Hilary Jo Caldis, Petra Client

Founder & Ceo

The Female Voice

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"No matter how driven one is to change the world for the better, progress cannot be made without a solid plan that takes into account not just visions and strengths, but ground level realities and personal limitations.

Coaching with Petra has allowed me to marry these two sides of the coin to make continual progress on my vision without the burnout and self-sacrifice I had become so used to working as a peacebuilder and entrepreneur. Indeed, the support gained through coaching has been transformative in how it has enabled me to accomplish goals in a healthier and more sustainable manner.

Moreover, it has engrained in me a new working mindset of realism and resilience in accomplishing my grander vision. The sky is the limit when dreams of the sky get channeled into the ground through a solid plan and mindset that keeps energy alive and channeled in the right direction.

Petra Peacebuilders has enabled me to do this."

Cameron Chisholm

President, International Peace and Security Institute (IPSI)

Former World Bank, The Carter Center, US Department of State

Rotary Peace Fellow, 2006-2008

"Building personal and organizational resilience, as well as teaching the core skills of self-care, are just as important to the long-term success of peacebuilding and development practitioners and projects as the classic skills taught in higher education. In fact, resilience and self-care may be more important.

Petra's mission could not be more critical."

Elizabeth Drevlow, PETRA CLIENT

Chief of Section, Child Protection

UNICEF, Liberia

"One of the most common issues facing aid workers -- no matter what the country, agency, or contract -- is long hours and burnout. Having worked more than 15 years in social services and over 7 years in the humanitarian field, my concern is continually for co-workers who give their all to the cause of helping others and in the process often lose themselves.

Petra Peacebuilders fills a vital gap in the support available to helping the helpers. They provide personalised services and strategies that inspire self-care and personal vision, and in turn co-labor to create happier, more productive personnel who can then influence the societies around them, which are also in need of serious care."

Opata Peter Paul

Executive Secretary, HIV/AIDS Department

Uganda Episcopal Conference, Uganda Catholic Secretariat

Rotary Peace Fellow, 2010-2011

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"I am very pleased to share some thoughts about the importance of the work being undertaken by Petra Peacebuilders among aid and development workers.

A few years ago, almost by mistake, I came into development work within the realm of peacebuilding. This was at the peak of the insurgency in Uganda with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. I encountered a young man who had been abducted and kept within rebel ranks for a few years. He managed to escape captivity and returned with an arm less. According to his narration, his arm had been chopped off as a deterrent to anyone harboring the idea of escaping. In his case, after chopping off his arm, he was made to carry it tacked in his pocket for two weeks during which time the flesh had decomposed and developed an unimaginable stench.

As I sat listening to this young man, barely 15 years old, I shivered and for several weeks following that field trip, I had nightmares and dreaded the thought of returning to the field to the work I deeply cherished and had felt so blessed to be doing. Honestly, as the years have gone by, I made peace with that experience. But what I went through during that time, whenever there were atrocities meted out on communities or indeed whenever I read and watched what was happening in many other parts of the world, made me empathize with the frontline development workers who were doing their best to restore hope and bring meaning to the multitudes encountering disasters -- be it natural disasters, political conflict or any other forms of emergencies and upheavals that seem to characterize our world order to date.

I can only imagine now that if there was someone providing care for me then or to the many development workers out there who unavoidably encounter these horrifying stories or actually even witness firsthand the many challenges people go through every day, perhaps it would be easier to cope with the stress and the tensions that come with this work. This is not to discount the interpersonal and work environment-related stresses that also present in many different forms. I therefore cannot overemphasize the significance and important difference the work that Petra Peacebuilders makes in preventing and healing the wounds of humanitarian/aid/development workers out there in so many crucial parts of the world. I truly hope this work finds an important place in our sector and gains the recognition and support it deserves."

Jenn Weidman

Consultant, International Labour Organization (ILO)

Peacebuilding Consultant, Capacity Building, Training Design & Delivery, Conflict Analysis

Former Deputy Director, Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

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"The Rotary Peace Fellowship builds and strengthens the peacebuilders of today and tomorrow.  Yet amidst the hustle to master theories and strategies, the less cerebral side of things is too often neglected.

Competence in trauma and resilience is seminal to the efficacy of peacebuilders, who must confront darkness both within and without as they continually wrestle with the aftermath of their own experiences and the living nightmares of the world.  For most of them, this competence will become equally as important as other, more technical skills. Inclusion of resilience training and support is essential for the long-term sustainability of both peacebuilders and their work.

It is for this reason that I heartily commend the work of Petra Peacebuilders in strengthening the vital personal capacities next generation of global peacebuilders."

Amanda Martin, MSW, MPH

Grassroots NGO director, Bolivia

former Peace Corps, Guatemala

Rotary Peace Fellow, 2011

"After two years as the director of a small non-profit, grassroots development organization in Bolivia, I was feeling burnt out, alone, and exhausted.

I am not alone in my journey; the majority of small NGO directors I meet are overworked, exhausted, frustrated and on the edge of burnout. We need support and guidance, with specific strategies for how to manage these conditions. Petra Peacebuilders seeks to provide exactly that kind of support, to be our “rock foundation,” so that we can continue working for humanitarian causes.

I met Petra's executive director Bianca Neff in Sao Paolo in June 2015, at the Rotary Peace Symposium. I was immediately attracted by her genuine interest, empathy, understanding, and desire to provide support and advice for my current professional situation. As Bianca listened to my situation, she suggested that I prioritize self-care to heal myself in order to have the strength to continue to offer something to others. Bianca stayed in touch with me over the next few months, with gentle reminders to continue to create the time to take care of myself. This intervention has helped me reach a place where I am now more wholeheartedly pursuing the dream inside me for the kind of humanitarian service I was designed for.

Since June, I have resigned from my job and have found a qualified replacement and trained her. As a result, I am now in the process of creating my dream project, an international training center for public health practitioners in Bolivia!"

Lucas Wolf

Assistant international Director, Trees, Water & People,
Central America

former Peace Corps VOLUNTEER and project manager for major USAID contractor

Rotary Peace Fellow, 2006-2008

"Petra aims to increase the resilience, strength and awareness of peacebuilders just like me conducting work in difficult thematic or geographic areas. My current work here in Central America with Trees, Water & People is based in Nicaragua with frequent field visits to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala as the organization's regional representative. Through Petra, I'd have a means of processing and learning within a like-minded community of trained professionals to help overcome the challenges and the demands of intense field work. 

At my former employer, we received sporadic visits from a humanitarian support expert from the Headington Institute, whose work and philosophy is similar to Petra's. These visits made a crucial difference in my awareness of how far support can and should go for people like me working in difficult operating environments.

It was clear to both us as clients and to those serving us: We needed more support and assistance for dealing with difficult work in challenging places. Petra Peacebuilders is in place to help us in this way.

As a Rotary Peace Fellow, I find the human resources and support services outreach work that Petra is heading up to be vitally important for the Rotary Peace Fellow (RPF) community. Rotary International has literally hundreds and hundreds of extremely talented RPF alumni working in the field every day, literally all over the world, who often lack access to such critical support through their employers or existing networks.

This work takes its toll. A Rotary-backed support network like Petra Peacebuilders would be a tremendously helpful and useful asset for me and hundreds of other Peace Fellow alumni like me already in the field, and also for the hundreds and even thousands more Peace Fellows who will be sent out for years to come.

Petra Peacebuilders is developing and delivering precisely this type of support not only for Rotary Peace Fellows but for the broader humanitarian enterprise. It is an undertaking that I hope to support as much as possible."

Ron Wiley, MS, MA, PhD

Educator, INGO Leader

Restorative Justice Facilitator, Conflict Resolution Practitioner

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"The building of capacity and resilience in expat professionals striving to build local people who can build their own communities and nations is of vital importance, particularly among those laboring in the trenches of peacebuilding in so many conflict-torn communities.

As someone who spent 16 years in community development and education in Central Asia and very nearly burned out doing so, I can testify personally to the high price that expat workers and their families pay to invest in others and in the future of their communities -- often at the expense of their own well-being.

We know that 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,' but how well is the international development sector abiding by this? As a peacemaker and restorative practices practitioner, I treasure the preventive investment required to keep sacrificial peacebuilders thriving and engaged in their costly but vital work. Rare are those with the heart to come alongside, to support, encourage, engage and equip aid workers, peacebuilders, and their families to maximize their passion for peace and growth in a sustainable way.

Petra Peacebuilders is among the rarest of the rare. Having worked alongside Petra's founding director Bianca Neff, I have witnessed firsthand her commitment to the nurture and well-being of organizational leaders and other professionals in the international peacebuilding sector. The gifted foundation on which Petra Peacebuilders is built uniquely qualifies this organization to offer sustaining resilience support in life-giving ways.

Both Petra Peacebuilders and the international peacebuilders and global aid workers it serves deserve our support in every possible way! We can ill afford to neglect the needs that Petra was created to meet. We as the international community must view Petra's work as an indispensable part of the global peacebuilding endeavor, and we should ask ourselves why we haven't focused more of our energy and resources into resilience sooner."

Richard Hazlehurst

Rotary District 1040, Host Area Coordinator, 2009-2012

Rotary Peace Center at University of Bradford

West Yorkshire, United Kingdom

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"For several years I have been privileged to engage, and to form lasting friendships, with a number of Rotary Peace Fellows. These amazing people are committed to helping mankind move towards peace, whether that be at the international level, at a neighbourhood level, or anywhere in between. But many of them pay a heavy price for their immensely valuable contribution to the world. Occasionally and sadly, that price is the ultimate one because at least some of them are driven by their strong beliefs to work in highly dangerous parts of the world. More often, though, the price is levied on their health; and especially on their mental health.

Most of us cannot imagine the pressures of trying to mediate between groups with seemingly irreconcilable differences, or of continuing to work among all the terrible grief of refugee groups, the pain of injured civilians, the injustice of the suffering caused to innocent children. Recently, I attended a meeting to discuss post-traumatic stress and emotional trauma among humanitarian workers, with special reference to Rotary Peace Fellows; and I realised my own ignorance. No one left that room with dry eyes. Those like me who are not directly involved in field work were deeply moved by the raw emotion which was exposed in those 90 minutes or so. We suddenly became aware of a great need to support Rotary Peace Fellows after they have completed their studies and as they go forward in their chosen careers.

Petra's founding director Bianca Neff is one of those Peace Fellows; she was one of those facilitating that foundational meeting. In Petra, Bianca has blended her experience as a peacebuilder with the personal emotions from her own journey and her abilities as a coach, counsellor and administrator, in order to offer to individual members of the humanitarian and peacebuilding community a sustainable support programme to help them continue to do their valuable work."


International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Cali, Colombia

"I was a client of Petra's executive director Bianca Neff even before Petra's existence and her coaching services helped me through a very difficult time while I was working for an NGO in Angola. I was especially able to connect through her helpful metaphors about ways to handle the daily challenges in the field, cultural as well as the relationship with my boss, who was my only close colleague. Simply put, the tools really made sense to me!

I’m still using some of those images from our sessions today, working as a Delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Keeping a healthy balance in my life as a humanitarian is key, it keeps me from getting frustrated and allows me to overcome cultural differences when coordinating intercultural teams. And I continue passing on some of my coach's metaphor to colleagues, keeping in mind ‘my precious source.’

Each and every one of us has hidden sources of energy to overcome the challenges we all face in the field, but it takes a professional to help you identify them and finally act. The type of coaching intervention that Petra Peacebuilders provides helped me make the most out of what I have within me."