Doug Hicks introduced Sarah Champagne, a journalist from Montreal who was a Rotary Peace Fellow taking her Master's at the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism.  We've learned recently how rigorous the application is.  Sarah has worked in print, multimedia, and radio.  She has worked for Le Devoir in Quebec, and reported as a freelancer for publications in 15 countries over four continents. Teaming with photographers, she has worked on a large project on human migration. She has been awarded the James Travers Foreign Corresponding Fellowship, a major Canadian journalism award, and has been identified as an emerging talent by two Quebec journalism federations, and she speaks four languages.
Sarah thanked us for sharing peace stories today.  She is now in Austin, Texas, and started with thanks for her Rotary Peace Scholar experience.
(This portion of Sarah's talk was obtained from her Power Point presentation as my connection failed)
Rotary operates the Peace Scholar program from six different countries - England, USA (North Carolina), Sweden, Uganda, Australia, Japan and Thailand.  Sarah participated in the two-year Master's program, and there is also an intensive Professional Development Certificate Program lasting a few weeks (former member Francine Allard was a participant). More tan 1300 alumni work on peace and development in 115 countries.  Over half work with NGO's or government agencies. 6% work for UN agencies.
(Connection restored)
Sarah showed us her class (class 16 and 17), highlighting a couple of students who made a special impact on her. Linh Vo from Vietnam raised herself because her parents were so poor - her father was a bomb sawyer after the Vietnam War, selling metal from dismantled bombs. Vo now works in Vietnam in the area of ethical investment.
Emilya Huseynova is from Azerbaijan.  She is an epidemiologist, working in the US on the Covid response. Emilya was raising three children while studying as a Peace Scholar.  She felt that as a woman from a former Soviet country that her role as a Peace Scholar is very important.
Yared Lemma is from Ethiopia. Yared found his niche through the Peace Scholar program, working in the area of migration and applying data science to peace building.
But what about Sarah? She has travelled to Cameroon, Guatemala, Mexico, Nepal after an earthquake, Benin, and many other places.  Why did she want to return to school? In 2015/2016, she was preparing for a project on remittances - small amounts of money sent home by immigrants for basic needs.  Together these remittances account for three times the world's formal development assistance. People take their fates into their own hands to climb the social ladder - this is what attracted Sarah's attention.  If those immigrants' remittances were a country, the GDP would rank 25th in the world.
Sarah went to meet the families benefiting from these remittances.  She traveled to Haiti, Mexico, and then Turkey to meet Syrian refugees.  There she met Sarah, a young woman the same age, who was waiting for a sponsor, as Turkey was only a temporary home.  Sarah returned to Montreal to write a story for Le Devoir, thinking that if people could meet people life Syrian Sarah, it would influence opinions to welcome other refugees. The same day her article was to be published, she also wrote a piece on Donald Trump's Muslim ban, and the shooting that occurred at the Quebec Mosque.  This pushed Sarah to apply for the Peace Fellowship.  She decided to try to promote dialogue through her stories, and the Fellowship would help her do just that. That principle - dialogue through stories - would influence all her work. She is trying to merge her values with Rotary's Four Way Test and what she has learned as a Peace Fellow.
She researched peace journalism, focusing on stories of transformation - how can someone involved in war be an agent of peace. For her Filed Applied Experience between the two years of the Fellowship, Sarah traveled to Columbia. Columbia signed a peace treaty in 2016 that was supposed to end 50 years of conflict, although the reality is more complicated. Sarah was very interested in the Peace Commission, which collects stories around the country to help write an official history.  Following their work and attending their meetings, and met a man who was forced to be a child soldier when he was 13. After demobilization through a government program 4 years later, he became a cameraman for one of the largest TV stations in Columbia. He became a model of the idea that it doesn't matter who you are, or what you've done, it's who you can become.  He represents for Sarah the whole history of Columbia.
Sarah also told us that she was working for the Texas Tribune based in Austin, although she was working remotely. She pitched a project to Le Devoir in the vein of how do people reconcile divisions?  She new that there would be many articles in the US talking about division leading up to the election but wanted to take a different approach.  So she returned to Austin (after 5 other states) to write articles.
Questions - Bill Egnatoff - your work reminds me of my time in Sierra Leone.  How to women drive the quest for peace? For women it's just the fight to survive, to 'push the life in front of them'. Their interest in peace is much higher, and they have to pay a role in peace building. A researcher speaking at the Fellowship told the class that peace treaties are 50% more likely to work if women are involved early in the process. Women experience particularly brutal violence in war, and need to be involved in peace making.
John Gale - what is the common thread of studies in the Fellowship given everyone's varied background?  There is one compulsory class each semester, including mediation and negotiation, which has really helped Sarah in her work. Other experts lectured as well, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees spoke at the University.  Many Alumni have given presentations, and some have joined Rotary.  Alumni also continue to meet online.
Greta - is there a link between the Universities involved in the Fellowship? The major link is Rotary. There are common sessions, and a common newsletter. Unfortunately time constraints don't allow travel to other centres, but the directors meet regularly.  The Alumni will also form a strong bond between centres.
Heather Nogrady thanked our speaker today. Thank-you for another learning experience for a relatively new Rotarian.