Our Fellows

Joan Hanawi, GCF Fellow Joan Hanawi
2014 Fellow


Although born in Huntington Beach, California, Joan Hanawi has close roots to her parents’ native country of Indonesia. The disparity between lifestyles in Huntington Beach and Surabaya sparked Joan’s interest in international development at a young age. After completing high school, she chose to take a bridge year in which she spent one year as a Global Citizen Year Fellow living in Tena, Ecuador. In South America, Joan worked with the German International Cooperation and Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment as the coordinator of publications, developing and translating the environmental magazine, Huellas del Sumaco, and facilitating intercultural exchanges between high schools in different regions of Ecuador.

Joan graduated from UCLA completing a joint Bachelor of Arts in both International Development Studies and Geography/Environmental Studies. Prior to her tenure as a Global Citizens Fellowship, she received a Foreign Language and Area Studies grant in order to conduct intensive language study in Surabaya, Indonesia during Summer 2013. While there, she simultaneously developed an ecological awareness program with the academic institution, Yayasan Pengembangan Pendidikan Indonesia (YPPI). Joan is passionate about people, the environment, storytelling, good food, traveling, and learning.

Project: Digital Literacy Program

Ecuador is home to a large range of cultural groups that come from varying socioeconomic levels. In the Amazonian region of Ecuador, accessibility and understanding of modern technology is limited, which subsequently limits educational opportunities. To introduce higher levels of technological accessibility, Joan implemented a digital literacy program at the Unidad Educativa Bilingüe “El Pano” (UEBP) in the Napo region of Ecuador. By leveraging the available Internet connectivity with the computer equipment on hand, this program utilized free online tools such as Canvas, Skype, and Google in order to provide information services classes to the instructors of the institution. The program’s primary aim was to set up a platform for a virtual classroom, which would allow teachers to upload materials and contents that students could view from any computer. 

As of April 2016, 60 professors, 500 students, and 12 rural Kichwa communities in Napo have benefited from the digital literacy program at UEBP. All student who participated in the pilot classes moved onto the next grade without having to complete summer classes or retake a class. This is the first time in school history that no students from a grade had to retake a class. By establishing an online educational platform for UEBP, students now have the capacity to effectively utilize the local computer center in order to build valuable communication skills relevant to participating in a modern international economy. Currently, this digital literacy program is being used as a model for other schools in the Napo region, as UEBP is now considered the pioneer of digital education in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The program's success has led the national government of Ecuador to observe our model, and the school has received additional funding for its results. Discussions are still in place for scaling up our model throughout the region for English education. The school has received national recognition and an elevated status as an educational leader for the Amazon region. It has since absorbed another neighborhood school as the center for primary and secondary schooling for the community.

For more details, visit Joan’s blog: http://joanhanawi.wordpress.com/

Michelle Sinness, GCF Fellow Michelle Sinness
2014 Fellow


Michelle was distributing food to orphans in the favelas of Salvador, Brazil, when she first discovered her passion for humanitarian aid and development. She was eleven years old. Since then, Michelle has continued to make it her mission to serve and empower vulnerable populations in her local community and abroad. She has interned at nongovernmental organizations such as Relief International and the Greater Los Angeles Chapter for UN Women, worked on a campaign to prevent sexual assault at a nearby university, and volunteered to serve families in the Nickerson Gardens housing project in Watts, California. At UCLA, Michelle has interned for the Burkle Center for International Relations and worked at the International Institute.

Michelle loves to study economic and social development worldwide. She received two Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships from the U.S. Department of Education, allowing her to travel to Brazil to study local perceptions of World Cup-related development projects based on personal interviews and analysis of local media coverage. As a Departmental Scholar in Latin American Studies, Michelle is working on her master’s degree while concurrently completing the coursework for bachelor’s degrees in Global Studies and Portuguese. Michelle graduated from UCLA in December 2014, and continues to pursue opportunities to make a positive difference locally and globally while working at a Los Angeles-based communications firm.

Project: Teacher Training Workshops

Zambia is a landlocked nation in southern Africa comprised of over 14 million people. It is a nation of young people, with almost half of its population under the age of fourteen. An estimated 670,000 Zambian children are orphans due to HIV/AIDS.

With the funding provided by the Global Citizens Fellowship, Michelle traveled to Lusaka, Zambia to conduct teacher training workshops to improve the math outcomes at a grassroots community elementary school in the Ng’ombe community. Michelle brought along her friend Ainsley Cheng, a UCLA alumna and math teacher in Los Angeles, to help her design and teach the workshops. Together they taught the teachers about math lesson cycles—a simple format for math instruction that incorporates review, assessment, leveled instruction, group learning, and individual practice; differentiation—grouping students based on their level of ability and developing lessons that are accessible to slow learners while still providing a challenge to more advanced students; and assessments—conducting regular assessments to gauge students’ understanding based on their skill level and the lesson objectives. They introduced many new math activities using the supplies that Chikumbuso already has. Michelle and Ainsley incorporated the teachers’ feedback and heard their best practices. The workshops were a space for honest reflection, open debate, collaboration, and mutual learning amongst the teachers.

In addition to training the teachers, Michelle connected Chikumbuso to Zambia’s national child protection center. Formerly, Chikumbuso did not have a system in place to respond to students’ reports that they had been sexually abused, despite the fact that several girls at the school were victims of sexual assault. Michelle set out to change that. With the help of the One Stop Child Protection Centre, Michelle brought Chikumbuso the tools and resources necessary to better address these issues on campus. She then trained the teachers about what to say, who to call, and what to do when a student relates that they’ve been abused. Now, Chikumbuso is equipped to be point of contact within the community for families of children who have suffered sexual violence.