Latin America director for charity founded by George Soros

Sandra Dunsmore, Grad. Cert. ’97

Washington, D.C.

A block from the White House, the Washington DC office of Open Society Foundations is in a building on Pennsylvania Avenue with a spectacular view of downtown Washington, as visible behind Sandra Dunsmore's pose on the roof of that building.

Before Sandra Dunsmore became a CTP student, she worked for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in El Salvador. During the last two years of El Salvador’s war, from 1990 to 1992, she met with, listened to, and encouraged the leaders of labor, peasant and business organizations to enter into a process of dialogue about the future of their country.

After the war ended, Sandra acted as executive secretary to the Economic and Social Forum, a mechanism established by the 1992 Peace Accords. “Although the forum never addressed deep-rooted economic and social issues, as envisioned by many of us at its beginning, I continued despite its limitations because I wanted the government, business and popular leaders involved to experience the potential of multi-sector negotiation,” she told Peacebuilder.

“Those were intense and hard years. I never admitted to AFSC the psychological toll that my work was taking.”

While still in El Salvador, Sandra was able take Ron Kraybill’s “disciplines to sustain the peacebuilder” course via email correspondence. “The course was hugely important for me. Ron played an important role in helping me process my experiences and regain energy for future peacebuilding work.”

During the 13 years since finishing her graduate studies, however, it is the teachings of John Paul Lederach that have proved to be the most enduring aspect of her EMU experience. “His approach to conflict transformation has informed everything that I have done professionally.”

Sandra, who is a native of Winnipeg, Canada, spent a total of 13 years in Central America. In addition to the AFSC, she worked for the Organization of American States where she headed up the team that developed their first peacebuilding program, and consulted for the United Nations Development Programme and for USAID. She returned to Canada to be president of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, which trains thousands of people annually for peace operations globally.

As Latin America director for Open Society Foundations, Sandra leads a team of eight in Washington DC and three consultants in Latin America to determine how to disperse the Open Society’s grant money in Latin America.

As befits the vision of Open Society’s founder, George Soros, the Latin America program is focused on support for democratic governance – notably citizen security, access to information, transparency and accountability, human rights and improved public policies (including changes in US foreign policy relative to Latin America).