Announcing the 2023 Early Childhood Global Reporting Fellows

The Dart Center has announced the recipients of the 2023 Global Early Childhood Reporting Fellowship. Fifteen fellows will report stories from around the world to illuminate challenges affecting young children’s growth and development, and the well-being of their caregivers. Learn more about the fellows and their projects below.


The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma has announced the recipients of its 2023 Global Early Childhood Reporting Fellowship. The program will support 15 journalists from around the world to undertake projects on the effects of war, disaster, inequality and poverty on young children’s growth and development, and the well-being of their caregivers.

Among the projects, fellows will address the effects of displacement on refugee children from Ukraine, challenges facing young children with disabilities in Malawi, the effects of water pollution on pregnant women in Kenya, the psychological impact on children and caregivers resulting from the conflict in Kashmir and the effects of foster care and adoption on children in the U.S.

"Around the world, this is a difficult time for young children and their caregivers. Escalating adversity in early childhood - whether from war, civil conflict, economic inequality, violence, the pandemic or environmental disasters all have a lifelong impact. The extraordinary journalists chosen for the Dart Center’s Global Early Childhood Reporting Fellowship are deeply committed to illuminating these critical issues, drawing on evidence-based science and policy to and produce reporting that makes a difference in their regions and around the globe," said Bruce Shapiro, the Dart Center’s executive director.

The Fellowship, which will run from May through November, is led by journalist, Karen Brown, in collaboration with Irene Caselli, Joanne Silberner and Bob Ortega.

Fellows will receive a stipend of $2,000 USD and coaching and mentorship by senior journalists. Fellows will also attend monthly webinars with international experts in the fields of science, education, public health, and journalism.

This Fellowship has been made possible by generous grants from the Bernard van Leer Foundation (Netherlands), the Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation (Brazil), and The Two Lilies Fund (United States).

Below are the 15 fellows and brief descriptions of their projects, alongside introductions to the faculty:

Laura Achieng’ Otieno (Kenya) is a multimedia journalist with five years of experience in mainstream media. She begun media training in radio while undertaking a bachelor’s degree in Media Science at Moi University, Kenya. She has over the years gathered a wealth of experience in multimedia reporting and is currently attached to Citizen TV, the leading television station in Kenya commanding over 50% of the country’s viewership. She focuses on the unexploited angles of otherwise widely reported stories across all disciplines, driven by the need to unearth underreported stories and the application of a solutions journalism approach to inform tangible change in society. She believes in the agenda-setting role of the media, and is confident that solutions journalism can inspire confidence in societies to enhance better lives and healthier communities.
Project: She will be undertaking a reporting project focusing on the efforts by the local authority in Siaya, located in the Western part of Kenya, that onboards both parents as caregivers to facilitate the holistic growth of children.
Jennifer Brookland (U.S.) is a journalist covering child welfare in Michigan for The Detroit Free Press and a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. Her previous work includes reporting and producing for North Carolina Public Radio, freelance writing and editing for clients including the World Bank and the United Nations, and creating multimedia storytelling for international development organizations. Jennifer holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and a master’s degree in international law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School.
Project: Brookland's project will explore the experiences of families who adopt out of the child welfare system, and the unforeseen challenges many of them face when it comes to their children’s emotional, behavioral and mental wellbeing. The work will probe the extent to which early exposure to trauma can be overcome and will scrutinize the support provided by Michigan and other states.
Stefania D'Ignoti (Italy/Turkey) is an independent journalist who covers the Mediterranean region for a variety of international publications. Her work focuses on migration, conflict, women's rights and organized crime, and has appeared in The Washington Post's The Lily, National Geographic, The Guardian, BBC, The Economist and elsewhere.
Project: Her project focuses on the psychological impact of the 6 February earthquake in Turkey on Syrian toddlers and their caregivers. Syrian women and young children have already experienced displacement twice in a decade —first because of a human-made conflict, then because of a natural disaster; her research will explore the long-lasting effects on Syrian children's early development while growing up in a refugee camp for earthquake survivors in Turkey.
Eleonora Francica (U.S./Italy) is the Albany Editorial Intern for POLITICO, covering New York state's government. Originally from a small city near Rome, Italy, she holds a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor's in international affairs from John Cabot, the American University of Rome. Francica previously worked as a correspondent in the United Nations and as an intern in the Italian Parliament, where she developed a database on domestic violence and child abuse. She is also a Contributing Analyst for NewsGuard and a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Fellow. In her free time, Francica freelances for American and European outlets and is a volunteer for Make-A-Wish.
Project: In Italy, children born from incarcerated mothers grow up with prison rhythms, locked in cells with bars at the windows until they are three years old — in a few cases, until they are six. Francica's project aims to uncover which safety, hygienic and educational conditions they grow up in and how this experience affects their psychological, behavioral and social development at a time when their brains are most malleable.
Gaby Galvin (U.S./Denmark) is a freelance health journalist based in Aarhus, Denmark, whose work has appeared in Euronews, U.S. News & World Report and Healthcare Brew, among others. She previously spent five years covering health care in Washington, D.C., including stories on long COVID’s toll on the U.S. medical system, the socioeconomic barriers facing pediatric cancer patients, Dr. Anthony Fauci's daily routine in 2020 and more. Galvin’s reporting has been cited by federal lawmakers, the FCC and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and she has been awarded fellowships from the National Press Foundation and the Solutions Journalism Network. She holds a bachelor’s degree in multiplatform journalism from the University of Maryland, and is a master’s candidate studying Journalism, Media and Globalization at Aarhus University and the University of Amsterdam.
Project: Galvin will report on the impact of a Danish policy that requires residents from socially marginalized neighborhoods to send their children to daycare when they turn one in order to integrate them into Danish society, which is part of the government’s “no ghettos by 2030” plan. Her project will explore the early childhood stressors of poverty and migration – as well as social “othering” and compulsory integration by the host country.
Geela Garcia (Philippines) is a Filipino freelance photographer and multimedia journalist based in Manila. Her photographic work, which documents stories of women, food sovereignty and the environment, aims to write history from the experience of its makers. Her writing and photography appear on the Thomson Reuters Foundation, South China Morning Post, CNN Philippines Life and Philstar among others. In 2023, their cross-border reporting team received the Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Award for Journalism Excellence for their work “Hands on Deck,” an investigation on modern slavery in Irish fishing vessels.
Project: For the Fellowship, Garcia will be reporting on the impacts of the lack of State-run child care facilities to marginalized mothers and children in the Philippines. One of the least talked about yet most pressing problem in her country is the inaccessibility to proper childcare, especially for mothers who balance work and caregiving.
Julianne Hill (U.S.) is an award-winning journalist based in Chicago who has worked in television, radio and print. Her career has been shaped by a fascination with mental health and brain development, earning a host of honors including a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship, a National Press Foundation Fellowship and several Peter Lisagor Awards from the Chicago Headline Club. Her in-depth investigation into New Hampshire’s policy of sending mental health patients who have committed no crimes to the state prison prompted the governor to change the state budget to build a new hospital. Currently, she is a legal affairs writer with the ABA Journal, the publication of the American Bar Association distributed to 500,000 lawyers, and is part of its team developing the “Children and the Law” series.
Project: Is an ASFA repeal best for children? Hill's 3,000-word magazine piece examines the 25-year-old, well-intentioned Adoption and Safe Families Act which aimed to quickly move kids whose parents are typically incarcerated out of foster care and into closed adoptions. The act is meeting its goal — but is that what’s best for kids? We talk to experts who discuss if children are better off starting over with a new family or if other options should be considered, such as monitoring parents at home who have committed low-level crimes, to keep the family together.
Adesola Ikulajolu (Nigeria) is a freelance investigative reporter based in Nigeria with keen focus on marginalized communities and underreported issues. Ikulajolu is a fellow of the African Data Hub; fellow of the Open Contract Reporting Fellowship by International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR); a fellow of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA). He has appeared on Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and Atinka TV Ghana. Ikulajolu work spanned across health, education, security and humanitarian issues in Nigeria. His works has appeared on Ripples Nigeria, Premium Times, Within Nigeria, The Nation Newspaper, Guardian Newspaper, among others.
Project: Ikulajolu's project has a clear focus on how children of oil-producing communities in Nigeria are finding it difficult to access clean and drinkable water due to water pollution arising from oil spillage. It will expose how nursing mothers and their children are exposed to shock, loud noise and air pollution arising from activities of illegal quarrying companies in rural areas, which adversely affect growth and well-being.
Msanii Kimani wa Wanjiru (Kenya) is a seasoned arts and culture journalist, as well as a creative writing and performing artist, based in Nairobi. He is passionate about the arts and culture in Kenya and the greater East Africa Community. He has made significant contributions in culture/arts policy formulation and discourse, as an analyst/commentator, culture/arts journalist, blogger and editor. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Kymsnet Media Network, Kenya’s premier arts and culture news and features agency. He has published numerous news articles, features, interviews and commentaries in the Kenya and the international scene. Msanii Kimani has been researching and documenting cartoons and comics stories in Kenya and across Africa. His book "Ink & Pixels: The Wild and Wondrous Tale of Kenyan Comics," is a detailed account on the history, development, trends, social relevance and the future of comics and cartoons in Kenya. He has written extensively about cartoonists and comics in Kenya. His articles have been published by the International Journal of Comic Art (IJOCA).
Project: Msanii Kimani wa Wanjiru’s project will focus on the “Early Childhood Learning through Cartoons and Comic Books in Kenya: the gains, misses and opportunities.”
Scovian Lillian (Kenya) is a Kenyan-based independent journalist with a passion for science and a focus on Africa. She also reports on topics like health, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) agri-business, higher education [policies, SDGs, sustainability, digitalization] women and gender issues, human rights, climate change, renewable and green energy, human rights, PWDs and elections coverage. She holds a bachelor’s Degree from Moi University in Kenya. Lillian has previously worked as a press officer at a PR firm in Kenya as well as a Swahili Radio news reporter at a Kenyan local radio station (West Media Limited). Her work has been published by The Continent, Nature Africa, Talk Africa, Mail & Guardian International Journalists Network (IJNET), (Sub-Saharan Africa) and University World News. She is a member of the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and also a member of the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), which are all professional bodies. She is also the Kenya 2022 Falling Walls Science Fellow. 
Project: Treating anxiety and social deficits in children (six years and below) with autism spectrum disorder in schools (Nairobi-based schools and those from the outskirts). Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental syndrome characterized by social and communication deficits, as well as restrictive or repetitive behaviors. The story is significant because a study published last year in February shows that Autism spectrum disorder has not been extensively studied in Africa which presents a significant gap in our understanding of the global burden of these disorders, and that caregivers need to be more empowered about it, especially for early childhood detection.
Sarah Menkedick (U.S.) is the author of "Ordinary Insanity: Fear and the Silent Crisis of Motherhood in America" (Pantheon, 2020) and "Homing Instincts: Early Motherhood on a Midwestern Farm" (Pantheon, 2017). Her work has been published in Harper's, Pacific Standard, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Time, the Guardian, Guernica, Aeon, The Kenyon Review and elsewhere. She was the recipient of a 2015 Fulbright Fellowship to Oaxaca, Mexico. She is based in Pittsburgh, PA, where she teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
Project: Menkedick will explore the impact of feminicide on young girls in Mexico, telling the stories of children who have been orphaned by feminicide, and illuminating the larger culture of fear and oppression in which many Mexican girls grow up. Menkedick will travel to and report from Mexico City.
Raphael Mweninguwe (Malawi) is a freelance journalist based in Lilongwe, Malawi. He has been working as a journalist over 10 years. He has the passion for covering the environment, health, the economy, politics, climate change, human rights and education. He has won a number of international media awards including the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Siemens, UN Women, World Bank and SADC media awards. He holds a postgraduate certificate in Media Studies from the University of Oslo, Norway and a MA degree in Diplomacy and International Relations from the Africa University of Diplomacy, Counseling and International Relations.
Project: Malawi has a population of 15,000 children with disabilities. Of these 3.2% are children aged between 2 and 4 years, according to government statistics. But the percentage could be more for children aged between 0-6 years. These children with disabilities are facing a host of violent activities from their own parents especially their fathers who are supposed to care for them. Because of their disability status a number of children face serious problems ranging from malnutrition, physical violence to extreme poverty. Children with disabilities are marginalized not only by some family members but also within the society. A disabled child in the family is seen as a curse brought in by the mother and her relatives and this belief makes the husband abandon the children. Children are subjected to discrimination and abuse. This project will zero in to establish the exact cause of the problems faced by disabled children aged between 0-6 years and suggest possible solutions to address the problems. This will be the first time that a media project like this one will be undertaken in Malawi and the rest of Southern Africa.
Safina Nabi (India) is an independent multimedia journalist covering South Asia with a focus on human rights, gender, health, social justice, culture and the environment. She has reported stories for Guardian, Aljazeera, Slate, Vice, OpenDemocracy and Christian Science Monitor, among others. In 2022, she reported on the refugee crisis of Ukraine and Afghanistan from Berlin, Germany. Safina is the recipient of the 2022 Fetisov Journalism Award for her work on half widows of Kashmir and their property rights. She has won reporting grants from Pulitzer Center and was awarded fellowships from the U.S state department and Reporters Without Borders.

Project: This project will explore the challenges faced by young children and their caregivers who grow up in turmoil in Kashmir. Conflict not only exposes people to trauma and violent events but impacts the social and material fabric of society negatively. Survivors of violence associated with conflict are often concurrently subject to other stressors affecting everyday life and livelihood. Children in conflict zones specifically bear the brunt of the war and are vulnerable, face multiple issues from the very beginning due to the factors associated with conflict like regular curfews, bombings, fights between security forces and militants etc. which push them into trauma and expose them to violence at a young age. These traumatic experiences define their life and its effects can be seen in their formative years later. At times these children face major health issues like physical and mental health disorders, drug abuse and malnutrition.

Rebecca Nyawira Muiruri (Kenya) is an award-winning journalist, an experienced news producer with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry and a great believer in solutions journalism. She is skilled in broadcast and digital journalism, voice acting and feature story telling. She is also a TV host for a parenting show on Kenya Television Network. She has produced and directed highly rated documentaries and TV shows and as a producer on a 24 hour news channel she has produced day to day breaking news, national budgets and elections, presidential burials as well as local and international conferences among many other duties. She has won a number of awards and continues to champion for journalism that not only highlights issues but directs to possible solutions.

Project: About 1.4 million women in Kenya need child care givers. Most children are left under the care of caregivers running informal home or day care centers. The caregivers often lack the skills ,support and recognition they deserve, my story will highlight their plight in a bid to amplify their voices to get possible solutions to the challenges that they face as they execute this noble task.
Lisa Schurr (Germany) is a leading managing editor in Berlin for the national news magazine “ARD-Mittagsmagazin,” where she focuses on storytelling in linear and digital formats. She has also directed several documentary series and coordinated crossmedia-projects. She has worked as a TV and radio author for Bayerischer Rundfunk and covered many stories on migration and the German childcare system. She won the CIVIS media price and worked as a correspondent in Italy and Greece. Schurr studied literature and political science in Munich and Florence, Italy.
Project: Almost 100,000 Ukrainian children under six fled with their families from the war to Germany. Many of them are kindergarteners. They arrive in a childcare system that is already overstrained and has little capacity to handle traumatized children due to a lack of educators. There is no staff and time for integration concepts and therapeutical work. Nevertheless, many groups of children seem to get along well. By observing their plays, interactions and the challenges of their educators, this project shows how children and the ones who care for them cope with the situation by improvising.
Fellowship Faculty

The Global Fellowship will be led by Karen Brown, a public radio reporter, print journalist, essayist and audio documentarian, with a special focus on health, trauma, and mental health. In addition to 20 years reporting for New England Public Radio, Karen has contributed to NPR, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, American Radioworks and other national outlets. She has focused recently on training other journalists, including consulting for the Dart Center’s workshops on Early Childhood Development and serving as mentor/senior fellow for the USC Center for Health Journalism’s training program. Her own reporting projects have explored the biology of resilience, trauma-informed communities, bipolar disorder in children and addiction treatment. In 2019, she co-produced the narrative podcast for PRX’s Radiotopia called “The Great God of Depression.” Her awards include the National Edward R. Murrow Award, The Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize, Public Radio News Directors Inc. Award, the Erikson Prize for Mental Health Media and the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma (Honorable Mention). She was an MITKnight Science journalism fellow and a Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism fellow. For a selection of stories, visit

The Latin America Early Childhood Reporting Fellowship will be led by Irene Caselli, who will also serve as a story coach for the Global and Latin America fellowships. Caselli is a multimedia reporter and writer, with two decades of experience in radio, TV and print, now focusing on early childhood, reproductive rights, and carers. She is also a senior advisor for The Early Childhood Reporting Initiative at the Dart Center.

For a decade, Caselli was a foreign correspondent in Latin America, reporting for the BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The New York Times and others. In 2019, she started covering early childhood for The Correspondent. In January 2021, she launched her own newsletter, The First 1,000 Days, where she continues her writing about the first 1,000 days, the foundational period of our lives that is too often overlooked, partly influenced by her experience as the mother of Lorenzo and León.

She published a chapter in “Unbias the News,” a book about how to make journalism more diverse. She produced a documentary on women’s football and gender inequality, and one of her short films on the same subject received a prize for collaborative journalism.

Caselli has been awarded fellowships by the International Women’s Media Foundation, the European Journalism Centre and the Solutions Journalism Network. She speaks six languages (English, Italian, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese), and is now learning Greek.

Bob Ortega will serve as story coach. He is a senior writer for CNN Investigates, covering border and immigration issues from Phoenix, Arizona.

Beginning his journalism career in Alaska, Ortega worked as a television reporter in Fairbanks, Juneau, and Anchorage and later moved into print journalism at the Anchorage Times, where he uncovered a military program testing deadly biological and chemical agents in a remote military base near Delta, Alaska. Ortega later served as managing editor of the Homer News, and moved to the Seattle Times and the Wall Street Journal where he reported on child labor and other issues. While at the Journal, Bob wrote "In Sam We Trust: The Untold Story of Sam Walton and Wal-mart, the World's Largest Retailer."

Ortega spent ten years working overseas training journalists in investigative reporting in countries such as Paraguay, Georgia, Belarus and Ukraine, working through a military coup in Paraguay and revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine. A program he led to assist independent news media in Belarus was shut down by the Lukashenko regime, which revoked his visa and forced him to leave the country.

Ortega is the recipient of the Hillman Prize for social justice reporting, and the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism. In 2013, he also received the Sidney Award for reporting on a deeply flawed and widely used screening test for cervical cancer. He served as a Knight International Press Fellow in Paraguay, and has trained journalists in 17 countries on four continents. Ortega was also a professor of journalism at Ryerson University, in Toronto, Canada.

Ortega moved with his family from Mexico City to the United States when he was nine. He has a degree in history from Princeton University and graduate degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Joanne Silberner will serve as a story coach. Joanne is an independent multimedia journalist who lives in Seattle and over the course of her career has reported from 19 countries on global health and mental health issues.

After studying biology in college, she got a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and then wrote for a series of magazines. She made a mid-career switch to radio and worked at NPR for 18 years, doing audio stories on medical research, health policy, global health, and mental health. In 2010 she moved to Seattle where she freelanced and taught journalism and radio reporting for 8 years at the University of Washington, then continued freelancing from London for 2 years, meanwhile commissioning and editing global health stories for the British Medical Journal. She’s won numerous awards, including the Victor Cohn Prize for Medical and Science Writing and the Keck Communication Award from the National Academy of Sciences, had year-long fellowships at the Harvard School of Public Health and from the Kaiser Family Foundation, and was a Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, focusing on the treatment of mental illnesses, including post-partum depression, in developing countries. She’s mentored Pulitzer Center grant recipients and has received support from the center for a series of reporting projects from Haiti, India, Uganda, Australia, and Fiji. She’s a founding member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Recent stories have appeared in STAT, WIRED, NPR, Undark, and Global Health.