News

February 8, 2010

A Life Abroad Fosters Passion For Global Philanthropy

Claudia Meulenberg ’02 directs U.N. Foundation grants

Several years ago, the United Nations Foundation asked Claudia Meulenberg ’02 to handle the bequest of a man who wanted his life savings to support the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“It seemed a fitting tribute to the work of a United Nations agency which he, many years earlier, was able to benefit from as a refugee,” she explains.

Together with the UNHCR, Meulenberg worked to allocate his funds to support refugee education programs in Africa. It was this man’s simple but grand gesture that renewed Meulenberg’s passion for her work at the foundation.

“I know he is not around to see the impact he has had on these children, but it’s remarkable how generous people can be and what a positive influence they can have on our global society,” she says. “It is instances such as this one that remind me why I do this work.”

As the associate director of grants management for global health at the U.N. Foundation, Meulenberg’s responsibilities include working closely with the executive directors of the children’s health and women and population portfolios in order to contribute to the implementation and administration of the foundation’s grants.

“The U.N. Foundation serves as a platform for connecting people, ideas, and resources to help the United Nations solve global problems,” she explains. “In my position, I have the unique opportunity to work with our donors to channel valuable resources to the U.N.’s programs on the ground.”

Meulenberg has always viewed the world through a global lens. Born in the Netherlands, her family moved to the Philippines when she was just six weeks old. During her childhood, she lived in Libya, Egypt, Italy, Spain, and the United States.

The international affairs and Spanish major was a member of the International Students Association, the Hispanic Society of Lafayette, and the International Affairs Club. She also served as a resident adviser for three years.

“My years at Lafayette and, in particular, my choice of an international affairs major helped prepare me for a career in international development by providing a solid academic background from which to build on for graduate school and subsequent internships that led me to my current organization,” Meulenberg says.

After Lafayette, she enrolled at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs to earn her master’s degree. The school partnered with the Institute for International Mediation and Conflict Resolution and the Erasmus University of Rotterdam to organize the institute’s symposiums in The Hague.

Meulenberg first participated as a student at the International Student Symposium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution in 2003, then later returned as an academic staff member in 2004 following the completion of her degree.

In her second stint at the symposium, Meulenberg was responsible for guiding a group of 14 graduate students in discussions and assisting them with the academic requirements of the program. And, as a native Dutch speaker, she was also the resident tour guide for some of the students’ outings.

The two summers spent at the symposium exposed her to a wealth of knowledge from students and professionals in the field of conflict resolution, including a chance to meet with the first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, shortly after his appointment in 2003.

She also began working full time for the U.N. Foundation after completing an internship with the organization during her last semester of graduate school. She said she has found her current position to be incredibly rewarding.

“The most exciting aspect of the work I do is knowing that I am contributing to a larger effort to improve the lives of others, whether it’s through the foundation’s support of procuring life-saving vaccines or witnessing a growing grassroots effort to combat malaria through the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets,” she says. “This job has taught me a lot about the world of philanthropy, and I enjoy being a part of it.”

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