Congratulations to the 2019 Alumni Impact Award Winners!

Congratulations to Maria Monchari Omare, Nguyễn Hà Quân, Claudia Baez, and Susan Hay Patrick for receiving this year’s Professional Fellows Alumni Impact Awards (AIA)! The four winners competed against many other Professional Fellows alumni with compelling stories about their work and making a difference in their communities.

The Office of Citizen Exchanges will honor these four alumni at the Spring 2019 Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, D.C. from May 28-30, 2019. Nearly 300 Professional Fellows from 60 countries will attend, having completed their professional fellowships with government entities, civil society organizations, and businesses across the United States.

Learn more about Maria Monchari Omare, Nguyễn Hà Quân, Claudia Baez, and Susan Hay Patrick and each of their achievements:

Maria Monchari Omare

Nairobi, Kenya
U.S. Host Organization: Association of University Centers on Disabilities
Fellowship Placement Organization: Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts Boston
Dates of Fellowship: Spring 2017  

Maria Omare is the Founder and Executive Director of The Action Foundation, an organization working to improve the education, health, social, and economic outcomes of young children and girls with disabilities living in poverty. She is a disability inclusion advocate, social entrepreneur, and educator committed to inspiring change and hope in under-served communities. Maria has grown The Action Foundation from focusing on a small group of schools, parents, and learners with disabilities, to building a grassroots movement transforming disability-inclusive development in Kenya. In October 2017, she led the creation of Somesha, a program that is reaching hundreds of teachers through immersion workshops and virtual peer learning. Her experience in Boston through the Professional Fellows Program helped her to see the possibilities for improving service in her community and identify huge gaps in early intervention services offered at home. Maria’s fellowship inspired her to build a support network of caregivers for young children with disabilities in Nairobi. She was also actively involved in engaging local communities in the development and implementation of the national education policy for educators of students with disabilities.

Nguyễn Hà Quân

Lam Dong, Vietnam
U.S. Host Organization: American Councils for International Education
Fellowship Placement Organization: Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, Seattle University
Dates of Fellowship: Spring 2017

Quân is a highly motivated, impact-driven, social entrepreneur. The Professional Fellows Program empowered him to organize and educate coffee farmers in his region, promote best practices and strengthen the coffee ecosystem, and create resources for youth. Quân’s placement at Seattle University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center allowed him to join an amazing network in the global coffee hub and learn directly from IEC advisors such as Zev Siegl, co-founder of Starbucks, and Bill Gates. Because of his experience in Seattle, Quân created Coffee Warriors, an initiative that strengthens sustainable development and promotes networking among the coffee industry in ASEAN. Coffee Warriors has introduced the U.S. coffee ecosystem to the stakeholders in Vietnam with support from IEC Program Manager Amelia Marchworth. Amelia traveled to Vietnam as an American partner and co-organized a coffee exhibition, workshops, and coffee cuppings. Quân also created an exchange program for coffee farmers in Indonesia and Vietnam, the two largest coffee producers in ASEAN, with funding from a YSEAL Seeds for the Future grant. Quân also created an exchange program for coffee farmers in Indonesia and Vietnam, the two largest coffee producers in ASEAN, with funding from a YSEALI Seeds for the Future grant.

Claudia Baez

Bogota, Colombia
U.S. Host Organization: International Center for Journalists
Fellowship Placement Organization: ProPublica
Dates of Fellowship: Fall 2016

Claudia Báez is an investigative data journalist and a co-founder of Cuestión Pública, a Colombian independent investigative media outlet. During Claudia’s fellowship placement at ProPublica she worked on the entrepreneur and innovation team and spent time covering the U.S. Presidential campaigns. As a result of Claudia’s participation in the Professional Fellows Program, she founded Cuestión Pública, an investigative journalism media outlet that covers corruption and abuse of power cases in Colombia. After just one year of operation, Cuestión Pública raised $9000 USD in grants and crowdfunding campaigns, and $2600 USD in memberships, a significant revenue for a media organization in Colombia. Cuestión Pública exposed the wealth of 20 members of Congress, information that was previously not available to the public. Claudia also co-created "El Poder de Elegir" a fact-checking app to combat misinformation on WhatsApp, a popular private messaging platform used in Colombia. This project was inspired, by her fellowship placement at ProPublica during the Professional Fellows Program.

Susan Hay Patrick

CEO, United Way of Missoula County
Missoula, MT, USA
U.S. Host Organization: University of Montana- Mansfield Center
Hosted Fellows From: Cambodia ( 2014, 2017), Thailand (2017 ) and Vietnam (2017)
Traveled to: Cambodia (2014 and 2017), Thailand (2017)

Susan Hay Patrick has been an NGO leader for almost 40 years. Since 2006, she has served as chief executive officer of United Way of Missoula County, one of Missoula’s most respected nonprofit organizations. Susan has mentored five Professional Fellows and traveled to Southeast Asia twice to teach, train, and speak on NGO management and governance, fundraising, strategic planning, program evaluation, and leadership. She currently chairs several community-wide collaborative efforts in Missoula focused on student success, preventing suicide, improving early childhood education, ending homelessness, and preventing childhood obesity. In 2015, she chaired Invest in Missoula Schools, a citizens’ committee that worked successfully to pass two bonds totaling $158 million – the largest in Montana history – to improve the facilities and technology at all Missoula County Public Schools.