Kindred Spirits + Filming + Barcelona = Marvelous

by Bianca Neff, Executive Director

Dani 'Lagarto' Fernandez

Dani 'Lagarto' Fernandez

One of the fun surprises about my job is the people who seemingly come out of the woodwork to collaborate. Several colleagues have arisen in the last few months because they believe in the importance of Petra's mission, and their connections have been really critical for us. One of these is a guy from Barcelona named Daniel Fernandez.

Daniel is a Catalan peace activist, artist and filmmaker who is a kindred spirit in the resilience-building work that we do at Petra. In addition to being a Rotary Peace Fellow like myself, he's also a visiting scholar at Rutgers University's Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights.

I was in Barcelona with Daniel from October 8-10, 2016 filming an advocacy video that Petra Peacebuilders is producing. In addition to providing support and resources for resilience, burnout prevention and trauma recovery in the peacebuilding sector, at Petra we are also serious about our advocacy role for peacebuilders and humanitarian professionals as it relates to these issues.

We will use this and future videos at promotional and networking events so that our donors, partners and the general public can be as well-informed as possible through our productions with real-life stories of realities in the field.

Filming in Oct 2016

Filming in Oct 2016

What a refreshing 3 days of filming and connecting! In addition to filming, Dani also introduced me to some impressive colleagues of his with whom I felt an instant connection, including a high-profile Catalan lawyer and mediator who is open to collaborating as a trainer in future Petra projects. Another couple held me captive with their stories of accompaniment fieldwork with human rights workers in Colombia with Peace Brigades -- wow!

These people are amazing, and I now consider them friends. Not only that, but two of them even allowed me to film them after having just met them (!!) since they recognize the importance that Petra's videos will make in terms of education and advocacy. I'm so very grateful for the whole 3-day experience.

With three new compelling, professionally-filmed clips in the bag for the video production from these fabulous new Barcelona-based contacts, I drove home pondering the implications of these new connections and wondering what kind of positive impact their stories will have on people just like you once the video is released.

Peace Activist & Filmmaker Dani Fernandez at work

Peace Activist & Filmmaker Dani Fernandez at work


And about Daniel: Perhaps his skills and expertise may come in handy for one of your current or future projects? He is a delightful professional to work with, and he has a heart of gold.

Check out his work and feel free to contact him directly!




Shout-Out to REI

by Bianca Neff, Executive Director

In another blog post ('My Water Just Broke'), I mentioned how Petra's gestation period was 4 whole years. (!) As you can imagine, there's a lot of water that has flowed under the bridge during this season of preparation.

A big part of Petra's pre-history has been our link to a small but dynamic organization in Colorado Springs, CO called Resource Exchange International, or REI.

REI gets a shout-out here in the Petra blog not only because of how supportive they've been of the Petra vision and mission, but also for how they have cared for me personally as the main carrier of the vision.

With REI staff member in downtown Cairo

With REI staff member in downtown Cairo

Since 2012, I've had the privilege of acting as associate staff care provider for different field staff in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The strategic connection allowed me to build my coaching hours toward my needed ICF credentialing, while their staff got quality coaching, making them even more effective in their fieldwork.

In fact, it was to REI staff in Egypt where Petra deployed in our first field assignment, just 2 weeks after we received our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in April 2016.

During the course of the REI/Petra relationship, I've gleaned important lessons from Ron Wiley, REI's Director of Human Resources. He's modeled how a leader can be compassionate and mission-driven at the same time. He's allowed me autonomy while always being just a Skype call away if I needed intervention or assistance. He's prayed for me and with me. He's a valuable colleague and a cherished friend.

Ron Wiley and other REI leaders have provided Petra a safe place under the wings of experienced, caring professionals who share the same vision for empowering noble-hearted people to invest their lives in their communities and nations. And after a long incubation under REI's wings, Petra Peacebuilders is now ready to leave the nest and fly high!

So, to Ron and the rest of the good people of REI: Thanks for modeling servant leadership to this fledgling new nonprofit. Petra is better because of our association with you.

Meet Jose & Josh, Petra's Summer 2016 Interns

While the rest of Spain was taking it easy in Summer 2016, Petra was kicking it into high gear with two Rotary Peace Fellows doing their official Applied Field Internship (AFE) in Malaga, Spain with Petra Executive Director Bianca Neff.

Meet Jose Alvarado and Josh Campbell: These guys were superstars! It's hard to believe exactly how far Petra was able to advance last summer, thanks to their critical contributions.


Taking Care of Business!

Here are some highlights of what the 3 of us were able complete from June to August:

  • Developed Petra's 5-year Strategic Plan, complete with strategic assessment, strategic goals & indicators, sector-wide Problem Tree, Logic Model, and SWOT analysis 
  • Researched 3 primary themes of 1) Sector Needs, 2) Best Practices and 3) Resilience Services & Resources
  • Launched a series of educational and advocacy videos on the sector's need for peacebuilder and humanitarian resilience
  • Launched the Petra website in Spanish
  • Established an annual operations budget to begin fundraising in earnest
  • Compiled a client referral & resource database of mental health & resilience resources
  • Assembled Ascend, Petra's upcoming pilot project, complete with program design, budget, plan of operations, and top-quality monitoring & evaluation (M&E) standards
  • Began the program design matrix for Thrive, Petra's Resilience Coaching Program


Joshua Campbell

Joshua Campbell

About Josh:

Rotary Peace Fellow studying in Tokyo, Japan

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska

Left Petra to continue field research throughout Morocco before returning to Tokyo


Jose Alvarado Cobar

Jose Alvarado Cobar

About Jose:

Rotary Peace Fellow studying at the Rotary Peace Center in Uppsala, Sweden

Originally from Guatemala City, Guatemala

Now doing additional field internship in Amman, Jordan



So, to Josh and Jose: Thank you, thank you, a million times THANK YOU for an unforgettable summer together. You are loved and so very appreciated!


Call for Interns & Volunteers

And to the rest of you: We want internships to be a regular part of our operations so that current and future peacebuilders inherit Petra's 'DNA' and thus possess a resilience-informed approach to their work.

Can you recommend any bright, talented, motivated students from ages 20 through to PhD level?

Contact us at for a preliminary chat!