In May 2020, the McCain Institute awarded nine Next Generation Leaders (NGLs) with a COVID-19 In The Arena micro-grant to support and encourage their leadership in the face of the adversity of the pandemic. NGLs proposed innovative, local solutions aimed at drawing on the resources and experiences of their respective communities to save lives, restore economies, and recover equitable access to public services. The nine grant recipients were Selamawit Girmay Birhane, Dael Dervishi, Ljubomir Filipovic, León Hernández, Vimal Kumar, Sahana Mishra, Jerlie Requerme, and Ezzeddine Ben Rhima.

Since the award of the micro-grants, the NGL recipients have been helping to lead the recovery process in their local communities.

Selamawit Girmay Birhane of Ethiopia (2019 Cohort) is a federal high court appellate judge and case flow management coordinator in Addis Ababa. Judge Birhane convened her neighborhood association and the Addis Ababa community police to address the needs of 600 households. In partnership with the Bole Bulbula Finote Limat G-33 Association, Judge Birhane has distributed food and sanitary materials to 26 of the most impoverished families in her community.

Members of Judge Birhane’s neighborhood in Addis Ababa receiving bundles of food and sanitation materials.

Dael Dervishi of Albania (2016 Cohort) is the Executive Director of the Optima Foundation, a legal and financial consultancy firm. In partnership with the Global Albanians Foundation and local non-profit, Vizion OJF, Mr. Dervishi utilized his micro-grant to support children and youth who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The funds provided the neediest rural Albanian families with food, hygienic supplies, and educational materials for children.

A woman in rural Albania receiving much-needed supplies, funded by Dael Dervishi’s COVID-19 grant.

Vimal Kumar of India (2020 Cohort) is the founder of the Movement for Scavenger Community (MSC), an organization committed to the eradication of manual scavenging in India and bringing education and awareness to the existing scavenger community. Under Mr. Kumar’s leadership, MSC established various Jai Bhim centers around India to provide members of the community with free meals. With the Institute’s micro-grant, the Jai Bhim centers purchased gloves, masks, and soap for essential workers and food for the jobless families within the scavenger community.

Children from the scavenger community eating a free meal provided by one of the Jai Bhim centers created by Vimal Kumar’s MSC organization.

Sahana Mishra of India (2015 Cohort) is a civil society activist who empowers young women and girls in the poorest region of India to achieve economic independence through education, employment, and venture enterprises. She has utilized her microgrant to distribute masks and critical food supplies in her community. Additionally, Ms. Mishra used some of the funds to provide vegetable seed kits to women to grow and sell for income, which will help offset the financial burdens of the pandemic.

Sahana Mishra celebrating the receipt of her COVID-19 grant with several women she helps to empower in her community.

Indian women receiving vegetable seed kits, thanks to Sahana Mishra’s COVID-19 micro-grant funds.

León Hernández of Venezuela (2017 Cohort) is a professor at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) and the founder of the Observatorio Venezolano de Fake News, an initiative aimed at combatting disinformation. Mr. Hernández z plays a pivotal role in battling the spread of fake news in his country, where President Maduro has used misinformation to deflect from his inadequate response to the virus’s impact on the Venezuelan people. As a recipient of the Institute’s COVID-19 Grant, Mr. Hernández has written two academic papers about the values of deontology for journalists in the pandemic along with an essay about fake news and misinformation related to Venezuela. These papers have been published in various noteworthy journals, including the Temas de Comunicación Journal, which was the most widely read journal from UCAB last semester.

The McCain Institute is proud of our 65 Next Generation Leaders across 50 countries and five continents, each of whom are serving and leading their communities throughout this unprecedented time of global adversity. We are pleased to support the NGLs as they empower their communities to respond more nimbly and more effectively to this crisis and to take steps to recover and build a brighter future.