Kari Kerr, director of community innovations with the Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC), has been selected to travel to Myanmar as a U.S. outbound participant in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Professional Fellows Program (PFP).
In May, CVIC hosted two of the six YSEALI Professional Fellows who came to Grand Forks as part of an exchange sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, through the University of Montana’s partnership with the University of North Dakota Center for Innovation. The fellows had expertise in business entrepreneurship, sexual violence prevention, healthcare and environmental science.
Naw Kyu Ju Ni, a sexual violence prevention coordinator with the Tearfund in Lashio, Myanmar, works with victims and survivors of violence and educates her community, partners and church leaders on positive masculinity. During her fellowship she observed CVIC programs and learned about services the agency provides greater Grand Forks to enhance safety and healing for victims of violence, as well as prevention and education programs it provides.
She was, Kerr said, particularly interested in CVIC’s Safer Tomorrows Road Map, a plan to end violence in two generations, and equally impressed by the good working relationships CVIC has with local government, community agencies and law enforcement partners.
Kerr, a native of Grand Forks who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UND, will now extend CVIC’s partnership with Ju Ni, traveling to Yangon, Myanmar to support her work and implement an action plan she created while in Grand Forks.
“I am inspired by the work Ju Ni is doing to help victims of sexual violence in the extreme conditions she described,” Kerr said. Many areas of the country are remote, with travel and communication difficult. Some victims, Kerr said, travel days to reach services.
“In three short weeks, we built a lifetime connection with Ju Ni. I am honored to have the opportunity to go to Myanmar and support her work,” Kerr said. “The Center for Innovation’s efforts to bring YSEALI fellows program to our region is providing one more way Grand Forks professionals are making a global impact.”
The Center for Innovation hosted the fellows in partnership with the University of Montana’s Mansfield Center, connecting them with professional placements, or “fellowships” and homestays. The Center invited UND’s participation to expand YSEALI’s geographic footprint. In addition, the Center for Innovation’s connections with the Grand Forks business community—as well as the town’s and university’s welcoming atmosphere—were in alignment with the professional goals of the YSEALI fellows.
“The Center for Innovation was excited to support the YSEALI Professional Fellows Program because it provided a unique opportunity to bring together social innovators and community leaders with amazing young professionals from South East Asia,” said Amy Whitney, Center for Innovation director. “The Center fostered new collaborations in Grand Forks, Montana and with many amazing young professionals internationally. It is humbling to have great community partners such as Kari and CVIC and to help them expand the impact of their work on a global scale.”
Kerr’s travel dates and itinerary are under development. She said she will travel to a number of locations while there, meeting with community and civil society leaders.
The YSEALI Professional Fellows Program is managed by the Mansfield Center at the University of Montana and funded by U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to provide opportunities for professionals in Southeast Asian countries for hands-on learning in shared issues by enhancing leadership and professional skills in civic engagement.