WYA Honors Founding Directors on 20th Year

Last March 30, 2019, the World Youth Alliance marked its 20th year at the Lotos Club in New York City. To celebrate two decades of pursuing the WYA mission, the Kathryn Hoomkwap Award was presented to the twelve founding directors who established the first regional offices in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

Every year, the award honors WYA alumni recognized for his or her distinguished service in defense of the dignity of the human person among WYA members. It was named in memory of Kathryn Hauwa Hoomkwap, a political leader and social scientist who is remembered for her fearlessness and conviction. She served as a member of the WYA International Board from 2005-2008.

WYA warmly congratulates the recipients of this year’s Kathryn Hoomkwap Award. Read on to learn about this year’s awardees:

Caroline Shisubili Maingi (First Regional Director, WYA Africa)

 Caroline Shisubili Maingi hails from Nairobi, Kenya. She studied Political Science for her undergraduate degree before taking Philosophy and Ethics for her Masters in Strathmore University. She is a Doctoral Fellow in the United States International University – Africa and currently lectures on Philosophy and Ethics at Strathmore University. In 2003, she helped establish WYA Africa as a legal entity and led its expansion, recruitment, and fundraising as its first director. She now sits as its board member and advisor. She recalls the first time she met Anna in New York in 2000 during the Beijing +5 as one of the defining moments that led to opening the Africa regional office. She started volunteering with WYA after and took the internship with Gustavo and Jesús (who would then be WYA Latin America’s founding directors). Caroline is a happy wife to her spouse and a mother to three boys and a girl.


Esther Kanyi Muriithi (First Regional Director of Operations, WYA Africa)

Hailing from the Rift Valley part of Kenya, Esther Kanyi Kairu holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences degree from Catholic University of Eastern Africa University. She is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Management in Agribusiness at Strathmore Business School. In 2003, she met Caroline Shisubili who had been tasked to start WYA Africa. After volunteering for a year, Esther became a WYA intern in New York in 2004. She was soon appointed as the first Regional Director of Operations in 2005 where she served for three years. She now serves as an advisor to the Africa Regional Steering Committee. Her most fulfilling moments with WYA was working with young people through the internship and seeing them transform into responsible citizens who defend the dignity of the person. She is currently married, a mother of two, and works as Operations Manager at Strathmore Business School.


Erika Tatad (First Regional Director, WYA Asia Pacific)

 In 2004, WYA’s global internship allowed Erika to work with members from all over the world, complete the Certified Training Program, lead the 1st International Solidarity Forum and learn the impact of policy on the global, regional and community levels. After, she established the Asia Pacic office in Manila, Philippines and served as Regional Director from 2004-2007. Currently, she is a Director at xchange, a philanthropic Philippine impact first incubator that invests in early-stage impact enterprises and provides mentorship to help them achieve scale. Previously, she was Managing Director of Hapinoy, an organization that works with women micro-entrepreneurs to grow their small village shops through training and education, access to capital, and new business opportunities.Erika completed her International Diploma Programs in Global Business Management and Marketing from UC Berkeley. She is an Asia 21 Class of 2010 Fellow, a 2015 Freedom for Excellence WYAAP Awardee and a 2016 Kathryn Hoomkwap Awardee.


Tamara Tan-Azaña (First Regional Director of Operations, WYA Asia Pacific)

Tamara Tan-Azaña graduated with a degree in AB Social Sciences, with a minor in Cultural Heritage from Ateneo de Manila. She first learned about WYA through Erika Tatad. She soon joined Erika’s first group of externs in 2005 and did the New York internship in the same year. She eventually served as the first WYA Asia Pacic (WYAAP) Regional Director of Operations from 2006-2008. Tamara has worked at the Philippine Senate, and with Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, continuing to defend the dignity of the person in national legislation, and on the ground with urban and rural poor communities in the Philippines. She and her husband, Tom, also established a social enterprise, Spiral Sun Travel and Tours, that focused on Faith and Patriotism – pilgrimages and community tourism in the Bicol Region. She continues to build a culture of life as a wife and mother of three.


Gudrun Kugler (First Regional Director, WYA Europe)

MMag. Dr. Gudrun Kugler, Mts majored in Law and Theological Studies on Marriage and the Family. She holds a PhD in International Law and serves as a member of the Austrian parliament (ÖVP), and is the human rights spokesperson of her party. Before that, she was a member of Vienna’s Regional Parliament from October 2015 where she covered human rights, European affairs, and integration of refugees. Gudrun was the director of the Catholic online dating service kathTreff.org which operates in nine languages in 13 countries. She founded the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe. Since September 2008, she is a visiting professor at the International Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Trumau, Austria. From 2001 to 2004, she worked as a director of WYA Europe. She is married to Martin and has four children. They live in Vienna, Austria.


Olivia Raw (First Regional Director of Operations, WYA Europe)

 Olivia is an accredited and registered child and adolescent psychotherapist with the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists and works at Eton College. She is also a Catholic Chaplain at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. Olivia has worked in schools as a therapist for 11 years, both in the state and private sector of primary and secondary schools. She trained in psychodynamic counselling and works creatively, using art therapy and CBT techniques, depending on her clients’ needs. Olivia gained an MSc in psychodynamic counselling at Birkbeck College, London University and has a BA in French and Portuguese Honours from Southampton University. Olivia speaks these two languages fluently, in addition to Spanish. For three years Olivia was the Director of Operations for WYA Europe, setting up the first Brussels office with Gudrun Kugler and Leila van Lidth de Jeude. Olivia serves on WYA’s International Board of Directors.


Zrinka Cornij (First Programs Officer, WYA Europe)

Zrinka first met WYA while on an exchange program in Poland. There, she met up with a group of young people at WYA Europe’s first conference in Brussels. This introduction was a turning point that has positively marked her life ever since. She spent the following summer as an intern with the first WYA team in the New York Headquarters. Returning to Europe to work as the 4th member of the European Youth Alliance office (now WYA Europe) in Brussels, she saw even more clearly the great relevance of WYA’s work. She served as Programs Officer as part of the founding directors, establishing a presence in the EU capital, networking with young and dedicated friends from around Europe. Her work for a Croatian MEP at the European parliament in Brussels often brings her in contact with the World Youth Alliance today and they continue to have good mutual cooperation.


Leila d’Ansembourg (First Director of Advocacy, WYA Europe)

Leila van Lidth de Jeude-d´Ansembourg is Dutch but lived most of her life abroad as a diplomats’ child. She studied “Langues Etrangeres Appliquees” at the Sorbonne in Paris and now works in the southern Netherlands on a family estate. Before this, she worked for Europe4Christ, a platform that tries to deepen the knowledge of Christians on issues that seem “difficult” to address in public and create a network of prayer to revive and preserve the Christian roots of Europe. She started the Brussels office with Gudrun and Olivia. These were four exhilarating, liberating and wonderful years, working on key issues like euthanasia, stem cell research and the project Europe4Family. Through her membership of the Order of Malta and of the Zonnebloem, she is now involved in taking care of handicapped, sick, lonely elderly people, and advocating against euthanasia.


Jesús Rivera Alaniz (First Regional Director, WYA Latin America)

Jesús Rivera Alaniz is from Mexico City. He studied Industrial Engineering, holds a Master Degree in Administration and did an Executive Program of Management Development at IPADE Business School. He works as Director of Development at IPADE Business School in Mexico and has professional experience in the private and public sectors working for international companies like Procter and Gamble. He first heard about WYA in 2001 in a seminar at the University of Notre Dame through Anna Halpine and Gudrun Lang. In WYA, Jesús found a specific way to realize his vocation of building a culture of life and serving the common good through developing free and just societies. After a year of volunteering, he worked full time to develop WYA in the Latin America region. He served as a WYA staff member for 6 years. He met his wife Lucía in a WYA-related event. They now have six children.


Gustavo Lorenzo (First Regional Director of Operations, WYA Latin America)

Gustavo served as the first Director of Operations for WYA Latin America. Among other responsibilities, he was in charge of the office setup, logistics and NGO relationships around the region. He helped with international participation trainings and regional volunteer work. As part of the international participation trainings, he assisted in the development of the first International Solidarity Forum. He holds an Industrial Engineering degree and has over eighteen years of experience in IT and Management Consulting, Strategic Planning and Operations Management across countries and industries, including Financial Services, Public Sector, Retail, and Telecommunications. Currently, he works for Deloitte Consulting. He was appointed as University Dean and Director of Operations for an educational institution that plays an important role in being the liaison with non-governmental organizations with the UN, OAS, and Mexican government. He is a devoted husband to Eugenia and a father of three kids, Santiago, Gabriel and Alejandro.


Mark DeYoung (First Regional Director, WYA North America)


Mark DeYoung is currently completing a degree in moral theology at The Catholic University of America. After his time as the first North American director of the World Youth Alliance, Mark spent several years as the director of communications for a business association committed to forming ethical leaders, followed by a short stint as a marketing manager for a new web technology company. A former seminarian of the Archdiocese of New York, he is currently a trustee of the Catholic Finance Association, a membership organization that seeks to explore issues in light of Catholic social teaching. He is also part owner of Ave Maria Singles, a Catholic online dating website.


Melinda O’Brien (First Regional Director of Operations, WYA North America)

Melinda Mounsey studied music at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Hunter College, and the Golandsky Institute. She began volunteering in WYA in 1999, and became the first Director of Operations in 2001. In this role, she joined Anna in emptying and painting the broom closet that became WYA’s first headquarters. She helped develop WYA as an international organization, applied for and received ECOSOC status for WYA at the United Nations, and helped create and supervise the earliest versions of the WYA internship and training programs. Her dedication to planning and executing “Culture of Life Dance Nights” at WYA led her to invite her future husband, Liam O’Brien. After serving as staff, Melinda devoted her time to building a culture of life in a more domestic setting. She is the mother of five children. She helped found and is the president of a homeschooling cooperative in Westchester County, where she also teaches World History.


Nominations are open for the 2020 Kathryn Hoomkwap award. WYA Staff and Alumni are invited to nominate individuals who demonstrate outstanding commitment to WYA’s mission through their work with WYA, or by courageously implementing WYA’s mission in their professional and personal lives. All nominees must have actively participated in WYA programs.