Brynn MacDougall, Shamong native and Director of Programs and Operations of Philadelphia-based nonprofit Women’s Campaign International (WCI), received a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund to conduct “Reducing Adolescent Pregnancy (RAP) in the Era of COVID-19,” a socially-distanced program with teenage girls, in Blantyre and Balaka, Malawi in partnership with local organization Ukani Malawi. In September 2020, the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs invited U.S. citizen alumni of all U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs, including the Fulbright Program, the Gilman Scholarship, and Cultural and Sports Envoys, to apply for small grants of up to $10,000 as part of the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund Rapid Response funding opportunity. Exchange alumni from across the United States submitted proposals for public service projects that addressed the themes of media literacy education, building community resilience, and fostering alumni network development.
At WCI, MacDougall has led the growth of WCI’s youth programming in Philadelphia and abroad since 2017. MacDougall was introduced to Temwa Chirembo, a Mandela Washington Fellow and co-founder of Ukani Malawi, in the summer of 2019 when Chirembo worked with WCI through her fellowship. Through the RAP program, MacDougall and Chirembo seek to educate 90 teenage girls on how to prevent pregnancy, STDs (primarily HIV), and COVID-19 in order to ensure that more girls remain in school after the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, they will collaborate with TraumaVenture, a Philadelphia-based social impact organization run by Dr. Cecilia M. Cardesa, to engage participants in trauma-informed discussions about mental health.
The RAP program was originally designed by MacDougall and WCI’s Kenyan partner, Winam Green Ventures. A pilot RAP program was successfully carried out in Kisumu, Kenya in September 2020. Since then, all 60 participants in the pilot program have prevented pregnancy, remained healthy, and returned to school safely.
Since the close of the competition in November, the U.S. Department of State has funded 38 projects that address issues faced by communities across the United States and around the world with international partners in countries such as Mongolia, Nepal, North Macedonia, and the Philippines. Exchange alumni are contributing to their communities in meaningful ways by sharing media literacy best practices that help mitigate the spread of disinformation, increasing access to virtual and at-home education for youth and their families, protecting the environment, bringing exchange alumni together to create stronger networks, and responding to other community needs. Winners this year include projects supporting mental health training in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, media literacy education in China, and food literacy in Indiana.
“Congratulations to our exchange alumni who have received awards from the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund to lead public service projects in their communities,” said Matthew Lussenhop, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. “These alumni will serve diverse communities in the United States and abroad through programs adapted to the realities of COVID-19. We are proud of these citizen diplomats.”
The Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented in partnership with the Partners of the Americas. For more information visit https://alumni.state.gov.