Meet our 2016 Global Leader, Celina de Sola

Celina de Sola is a Salvadorian humanitarian and the innovative force behind Glasswing International, a non-profit that specializes in public education, health, and violence prevention programs to empower and transform vulnerable communities. As Vice President of programming, she has a vision to shift paradigms and unify people in ways that focus on sustainable outcomes, and building systems through unique and effective programming.

Celina has over 17 years of experience in international development and social change and worked for AmeriCare before co-founding Glasswing International. She has been named a 2016 Tällberg Foundation Global Leader, along with Eleni Antoniadou, Christiana Figueres, Sunitha Krishnan and Thuli Madonsela. In that context, Celina recently discussed the issues that drive her work.

What led to the creation of Glasswing International?

After working as a clinical social worker and then working in conflict zones and emergency response for six years with AmeriCares, I worked in the Middle East, Africa, {and} in Asia. A lot of what I was doing there was responding to crises. It was an immediate response model. A lot of the time I felt like, although we were meeting a very specific need, I also felt like we weren’t doing enough to build the capacity of the countries we were working in, the capacity of the public sector, in particular, the clinics, the schools. I started to think more and more that I wanted to get involved in a way that would have a more sustainable impact on the countries.

How do you ensure that the change that you start actually carries through in the long term?

We’re now consolidating our model which involves not just the after school programs and the parental engagement and the teacher training and the volunteerism, but an entire process of systemizing. We’re now sharing that model with other organizations and the Ministry of Education directly in a way that they can implement that directly in schools without us really needing to be involved. At the end of the day, it’s more of an engagement and mobilization exercise than having to have an organization always implement that.

One of your goals is reducing violence. Do you see that happening?

This is an important question because I think a lot of times the indicators used for violence reduction are limited to either arrests or homicides. I think that violence prevention in the community in general is starting to understand that those aren’t ideal measures. Although those are the initial ways that we were evaluated by our donors or partners, our evaluation is more on an individual level with the young people that we’re working with. We look at how violence is prevented and we study it. Now we’re looking at it even from a neuroscience standpoint. We look at indicators, not only the life skill indicators. We look at self-efficacy; relationships with peers, family, teachers, {and} skills specifically. Then we’re looking also at kids. We know that kids are less likely to drop out if they’re in our programs. We look at incidences of counseling that they’re involved in. This is our school-based programming.

What will success look like in ten years time for Glasswing?

In ten years time, we would like our community school’s model to become part of what the Ministries of Education do in the public schools to address all the risk factors that children have. That will influence both poverty and violence. We’re also hoping our regional level will start making our societies more trauma informed. We believe that if people understand trauma and the mechanisms of trauma, they’ll understand why someone is behaving the way they are. It’s not because they’re born a violent person. It’s because there’s something going on. The child is misbehaving because something is going on, not because they’re a bad kid. For us, it’s really important to start elevating trauma and to understand that violence is a mental health issue that we can address if we just start to understand it and put it on a higher platform.

I’m not sure we can do it in ten years. I do think we can systematize the way we work across sectors and mobilize people and understand people as a resource.