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Friday, May 4, 2018

Celebrating World Fellowship Recipients

Juanita is a 2017-18 World Fellowship recipient. She was born and raised in Columbia and is now working on her Master’s Degree in Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. In her own words Juanita describes why she is passionate about obtaining her Master’s Degree:
I want to specialize in the field of Development, understood as the improvement of the living conditions of citizens, by ensuring the fulfilment of their rights and strengthening their opportunities to enhance their well-being in a sustainable, long-term manner. I am particularly interested in post-conflict situations and the way in which societies in transition can deal with recovery and stabilization.

Previously, I was Program Assistant at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (DG ECHO). Since our work was focused on improving the living conditions of the most conflict-affected communities on a short-term basis, this experience has been highly rewarding. I have traveled to the most isolated and affected areas in Colombia to witness the country’s forgotten humanitarian crisis and have acquired practical tools for monitoring and evaluating the projects funded by ECHO. The experience of being a humanitarian worker in the field, has been fascinating: getting out of my comfort zone; traveling for hours in boats, canoes, unpaved roads and even hand-operated cables (known as taravitas); living without basic commodities; and learning how to react when security incidents with armed
actors come across.

The impact of ECHO’s interventions in improving the lives of communities by enhancing their
access to water, food, health, and protection assures me that all our efforts are worth it. Personally and professionally, the past three years have been the most enriching and inspiring of
my life. I have not only learned about myself through my work in the field in the midst of an
armed conflict with acute humanitarian and psychosocial needs, but also, I can now respectfully
empathize with the suffering, claims for dignity and needs of victims, and make decisions based
on real life experience that will have a positive impact in their lives.

After these diverse experiences, I am now motivated to do go beyond the consequences of violence and support initiatives that will transform its structural causes. For this reason, I am immensely interested in completing a Master’s Degree in Development. I want to further explore the relationship between humanitarian aid, development, and peacebuilding. Since Colombia now faces the opportunity to sign a comprehensive peace agreement that will bring substantial changes, both positive and negative, to the current situation our country faces, this is both a theoretical inquiry and a practical-ethical commitment.

Undoubtedly, I have given substantial steps to in my academic, practitioner, and professional spheres to become a transformative agent. Hence, I am certain that in the near future I will become part of the group of leaders who will influence decision-making processes on development and peacebuilding in Colombia and the World, by supporting and guiding the work of multilateral organizations. It is precisely because I am passionate about building bridges between theory and practice that I believe it is now the perfect time to go back to study and analyze reality from an academic perspective, enriching it with the work experience I have gained. Finally it’s worth mentioning that I also want to continue pursuing a career in academia and become a university professor. I want to motivate students to be involved in solutions of real life problems because I am sure that knowledge and education are the most powerful tools to
change embedded patterns of violence.

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