Open Society Foundations Announce 2020 Puerto Rico Youth Fellows

San Juan, Jan. 13, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Open Society Foundations are pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of the Puerto Rico Youth Fellowships, which support young Puerto Rican leaders working to elevate justice, promote human rights, and help underserved communities in Puerto Rico.

The fellowship program, now in its second year, recognizes 10 recipients from all over the island""from central San Juan to the island of Vieques""working on a wide range of issues. Among the fellows' projects: teaching young people about food sovereignty, strengthening support for LGBTQPIA+ youth across the island, elevating the leadership of Black youth, and using art as a medium to spark political engagement by young Puerto Ricans.

"Puerto Rican youth have encountered some of the worst living conditions in generations, from Hurricane Maria to earthquakes to the pandemic," said Karina Claudio Betancourt, director of Open Society's Puerto Rico Project. "Despite these challenges, their leadership has transformed the political landscape of the island and has resulted in the ousting of the former governor Ricardo Rosell, and in the defeat of colonial bipartisan control of the Puerto Rican government."

Betancourt continued: "These projects reflect the vast range of ideas and initiatives that will help spur further transformation in Puerto Rico and will help build power and amplify the voices of communities too often left out of political and policy debates."

The Puerto Rico Youth Fellowships Program continues Open Society's commitment to investing in and building power among youth on the island. Open Society has been working in Puerto Rico since 2013, supporting a range of organizations, movements, and individuals that contribute to strengthening civil society, civic participation, transparency, and government accountability on the archipelago and in the diaspora. To date, Open Society has invested $20 million in Puerto Rico–related issues""and plans to continue to invest in the coming years.

"As a young Afro–Puerto Rican, I am proud of the opportunity to accompany and work with the new cohort of the Youth fellows," said Loidymar Duprey, co–coordinator of the fellowships. "In recent years, many Puerto Rican youth have had to leave the island in search of better opportunities, driven away by the panorama of challenges and crises that the archipelago is going through. These grants open the door for young people like me to reimagine their communities and advocate for social justice and human rights from and for their home. The goal is for these young people to continue dreaming, fighting, and paving the way for future generations of young leaders and activists from Puerto Rico that we deserve."

"It is an honor to participate again as coordinator of the Youth Fellowship""a program that in its second year continues to rely on the great power of Puerto Rican youth," said Alvaro Fernandez, fellowships co–coordinator. "In this new cohort, I see reflected the diversity and collective resistance of Puerto Rico's social movements""movements that despite so much uncertainty will not stop growing and strengthening. I see in these 10 young people the love they have for Puerto Rico and the courage they share to continue in the fight for a better future. I congratulate all of the recipients."

Fellowship recipients range in age between 18 and 27. They will receive up to $50,000 for working full–time on their projects for an 18–month period.

2020 Puerto Rico Youth Fellows

Edrimael Delgado Reyes (pronouns: he, him, his) will develop queer spaces for the LGBTQ+ community in Puerto Rico through LaBoriVogue, a laboratory using vogue as an agent of individual transformation and collective justice.

Luis Mi Rodrguez–Rodrguez (pronouns: they, her, hers) will create content for the LGBTQ+ community through Plvora Colectiva Cuir, a digital media collective generating safe spaces for discussion and debate within queer communities.

Camil Libert Valentn Arce (pronouns: she, her, hers) will develop Amarilla, a workshop and community garden offering resources for a more dignified life to the disadvantaged in Aguadilla through art and agroecology.

Cristian J. Laracuente Vzquez (pronouns: he, him, his) will lead Taller Lumpen, a project developing street art as a tool for education and socialization of essential resources to combat inequality in Mayagez.

Venus A. Pez Hernndez (pronouns: she, her, hers) will develop the S.A.L.V.A. project (Food Sovereignty Achieving Agroecological Vieques), with a mission to provide educational resources to promote agribusiness development.

Jesef Reyes Morales (pronouns: he, him, his) will develop Semillas de Apoyo Mutuo en Utuado, a project to promote food sovereignty and local organizing for the agricultural workers in Tetun, a community in Utuado.

Anna Margarita (pronouns: she, her, hers) is co–founder of Caribana Coop, a worker–owned co–op that seeks to create spaces and tools to reimagine our education and our economic, social and land relations.

Jun Daz Gonzlez (pronouns: he, they, theirs) will lead Flor de Loto, a mentorship project focusing on human rights and LGBTI youth in the area and surrounding communities of Caguas.

Mara Jos (pronouns: she, they, theirs) will develop House of Grace, a trans–feminist antiracist collective promoting mutual aid, economic justice, and artistic development for trans–feminine nonbinary individuals of color.

Cristian Eduardo Martnez Medina (pronouns: he, him, his) will develop Escuela de Liderazgo Poltico y Comunitario, a project seeking to support a community space for young Black leaders in Yabucoa.


Sabin Vaccine Institute Funds Researchers to Investigate COVID-19 Misinformation, Design Solutions to Increase Vaccine Acceptance

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) announced today that it has awarded grants to research teams in four countries to explore the social drivers of COVID–19 misinformation, and its impact on routine immunization acceptance and the acceptance of a COVID–19 vaccine.

The grants are part of Sabin's Social and Behavioral Interventions for Vaccination Acceptance Small Grants Program, which provides funding to researchers in low– and middle–income countries to better understand the social drivers of vaccination and design small–scale interventions to assess their impact on vaccination acceptance.

Five research teams in India, Kenya, Pakistan and Uganda will receive up to $30,000 to conduct this research and pilot a small–scale intervention in their respective communities over a period of 10 months.

Through this support, Sabin is encouraging collaborative, on–the–ground relationships between academic researchers, health officials and local communities. Grantees will have the opportunity to build relationships and have impactful conversations about their research and potential applications of social science for immunization with the Sabin–led interdisciplinary Vaccination Acceptance Research Network, an international group of social scientists and public health experts addressing vaccine acceptance and demand. Sabin will also support each research team in the compilation and dissemination of an open access journal publication, accessible to the communities in which the research is conducted. Due to the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic, all components of the projects will be conducted virtually to ensure the safety of the research teams and the communities they work with.

“It is more important than ever to better understand vaccine acceptance in low– and middle–income countries," said Kaitlin Christenson, vice president of Vaccine Acceptance & Demand at Sabin. “The expected introduction of a COVID–19 vaccine furthers the need to learn more about driving acceptance and demand for vaccines and to work with community immunization programs on intervention strategies, while continuing to improve overall immunization uptake."

The 2020 Sabin grantees include:

In India, Dr. Rajeev Seth, MBBS, MD, DNB, a senior consultant pediatrician leading Bal Umang Drishya Sanstha, a non–profit organization in New Delhi focused on child health and welfare for marginalized children, will lead a team of researchers to study community health worker perceptions of and misinformation surrounding vaccines. Co–investigators from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, represented by Baldeep Dhaliwal, MPH, and Dr. Anita Shet, MD, from the Department of International Health within the International Vaccine Access Center, will collaborate with Dr. Seth and a team of researchers on the project. The virtual study will employ multi–pronged community health worker interventions in the Mewat district of Haryana, India, to address barriers to vaccine acceptance.

In Kenya, Dr. Benson Wamalwa, MSc, PhD, research scientist and lecturer from the University of Nairobi, will lead a team to virtually study COVID–19 misinformation in trusted social networks with the goal of better understanding perceptions of COVID–19 and the community's willingness to accept a COVID–19 vaccine in Tans Nzoia, Kenya. The research team will then implement and evaluate an intervention that seeks to debunk COVID–19 misinformation through teleconsultations. Kenya Registered Nurse Chrysanthus Wamela, chief registrar of the maternal neonatal and child health unit of AMUA, joins the team as the co–investigator guiding the project.

In Pakistan, Abdul Momin Kazi, MPH, MBBS, assistant research professor in pediatrics and child health at Aga Khan University in Karachi, will lead a virtual research project to study the perceptions and barriers of childhood vaccination amongst health care workers and caregivers at a peri–urban site in Karachi. The research team will also explore the role of mobile health–based interventions and social media on improving childhood immunization during COVID–19. Dr. Fauzia Aman Malik, PhD, MSc, special advisor to the dean for global health research initiatives at Yale University, will serve as the co–investigator on the project.

Also in Pakistan, Rubina Qasim, MSc, a lead researcher and lecturer at Dow University of Health Science in Karachi, will lead a research team exploring misinformation surrounding COVID–19 and vaccination amongst urban slum dwellers in Landhi Town, Karachi. Following their research, the team will employ a co–design approach, working with community members to design and implement an appropriate intervention addressing COVID–19 misinformation and its impact on the acceptance of a COVID–19 vaccine. Dr. Mohammad Tahir Yousafzai, PhD, consultant epidemiologist and senior instructor at Aga Khan University, joins the project as the co–investigator.

In Uganda, Dr. Freddy Kitutu, PhD, a lecturer of health systems, pharmacist, and researcher and dean of the School of Health Sciences at Makerere University, will lead a team to study the prevalence and effect of misinformation in Buikwe District. Following their research, the team will train and empower community influencer groups to address COVID–19 misinformation and vaccine hesitancy. The virtual study will explore dialogue–based social mobilization intervention through community groups and influencers. Jacquellyn Nambi Ssanya, MPH, from Makerere University School of Public Health joins the project as the co–investigator.

About the Sabin Vaccine Institute

The Sabin Vaccine Institute is a leading advocate for expanding vaccine access and uptake globally, advancing vaccine research and development, and amplifying vaccine knowledge and innovation. Unlocking the potential of vaccines through partnership, Sabin has built a robust ecosystem of funders, innovators, implementers, practitioners, policy makers and public stakeholders to advance its vision of a future free from preventable diseases. As a non–profit with more than two decades of experience, Sabin is committed to finding solutions that last and extending the full benefits of vaccines to all people, regardless of who they are or where they live. At Sabin, we believe in the power of vaccines to change the world. For more information, visit www.sabin.org and follow us on Twitter, @SabinVaccine.

Media Contact:
Mary Beth Wooden
Sabin Vaccine Institute
+1 (202) 842–5025
press@sabin.org