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Global Gala Presenters & Commentators

Samira Fatma Baručija

Samira Fatma BaručijaSamira Fatma Baručija is from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and works as the Regional Coordinator for the United Religions Initiative Multiregion.

She is an activist, trying to facilitate dialog, interfaith work, and reinforce the importance of living together for the sake of peace and security. Most of her work nowadays is focused on peace building and creating cultures of peace.

For the most of her nine-year-long experience in civil society, Samira has been an educator trying to use the platform of non-formal education to raise awareness, motivate and empower individuals and groups, reinforcing their role in the change they want to see.

The work that Samira is doing locally is done through a youth led, youth founded organization called Youth for Peace.

She is also a part of the UNDP’s Global Youth Program as one of sixteen young people from around the world, working toward fulfilling the UN’s 2030 agenda.

Since 2014, Samira has been a Youth Leader for the United Religions Initiative.

Samira loves traveling and cooking.

Raffi Cavoukian

Raffi CavoukianRaffi Cavoukian is a renowned singer known by his first name alone, Raffi was a pioneer in quality recordings for children on his independent label, Troubadour.

For millions of fans, Raffi’s music was the soundtrack of their childhoods, and they took his signature song “Baby Beluga” to heart. These “beluga grads” now share his music with their own children. Raffi has been described by the Washington Post and the Toronto Star as “the most popular children’s entertainer in the English-speaking world” and “Canada’s all-time children’s champion.”

Raffi is a music producer, author, entrepreneur and ecology advocate. In 2010, he founded the Raffi Foundation for Child Honouring—a global movement that views honoring children as the best way to create sustainable, peacemaking cultures. Raffi has received the Order of Canada, the Order of BC, the U.N. Earth Achievement Award, and four honorary degrees.

In a career spanning four decades, Raffi has refused all commercial endorsement offers and has never taken part in advertising to children. He is a passionate supporter of a commercial-free childhood, and in 2006 was awarded the Fred Rogers Integrity Award for this work.

His recent work includes the CD, Motivational Songs, a collection of diverse songs for educators, parents and policy makers and companion album to the new Child Honouring online course — an interdisciplinary course in conscious living based on the Child Honoring Covenant and 9 principles.

Cathryn Christensen

Cathryn Christensen

Cathryn Christensen is a family physician. Her clinical and public health work focuses on community-based care models in both the United States and internationally. Most recently she has worked for the Institute for Family Health in New York City and as Clinical Partnerships Director for Village Health Works, Burundi.

She completed her medical training at Harvard Medical School and the Santa Rosa-USCF Family Medicine Residency. She received her MPH from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she was a Sommer Scholar.

Dr. Christensen is committed to transforming clinical culture to prioritize patient dignity, support care-givers, and recognize the interconnections between health and our environment.

Leymah Gbowee

Leymah GboweeLeymah Gbowee is the 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, a Liberian peace activist, social worker and women’s right advocate. Gbowee was 17 years old when the Liberian civil war started and turned her, in her own words, “from a child into an adult in a matter of hours.” Gbowee became a founding member and Liberia’s coordinator for the Women in Peacebuilding Network of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding. In addition, Gbowee became the founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa.

Gbowee’s story is told in the 2008 documentary film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” and in her 2011 memoir, “Mighty Be Our Powers.” She has a master’s degree in conflict transformation from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., and has received honorary doctorates from Rhodes University in South Africa, the University of Alberta in Canada and Polytechnic University in Mozambique.

Daniel Glick

Daniel GlickDaniel is an Emmy-winning producer, writer, director and editor. His first feature documentary, A Place to Stand, the powerful true story of poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, was broadcast on PBS in 2019 and won two Telly Awards.

Daniel’s has directed both fiction and nonfiction and his short-form work has garnered three Emmy nominations, one Emmy win, several film festival awards and covers a wide range of themes, including social justice and indigenous rights.

Rick Hanson

Rick HansonRick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and New York Times best-selling author.

His six books have been published in 30 languages and include Neurodharma, Resilient, Hardwiring Happiness, Just One Thing, Buddha’s Brain, and Mother Nurture—with over a million copies in English alone.

His free newsletters have 220,000 subscribers and his online programs have scholarships available for those with financial needs.

He’s lectured at NASA, Google, Oxford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. An expert on positive neuroplasticity, his work has been featured on the CBS, NPR, the BBC, and other major media.

He began meditating in 1974 and is the founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom.

He and his wife live in northern California and have two adult children. He loves wilderness and taking a break from emails.

Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro

Dr. Musimbi KanyoroDr. Musimbi Kanyoro has been Chair of the UWC International Board since 2019. She is a member of the UN Global Compact Board and serves as Senior Advisor to “Target Gender Equality”, an accelerator programme of the UN Global Compact supporting companies in setting and meeting ambitious targets for women’s leadership. She is also the Board Chair of the Women’s Learning Partnerships (WLP), and serves on the Boards of the London School of Economics (LSE) and CARE International (CI). 

Musimbi Kanyoro is an accomplished leader with more than three decades of experience leading international organizations. She is the immediate past President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, a leading philanthropic foundation supporting women and girls’ social movements for gender equality. Dr. Kanyoro worked for David and Lucile Packard as Director for Population and Reproductive Health. Prior to moving into Philanthropy in the USA, Kanyoro  spent twenty years in Geneva, Switzerland: the first ten years with the Lutheran World Federation as Executive Director for Women and Church and Society, and the next with the World YWCA, where she made history as the first non-white General Secretary (CEO) in 150 years history of the YWCA Movement.

Kanyoro received a Ph.D in Linguistics from the University of Texas in Austin and a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She was also a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Divinity in Old Testament and Hebrew Studies. Musimbi Kanyoro has held leadership positions in Research of Languages, Human Rights and Philanthropy.  

Kanyoro is the recipient of numerous awards over the years including a recognition as one of the 21 Women Leaders for the 21st Century by Women’s E-News. In 2015, Forbes named her as one of the 10 power brands working for gender equality and in 2016 she was recognized on a list of “Forty over 40 – women who are reinventing, and disrupting and making an impact”. In 2018, she was named among the 100 people making a difference in gender policy,  and in 2019 she was recognised as one of the nine people who fought for the planet alongside Bill Gates, Ban Ki-moon and Michael Bloomberg.

Tracy Kidder

Tracy KTracy Kidder graduated from Harvard and studied at the University of Iowa. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award, and many other literary prizes.

His books include
 The Soul of a New Machine, House, Among Schoolchildren, Old Friends, Home Town, Mountains Beyond Mountains, My Detachment, Strength in What Remains, and (with Richard Todd) Good Prose.

Kidder lives in Massachusetts and Maine.

Colum McCann

Colum McCannColum McCann is the author of seven novels and three collections of stories. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, he has been the recipient of many international honours, including the National Book Award, the International Dublin Impac Prize, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish arts academy, several European awards, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, and an Oscar nomination. In 2017 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts.  His work has been published in over 40 languages.

He is the co-founder of the non-profit global story exchange organisation, Narrative 4, and he teaches at the MFA program in Hunter College.  He lives in New York with his wife, Allison, and their family.

Sharon McKenna

Sharon McKennaSharon McKenna spent her youth in Vermont, New England. When she was seven years old, right after the end of World War II, she and her parents welcomed survivors of the concentration camp into their home.

In 7th grade, Sharon first heard about the United Nations from a beloved teacher. Later, in high school at Hanover High, Sharon gave a speech about the United Nations. Her speech garnered her a trip to New York to visit.  

Sharon was one of two students who were chosen as community ambassadors in the Experiment in International Living, the predecessor to the Peace Corp. Sharon went to France where she met her peers. Upon her return, she gave many talks about her experience, and underscored how knowing even one person from another country would make people less willing to bomb that country.  

Sharon began her college career at Wellesley, eventually transferring to Manhattanville, where she met a renowned scholar of scripture, Mother Catherine Sullivan. Mother Sullivan encouraged Sharon to return to Europe in the summer after her junior year. With a letter of introduction from the Bishop of Vermont in her pocket, which stated in part, “please give this waif shelter,” Sharon set sail for Europe, landing in Rotterdam, traveling down the Rhine, and riding the Orient Express through Yugoslavia to Northern Greece and then across to Istanbul.  She got off at Aleppo where she took a ”desert taxi” to Jordan and into Israel. She stayed with some Benedictine nuns on the Mount of Olives. While there, she met a French couple who invited her to join them and their guide to see the Palestinian part. They also invited her to stay with them in Paris. During her summer, Sharon also spent time in Greece and Italy. 

Sharon graduated from Manhattanville in the Spring of 1960 and entered the contemplative order of the Benedictine Monastery, where she stayed for 30 years. She loved her life there, a simple nun who worked the farm, milking cows, making hard cheeses, and caring for 100 grapevines, gathering  together with her fellow nuns 7 times a day to chant. She left the order in 1990. She traveled to New York and lived for a month with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and then, in searching the churches for a place to live, she met a pastor who invited her to work there. The Church was Saint Thomas More where she has been a sacristan for more than 32 years. In her free time Sharon likes to listen to free speech tv and is a big fan of Amy Goodman. 

Sharon has touched so many lives, including  Deo’s. During a most difficult time in his life, she made Deo realize, despite everything he had been through - having fled Burundi during the civil war with $200 in his pocket, and living homeless in Central Park - there were still people out there who cared.  She helped Deo keep his hope and dreams alive as he created a new life here in the United States. 

Sharon  gives beyond what she, herself, keeps.  She lives a shockingly frugal life – sharing a cupcake with a friend, ripping a napkin in half to use now and later. The earth and people are sacred to Sharon.  Everything and everyone are worth saving.  Her sense of pride is much different from many; while most people buy food in a grocery store, Sharon knows what time and day food unfit to sell is thrown away and uses it instead. She rescues that food so that her money can rescue others. She does all this, so she has money to help others.  

Dr. Victoria Mora

Dr Victoria MoraDr. Victoria Mora, UWC-USA's fifth president, a UWC education is personal.

A first-generation college graduate from a large, traditional New Mexico family, Victoria saw up close the power of the UWC model when her child attended school in Montezuma, graduating in 2013.

Growing up in a lower middle-class family in the West Mesa neighborhood of Albuquerque with five siblings, she credits the support of her family as she pursued her educational goals at the University of New Mexico and later Yale University.

Victoria graduated with a degree in English and Philosophy from UNM in 1985 and completed her Ph.D. from Yale in 1992.

Returning to New Mexico, she worked as a tutor (faculty member) at St. John's College in Santa Fe from 1992 until she became the Dean of the college in 2006.

As Chief Academic Officer, she was responsible for the academic program of the College, coordinated accreditation efforts, launched the St. John's Summer Academy for high-school students, and increased student domestic diversity and international diversity dramatically.

In 2011, Victoria assumed the role of Vice President for advancement and ultimately Senior Vice President for development and alumni relations across both campuses of St. John's.

Jennifer Nadel

jennifer nadelJennifer Nadel is a qualified barrister, author, political strategist, activist and award-winning television journalist.

She has reported for the BBC, Channel Four News and was ITN’s Home Affairs editor. Her report exposing the use of rape as a weapon of war in Bosnia was used by UN war crimes investigators and she’s reported extensively on how the law discriminates against women.

Her most recent book, WE, charts how to bring about individual and societal change.

Her father came to the UK on the Kindertransport.

She is on the board of INQUEST, a charity which supports families whose relatives have died in custody. Currently, Jennifer is the CEO of the Global Compassion Coalition.

Fabrice Nkurunziza

Fabrice NkurunzizaFabrice Nkurunziza is an Artist in singer and music skills, a poet and music writer of traditional songs. He is also the Manager of Arts, Culture and Sport service within Village Health works in Burundi. He is a founding member of the Ihunja Cultural Club. 

Born in 1985 in Mwaro, he is the son of a farming father and mother. Fabrice had a very early acquaintance with Burundian culture. He began designing traditional songs at a very young age. He is also skilled in pastoral poetry, in the manufacture and use of traditional recorders which are best played in Burundi. 

 It was in 2011 at the IST university that he got to know the other holders of Burundian culture guys. They jointed efforts to create the IHUNJA Cultural club. The club released albums and video clips in 2013. From 2014, Fabrice joined Village Health Works and began working in the IT department as an EMAR/OC AND USER Support. His cultural success enabled him to revitalize the Arts, Culture and Sport service of which he later became Manager.  

During his childhood, he used to shepherd caws, and hence from that, he learned the pastoral poetry. He developed it later, drew words to write and sing new songs which are currently played all over the country during wedding-based ceremonies.  Apart from his IT skills: Bachelor’s degree in computer science, he won many awards from competitions organized by well-known organizations in Burundi and he is very famous in the whole country through his traditional songs. He is also remarked from his achievements such as holding Peace building concerts in VHW catchment area using songs from his albums.  

He won many awards including the Ijunja ranked best club because of his songs in 2011, 2012 and 2013; he is always awarded the best singer, songwriter, and composer from 2013 until 2022 in IHUNJA culture club, and the same club was proclaimed Club of the 50th anniversary of the Independence of Burundi. Other certificates he got are Village Health Works certificate of achievement (2014), VHW certificate of recognition (2016), VHW Gender Mainstreaming Training Certificate, Two WASH trainee and trainer certificates, Kigutu culture team get the first place in national competition in 2021, Certificates of completion of online courses in Project management, Leadership, Monitoring & Evaluation from the University of Washington to mention a few. For more information on Fabrice Nkurunziza, find it on his YouTube and Ihunja YouTube channels.  

Kasha Slavner

Kasha SlavnerKasha Sequoia Slavner is a Gen-Z, multi-award-winning first-time documentary filmmaker who comes to the profession as a seasoned photographer, entrepreneur and social justice advocate for over a decade. She was only 15 when she founded The Global Sunrise Project, a youth-led media hub for social good and 16 years old when she set out across the world for six months to make her first feature documentary The Sunrise Storyteller, which she completed upon returning to high school. Since it’s release in 2017 it has screened at 60+ festivals and won 30 awards, including the Ron Kovic Peace Prize for the segment on Vietnam napalm survivor Kim Phuc, as well as the Eva Haller, Women Transforming Media Award.

Using her passion for visual storytelling to make the world a better place, she was selected as the recipient of the very first Kim Phuc Youth Award for Peace. In addition, Kasha was selected for the class of 2017 Global Teen Leaders by legendary music producer Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation & TEDxTeen and was also selected into the inaugural cohort of the We Global Learning Centre's new social entrepreneurship program.

In 2018 she was chosen by Yunus & Youth as one of their Fellows and in 2019 selected by Global Changemakers to join their cohort. Most recently this committed changemaker became a Diana Award Holder, for sustaining positive social change in the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales.

In 2019 she was chosen to be part of the inaugural launch of projects selected for the Voices of SDG16+ at the United Nations High Level Political Forum. In September 2019, she spoke to over 750+ students at the United Nations for The International Day of Peace Student Observance on the topic of climate & peace.

Recently she became a 2021 Climate Ambassador of the Global Youth Climate Network, a liaison for the One Better World Collective and a 2021 Pathfinders Trailblazer for Peace One Day Space Transformer. Kasha is an 12x UN Youth Delegate, presenter, adjudicator and a long-time member of The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, the former Ontario Regional Advisor for the Canadian Council of Young Feminists.

She is a Pacey Award Finalist. Most recently selected as one of the Wonder Grantees for Sustainability by the Shawn Mendes Foundation.

Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp

Rabbi SoetendorpRabbi Awraham Soetendorp is an award-winning humanitarian, lecturer, writer, environmental activist and champion of civil society. Born to a Jewish family in 1943 in Amsterdam, he was saved by a righteous ‘non-jew’ couple and survived as a ‘hidden child.'

After WWII Rabbi Soetendorp went on to receive his ordination from Leo Baeck College of London in 1967 and helped to reestablish Jewish communities throughout the Netherlands.
 
He is the Rabbi Emeritus of the liberal Jewish congregation of Beth Jehuda in The Hague and former President of the European Region of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
 
He is the co-chair of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival that played a leading role in fostering a dialogue between spiritual leaders and governmental representatives at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
 
He serves as President of Green Cross – Netherlands and is a founding member of the Islam-West dialogue group of the World Economic Forum.
 
He is an Earth Charter Commissioner, co-chairs the international Earth Charter Task Force on Religion, Spirituality and Ethics and has established the Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values that helps to build bridges between the cultures, spiritual traditions, and generations. Rabbi Soetendorp is a recipient of numerous honors, including the Peacebuilders Award (2005), the Gold Medallion “Peace Through Dialogue” awarded by the International Council of Christians and Jews (2007), the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award granted by the Interfaith Center of New York (2008) and the Juliet Hollister Interfaith Award (2012).

In 1994, he was honored by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands with the Royal Distinction as an Officer of the House of Orange.

Lucia Ortega Toledo

Lucia Ortega ToledoLucia Ortega Toledo wrote and co-directed her first two fiction shorts, Belonging and Mother Earth, in 2020. She started work on her first feature documentary, HumanKind, in 2019.

For the past 6 years she has collaborated on commercial projects, documentaries and short films, including the Emmy-winning film Iniskim.

She is a fellow with the 2021 Fourth World Indigenous Lab.

Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu

Rev. Nontombi Naomi TutuRev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu knew from early in life that the one thing she would never be is a priest. She has always said, “I have my father’s nose, I do not want his job” However, after years spent as a development consultant, educator and race and gender activist she accepted her call to ordained ministry. She is an Episcopal priest who most recently was Associate Rector at All Saints, Beverly Hills.

The challenges of growing black and female in apartheid South Africa have been the foundation of Naomi’s life as an activist for human rights. Those experiences taught her that our whole human family loses when we accept situations of oppression, and how the teaching and preaching hate and division injure us all.

Rev. Tutu is the third child Archbishop Desmond and Nomalizo Leah Tutu. She was born in South Africa and had the opportunity to live in many communities and countries. She was educated in Swaziland, the US and England, and has divided her adult life between South Africa and the US. Growing up the ‘daughter of …’ has offered Naomi Tutu many opportunities and challenges in her life. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges she has struggled with is the call to ministry. This call refused to be silenced, even as she carried her passion for justice into other fields, the call to preach and serve as an ordained clergyperson continued to tug at her. Finally, in her 50’s she responded to the call and went to seminary.

Her professional experience ranges from being a development consultant in West Africa, to being program coordinator for programs on Race and Gender and Gender-based Violence in Education at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. In addition, Rev. Tutu has taught at the University of Hartford, University of Connecticut and Brevard College in North Carolina. She served as Program Coordinator for the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University and was a part of the Institute’s delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban.

Background Art "Love" by ZaHaVa Sherez, Featured artist for the Global Gala

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