Ana Monzon Promotes UN Recovery Month at U.S. HHS

Ana Monzon is a joint MPA/MAIR student and a Robertson Fellow. She is currently finishing her MAIR degree at Sciences Po in Paris, France.

Maxwell Professor Mike Wasylenko; Ana Monzon’s HHS Supervisor, Director of Office of Consumer Affairs-Ivette Torres; Ana Monzon; Dean of the Maxwell School-David Van Slyke, Professor and Dean Emeritus John Palmer at the University Club in Washington D.C. during a Robertson Foundation for Government Fellowship event.

While taking classes in Washington D.C. through the Maxwell School’s Global Security & Development Program, I interned with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I worked on issues of mental health and substance use disorders under the leadership of the Associate Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Given my experience in international outreach and coordination, I was tasked with extending National Recovery Month (see President Obama’s Proclamation of the 2016 National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month here: observance and its related benefits internationally, both internally with SAMHSA’s Office of Global Affairs and externally with global partners.

In promoting the official recognition of Recovery Month by the United Nations, I drafted a Policy Memo and Talking Points for SAMHSA’s Director for the Center for Mental Health Services to utilize in high-level discussions at the Mental Health Gap Action Programme Forum at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) headquarters in Geneva. I helped draft the recommendations for the Position Papers on Non-Communicable Diseases and Alcohol for the United Nation’s Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) 55th Directing Council Meeting held in September. We recommended, among other things, for PAHO member countries to designate an annual monthly observance dedicated to lauding the benefits of recovery from mental health and substance use disorders. As a result of ongoing discussion and meetings, SAMHSA garnered support from Senior Directors from PAHO and the President of the World Health Federation for Mental Health to include the theme of Recovery in their organizations’ celebrations of International Wellness Day and International Mental Health Day, in April and October of 2017, respectively.

I am in front of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) of the World Health Organization after a meeting with Senior Advisors of PAHO’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health Department.

At the grassroots level, I gathered information from and reached out to organizations working in Recovery initiatives in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Mexico, El Salvador, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Canada, Australia, and the U.K. I worked to institutionalize some of these international organizations as SAMHSA’s leading International Planning Partners. As such, these international organizations will now be able to officially partake in the planning of the 2017 Recovery Month, along with over 200 domestic organizations across the nation, under the leadership of SAMHSA. Their role as Planning Partners will allow these civil society organizations abroad to garner stronger support from essential agencies in their countries (e.g., National Ministries of Health, and Regional Offices of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and WHO).

For my future career in the federal government, lessons of leadership and public management from high-level staff in SAMHSA will prove invaluable. At a personal level, I take with me the incredible stories of human resilience of women and men who are grateful for the voice and visibility SAMHSA gives them in their journey to long-term Recovery, through public grants and/or Recovery Month efforts. I have learned a great deal about the human experience and struggle brought about by these behavioral health conditions, and I believe to be a more compassionate person today because of this internship opportunity.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Administrator, Sylvia Matthews Burwell
I am at the National Press Club in the 2016 National Recovery Month Luncheon.
Ana Monzon at the HHS Office in Rockville, Maryland

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Camila Urbina Escobar, Stopping Malnutrition with World Food Programme in Timor-Leste

Map of Timor-Leste & location on the globe
Map of Timor-Leste & location on the globe

Camila Urbina is a joint MPA/MAIR student who secured her internship at WFP by writing directly to country offices and looking outside well known locations. For her Fall 2016 Semester, she plans to study at Sciences Po in Paris through one of SU’s World Partner Programs.

Amongst the amazing opportunities the Maxwell School has provided me during my joint degree, this summer was certainly the most life-changing. I could have never imagined the incredible professional and personal experiences and growth that awaited me while working for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste is one of the newest countries in the world, the proud and resilient Timorese gained their independence from Indonesia after a terrifying war only 16 years ago. With one million inhabitants and a young government, Timor is navigating post-conflict, much like my native Colombia, with the help of the UN.

The country has the world’s worst stunting in the world and some of the worst malnutrition numbers in Asia; this is why the World Food Programme is supporting the Timorese Ministry of Heath to conduct a mother and child nutrition programme. The programme provides nutrition screenings, education and supplementary foods for pregnant and lactating mothers and malnourished children under two years old in 6 of the most critically malnourish municipalities in the island nation. WFP is also providing technical assistance and capacity building to the Timorese so that they may eventually take full control of the program.

My three months were divided into working in the main office in the capital Dili, supporting the monitoring and evaluation department, and working in the field, providing food and nutrition education for the country’s most remote and malnourished communities in the mountains of enclave province of Oecusse.

The WFP country office in Timor is aiming at creating a social accountability mechanism to include in their nutrition program. During my time in Dili, I was tasked with creating a benchmark of the mechanisms and strategies used by those other UN agencies and NGOs in Timor to get feedback from communities and help put together a proposal to create the country office’s own social accountability system. Furthermore I was in charge of creating a gender action plan for the office, based on the guidelines provided by WFP headquarters in Rome, in order to help materialize WFP’s commitment to women empowerment and gender balance in all aspect of their work. I also supported various communication needs, writing stories, interviews and particularly covering the work in the field during international Breastfeeding week.

It was a profoundly enriching experience to be a part of the country’s learning process in matters of nutrition and social resilience and to experience not only the challenge of working with government in a different culture but more importantly the joy of serving in the remote and beautiful villages. This summer was an incredible experience, serving the resilient and loving Timorese and living amongst the wild and the unbridled beauty of their island-home has provided me with new perspectives on humanitarian work and given me the opportunity to practice all the theory provided by the Maxwell School to the benefit of the most vulnerable.

Camila Urbina in Maquelab, Timor-Leste screening a child for malnutrition on June 22, 2016
Camila Urbina in Maquelab, Timor-Leste screening a child for malnutrition on June 22, 2016
Camila Urbina celebrating Breastfeeding Week with mothers in Oecilo, Timor-Leste on August 3, 2016
Camila Urbina celebrating Breastfeeding Week with mothers in Oecilo, Timor-Leste on August 3, 2016
Camila Urbina in a nutrition screening with the community in Oecusse, Timor Leste on June 22 2016
Camila Urbina in a nutrition screening with the community in Oecusse, Timor Leste on June 22 2016