Citizen Diplomacy Int’l Meeting #17: Health Diplomacy

About Citizen Diplomacy International

Due to globalization, the internet, rising education levels, and long-term democratization, citizen diplomacy is growing, and becoming a more important part of diplomacy and international affairs.  Thus, in 2020, the Public Diplomacy Council of America (PDCA), a US-based NGO devoted to advancing the field of public diplomacy, formed the Citizen Diplomacy Research Group (CDRG) to advance the research and practice of citizen diplomacy.  In 2023, the CDRG became Citizen Diplomacy International (CDI), a network and program of Learning Life, a Washington DC-based nonprofit devoted to developing innovative learning communities in order to widen and deepen participation in democracy and diplomacy.  

CDI meets every three months online via Zoom for 1.5 hours to share research and news on citizen diplomacy developments worldwide with an eye to building a vibrant global CD sector for a more participatory, equitable and sustainable world..  Meetings typically begin with two presentations on CD research or practice, followed by discussion of the presentations, then news and announcements of past or upcoming international CD-related initiatives, publications, funding, conferences, etc. 

Anyone  — including scholars, students, citizen diplomacy practitioners, current and retired official diplomats, and others interested — can join CDI to learn, network, and/or present substantial research or practice in citizen diplomacy. For more information or to join the CDI email list, contact You can also connect with CDI members via our Facebook group and Linkedin group, to which you can post citizen diplomacy-related articles, books, events, funding, etc. 

For more about CDI, click here.  For the video recording of this CDI meeting at Learning Life’s Youtube Channel, click here.  Photos from the meeting above.  

Meeting Participants & Agenda


The meeting drew 22 participants in nine countries: United Kingdom, Spain, Sudan, Rwanda, India, Bolivia, Jamaica, the USA and Canada.      


1) Opening Remarks & Introductions  (10 minutes)

Review of meeting agenda.  During this time everyone is encouraged to post to the chat a one-paragraph bio about themselves, including your name, city, country, job title and organization.     

2) Two Presentations (30 minutes total): 


Vijay Kumar Chattu, Postdoctoral Researcher, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, presenting on “Strengthening Global Health Security through Global Health Diplomacy.”

Sali Hafez, Doctoral Candidate, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, presenting on “Health Diplomacy in Conflict and Post-Conflict Contexts: Lessons from Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”

3) Questions & Discussion about the Presentations (40 minutes)

4) Announcements (10 minutes).    

  1. A look at the March issue of the Citizen Diplomacy Bulletin.
  2. Meeting participants have the opportunity to publicize citizen diplomacy events, publications, projects, programs, and related needs.  Participants can also post details and links to the Zoom chat box to share with the wider CDI email list.

Spotlight: Spring 2023 Learning Life Interns

Learning Life’s interns do vital work responsible for the energy and growth of our organization.  This spring, their work included outreach to thousands of people on Facebook and Linkedin to help grow the Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI) worldwide, and our Democracy Learning Community (DLC); interviewing applicants worldwide for this year’s FDI training in July-October; updating and expanding our DLC list, including U.S. Congressional staff and metro Washington DC city and county leaders; research and writing to develop our DLC vision and action plan; and more.  Learning Life is very grateful for their dedicated work.  You can learn a little about each of them below.

Nate Escobar

Year, major, and school: I am a senior at Jackson-Reed High School in Washington, D.C.

Hobbies: For fun, I enjoy going on walks with my dog traveling around the neighborhood.  I also like to go to restaurants with my family and make memories with them.
Career aspirations: I would like to help clean our environment and make sure we live on a cleaner Earth by doing things like recycling, using electric cars, solar panels and public transportation, producing less waste, and eating more organic food.
Why Learning Life? I got to intern with Learning Life through a high school program which allows me to gain work experience in government and politics.  It’s been nice getting to meet new people from around the world and to learn about their lives and environment through the stories they tell.  

Maebelle Faragallah

Year, major and school: I am a senior majoring in international affairs as well as community development at Howard University 

Hobbies: I like to read a lot.  I have probably read more than six hundred novels.  I also like watching TB shows and movies.  My favorites are 2000s romantic comedies and romantic series like Bridgerton and Outlander. Any form of storytelling is for me! I also watch World Wresting Entertainment (WWE).  My favorite music artist is Taylor Swift. 

Career aspirations: I want to work in the international development field. I want to do work that changes the course of people’s lives. International development allows for that. I don’t have a clear view of exactly what I want, but the internships I’m doing right now both involve training leaders in order to impact their community.  I find this work very engaging and impactful, and wish to continue work in that in the future. 

Why Learning Life?  Learning Life is a relatively small organization but it’s a great example of doing instead of just talking.  Too often we have nonprofits doing a lot of research and spreading liberal ideas, but not implementation of that research or those ideas.  Learning Life is implementing those ideas and sets a working model for other non-profits to follow.  I am really inspired by Learning Life because it offers a great example of following your dreams, working hard, and being successful. 


Ma’Shayla Hearns
Year, major, and school: I am a junior at Virginia Tech double majoring in sociology and criminology with a minor in peace studies and social justice.
Hobbies: I love arts and crafts whether that be drawing, painting, or crocheting. I also enjoy taking long peaceful walks especially on the many trails around the Blacksburg area in Virginia. 
Career Aspirations: After completing my undergraduate studies, I would like to have a career working for one of the agencies of the federal government, ideally the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or as a federal advocate for marginalized groups. 
Why Learning Life? I joined Learning Life because I like how it targets the family as the place where democracy and diplomacy can be formed.  The Family Diplomacy Initiative allows for individuals within their families to be empowered to stand up for what they believe in and gain the tools they need to do so. I also enjoy the connections and collaborations that are made in an effort to spread democracy worldwide.

Côme Joly

Year, major and school: I am a junior at Sciences Po in Paris, France. My majors are Economics and Sociology, and my minor is Ibero-Caribbean-Latin-American Studies.
Hobbies: I played volleyball for ten years and it is still my favorite activity. I also like to play basketball and to workout. I love to cook and read non-fiction books, especially about economics. However, what I could consider as my main hobby is my environmental activism, including organizing conferences and protests, and writing via social media.
Career aspirations: At this moment, I am not entirely sure what exactly I want to do.  I certainly want to work in the environmental and energy sector at an international scale. I am also very interested in the public sector, civic engagement, and democracy.
Why Learning Life?  I chose to intern at Learning Life because of its focus on both democracy and international affairs.  I like working on expanding democracy.  The way Learning Life is doing it is very interesting to me and I wanted to see how the Democracy Learning Community is developing.  Working on Learning Life’s Family Diplomacy Initiative was also an occasion to meet people from other countries and cultures, to hear their problems and try to help them.  Learning Life’s international education approach through citizen diplomacy piqued my curiosity.

Keilyhan Echeverria Padilla 

Year, major, and school: I am a senior at Roosevelt High School in Washington DC, specializing in Global Service and Diplomacy.  

Hobbies: Since I was at least five years old, I have practiced the arts of dance and song, and these are my two major hobbies. Furthermore, When I was 11 years old, I really wanted to be a fashion designer and open my own boutique. In sixth grade at Rosa Costa Valdivieso in Puerto Rico, I figured out that the school had a sewing teacher, so I showed her my designs and she taught me that I should draw an actual person and the clothing I imagined bigger so the details can be seen. At first, my designs were not symmetric, but with time, everything got better. I no longer want to be a fashion designer, but to this day, I continue drawing, including a tree design I imprinted on my school bag. This year, one of my projects for my AP Spanish class was to create a poem with four stanzas and five verses in each. In this project, I had to memorize and recite the poem. After that experience, I started writing poems as a hobby.

Career aspirations: I am very passionate about International Relations so one of my career aspirations is to be a diplomat for the United States. The reason is that I have seen a lot of division in the world. I believe that there are a lot of different points of views, cultures, languages, technologies and good habits that can be drawn upon to avoid wars and misunderstandings among countries, and to develop countries. 

Why Learning Life?  To be honest, my school internship placement office selected me to intern with Learning Life.  I did not select Learning Life. However, I do not regret any time I spent in this non-profit organization. The community and professional growth I experienced in this non-profit organization is just amazing. Being part of the family diplomacy training and being able to interview training applications in Latin American countries has been exciting and enriching.  I am very thankful to have launched my career in international relations with very kind people and families I found through Learning Life.


Clare Rigney

Year, major, and school: I am a senior in the Dual-BA Program between Trinity College Dublin and Columbia University.  At Trinity, my major is Middle Eastern & European Languages & Cultures, while at Columbia my major is Political Science.
Hobbies: I love to read, swim, and travel. I have always loved reading, and I was always the kid in class with a book open under my desk growing up. I swam competitively throughout my childhood and high school, and while I no longer swim on a team, it is still my favorite form of exercise and self-care.  My family really ignited my love of travel. My parents were big believers in that travel was the best teacher, so I had been to almost thirty U.S. states and territories, and ten countries by the time I graduated high school.  I then spent my first two years of college in Ireland, which did nothing to lessen my love of travel.  When I’m not doing one of those three things — reading, swimming, and traveling — I’m probably drinking bubble tea and being overly competitive over card games with my friends. 
Career aspirations: I’m not exactly positive about what I want to be when I grow up (though it is getting quite close!), but I know that I want to continue working in the international sector, if at all possible, in at least some way.  My dream job would probably combine my passions for sustainability and diplomacy, but that would be far down the line.  For now, I would be happy with any job that allows me to travel and help people in some way.
Why Learning Life?  I chose Learning Life because I think citizen diplomacy is one of the most important ways that we can create a closer, more united global society that is less likely to go to war.  Getting to know people from other cultures, and hearing about various issues that affect them builds a more compassionate and connected world, which I am passionate about.  I feel like too often people feel like those living in different countries are strange, or alien to them. Things like the Family Diplomacy Initiative show us that we have far more in common than differences.

Dorothy Simon

Year, major, and school: I am a graduating senior at Howard University majoring in criminology and international affairs with a minor in French. 

Hobbies: My hobbies include hiking, playing tennis, and writing. I recently had the opportunity to spend my Spring Break in Costa Rica, where I was able to hike or go on a nature walk every day for a week.  I also enjoy traveling because I love meeting new people and exploring different cultures. 

Career Aspirations: My research focuses on international development and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. After my undergraduate studies, I plan on taking a gap year and then pursuing my Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Master of Laws (L.L.M.) degrees in international law with a focus on human rights in a dual-degree program.  I also aspire to obtain my Ph.D. in the future, either in the field of international relations or education. 

Why Learning Life? I discovered Learning Life after taking a course about diplomacy during the Fall 2022 semester. In that course, I was able to learn more about the history of diplomacy and its application in both American and Israeli governmental systems. I decided to intern with Learning Life because it takes a unique approach to diplomacy through its focus on families on a global scale. Learning Life also taps into my interest in learning more about numerous cultures by connecting and speaking with people around the world. 


Matt Turanchik

Year, major, and school: I am a junior at Columbia University majoring in psychology. Though I don’t have a declared minor, I take Slavic cultural/language classes as often as possible!

Hobbies: I am passionate about baking, cooking, writing, theater, and music. Each of these hobbies focuses on a different aspect of cultural exploration. By writing, I force myself to think about the context of who and what I see in my everyday life. Baking and cooking help me explore food culture and with learning new cuisines comes the historical context of why something is made or why specific spices are used. Music also lets me explore cultures through the various sounds and rhythms found across the globe.  I am slowly building a stringed-instrument collection to be able to see the sounds I love to hear! 

Career aspirations: I have always been interested in why people think and behave in the ways that they do. This was instilled in me from my early days in theater. While my path is still being paved, I have taken a serious interest in political psychology, especially political cultures in post-soviet states.  Through political psychology, I want to explore the public context in which governments evolve as our world becomes increasingly interconnected.

Why Learning Life?  Learning Life’s work tackles precisely what I care most about: perspective. Learning about people, where they come from, how they live and think is what fascinates me.  The learning communities Learning Life is building help keep me in touch with the world around me.  As Learning Life ambitiously tackles diplomacy and democracy both domestically and abroad, I feel motivated to help give people a voice in their own communities and to advocate for their rights and their needs.

World Family Stories Now on Youtube

Learning Life is pleased to announce that all seventeen of our family diplomats (FDs) family stories are now up at our Youtube Channel.  Through their stories drawn from their different vantage points in thirteen different countries, the FDs raised a range of ordinary and extraordinary issues families face, from leaving home and moving abroad, to the discrimination faced by those with disabilities, to the impacts of human trafficking and climate change.

In 2022, Learning Life launched the second phase of our Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI) with the first online international FD training in July to October 2022.  FDI is an ambitious, long-term, grassroots effort to connect, train and empower a growing international corps of family diplomats to participate in decision-making at local to global levels.  We envision a world more connected and caring because every family has one or more family diplomats, and those citizen diplomats advocate effectively via nonprofits, businesses, media and governments for the needs, concerns and aspirations of families worldwide.  

FDI’s Phase 1, launched in 2016, initiated live international family dialogues and connected a growing number of people (now over 14,000) worldwide to FDI on Facebook.  Phase 2 is focused on training a growing international corps of FDs with an eye, in Phase 3, to connecting these trained FDs to governments, nonprofits, businesses and media so that they can advocate effectively on issues that affect their family and other families like them, from cancer, depression and domestic violence, to war, climate change and migration. 

The seventeen FDs stories dealt with a range of issues facing families:

Afghanistan: Mohammad Siavash on war and refugee flight

Albania: Beltina Gjeloshi on identity and discrimination

Bangladesh: Nusrat Jahan Nipa on home and climate change

Cameron: Atenkeng Cynthia on disability and opportunity

Costa Rica: Gustavo Carvajal on immigration and opportunity

Georgia: Esma Gumberidze on hardship, sacrifice and fulfillment

Ghana: Aaron Yaw Akomea on investment in education

Liberia: Mulbah Isaac Flomo on the legacy of civil war

Liberia: Leroy Quoi on the power of a single mother

Nigeria: Chirunim Agi-Otto on human trafficking

Nigeria: Justice Umesi Onyekachi on primogeniture

Pakistan: Sami Noman on flooding and climate change

Trinidad & Tobago: Tenille Archie on tradition and standing for one’s self

USA: Chloe Terani on international health crisis

USA: Joe Toles on foster care and adoption

Zimbabwe: Ittie Chaunzar on activism and abduction

Zimbabwe: Tadiwa Mudede on disability and suicide

You can watch/listen to any of our FDs’ family stories here at Learning Life’s Youtube Channel.

Family Storytelling Workshops Lead to Animated Prize

On Sunday, January 29, Learning Life family diplomat (FD) trainees, Maria and Marvela Kavuma from Uganda, and Nusrat Jahan Nipa from Bangladesh, were awarded cartoon animations of their family stories.  The awards were the culmination of a series of storytelling workshops that ran from November 20, 2022 to January 29, 2023 led by Learning Life FD and Board of Directors Chair, Joe Toles

The workshops followed the successful completion of Learning Life’s first online international FD training in July to October 2022.  The training launched Phase 2 of Learning Life’s Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI).  FDI is an ambitious, long-term, grassroots effort to connect, train and empower a growing international corps of family diplomats to participate in decision-making at local to global levels.  We envision a world more connected and caring because every family has one or more family diplomats, and those citizen diplomats advocate effectively via nonprofits, businesses, media and governments for the needs, concerns and aspirations of families worldwide.  

FDI’s Phase 1, launched in 2016, initiated live international family dialogues and connected a growing number of people (now over 14,000) worldwide to FDI on Facebook.  Phase 2 is focused on training a growing international corps of FDs with an eye, in Phase 3, to connecting these trained FDs to governments, nonprofits, businesses and media so that they can advocate effectively on issues that affect their family and other families like them, from cancer, depression and domestic violence, to war, climate change and migration.     

Joe Toles’s own leadership advocating for the adoption of kids in foster care led him to create animated videos that told his own story (see screenshot above) of growing up in foster care to becoming the father to eight boys he adopted from foster care.  In 2020, Joe learned about FDI through one of his former students, then Learning Life intern, Solana Gibson.  In 2020 and 2021, Joe got involved in the series of international family dialogues on food culture then issues impacting family health that Learning Life organized, then the 2022 FD training.  He then proposed to lead a series of storytelling workshops to help FD trainees continue to develop their storytelling skills, and generously offered the most impactful storyteller the prize of an animated version of their family story.    

On January 29, five FD trainees from Uganda, Ghana, Liberia, Pakistan and Bangladesh competed for the prize, and given a close vote for the winner, Joe decided to award two rather than one prize.  The winners, Maria and Marvela, engaged in dialogue about preserving Uganda family culture while also uplifting the voices of girls, while Nusrat Jahan Nipa told the painful story of her aunt’s suicide after an argument in a large family living together under the same roof.  Stay tuned for the unveiling of their family stories, in animated form, in a future post at Learning Life’s website!   

Learning Life thanks Joe Toles for leading the workshops and generously sponsoring the animated story prizes, and our interns Anya Neumeister and Keilyhan Echevarría for assisting Joe by taking photos and attendance, answering our FD workshop participants’ questions, and providing feedback to improve their stories. Lastly, thanks to our other interns Ma’Shayla Hearns, Matt Turanchik, Dorothy Simon, Nate Escobar, Côme Joly, Maebelle Faragallah and Clare Rigney for attending the workshops finale to vote on the best story tellings. 

See photos from the workshops below.  To learn more about the FD training and how you can become an international family diplomat, click here.