'7 Years On' Speeches

On January 12th 2017, Thinking Development, the UCL IRDR, and the UCL Humanitarian Institute held a fundraising reception in the UCL Wilkins Marquee, to mark the 7th anniversary of Haiti's Earthquake. Many thanks to our speakers for their varied, enlightening, challenging and inspiring contributions:

Sophia Stransky, CEO, Digicel Haiti Foundation (via video-link)

Sophia Stransky has been working at Digicel since 2005 where she occupied several roles including Distribution Manager, and Sales Director. In 2012 after 7 years on the commercial side, she was nominated CEO of the Digicel Haiti Foundation. Her role in this position is to ensure that the Digicel Foundation continues to contribute to the development of Haitian communities and in particular in the area of education.

Sophia Stransky is a member of the CSR committee for the American Chamber of Commerce in Haiti (AMCHAM) and serves as Secretary of the Board at Union School, an American school located in Haiti. Prior to Digicel, Sophia worked at Le Matin and Banque de l’Union Haïtienne.


Sr. Louis Marie O'Connor

Sr. Louis Marie O'Connor is a lead Development Officer for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. She has served with the Catholic religious order for 68 years, of which 38 were spent in Sierra Leone teaching, building teacher capacity, constructing schools and developing a grassroots livelihood training programme that operates independently of the Order today. The latter part of her career has seen her lead project development and fundraising work for the Congregation's development and emergency relief work in Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Ghana, Tanzania, Guinea, Mozambique and Haiti.

In 1989 Sr. Louis Marie took time out to study Gender, first at Cebemo in Holland, and then for 4 months at UCL's Development Planning Unit. Inspired by her studies, she founded Grassroots Gender Empowerment Movement (GGEM) upon her return to Sierra Leone, an NGO to support illiterate and unskilled local women to learn trades and establish businesses.

GGEM has grown so much that it has been subdivided into 3entities: (i) Community development; (ii) Loan schemes; (iii) outreach and sub offices in various regions in Sierra Leone.

Sr. Louis Marie is now focusing on a large-scale organisational development programme for the 3000-strong religious order, in which each community learns about best practice in development planning. Her programme targets leaders and younger Sisters in the 4 primary languages (English, French, Portuguese and Spanish) of the congregation, skilling them up in the planning, monitoring and evaluation activities required to achieve the best outcomes for the thousands of people they serve in over 60 countries worldwide.


Linda O'Halloran, Founder and Director, Thinking Development

Linda O'Halloran is the founder and managing director of Thinking Development. She started the organisation in response to an emergency appeal sent by one of the largest educators of women in Haiti, the Sisters of St. Joseph de Cluny, for help in re-designing and reconstructing their schools. Seeing the potential resources available at University College London, where she was a research student, Linda gathered institutional, academic, and external professional support to deliver the kind of consultancy that the involved development planners felt necessary. She now spends more time away from Thinking Development, working full time in as a freelance digital service transformation consultant to the public sector. She holds an MPhil in philosophy from UCL and she sits on the executive board of the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction.


Professor David Alexander

David Alexander is Professor of Risk and Disaster Reduction at University College London. His books include "Natural Disasters", "Confronting Catastrophe", "Principles of Emergency Planning and Management", "Recovery from Disaster" (with Ian Davis) and "How to Write an Emergency Plan". He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. His research and teaching interests include natural hazards, earthquake disasters, culture and disasters, and emergency planning and management. David Alexander is Vice-President of the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.


Professor Peter Sammonds (Chair)

Peter Sammonds is Professor of Geophysics at UCL and Director, UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction. He is Strategic Advisor to the Natural Environment and the Economic and Social Research Council for Increasing Resilience to Natural Hazards. His research interests are in the mechanics and physics of earthquakes, volcanoes and ice sheets, in relation to geohazards and climate change, and has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles. He has taught earthquake seismology and earthquake hazard for over 15 years. Peter graduated in BSc Chemical Physics from Bristol University and PhD Geophysics from UCL. He has been both JSPS Research Fellow (1991-1) and Visiting Professor (1999) at the Earthquake Research Institute of Tokyo University. He was Royal Society University Research Fellow, 1992-2001. He is a frequent invited speaker at the American Geophysical Union and other international geophysics meetings and commentator in the media on disasters.