Celebrating the achievements of 2020, despite its difficulties and challenges

Global Research Fellow

There is no denying that 2020 has been a challenging and difficult year for so many. Global events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and exposures of racial injustices, environmental disasters, and rising global political tensions, revealed a number of existing structural inequalities and unequal burdens felt by society’s most marginalised and at-risk groups, whilst also creating further barriers in the equitable access to healthcare, resources, justice and livelihood support.

In light of these challenges, our global network and partners accelerated their efforts by working with their communities to attend to their most urgent and pressing needs. We witnessed increased levels of solidarity, more calls for positive action, strengthened collaborations and shared leadership. We have compiled a month-by-month timeline of the achievements of our grassroots leaders below, which highlight that, despite these challenging times, our team have responded with compassion, empathy, and commitment to social justice.

We end the year by thanking our global network of grassroots champions whose support made the successes of this year possible. We look forward to your continued support for community-driven social change in 2021!


On 12th January, on the 10th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake we remembered its victims and survivors with a tribute and thank you from Global Fellow Daniel Tillias who showed his gratitude for those who have assisted survivors of the earthquake through supporting his organisation. Haitian Global associate Malya Villard-Appolon, and her organisation KOFAVIV, used the 10th anniversary as an opportunity to raise the voices of women and girls to champion against ongoing injustices felt, which exacerbated following the earthquake.


Chicago Peace Fellow Frank Latin also looked back to his cohort’s graduation in the previous year, in his article titled “A night to remember”, in which he shares the importance of graduating from the 2019 programme and the collective achievements of the 19 Peace Fellows, from which continued collaboration will ensue.



In Cameroon, Global fellow Alexander Gwanvalla provided an update on the escalating violence and destruction caused by the Anglophone crisis (otherwise known as the Ambazonia war) – which has forced over half a million people to flee their homes – and is now seeing a strain on resources, particularly food which is in dire shortage. Despite these challenges, Alexander has continued to create an impact where possible (i.e., in areas that are not targeted by the crisis) by building community assets and environment restoration activities.


Global fellows from Uganda, Diana Alaroker and Geoffrey Omony, met with Kenyan fellow, Jeff Waringa, whilst attending a workshop in Nairobi. The fellows graduated from the 2019 Gather programme but this was the first time they were able to meet in person; during their meeting they discussed potential collaborations for the East African region, and in East Africa and working together on future projects.



We welcomed the 2020 Chicago Peace Fellows, 20 community leaders representing 14 different neighbourhoods across Chicago who were all grantees of the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities, who spend the year learning together and intervening in the violence that impacts too many of Chicago’s families.

For International Women’s Day on 8th March, Kenyan Global Fellow Mariam Ali Famau, along with a group of volunteers, supported a local orphanage where she hosted a meal for the residents and donated clothes and other resources. Mariam’s also provided updates of her ongoing projects, which are designed to empower and protect women who are at risk of recruitment into violent foreign extremist groups.



In an update from Cameroon, Global Fellow Alexander Gwanvalla describes the impacts of the escalating Anglophone crisis and his commitments to ensuring the communities he serves has sustained access to food, whilst also engaging in climate change and environmental issues and continuing to fulfil the aims of his organisation, Community Green Engagement (COMGREEN).


Global Fellow Lo Ivan Castillion from Philippines provides an update on the progress of the decades-long peace talks between the Bangsamoro community and the Philippine government, which supported the cessation of hostilities.

In San Diego, Global Fellow Cynthia Austin, whose organisation Shyne is on the frontlines of supporting survivors of human trafficking, responded to the changing and urgent needs of the organisation’s community, resulting from COVID-19 lockdown measures, which saw a need to increased mental health support, work options from home, rent, cell phones, internet and basic home supplies.


On 3rd May, the Chicago Peace Fellows launched the Peace Flowers Campaign, an initiative to deliver flower bouquets to mothers who have lost their children due to violence in Chicago. The Peace Flowers Campaign is a collective response from the Chicago Peace Fellows Mutual Aid Collaborative.


As the COVID-19 pandemic also starts to impact communities across the globe, Israeli Global Fellow Jamal Alkirnawi took action in the three following ways: 1) opened an emergency hotline to provide information and updates about the pandemic to the minoritized Negev Bedoiuns and Arab communities in Israel, 2) proactive outreach from the call centre to community members, offering accurate and up-to-date information, and 3) providing an online platform to generate opportunities to share initiatives, hold discussions and promote peer to peer volunteer ideas.



In a dispatch from Northern Uganda, Global Fellow Geoffrey Omony provided an update on their work on the reintegration and healing of ex-child soldiers in the region. YOLRED, an organisation led by and designed for former child soldiers and the war-affected community in Uganda, were awarded a grant from the Anti-Slavery Knowledge Network to implement a locally-led project to address the marginalisation and stigma which ex-combatants endure in the region. The project puts former child soldiers at its centre, and they are involved in the planning, designing, production and execution of the project, ensuring that any recommendations and outcomes align with their needs as well as local social and cultural values. Through implementing the programme, YOLRED have witnessed greater self-esteem and confidence amongst their beneficiaries, as well as greater commitment towards community cohesion.


Cameroonian Peace Fellow, Alexander Gwanvalla, gave a special thank you to those who have been supporting his organisation, Community Green Engagement, deal with not just the impacts of the ongoing conflict but also the consequences of the pandemic. COVID-19 cases have been rising in Cameroon, and food shortages in the country have meant that farmers must continue their livelihood activities; Alexander was able to provide PPE equipment, emergency foodstuffs and fertilizer to support his community.



We celebrated the graduation of the 2020 Chicago Peace Fellows with a virtual celebration event with attendance from over 200 people.

Uganda’s strict pandemic safety measures, including the stringent lockdown, severely impacted the socio-economic wellbeing of those most marginalised including former child soldiers and persons with disabilities. To address this, YOLRED provided critical supplies including food and sanitary supplies to over 100 struggling families.



Following a police shooting in Englewood on 9th August, Chicago Peace Fellow Joseph Williams – who mobilised community organisers and activists to help mediate tensions between the Chicago Police and the community – provided a commentary on what happened on the day and what can be learnt from the occurrence. As the founder of Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club, an organisation to get fathers actively involved in children’s lives through mentoring and literacy, Joseph believes that respect and building of trust are essential to building successful relationships which will have a positive impact on society.


This month we also celebrated the four-year anniversary of YOLRED, an NGO led by and for former child soldiers in Northern Uganda, in which executive director (and former child soldier) Geoffrey Omony shared a message of appreciation to Goldin and our supporters.


Following the murder of 9-year old Janari Ricks in Chicago, Global Fellow Raymond Richard joined peacebuilders across the city to say enough is enough and to call for an end to the rising violence in Chicago and to better protect the neighbourhoods children.


Peace Fellow Diane Latiker released her new book ‘Kids off the Block', which shares her story of supporting more than 3,000 at-risk youth and teens in Chicago from the allures of gang life and gun violence. Recognising her critical and life-changing work, musician Kelly Clarkson interviewed Diane to profile her successes in building peace in the Roseland neighbour on Chicago’s South Side.



In response to the twin pandemics of violence and COVID-19 on communities on the South and West sides of Chicago, the Chicago Peace Fellows launched the Mutual Aid Collaborative. Through community solidarity and spirit, the Collaborative responds with frontline efforts and programs, attending to the needs of the communities within which Peace Fellows live and serve.

This month we also welcomed our Global Alumni Coordinator, Yusuph Masanja, who joins the Goldin team from Tanzania. Yusuph brings over 10 years’ experience working in various humanitarian and environmental NGOs and will be supporting our Global Fellows in achieving their individual and collective aspirations.



The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many communities around the world, and our global fellows responded with frontlines efforts supporting those most in need through mutual aid activities, with updates from Cameroon, Kenya, Chicago, Uganda and South Africa. In addition, the Chicago Peace Fellow’s Mutual Aid Collaborative received a $15k grant from Live Healthy Chicago/West Side United to support their community response activities.


To commemorate the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, YOLRED held a roundtable in Northern Uganda to address the increases in teen pregnancy as a result of COVID-19. The roundtable was organised to encourage local stakeholders and key actors to work together to better support young girls who may be susceptible to child marriage and teen pregnancies, especially during crises such as health pandemics.

Peace Fellow Quilen Blackwell, president and founder of Southside Blooms in Chicago, was featured on TODAY for his organisation’s work turning vacant lots in the South Side into farms that give employment and hope to local community members.


Peace Fellow Frank Latin wrote an extremely powerful and important open letter titled “Dear White Funders, I can’t breathe either!", sharing his experiences of racial disparities within funding allocations (which is essential reading for all of us working in the philanthropy, funding or charitable sectors).


Global Gather Fellow, Laura Molnar, continues to promote children's participation in important social change discussions, through a community of practice in Romania. Laura says, “children are equal partners, and we have to ask for their opinions”. Laura has successfully created a Community of Practice for educators in Romania, convening a network of 150 teachers dedicated to improving education by listening to youth.


To continue the importance work of the Mutual Aid Collaborative, Chicago Peace Fellows received $25,000 from the Racial Justice Pooled Fund (for which we are extremely grateful) which will allow the team to continue their activities into 2021.

Despite the global pandemic, we are proud of the acheivements of the global network of Fellows and we have much to be thankful for, especialy the support of our global network of friends and colleages. We would like to give a special thanks to all our sponsors and supporters for ensuring our leaders were able to continue their much-needed activities throughout the year, including the Conant Family Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, Homestead Affordable Development Corporation, the Chicago Lives Healthy + West Side United Fund, the Racial Justice Pooled Fund and the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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