // West Africa Trade and Investment Hub Rising to the challenge
security initiatives and prevention of job loss- es; and scaling up production and service ca- pabilities of companies engaged in COVID-19 response on a case-by-case basis. Prior to the pandemic, supply chains were frag- ile and were a key focus of the Trade Hub, says JimWinkler, Vice President of the Economic Growth Division at Creative Associates Inter- national. “The pandemic has forced us to rethink and shorten supply lines, particularly if they come from outside the continent,” says Winkler. “In addition, COVID-19 presented the Trade Hub with an opportunity to exercise the same values we want to see in all grantees, especially the ability to be agile and engage directly with the most pressing issues of the time.”
The U.S. Agency for International Development designated an additional $50million in funds to theWest Africa Trade and Investment Hub, with $36million allocated specifically for COVID-19 relief. With this additional funding, the Trade Hub will partner with financial institutions to increase the working capital available to small andmedium-sized businesses hit hard by the pandemic, with an emphasis on increasing food security andmaintaining employment. This relief also supports the U.S. government’s Prosper Africa initiative, which promotes in- clusive two-way trade and investment between the U.S. and African companies. The pandemic-related activity has three objec- tives: overcoming disruptions in export-ori- ented supply chains; supporting domestic food
Infographic by Amanda Smallwood
10 | Think Creative | Fall 2020
Teacher Zahidullah Mohabat conducts class, using techniques and teaching materials from Afghan Children Read.
When you make the classroom like a playground and give students as much love as you give your own children, when you encourage them and speak to them kindly, how can they do anything but learn?”
partnerships and new ways of doing business could prove to accelerate the region’s move towards inclu- sive, sustainable economic growth through intra-regional trade and two-way trade with the U.S. It also offers a model for reducing coun- tries’ reliance on inefficient import systems for food. In this way, the co-investment funds will reach qualified companies in West Africa at a critical moment, when the chance to not only recover but also to reimagine doing business has never been timelier. n the classroom like a playground and give students as much love as you give your own children, when you encourage them and speak to them kindly, how can they do anything but learn?” In her second-grade class, Rawasia flourishes with the support of teach- ers and family. “My grandfather helps me out with studies at home, and my teachers help me at school,” she says. “I help my little sister and brother so they can grow up and go to school too.” Outside of the schools, ACR engages with the communities through councils called school management shuras to build support for education locally and foster an environment of learning for the students. Lalzada is a member of the Benigah school management shura and stays engaged in school affairs, acting as an advocate and supporter of Rawasia and her classmates’ education. “I hope that in the future, all parents can help their children become as smart, bold and intelligent as my granddaughter,” he says. n
Community-based schools help girls like Rawasia have better access to education.
Opening doors to learning through community-based education
Afghanistan // Afghan Children Read
After school and the afternoon prayer, 8-year-old Rawasia heads home, where her grandfather Lalzada waits to lend a hand with her homework. “All of my children, boys and girls, are educated. I know the importance of education,” Lalzada says. “That is why I help all my grandchildren, so they can be educated and contrib- ute to our society.” In the family’s village in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, getting a quality education has been an uphill battle.
This has been particularly true for girls. They face cultural barriers to schooling — especially in more con- servative areas like Nangarhar — on top of the general fear parents have of letting their children walk too far to get to class. The Benigah community-based school has brought education closer to home. The USAID Afghan Children Read program currently works with more than 90 community-based schools like this one, which can help bridge
gaps in access to education. As with formal, government-run schools, the program provides teacher training, textbooks and lesson plans that reflect the most up-to-date, effective teaching techniques to improve the quality of education. Zahidullah Mohabat, a teacher at the Benigah school, says the trainings and teaching materials have helped his students excel and remain much more engaged in lessons. “I have made my class like a play- ground,” he says. “When you make
The COVID-19 rapid response has three objectives:
Given their findings, the National Survey’s writers encouraged policymakers to design stimulus packages with a gender-sensitive lens. Similarly, the project’s COVID-19 response and its wider goal of elevating women entre- preneurs inWest Africa are in line with the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), an effort of the U.S. gov- ernment to reach 50 million women by 2025 through public-private partnerships and other government activities. Imagining a different future Despite new pressures, the Trade Hub’s ability to facilitate and pilot strategic public-private
Overcoming disruptions in export- oriented supply chains Supporting domestic food security initiatives and preventing of job losses Scaling up production and service capabilities of companies engaged in COVID-19 response on a case-by-case basis
Photos by JimHuylebroek
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updates from around our world
A Nigerian tailor tries on a newly
486,603 People reached in a door-to-door awareness campaign
105,000 Masks sewn by 110 female tailors
A woman hands out a mask and flyer to a community member in Togo.
64,096 Six grantee organizations distributed 64,096masks, 598 handwashing kits
and 8,510 flyers in schools and public spaces
54 Kitswithmasks, hygiene information andviolence prevention resources provided to leaders in 27 communities P e a c e b u i l d i n g P r o j e c t , G u a t e m a l a
500,000 Nigerian students reached with radio lessons through a collaborative effortwith UNICEF
r t h e r
Distributing kits with support from local Guatemalan governments is a way to build community trust.
12 | Think Creative | Fall 2020
covid-19 in focus From awareness campaigns to virtual reading programs, Creative’s projects quickly responded to urgent and long-term needs of their stakeholders. Take a look at some of the ways they have adapted to the pandemic. Creative’s projects around the world are examining the deeper, longer-term impacts of the pandemic and looking ahead to how they can continue to work toward development goals in a post-pandemic world. At the same time, they are faced with the challenge of meeting communities’ immediate needs with some tangible actions. In remote and rural areas, slowing the spread of the virus through prevention messaging and supplies is paramount to preventing an outbreak that could cripple already burdened healthcare systems. That’s why projects like Peacebuilding Project in Guatemala made outreach efforts their temporary focus, delivering prevention messaging to indigenous communities in their local languages along with sanitation supplies. The relationships program teams had built with institutions and communities made this work possible. In other contexts, having relationships with local grantee organizations facilitated relief efforts, which had the dual effect of continuing to build community trust in institutions and empowering local partners. For instance, in Togo, REWARD worked through six of its grantee organizations to deliver thousands of masks and set up sanitation stations. And in some cases, even temporary relief or programmatic shifts can have a larger impact through the engagement of marginalized groups in prevention efforts, from youth acting as health volunteers to widowed women sewing masks and generating income for their families. n
31 Readers developed in two local languageswith the MoE Reading Lab for grades 1-3 focused on COVID-19
42,000 Students and parents reachedwith stories via SMS
265,000 Masks distributed to internal security forces responding to a recent surge in Raqqa, DEZ andJazeera A l R a s h a d , N o r t h e a s t e r n S y r i a
Security personnel in Northeast Syria receive masks and gloves from Al Rashad.
Illustration by Amanda Smallwood
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Nurse Juana Aguirre Escobar helped install a triage clinic for COVID patients.
14 | Think Creative | Fall 2020
Photo by Victor Mercado Perez
Profiles of service during COVID-19
From full hospitals to empty schools, the negative impacts of COVID-19 are stark. But there are also countless examples of individuals meeting these challenges and helping their communities through the crisis. The 10 leaders profiled in the following pages were nominated by Creative staff around the world for the unique ways they use their voices, skills and time in service of their neighbors, both in collaboration with Creative programs and independently.
Their stories provide examples of courage, commitment and perseverance in the face of a pandemic. The consequences of COVID-19 will continue to be felt for years to come and will reshape development challenges in health, education, economic growth, stabilization and more. As Creative works to support communities’ long-term recovery from the pandemic, we know we will be able to count on dedicated individuals like these.
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Behind the Mask
Kezia’s Community Enhancement Committee has reached out to neighbors in need.
Juana shares information about COVID-19 with patients outside a health clinic.
Campaigning for youth engagement Kezia St. Brice
At age 24, Kezia St. Brice was only a few months into her role as chairperson of the Community Enhance- ment Committee in her hometown of Castries, Saint Lucia, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the island nation. Kezia — also a full-time youth worker with Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Youth Development and Sports — worries about the long-term impacts of the pandemic on young people. Out of work and out of school, they are more vulnerable to getting involved in crime. So, she finds creative ways to keep young people engaged in positive activities. In May, for example, she led the launch of the Face Mask Challenge. This online competition called on the youth of Castries — Saint Lucia’s capital — to design and create a unique face mask. The challenge both raised awareness about the importance of wearing a mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus and showcased participants’ creativity and talent. The top three designers were given added fabric and materials and produced much-needed masks later donated throughout the community. “It gave youth the opportunity to shine,” Kezia says. Kezia and the committee, one of 15 established across three Caribbean countries through the USAID Community, Family and Youth Resilience program, are also responding to the immediate need for food and supplies in their community. They provided plates, cups, utensils and other kitchen supplies to the nearby temporary homeless shelter, where government resources were stretched from providing three free meals a day. Identifying a gap in services, the group also put together and distributed care packages with food to people with disabilities or chronic health issues. Kezia says that facing a crisis like COVID-19 demon- strates the unique needs of young people — and the many ways they can contribute to their communities. “If people know how to motivate themselves, they can make a difference in their families and also in their communities. It starts with you,” she says. “The more empowered youth that we have, the more they will empower others.” n
Responding to a community in crisis Juana Aguirre Escobar
When Choluteca, Honduras, confirmed its first COVID-19 case, Juana Aguirre Escobar was one of the municipality’s frontline healthcare workers treating the patient. Juana has been a nurse for more than 30 years, caring for patients with high rates of diabetes, tuberculosis and poor nutrition. But the virus has re- quired a whole new level of response in a region dealing with an already struggling healthcare system. “I had just given trainings on treating (COVID-19) cases, but I thought it was only theory,” she says. “We entered into an unknown world.” Juana is the coordinator of 10 health- care centers around Choluteca, which is part of Honduras’ Dry Corridor region. She has mobilized her team to perform COVID-19 tests, spread prevention messaging in remote communities and continue providing care to patients who can no longer come to the clinics.
By ATV or pickup truck, she brings food to families whose conditions prevent them from leaving their homes. Juana also uses the urgency of the pandemic to “tocar puertas” or knock on doors of organizations she would not ordinarily visit to get more support for clinics and communities. In Choluteca, improving health services is critical. For the past few years, she has partnered with Creative’s project ACS-PROSASUR to do community health outreach in rural areas where child malnutrition rates are high and maternal health education is a priority. Juana herself is no stranger to battling illness. She has been in remission from cancer for 18 months. “Even though cancer touched me … it was nothing,” she says. “It only made me more compassionate towards those who really need help.” n
Photos by Victor Mercado Perez (Juana); Kezia St. Brice
16 | Think Creative | Fall 2020
Moalimuu broadcasts news in a BBC radio studio.
Moalimuu Nur Ensuring voter education for a fair election
In his 20-year career as a journalist inMogadishu,
roles, including most recently as a host for political dialogues. Initially, his focus was on Somalia’s one-person, one-vote elections, which would have been a major democratic milestone in the country. When the pandemic hit, informing and engaging the public became even more critical to ensure voter education and avoid confusion. “Time is really important,” says Moalimuu. “Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of developments going on in the country which are so import- ant for civil society to contribute.”
Mohamed Ibrahim “Moalimuu” Nur has survived four terrorist attacks, including a car bombing, in a country that the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Global Impunity Index consistently ranks as the world’s worst at prosecuting the murderers of reporters. In Somalia, says Moalimuu, being a journalist “is indeed a matter of life and death.” After working for Reuters, the BBC and local media, Moalimuu brought his communications skills to the USAID Bringing Unity, In- tegrity, and Legitimacy to Democ- racy (BUILD) project in multiple
and needs during the lockdown, as well as to spread the word on prevention and safety for vulner- able communities. BUILD has used this information to adapt its support for public information on political processes. “We give voice to the voiceless communities,” Moalimuu says. “Therefore, I believe that we need journalists who show resilience, reporting to the world what is going on in Somalia.” n
Moalimuu independently orga- nized a virtual training for 70 jour- nalists on how to cover elections safely during COVID-19. Through BUILD, he hosts dialogues on key political topics among government officials, civil society and election stakeholders and broadcasts them on TV, radio and social media. Moalimuu also visits internally displaced persons (IDP) camps inMogadishu to interview people about their political participation
Tech engineering for social good Karla Hernández & Mario Gómez
high-violence areas. “We hope that this will help kids invest their time in a positive way,” Karla says. “Now, with the lockdown, they may be more exposed to violence or delinquency. So, we are trying to reach them at home with activities or positive ways to use their free time.” Karla says it’s important for El Salvador Conectado to be built around open-source programs and focused on problem-solving. “I come from a modest family. So, by immersing myself in this community and pushing myself technically, I’m in the process of paying forward what I’ve been able to achieve thanks to access to information,” she says. After the pandemic, Mario hopes El Salvador Conectado will continue to be a wellspring of innovative ideas that aids those who often fall behind as technology advances. “The commitment is to distribute the benefits of technology, not just at the personal level, but at the community level,” Mario says. “With open- source work, we say it’s the mechanism that lets us return knowledge to the community in the hopes that this knowledge will then transform into ideas that can help development.” n
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments, schools and businesses to rapidly rethink how they can use technology to stay connected to the people they serve. For Mario Gómez and Karla Hernández, looking for tech-driven solutions is nothing new. Mario and Karla are part of a thriving tech commu- nity in El Salvador focused on using open-source technology and programs for social good. They have both been involved with the USAID Crime and Violence Prevention Program and Creative’s subsidiary CREA El Salvador. In March, they helped launch El Salvador Conectado, a collective of more than 300 developers, software engineers, programmers and others outside the industry as a testing ground for tech-based solutions that can serve the public. “It’s a group of volunteers that has assembled around different projects with the objective of meeting needs in the context of COVID-19,” Mario says. “But we hope that in the future, we’ll keep collaboratively developing technological solutions to social problems.” El Salvador Conectado is also a platform for its members to share their ideas, one of which led to a partnership with the Ministry of Education on a virtual education program reaching youth in
Above: Karla and Mario are both involved with Hackerspace, an open lab for programmers and developers in San Salvador
Photos provided by Moalimuu Nur, Karla Hernández
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Behind the Mask
Left: Bukar at work filming an informational piece about COVID-19.
their messages and instill fear in the minds of people,” says Bukar. Instead, he and his classmates have successfully used counter messages that focus on peace, unity and hope. Now 24 years old and the co-founder of an NGO called Co-Development Hub, Bukar tack- les another menace — COVID-19. His target is not the virus but the thousands of people traumatized by the pandemic, those who suffer from domestic abuse, and those who simply want to be involved in building community resilience. Funded by the Nigeria Lake Chad Basin (NLCB) program, an initia- tive of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, the Co-Development Hub’s 70 trained volunteers cam- paign by leveraging social media, producing short videos and engag- ing neighborhood theater groups. “We have a lot of young people who have creative talents in Maiduguri, frommusic to comedy
to spoken word,” he says. The tens of thousands of inter- nally displaced persons (IDPs) make for one very tough-to-reach audience. “We have volunteers living in an IDP camp,” he says. “Even though they have little resources, they have been using their phones to produce videos, short clips of com- edy, and sometimes send messages that have to do with issues affect- ing them in the community.” The Co-Development Hub creates a dialogue among families and communities and ultimately directs audiences to NGOs that supply social- emotional support, counseling and other needed services. One result stands out. “It’s the sense of importance young people are having by seeing that they are in a position that represents their state in a very good light,” Bukar says. n
Crowdsourcing talent for COVID outreach Bukar Umara
Boko Haram viciously attacked Bukar Umara’s community in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state in 2013, leaving him scared and outraged. Though still in high school at the time, Bukar chan- neled these emotions into action.
He organized his friends to launch their own platform— using words, not weapons — against the violent extremist group’s brutality. “I think one of the most effective tools for the violent extremists is propaganda, how they propagate
Educating women on virus prevention and care Hajiya Maryam Tamabari
Hajiya focuses her COVID-19 outreach on women in Nigeria’s Sokoto state.
For Hajiya Maryam Tamabari, it was no surprise that residents in the rural areas of Nigeria’s northern Sokoto state were skeptical of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many doubted that the virus was real or that it would ever reach them, says Hajiya. Hajiya is the Co-Founder and Chair of LOKABI Women, a volunteer group that promotes women’s health issues including prenatal care and HIV/AIDS prevention. She says that isolated communities often lack access to reliable health information. With the onset of the pandemic, LO- KABI Women set out to fill that gap and educate people on the threat of coronavirus, tackling “the myths and misconceptions about the virus that might lead to its spread.” Hajiya was facing more than just dis- trust. With only 25 members among
the ranks of LOKABI Women, the logistics to cover the 88 communities in Sokoto’s Wamakko Local Govern- ment Area have been a challenge. Quickly trained in advance and equipped with videos, photos, print- ed information and masks, volunteers arrived at communities where they worked with respected village lead- ers to organize orientation sessions that demonstrated handwashing techniques, physical distancing and other precautions. They focused these sessions on women. “I started raising awareness among women in the communities on pre- vention of the virus because women in our communities had limited in- formation on COVID-19,” says Hajiya, whose organization had previously collaborated with USAID’s Northern Education Initiative Plus.
Through the efforts of Hajiya and the other volunteers, communities in the Wamakko Local Govern- ment Area are better informed and better prepared. They now have many of the tools needed to stay healthier and safer during the pandemic. n
The availability of face masks in the rural communities posed another challenge. The volunteers trained 100 local women to produce and sell masks from their homes. This has pro- vided both much-needed income for these tailors and low-cost, accessible face masks for their communities.
Photos by Musa Gwary/Co-Development Hub (Bukar Umara); Hajiya MaryamTamabari
18 | Think Creative | Fall 2020
Mohammad Aub Arab Empowering families to educate at home
information with mosques and encouraging imams to convey edu- cational messages,” Mohammad says of the campaign. Nangarhar Provincial Education Department and District Education Department officials picked up on Mohammad and the shura’s success and urged others to expand their reach. “Shura members from 71 schools that are part of the Afghan Children parents,” says Mohammad. “Around 90 percent of the target commu- nity population in six districts were informed by Imams, either during prayer times or through loudspeak- ers, about important public health and education announcements.” Afghan Children Read is sharing Nangarhar’s community initiatives with shuras, educators and officials in the three other provinces where it implements the USAID program. What started as a stopgap measure for Mohammad’s five children has grown beyond his home. Because of his resolve, thousands of Afghan students continue to learn despite the global pandemic. n Read project are part of these efforts to convey messages to
In Afghanistan, accessing quality education can be a challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic created another obstacle for students and their families, forcing schools to shut down across the country and parents to take on the role of teaching.
Though not a trained teacher, Mohammad is part of his local school management shura, which brings together educators, parents and community members to support the school and its students. Active in the shura since 2012, he took part in sev- eral workshops and events organized by USAID’s Afghan Children Read. These activities ultimately helped prepare him for this unique situation. Mohammad believes any parent can adapt the homeschool plan he de- veloped to work for their own family. “I shared my experience with the other school management shura members and encouraged them to start a campaign to raise educational awareness,” he says. The shura expanded Mohammad’s system to include tips for reading and writing exercises and encouraged families to follow TV and radio pro- grams that support homeschooling. Knowing that some parents were reluctant to send their children to school at all, the shura launched a local campaign urging them to continue their children’s education at home. “We are calling parents by phone, sending letters, sharing
I cannot overlook my responsibility to be part of my children’s education.”
With five school-aged children suddenly at home and without lesson plans, Mohammad Aub Arab stepped into a new responsibility. He immediately organized a schedule for his children that reflected their classroom curriculum. “I cannot overlook my responsibility to be part of my children’s educa- tion,” says Mohammad, who lives in Nangarhar province. “I strongly be- lieve that fathers are the first teachers of their children.”
Mohammad goes over a lesson with two of his sons at their home.
Photo by JimHuylebroek
CreativeAssociatesInternational.com | 19
Behind the Mask
Mariela works with communities to resolve conflict peacefully and advocate for access to resources.
Championing gender equality Mariela Tax
“The pandemic has put into stark relief how gender inequalities have existed and still exist despite efforts to com- bat them,” said Mariela Tax, a Maya woman from Salcajá, Guatemala. As part of a virtual panel organized by USAID’s Peacebuilding Project that covered women’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mariela spoke on an issue close to her heart: women’s rights and the prevalence of domestic abuse in Guatemala. Mariela, who has herself experienced the “triple discrimination” often inherent in being a rural, indigenous woman, is now a community facili- tator for the Peacebuilding Project. Earlier in her career before joining Creative’s team, she witnessed a bru- tal case of violent domestic abuse. She has since dedicated her life to working for gender equality. “That experience really impacted me, and I had to learn to see that (pat- terns of violence) are not normal, not acceptable, and we can’t let them continue,” she says. Mariela has also worked with the project to run campaigns aimed at helping women report violence to authorities, addressing the growing number of domestic abuse cases registered since the country went into lockdown.
The community facilitators collaborated to translate virus
The pandemic has put into stark relief how gender inequalities have existed and still exist despite efforts to combat them.”
prevention messaging into K’iche and Mam, the primary languages of many indigenous people living in Guatemala’s Western Highlands. This information is part of the relief kits the project has created and distributed to leaders in 27 communities, many of them remote. The kits include sanitation supplies and brochures outlining protection measures against the spread of COVID-19, contact information for suspected cases, and information on preventing domestic violence and how to report it. An amateur artist, Mariela drew the illustrations used in both the Spanish and indigenous language brochures. They depict both men and women in traditional clothing interacting in typical local contexts.
Beyond the important work of the project, Mariela applied her creativity to writing short, fun stories that she shared with her team. “I feel that we are carrying a lot of stress and tension from the need to get results while being remote and the uncertainty of this health crisis,” she says. “So my intention was to share with my colleagues that even under these circumstances we can have humor as a tool for resiliency.” n
Photo by Vivian Jacobs
20 | Think Creative | Fall 2020
Juan is dedicated to working with companies to employ the visually impaired.
Zahra has moved her lessons from the classroom to WhatsApp.
Mobilizing COVID support for the visually impaired Juan Luis Sevilla
Juan Luis Sevilla has been navigating uncertain- ty his whole life. As a child, he was diagnosed with glaucoma, a condition that eventually led to blindness. However, Juan Luis has worked hard to not allow his disability to be a limitation. While studying political science at university, he connected with USAID’s Technical Voca- tional Education and Training Strengthening for At-Risk Youth (TVET-SAY) project, known locally as Aprendo y Emprendo. Through the project, he took a course to become certified as a community counselor to help people with disabilities find employment. Now, Juan Luis works for an organization called Ágora that places disabled people in jobs and partners with companies to build an enabling environment that supports all staff to succeed. “It’s been really satisfying for me to help people with disabilities get work, because this builds the self-esteem of the individual,” he says. “Helping them know that they not only have things they ‘should’ do, but also rights ... a right to work and a right to opportunities.” Since the pandemic began, Juan Luis has been leveraging his unique access to the blind community to offer a series of international webinars designed to provide visually impaired youth with clear tactics on how they can cope with COVID-19. Tackling issues from emotional health to specific hygiene considerations, Juan Luis and his team have mobilized to help youth with disabilities face this new normal. Juan Luis has also begun to analyze how Ágora can adapt its trainings and programs for when companies transition back to full-scale work and what that may look like for people with disabilities. n
Zahra Oussouss Enhancing distance learning with creative solutions
created a WhatsApp group and started sending lessons over the app to her stu- dents’ families. She used text messages, audio recordings and videos to encourage her students to keep learning and incorpo- rated their responses into her lessons. It was the first time she had ever done any type of online teaching. Zahra says she hopes that the group not only continues to be educational but also helps her students stay connected at a time when many might feel isolated. “Despite all the fears and waves of panic I’ve had about the future — for myself, my students and the world — I’ve learned that nothing is impossible,” she says. “I also learned from this experience that children have a superpower to keep standing up, not be underestimated, motivate themselves and have the self-confidence to succeed.” n
After 20 years as a teacher in Morocco, Zahra Oussouss had never faced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic. “The hardest moment was when the school doors closed,” she says. “My only concern was to find a way to keep in touch with my students.” Zahra teaches fourth grade in the southern province of Inezgane-Ait Melloul, one of the regions the USAID-funded Reading for Suc- cess – National Program for Reading serves. With support from the program, she created a dynamic, fun, creative classroom for her students to learn. She didn’t want to lose that engagement and relationship with her class because of the pandemic. Like many teachers across Morocco, she found her own way of keeping her students connected and learning. Zahra
Photos by Mounya El Asri (Zahra); José Collado (Juan)