Category Archives: Participant profiles

Participant Spotlight: Cyril Nii Offei France (Ghana)

Cyril Nii Offei France is a Youth Development Activist and a Development Management student at Ghana Christian University College. Zealous in finding sustainable solutions to local and global maladies, Cyril contributed immensely to the E-Consultation on Youth Participation in Poverty Reduction Strategies hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

He gave two separate presentations during the World Youth Congress in Quebec, Canada, and subsequently was a Rapporteur for the UN-HABITAT’s 2008 World Urban Youth Forum in Nanjing, China.

Cyril said his quest to visit Rwanda and participate in the Forum resonates from its history; he wants to empathize with its people and to learn and share in unique expediencies.

Finally, he said: “I’ll love to catch-up with some ‘abagore mwiza’ to foster cross-fertilization of lasting friendships. Murakoze All!”

Participant Profile: Allison Hoffman (USA & Cambodia)

Allison Hoffman is going to Rwanda because she wants to feel revitalized. 

Understandably, considering the 26-year-old entrepreneur from Illinois has spent the last two years creating a Cambodian development project from the ground up.   

“In Rwanda, I hope to be revived. I hope to reaffirm my commitment to the fight against poverty, which to me translates to the empowerment of the marginalized, which is the ultimate confirmation of a person’s basic rights,” she said from Cambodia.  “I hope to gain knowledge, insight and contacts that I can bring back to Cambodia and implement in ways so as to create tangible results.”

Allison already has a wealth of knowledge under her belt.  She was also recently the winner of the 2009 Paragon Fellowship for Youth Social Entrepreneurship. 

Her organization, the Pari Project in Phnom Penh, provides an array of fundraising, marketing, and organizational development services in the hope of professionalizing non-governmental organization services in Cambodia. 

“I am most proud of starting from nothing, and creating a social enterprise that provides vital services to NGOs that do great work,” she said.  “I am proud of them every day, I am deeply respectful of the thousands of people that they help directly, and I am honored that Pari is able to play some small part in improving the quality of their work.”

Eventually, Allison hopes to expand the project to other parts of Asia.  For now, she’s simply looking forward to her first trip to Africa.

Participant Profile: Claude Migisha-Kalisa (Rwanda)

Claude Migisha-Kalisa has a dream. 

He dreams that one day he will see peace in Africa, peace everywhere. 

Claude also knows his dream has the potential to become reality, which is why he became involved in human rights advocacy.

In his short life Claude watched his country become a place compared to hell on earth.  Turned upside down by a genocide that ripped apart the heart of Africa, in which more than 800,000 people were murdered, the Rwanda of Claude’s youth was anything but peaceful. 

Yet just 15 years later it is an example in Africa; one success story on a continent more often associated with failure. 

“What motivates me most is that my country is entirely in the process of rebuilding itself after the horrible 1994 genocide,” says Claude.  “While in that process, human rights has been among the main focal areas.”

Although Claude knows his country still has a long way to go, he also knows what’s possible and he’s looking forward to sharing his experience with other young leaders.    

An activist associated with the Butare Rotary Club and the Rwanda Village Concept Project, Claude works to help his country achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  He’s also a member of the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS.

Participant Profile: Jessica Whitbread (Canada)

Every once in awhile somebody comes along and changes the way we think about a critical issue of our time, adding new layers and helping foster new solutions. 

Jessica Whitbread is such a person. 

Her open, constructive, no-holds-barred approach to HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health advocacy is a refreshing change to those in the field.  

Having conquered Canada, the 29-year-old activist is now taking her message to Rwanda and beyond.  The self-described poster girl for youth HIV issues in Toronto, Jessica is also looking forward to finding out what Africa has to teach her. 

“I want to see what the effect of HIV looks like in a post-conflict society,” she said.  “I’m hoping that being a white, female, HIV-positive Canadian will allow me to share my experience and learn from others who are there.” 

After participating in the UNESCO Chair and Institute of Comparative Human Rights Intergenerational Youth Forum in Connecticut earlier this year, Jessica knew she wanted to do it all again in Rwanda. 

“Being in Connecticut was one of the most interesting weeks of my life.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that much personal growth in that short amount of time.  It’s so inspiring to meet others who are doing such amazing things in their communities and at a global level.” 

She’s counting down the days until she can do it all again.