Colleen Denny

Colleen is currently a candidate at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in the Master of International Public Policy program with an affiliation in Conflict Management and will graduate in December 2018. Colleen is a native of Buffalo, NY and graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science and a commissioning as an Ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard. Immediately following graduation, she served on the Coast Guard Cutter FORWARD. In January 2010, the FORWARD responded to an earthquake that struck Port Au Prince, Haiti. As a responder, she led the first shore excursions into Port Au Prince to provide medical care and deliver humanitarian supplies. She was also responsible for coordinating helicopter medical evacuations in and out of the harbor. In 2011, she sailed with the FORWARD to Western Africa where she trained the newly created Liberian Coast Guard, Senegalese Navy, and Sierra Leone Navy. After completing another at-sea assignment and then a shore-side special staff assignment, in 2015, she transferred to serve as the Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Cutter DONALD HORSLEY, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While captain of the ship, the crew netted over $7 million in illicit narcotics, successfully interdicted multiple human smugglers, and conducted Search and Rescue operations in the Caribbean which resulted in seven lives saved. After returning from his fellowship over the summer, Colleen discussed with AP the impacts the fellowship had on him. "Working with CPI Kenya and doing actual peacebuilding work in the field was an invaluable experience. My 10 weeks taught me so much and exposed me to how the dedicated work of just a few individuals at CPI Kenya has completely transformed the communities of thousands of pastoralist families. It also showed me how resilient the human spirit is; the families and children we worked with have struggled through so much, yet are still kind, generous and optimistic. It was truly an incredible and humbling experience."

Reflections From 31,000 Feet

06 Jun

The 2018 AP Peace Fellows!

Hello from 31,000 feet above the North Atlantic! As I write this first blog, I’m sitting in row 22 of the first leg of my journey to Nairobi, Kenya. Despite the length of this first flight (13 hours, woof!), I find myself incredibly excited. For the last five days, the nine other Peace Fellows and I went through training with the Advocacy Project (AP) to prepare us for our work this summer in Kenya, Uganda, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, and Jordan. While our fellowships this summer will be very different, (click here if you want to read about the other fellowships!) we all formed friendships and a unique bond over the work we’ll be doing this summer and the passion we all have for grass-roots organizations leading to social change.

To give some background and a better understanding of what I’ll be doing this summer, it’s important to first understand what the Advocacy Project is. AP is a non-profit organization whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless and to help marginalized communities take action to protect their rights. AP does this by partnering with community-based organizations (CBO’s) around the world, sending a Peace Fellow to work with them for 10 weeks to help strengthen their organization by telling their story, helping develop their programs, assisting in fundraising efforts, helping develop their IT and social media, and boosting their international promotion.

Iain (Executive Director of AP) and Karen (Program Manager of AP) hold a quilt that was made by female Iraqi and Syrian refugees in Jordan, who are helped by AP’s partner the Collateral Repair Project

What makes AP so different from other non-profits and NGO’s is that AP recognizes the strength of local solutions for local problems. While a practice may work in one part of the world, it may not work in another, and that is why AP partners with community-based organizations to try and help effect change. I love this model; it empowers CBO’s across the globe while recognizing that rubber-stamp solutions are not as effective as grass-root solutions.

That is why I am heading to Kenya to spend 10 weeks working in Nairobi, Baringo County, and Samburu County with the Children Peace Initiative Kenya! AP and CPI Kenya have been in partnership for three years now; I will write more in my next blog about CPI Kenya and the righteous work they do, but if you’re curious feel free to check them here .

Caroline and Lara interview Lindsey as part of our film training

Keeping all that in mind, AP conducted five days of intense training for us Peace Fellows, covering subjects such as blogging, conducting interviews, security, cultural sensitivity, podcasting, video editing, photography, crowdsourcing, budgeting, website building, monitoring and evaluation, and much more. We shared our goals for this summer, our hopes, our fears, our concerns, our excitement, and of course we shared a pint or two together at the closing reception 🙂

#TeamNepal – Komal, Caroline, Michelle, Lara, & Lindsey all head to various parts of Nepal as AP Peace Fellows, and Nity (from Nepal) will be supporting them as an AP intern!

Our training wrapped up Sunday evening with a going-away reception at AP’s offices, where we toasted to the incredible directors Iain and Karen and said our goodbyes. Unfortunately, I had to call it quits earlier than I wanted, but if you know me then you can probably guess that I hadn’t started my packing yet. And 15 hours after I started packing I was wheels-up, en route Nairobi!

#TeamAfrica – Alex, Chris and I are the 3 Peace Fellows working in Africa for the next 10 weeks. I head to Kenya to work with the children in warring pastoral tribes, Alex heads to Zimbabwe to work to end child marriage, and Chris heads to Uganda to help build handicap-accessible latrines in schools!

As I sit here on the plane I know that trying to sleep is fruitless; the adrenaline I have for reaching Nairobi and meeting the wonderful people at CPI Kenya is way too high. I’ll wrap this up by thanking you for reading through the whole blog and asking you to continue reading it (I’ll be posting one a week) and if you like it, then feel free to share it!



Posted By Colleen Denny

Posted Jun 6th, 2018


  • Pat Herberger

    June 6, 2018


    Thanks for sharing Colleen! Hope you packed sunscreen. I know you’ll do great work! 🙂

    • Colleen Denny

      June 7, 2018


      Thanks Aunt Pat, I sure did but it’s actually “wintertime” here now since Nairobi is just south of the equator!

  • Ali West

    June 7, 2018


    It’s so crazy that just the other day you were with the AP team in Washington, and now you are flying across the ocean en route to Kenya! I am so excited to follow you on your journey – thanks for keeping us in the loop on your adventures, we are all rooting for you back in DC!

    • Colleen Denny

      June 7, 2018


      Asante, Ali! (The little bit of Swahili I’ve learned so far!)

  • Princia Vas

    June 7, 2018


    Hey Colleen! It is amazing to see how time flies. So excited to follow you on your journey in Nairobi, Kenya. Looking forward to more blog posts 🙂

    • Colleen Denny

      June 7, 2018


      Thanks Princia, and thanks for all the support last week and throughout this whole summer!

  • Alexandra Kotowski (Zimbabwe)

    June 7, 2018


    Good luck Colleen!

    • Colleen Denny

      June 7, 2018


      Thanks Alex! Hope to see you soon on a weekend adventure 🙂 Good luck in Harare!

  • Samantha

    June 7, 2018


    Hey Colleen! Great post, I can’t wait to hear more!

    • Colleen Denny

      June 7, 2018


      Thanks Sam! Hakuna Matata

  • Lindsey Killett

    June 7, 2018


    Can’t wait to see the great work you do!! Stay safe and have fun!

    • Colleen Denny

      June 11, 2018


      Thanks Lindsey, likewise! Namaste 🙂

  • Iain Guest

    June 9, 2018


    Colleen – we loved having you at training and were super impressed that you were able to head out the following day! Looking forward to your next blog. Have a great summer!

    • Colleen Denny

      June 11, 2018


      Asante asana Iain for your support, guidance, and the great week of training!

  • Karen

    June 13, 2018


    Colleen, it’s been so great getting to know you over the past months. Your passion for this work and your impressive skills makes me certain that you will be a stelar peace fellow. Can’t wait to hear your updated from the field and read some stories from our CPI friends. Wishing you all the best from Washington!

    • Colleen Denny

      June 21, 2018


      Thank you Karen! Your support and work is the rock of AP!

  • Corinne Cummings

    June 20, 2018


    Hi there, Colleen. I am one of AP’s new interns. It’s a pleasure to meet you via your blog posts. I look forward to reading more about the work you will be doing in Kenya. Thank you for providing a concise overview of AP, as a new intern, I found it very insightful and excited for the work the Peace Fellows set out to do in the Global South. Serving by means of providing a voice to the voiceless is really needed in our world, especially during our current political administration. I love that you are working with children, they are the future and key to playing a part in making the world a better place. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and the development work that you have committed to for the next ten weeks. Best of luck, Corinne.

    • Colleen Denny

      June 21, 2018


      Asante asana, Corinne!

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