Congratulations to former PPI-NI Operations Manager Harry Morra and his fiancé, former PPI-NI Managing Director Kelly Lyons, who are getting married later this month! Kelly is now the Director of External Affairs for Up2Us, a national coalition of sport-for-good organizations for community-building and youth development. We wish you both all the best! In the interview below, Harry talks about his work leading a group project to evaluate the impact of PPI’s Fellowship program.
You’re currently working on your graduate degree at Lehigh University. Has your experience with PPI influenced your path?
Working with PPI, you get a taste of both the education field and the nonprofit world. When I came back, I decided that I really believed in education. I wanted to continue with what I had started to build. The program I liked most was comparative international education, or Globalization and Educational Change. It involves using qualitative and quantitative methods to study differences in education programs all across the world.
I’m focusing on a project in Cambodia, where there was a mass genocide of the educated class in the 1970s under Pol Pot. Today, there are no educated 30- to 60-year-old people in Cambodia. Cambodians are thirty years into redesigning education. Out in rural communities, schools aren’t common, and it’s not natural for a family to send a 5-year old child to school. I’m working with Caring for Cambodia, an organization that tries to get kids to come to school.
Tell us more about the research project! What can you tell us about the information you gathered?
We qualitatively evaluated how the PPI experience impacted each of us, as well as the overall value of program, by looking through the eyes of the people who actually went through it. A significantly high number of alums participated in the study- I think that goes to show that PPI has a close-knit family.
We found that the fellowship program is extremely valuable to PPI and has a ton of potential to grow. We drew comparisons to Fulbright and Rhodes scholarships. People who aspire to work in public policy, international relations, international law, community development, or education can use PPI as a stepping stone.
I learned that everybody feels the same way I do- they loved the experience and thought it was just life-changing.
What are some of your best memories of your work in Northern Ireland?
I was hired to start a coach training program in Northern Ireland. At the first session I organized, only one person came. I was really disappointed. I felt like I had failed. But 18 months later when I left PPI, we had a fully functioning coach training program. We were meeting with 30 coaches at a time, both PPI people and coaches from the greater community.
Another favorite memory is getting to do the leadership development program. We borrowed the model they were using in South Africa, analyzed it, and reshaped and remolded it for Northern Ireland. We worked it from something on paper to something real.
My third, hands-down favorite memory is running the weekly twinnings. We felt like we were doing something that was so new- the kids just gravitated toward us, and they were from such a historically divided community. There were so many structural reasons for them to stay apart. Schools across the street from each other would let the kids out a half hour apart so that they would never see each other. So many things were stacked up against integration. I loved building relationships with the kids week in and week out, and getting the kids going toward a shared future.
What were you hoping to get out of your experience with PPI? How did you grow over the course of the experience?
For me, I wanted to gain a strong sense of individuality and independence. One of the major reasons I think people should be involved with PPI is that PPI allows you to put your money where your mouth is. It’s a lost easier said than done to try to live in a foreign country, use your education to help out, and implement something you believe in. PPI puts fellows and program directors in situations where they are really responsible for making the program happen. I found the confidence to follow through with the things I say, and found out who I am and what I wanted to work on for the rest of my life.