Meet Our Family Diplomacy Ambassadors

Starting in January this year, Learning Life began weekly meetings of a new and important kind of volunteer: Family Diplomacy Ambassadors, otherwise known as “FDAs.” FDAs are young people in their teens to 30s who volunteer about four hours weekly to help grow Learning Life’s Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI).

As Learning Life’s flagship program, FDI is connecting families worldwide on Facebook to share and learn together, with an eye to nurturing a more caring, connected world by elevating the voices of families in the long-term. This year, via FDI, Learning Life is organizing a series of six live, international, family dialogues via Zoom focused on the question “what do families worldwide need to be safe and healthy?”

To engage an increasing number of people in FDI, and ensure strong, wide participation in this year’s six planned live dialogues, FDAs are busy collectively inviting 1,000+ people per week, individually, mostly via Facebook, but also Linkedin, to join FDI on Facebook, and for those interested, to volunteer as FDAs or Family Diplomats (FDs). FDs are two or more members of any family worldwide willing to take part in 4-6 of the six planned live dialogues this year.

“FDAs are vital to the growth of Learning Life’s Family Diplomacy Initiative, so we are excited to see that the number of volunteer FDAs worldwide has grown significantly since we launched FDAs in January.” Since the first FDA meeting on January 3, which began with three FDA candidates in Nigeria, the team has grown as of May 2 to eighteen FDAs based in the USA, Mexico, Cameroon, Nigeria, Tunisia, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. FDAs meet every Sunday at 8am or 1pm EST (NYC/DC time), depending on their time zone and preference, to report on progress toward FDI growth goals, receive updates, and to discuss any organizational questions or issues. In the latter half of the meeting, FDAs get to learn more about each other and the world through discussions on a variety of questions of shared interest, from “What is the most beautiful place you have seen on Earth?” to “What do you think is the most serious issue facing your country?”

The photos in this post feature the FDA Western Team (the larger group above, in mostly western time zones, launched in January) that meets Sundays at 1pm EST, and the FDA Eastern Team (smaller group below, in Eastern time zones formed in March) that meets Sundays at 8am EST.

As one FDA Western Team member based in Turkey put it, “I always like to meet people from different cultures with different values. As a Family Diplomacy Ambassador, I get the opportunity to connect with other people across the world who share my passion to learn about cultures. Learning Life is like a second family once you get involved in it.”

For more about FDI, and the new FDA and FD roles, including how to get involved, click here.

Learning Life Marks 20th Democracy Dinner

Learning Life is pleased to announce the successful occurrence of our 20th, and 21st, Democracy Dinners on March 24 and 29. Launched in June 2019, the Dinners bring together metro Washington DC democracy sector activists, academics, professionals and elected officials to engage in deeper conversations about the challenges and possibilities for democracy at local to global levels in light of authoritarian resurgence in the USA and abroad.

Since June 2019, we have held two Democracy Dinners every two months at 6 to 8pm EST, with the exception of a break in March 2021 due to the Covid Pandemic. While the Dinners were held in person in January 2021 and prior, we resumed them in May 2021 online via Zoom, and will continue holding the Dinners online post-Covid as this allows more people to participate from the convenience of their home or office. The Dinners will remain small group affairs, with about 8-12 participants per Dinner, to help maximize each person’s participation and foster a more intimate conversation.

The Democracy Dinners are a first step in the planned development of a regional democracy learning community in metro Washington DC to nurture democracy-strengthening networking and collaboration across specialty silos and lines of difference. “If we can develop a successful regional democracy learning community first in metro Washington DC, our hope is to adapt that model to develop in other cities worldwide to help empower citizens, and foster governments more accountable to their people,” said Learning Life’s founder and director, Paul Lachelier.

Beyond the online Dinners every two months, Learning Life plans to hold in-person events periodically to encourage networking and collaboration in the democracy sector, starting with a reception planned for October or early November 2021 in Washington, DC.

Below are photos from some of the Democracy Dinners, in chronological order, from the first to the latest Dinner.

For more about Learning Life’s Democracy Dinners click here. Want to get email invitations to the Dinners? If you live in metro Washington DC, and are engaged in democracy work at local to global levels as a volunteer or paid professional, please contact us at email@learninglife.info with your name, email address, and resume indicating your democracy work. You can also join our Democracy Dinners Linkedin Group here to connect with other democracy sector folks, and to share your democracy-related questions, events, publications, projects and calls to action.

Democracy Dinner #1
Democracy Dinner #2
Democracy Dinner #10
Democracy Dinner #13
Democracy Dinner #20
Democracy Dinner #21

Spotlight: Spring 2021 Learning Life Interns

Learning Life’s student interns this spring 2021 are, among other things, helping to recruit Family Diplomats and Family Diplomacy Ambassadors for our Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI), conducting research and planning for grant applications and our fall fundraising event, building the invitation list for our Democracy Dinners, developing a guide to intercultural communication, and more.  We are very grateful for our spring interns’ vital and dedicated work.  

TENILLE ARCHIE

Year, major, and school: I am a final year Master’s student at The Centre for Cultural Diplomacy Studies that works in collaboration with the Hochschule Furtwangen University in Germany, where I study International Relations and Cultural Diplomacy.

Hobbies: I enjoy learning, listening, observing, interacting, and reading about people from diverse ethnicities, cultures, geographical backgrounds, and exceptionalities. My other hobbies include writing short stories and storytelling.

Career aspirations: I consider myself a student of the world, but I would feel most accomplished to make a significant contribution in academia in the study of social change.

Why Learning Life? Family is the first institution and yet it is not given the attention and priority it deserves given the power and influence it holds. Whilst most countries do have some initiative focused on the family, oftentimes, some families are not given adequate attention. Learning Life’s heartbeat is lower to middle-class families; it gives these families a platform and an opportunity to use their voice to share their stories, experiences, culture, and concerns. What makes this initiative even more fascinating is the cultural collaboration which to me always makes me look forward to our meetings.

ELLEN DEGERMAN

Year, major, and school: I am a senior at the University of California, Irvine where I double major in anthropology and international studies with a focus in East Asia.

Hobbies: I love any excuse to go outside and enjoy nature: stargazing, having a picnic, taking a brisk walk, or hiking with friends. My photography skills have improved within the last year as I find creative ways to capture beauty in the mundane and in nature. I also love watching archaeology documentaries, crafting beaded bracelets, studying Mandarin Chinese, and singing Disney songs in different languages (mostly in Chinese).

Career aspirations: I am particularly interested in how the operations of educational administrations impact student motivation and academic aspirations. After taking a gap-year, I plan to pursue a doctorate program in education to study these themes and make contributions to academia. I would like to identify and overcome obstacles to students’ success, inspire students to explore the world around them, and give students the tools to take personal initiative in their academic journey.

Why Learning Life? I joined the Learning Life intern team because I value opportunities to learn different perspectives and engage in cross-cultural communication. In an increasingly globalized world, it is important to understand how actions in one location impact populations in another location. I am honored to be a member of this international team promoting dialogue and understanding between families.

DAISY GONZALEZ

Year, major and school: I am currently an undergraduate senior at the University of California, Riverside studying public policy and education with a concentration in community leadership, policy, and social justice.

Hobbies: During the pandemic, I picked up a few hobbies like journaling and painting, which have provided me some time throughout the day to reflect and be creative. I also started working out and actually lost 25 pounds since the pandemic started!

Career aspirations: I’ve always been interested in learning about education reform and the critical action needed to ensure educational equity and achievement. I hope to pursue a career in education policy to uplift the narratives of underrepresented students and advocate for a more equitable, supportive, and empowering learning experience, specifically for marginalized students living in low-income communities.

Why Learning Life? I wanted to join Learning Life because I was inspired by the innovative approaches and mission to reimagine learning outside of the classroom. I was interested in further understanding how we can create learning communities worldwide, to engage everyday people and help them develop their own agency.

ARISA OSHIRO

Year, major and school: I’m currently a senior at the University of California-Davis majoring in International Relations with a concentration in peace and security, and minoring in Human Rights.

Hobbies: I love outdoor activities. I often go hiking with my friends to enjoy nature and take pictures. During the pandemic, I especially enjoy going on long walks and stargazing. Recently, I started exchanging languages with a fellow intern, Rossella, by teaching her Japanese and learning Italian in return.

Career aspirations: My experience working abroad has led me to pursue work in nonprofit international organizations. I’m particularly interested in helping refugees and immigrants. In the long run, I hope to create films that will amplify the voices of vulnerable and underrepresented communities.

Why Learning Life? I interned with Learning Life because I resonated with its focus to create a more interconnected world. I wanted to be a part of the Family Diplomacy Initiative to engage in conversations that highlight prominent issues and encourage a deeper understanding of others, especially given our divided world.

ESTRELLA PALLIS-BONADURER

Year, major and school: I will be a freshman in the fall, attending Georgetown University in Washington D.C. I plan on majoring in international politics with a minor in Spanish.

Hobbies: I love hiking, swimming, biking, canoeing, camping- pretty much anything outside! I also love to read. A favorite book of mine is ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ by Jhumpa Lahiri. My mom and I bake a lot together (we make amazing lemon-ginger scones) so that’s something else I really enjoy.

Career aspirations: As of right now, my career aspirations are pretty vague. Being a Foreign Service Officer would be incredible, or perhaps working with an NGO (non-governmental organization) that provides some type of humanitarian aid. Anything under the international relations umbrella would appeal to me!

Why Learning Life? I was drawn to Learning Life because of its innovative approach to intercultural understanding and lifelong learning. As a student, enjoyable and engaging learning is extremely important to me. Learning Life’s format is accessible to people of all demographics, which diversifies the pool of participants and creates an enriching experience for all involved. Learning Life recognizes that progress towards a more peaceful and connected world begins with the individual, and works to empower each participant to become a better global citizen.

ROSSELLA VULCANO

Year, major, and school: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Languages, Culture, and Translation. Now I am completing the last semester of a Master of Arts in International Relations and Cultural Diplomacy at the The Centre for Cultural Diplomacy Studies affiliated with Hochschule Furtwangen University in Germany.

Hobbies: I like to go out jogging or walk in the big park next to my home; read novels in different languages such as English, German and Dutch; learn new languages; listen to rock music; and play most kinds of sport.

Career aspirations: I am interested in working as a professional diplomat or in the diplomatic field.

Why Learning Life? I wanted to participate in Learning Life’s initiatives because I share its values. I believe in educating civil society to a more tolerant and democratic vision of the world, and fostering long-term peace and mutual respect. I also like that I am getting first-hand experience organizing citizen diplomacy projects, and I get to know people from all over the world.

Introducing Learning Life’s New Board of Advisors

Learning Life is pleased to present our inaugural Board of Advisors!  

For most of our existence since founding in 2012, Learning Life has been a fiscally-sponsored program of a larger nonprofit called United Charitable. This has allowed Learning Life to quickly change and experiment to develop our three programs: the Family Diplomacy InitiativeInternational Mentoring Program, and Democracy Dinners. Now, in 2021, we are in the process of forming our own independent nonprofit, and expanding our volunteer base, programming and fundraising. 

The new Board of Advisors (BOA) will advise Learning Life in specific matters of their expertise, such as communications, fundraising, program design, monitoring and evaluation.  In addition, BOA members will help as they can in making connections that facilitate partnerships and collaborations to help Learning Life advance its mission.  “We are honored and excited to be working with such connected, caring, and experienced advisors, and look forward to working with the BOA to strengthen and expand our operations and programming,” said Paul Lachelier, Learning Life’s founder and director.

The inaugural BOA members’ photos are shown below.  Learn more about each of them at Learning Life’s staff page.  Interested in serving on Learning Life’s BOA, or know someone who might be?  Check out our call for board members and/or share this page with someone you know who may be interested.  We are currently especially, though not exclusively, interested in identifying (1) a retired ambassador, (2) business executives in relevant industries like diplomacy, internet communications, social media, and online education in metro Washington DC and beyond, (3) communications, marketing and fundraising specialists, and (4) an attorney specializing in nonprofit law.