Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Newburg, Oregon, USA, District 5100 

Host Club: Rotary Club of Pine Rivers, Murrumba Downs, AUS, District 9600 

Maria is from Portland, Oregon. She attended the University of San Francisco where she received her BA in Politics and Middle Eastern studies with a focus on Public Service. While in school, she spent time studying Contemporary Islam in Washington, D.C., Jordan, and Egypt. In Egypt, she developed a fascination with the complexities of international affairs and the influence of religiosity in politics - particularly in the Middle East. Shortly after graduating, she moved to Cairo, Egypt to study Arabic and to immerse herself in the cultural experiences and daily life of the Arab world.

After leaving the Middle East, she relocated to Syracuse in upstate New York, with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. During her year of service she worked for Catholic Charities as an Outreach Worker in their Emergency Services Program, working primarily with families being evicted from their homes and gaining a new understanding of the struggles of domestic urban poverty. Before beginning the fellowship, she lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and worked at Crittenton Women’s Union, a family homeless shelter that provides a safety net for those most in need and also innovative solutions to help women and their families attain economic independence. Additionally, she volunteered for a start-up non-profit called Prosperity Catalyst, which serves women in impoverished countries and seeks to equip them with the tools and training to become independent entrepreneurs as well as leaders and catalysts for social change in their communities. There she worked in development and communications, helping to raise funds and awareness for the work of the organization. In her studies last year, Maria spent time focusing on disaster management and completed her field work in Vijayawada, in southern India, where she was exposed to the hardships rural communities face when struck by cyclones, flooding, and draught. She hopes to build on this experience by working in the field of disaster management after she graduates in June.