On November 3 2017, we lost a beloved colleague and friend, Diana Ware. Even though she was with Wasafiri for only eight months, she had a lasting impression on all of us, and it was important to us as a community to ensure that her legacy and spirit live on within our organisation. And last year, we inaugurated the annual Diana Ware Award to do just that.
At our annual retreat in January 2018, we sat together and shared the characteristics about Diana that meant the most to us. The list was exhaustive. In the end, we identified four criteria that we wanted the award to embody:
- Inspiring courage and integrity in trying to tackle the world’s toughest problems.
- Going above and beyond and always striving to do better.
- Showing care and compassion for others.
- And doing it all with a little bit of joy and flare.
This year’s nominees embody exactly those characteristics and live up to all we sought to honour in Diana’s memory.
Vishalini Lawrence has dedicated the past 5+ years to working to improve the lives of Somali citizens through the TIS + and SSF programs. She approaches this work with courage and integrity by placing the Somali people above all other interests, making her work often times politically challenging and risky, but she is unwilling to compromise her convictions in her work. Vishalini quite literally beams love. She treats her colleagues, friends, anyone who passes through her house, as close family and would stop at nothing to make them feel loved and supported. After being trapped in the SSF office for hours during the Riverside attack, Vishalini sprang into action in the following days to support and hold up the families of the colleagues lost to the attack, Feisal and Abdalla, and her traumatised colleagues, despite herself having endured a horrific experience. And no matter how busy, stressed, overworked or tired she is, she shows up with a smile and with a contagious laugh.
Aden Mohamud started as by far Wasafiri’s youngest and least experienced researcher and has developed into the most steadfast, humble, and knowledgeable researcher we have at Wasafiri, within just a year and a half. He has single handedly developed a network of people in Garissa that identify and influence people to not join extremist groups, by coaching young sheikhs in preventing violent extremism. Aden’s commitment to his work, to preventing extremism within his community, and to gaining a deeper understanding of how extremist groups operate and recruit is nothing short of courageous. He is on the front lines every day, embedded within the community, trying to influence and inspire others to fight against the extremist threat in north-eastern Kenya. He has a unique ability to engage and create rapport with every member of Wasafiri, whether staff or consultant. Lastly, he always is always dressed in the sharpest shoes.
Fiona Napier, a Wasafiri consultant, is driven by an urge to see positive change despite challenging environments. She has gone above and beyond in her efforts to make extreme poverty history in Kenya in the decade ahead, constantly thinks of strategic opportunities to influence people and mine information to advance the objective. Fiona is a keen listener and she is willing to learn and adapt to make things work; she learns from others from all ages and backgrounds. She always wants to learn more about her team members to understand how to interact with them better. Fiona has been very motivational on every team she’s been on, and when people have had challenges and failed to know how to address them, Fiona was always the person to turn to for support.
We had a very tough challenge ahead of us to select a winner from these three amazing nominees. Ultimately, Aden Mohamud won this year’s Diana Ware Award.