All posts by kforbes

US Exchange Alumni Conferences

From November 8th and 9th, a 2 days US Exchange Alumni Conferences organized by the US embassy in Abidjan took place at Belle Côte Hotel – Abidjan. More than 200 Ivorian beneficiaries and former scholars who have been to the United States or have benefited from educational programs funded by the US Department of States are taking part in this conference. These are the Fulbright and Humphrey programs; the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the International Visitors Program (IVLP); the Community College Initiative Program (CCI Program); the Study of U.S. Institutes program (SUSI), and many others. As a CCI Program alumni, I was indeed invited to participate too.

 

These conferences were marked by panels that was moderated by former Fellows and focus on topics such as: English language learning, entrepreneurship promotion, women’s empowerment, civic engagement, promotion of good governance, health, and human rights. I was personally happy to meet all these Alumni to talk about all the opportunities of the CCI Program and to discuss with them about good governance and transparency, fostering inclusive economic growth, supporting security sector reform, and improving the health system and education system in Côte d’Ivoire.

Post written by Soma Ismael Bola, CCI Participant at NOVA-Alexandria 2016-2017, Côte d’Ivoire

Friendship Beyond My Expectation

Before my departure from Ghana I had two days sleepless nights, and all was about how to live together with different people of different cultures, believes and personalities for a year. When I arrived at my apartment with my program coordinator, we met Kiki who was the first person there, she welcomed me with smile and helped me with my luggage to my room, and all what I was expecting how difficult life would be vanished that day.

Kiki (Indonesia), Diana (India), Abibata (Ghana), & Shwethana (India)

The friendship of these girls leads me to the incredible experience; we always move together, eat together, have fun, share our cultures, problems and help each other, when we needed. I have never felt homesick because these girls have made me feel like I am with my blood sisters. What I experience from this people is that, color, culture and believes have no borders in friendship and relationship, what matters is understanding each other and respecting other views.

I had experience within my four months stay here, from fellow CCI participants, in my class, my host mom, and volunteer work, especially working with the elderly. Before I came here, I never knew that old age can loss their memory and behave abnormally but my volunteer with them made me understand this and how to deal with it.

Post written by Abibata Yakubu, CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale from Ghana

Volunteering with Economic Planning Board, Islamabad

What makes you feel good and satisfied in life is the thing which you love to do? It can be anything; sometime, it can be as simple as having a conversation with other people and sharing new ideas or new information to benefit others. To me it is meeting new people and volunteering to bring them at one platform for any specific reason. Bringing something new on the table and getting oneself involved in the activities for the well-being and prosperity of disadvantaged people means a lot to me.

Being born in a very beautiful but very remote area of Pakistan – Hamza, I was exposed to the value of community development through volunteerism from a young age as thousands of youth in area had played and still paying a vital role in uplifting our society. The power of volunteerism especially by youth to bring some semblance of balance in life of people who in need had filled my thoughts since long.

As I began to look beyond my micro universe, it became clear to me that to serve communities better a platform was inevitable and had far-reaching effect on society. I along with my friends, who were also moved by the same cause, joined a forum called Economic Planning Board (EPB) where many young professionals and students come together for a specific reason. Economic Planning board is a platform, led by volunteers, where youth and professionals are brought together so that they can solve the problem and issues faced by our communities and play their role in community development.

We at EPB, through different interventions, benefit our community especially youth not only economically but also socially, physically, and psychologically. These intentions are carried out through different programs which are designed to uplift people fall into different socio-economic status. The major program we work in are as follow.

 

Human Capital

  • Skills Development
  • Vocational Training
  • Job Placement
  • Professional
  • Development

Personal Financial Management

  • Family Budgeting
  •  Retirement Saving Plans
  • Insurance
  • Investment

Business Development Services

  • Entrepreneur / Business Development
  • Business Retention and Expansion
  • Access to Micro Loan / SME Loan
  • Agriculture Inputs/ Technical Support

Alliance and Groups

  • Trade/Business Alliances
  • Professional Associations
  • Networking Groups

These programs are conducted by our volunteers – professionals and students – who work to help and guide those who are embarking to a new chapter of their life. Every year, thousands of community members are supported in one way or another though these interventions. We help them by showing a clear path on which everyone can pursue their careers. The best thing we do is arranging different events for people and bringing them together at one platform in order to bring smiles and happiness in their faces who usually go through hardship and tough life. We also sometimes arrange different trips and hiking’s to encourage them to be closer to the nature and understand the value which they miss in their lives otherwise.

Many of you might not know about and taste a lot the values of community service which makes your life happier and healthier. Joining this group as volunteer was a great idea and has really encouraged me to share the great benefit of volunteerism with people. I have been a member of this forum for last two years. I found it interesting as they are arranging different events, programs, sessions, and many other projects to build a healthy future for our community. People who work here are all volunteers; they volunteer to learn and to make themselves happier.

Post written by Meher Sultana, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria 2016-2017, Pakistan

Post edited on November 20, 2017

CCI Program: The Way to Explore Broad World

Alexandria, VA- Since I was a child, I always heard my parents said that I have to go to new places that they have never visited before. It makes me grow as a girl with many dreams in my life; and for some people, it sounds silly and impossible. I don’t care. I just want to push my own self to be better, for the sake of my “impossible” dreams.

That believe brings me to many new things in my life. When I was in elementary school, I could travel by airplane for the first time in my life, and went to a new place –2 hours flight from my home- as an ambassador from my school in an event. Since then, I made bunch of lists about places that I must visit in my life. Years by years, in my school life, I got many chance to go to new places freely because I tried to do my best in school; Olympic, debate forum, spelling bee competition, singing competition, and many more.

One thing that I like to do when I visit new place is I get new perspective in my life. I can value something from different point of view because I go and experience something new in my life.

In 2016, I made new list. I HAVE TO GO ABROAD FOR STUDY! I wrote that sentence on the whiteboard in my bedroom. I was looking for many chance to get scholarships. Long story short, after a very long journey, I was selected as one of the selected participant of Community College Initiative Program by US Department of State. United State! I have never imagined that I will visit this country as an international student, but God makes it happens. Nothing impossible. Nothing!

Being a volunteer in 9/11 Memorial Day. I was frightened before because I was scared people will scold me because of my hijab. I was totally wrong!

And this is my first three months here. I experience the educational system in the US, the community activities like volunteering, and lots of things that I am very grateful with. I can experience how to mingle with the elderly, eat many kinds of food from the whole world, got American host family, making friends with people from different backgrounds, write 5000 words essay every single week which hopefully makes my writing better, trying so many snacks that I only watch their reviews on YouTube before, visiting some museums and historical places that makes me feel I know nothing, and so many new experience that I believe will become more and more exciting. I am pretty believe, after finishing this program, I will have many new perspectives in life, and I hope those things will make myself as a better person than before.

Got beautiful American mom and gorgeous sister from Ghana. I am blessed!

Post written by Reski Puspitasari A. Sululing, CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia

CCI Volunteering at The Vienna Oktoberfest 2017

Vienna, VA – I, with other CCI fellows, joined a volunteerism activity in Oktoberfest 2017 at 243 Church St NW (10/7). The location was about one hour driving from my home in Alexandria to the festival area in Vienna. Arriving in the location, people had been crowded in every spots in the festival. The festival were placed in several blocks and blocked the street from any traffic, letting people from all over the towns, even out of states, come and enjoy things offered in the festival. There were many things to see: art exhibition, Vienna’s Little Library 120th Anniversary, music concert, Musical Theater Performance, culinary, and, the main destination, beer festival.
All across the street, there were lots of tents erected line by line displaying artistic pieces by the local artists. One exhibition tent that interested me was decorated as Abraham Lincoln all-abouts. Visitors could find T-shirts, cups, flutter flags, name board, and other furniture that had the sign of one of the most influential US Presidents. So far, every place I visited always reflects the spirit of Abraham Lincoln in many forms like statue, furniture, and poster. I can say he is everywhere in US and becomes the spirit of Americans.
Abraham Lincoln Art Exhibition
One of my favorite parts as well as the most special one at the time was the Vienna’s Little Library 120th Anniversary which has served literature needs of the Vienna people since 1897. They were holding book exhibition. I felt so much blessed when I found that I could find and buy my favorite books for only 50 cent for each. Not only old interesting books, there were many other impressive contemporary novels and other books from different genres like psychology, philosophy, history and many more offered with very low price. Besides, they also conducted a special book talk by local writers in the next week which I unluckily could not manage to attend. However I could follow up the event in their social media account. I found that all events are easily accessible through social media.
Beside of the exhibition, there were also music concert and musical theatre that added more options to visit in the Vienna Oktoberfest 2017. In front of the stage, all audiences from the elders to the youngers, all mixed-race Americans were dancing together enjoying songs sang by the musicians whose songs enabled everyone to move from their seat to the stage to join the dance. Other than that, visitors also were able to watch drama theater which was full of musical Disney instrument. The performance was Peter Pan story. It was very impressive and successfully brought all audiences’ mind to the dream land, especially, the children. I could still feel how happy the children watching the drama directly on the stage, instead of their TV Screen.
Peter Pan Musical Theater
I volunteered in handing wristband to the visitors to get the beer by screening their ID card. It was not literally an easy job. The wristband marked them to be over 21 years old as the official requirement for US people to drink alcohol. If any of them below 21 wearing the band was inspected by the police to drink beer, my fellow volunteers and I would be of course responsible. However we managed to complete our works well since nobody was found to be so. It was fun to meet and serve people who were very excited to enjoy their beer. The funny part was when an old men came to ask their wristband and I was insisted to ask for their ID card to make sure he was over 21 years old. He asked, “is it not clearly visible for you that I am old enough for the beer, young man?”. Then I replayed, “as today you just never looked younger than before, Sir,” and we both were laughing. Many people were very pleasant for a conversation and it gave me more chances to directly learn American culture by doing my task as an age screener.
Irics, CCI participant from Indonesia, is giving a wristband to the visitor, marking her as over 21.
Having successfully conducted for ten years in a row, this festival not only purposes as an annual event where people can meet each other in weekend and have fun with exhibitions, concerts, and other entertainments offered, the event also raises money for the local charity that works for homeless, orphan children, and other people in need. Therefore I could meet many local people devoting their time as volunteers to serve the visitors. In that point, I find it as a traditional value of Americans in devoting themselves to serve their community in volunteerism.
Irics, Herman, Natalia, and Camila are posing after working as wristband volunteer
Post written by Muhammad Arham, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia

CCI VISITS THE SENATE BUILDING AND THE U.S CAPITOL

The NOVA CCI cohort visited the senate building and the U.S capitol and the 09/28/2017 a day many would cherish forever. The visit was spectacular in a sense that we got to learn about the U.S history while at the same time exploring the architectural beauty of the American sit of government. We got to see the dome of the capitol from the inside and it was a sight to behold. To every American the capitol represents liberty which is the concept that the United States was founded on, but one point that stood out for me as the author of this piece is that even though liberty was debated in the building, it was built by the struggle and sweat of enslaved African-American. It is a building that has shaped the history of America and represents the achievements and failures of United States American while at the same time protecting the democracy of the country and the freedom of the American citizens.

The day started with the visit to the senator of Virginia Mr. Kaine who was not present and we met his Legislative Coorespondents that listened to our stories regarding our experience about America. It was a healthy exercise as far as I am concerned – we gave out stories about America from a foreign perspective which is flawed for everything we said about America we were comparing it to our countries and somehow we bashed our own nations and propelled America into a podium of perfection. This perspective is I believe very superficial and it is dangerous for it hides the problems and challenges that America is confronted with. Foreigners should be as honest and as sincere about the experiences they have in America as possible. I am not judging anyone’s analysis and experience of America, I am only challenging the sugar-coating the takes place when foreigners talk about their experiences. I understand some believe in the expression that says do not bite the hand that feeds you.  But these individuals fail to realize if you do not bite the hand, you might not get to receive better food than what you are receiving.

CCI Participant Rudolf from Ghana

After we bought our lunch at the senate building we went to the capitol building. The most spectacular building in Washington, DC. It stands supreme with its pure white color as there is no building that is taller than it in DC. It is an iconic and historic building and to know more about it you have to get inside. There is a wealth of knowledge inside the capitol and it preserves history – history is preserved in lime stone and bronze inside the capitol – Jackson, Regan, Martin Luther king and many more American historic leaders. The capitol has captured every essence of America and it stands proud and tall as it is the furnace that keeps the democracy of the United States and the liberty of its citizen boiling in comfort. The U.S capitol is the freedom building of the nation and it has ensured the descendants of African-America slaves who provided free labor in the construction of the buildings and the descendants of the White Masters to live in harmony without the oppression of one another.

Inside the building there is the library of congress, it houses research papers that are very rare and it also houses the books that belonged to the founding fathers of America. The painting on the ceiling is very captivating. Every effort has been taken to ensure that the history of each president and senators who have served with high distinction is preserved and their stories be told to all who care to listen. For the CCI participants the visit was more than seeing the statues of died white men but it was about seeing the building that runs the affairs of America – the building that is more prestigious that the white house if one also takes in consideration what is happening with the current president of the United States.

Vuyani in front of the Supreme Court

What I learned from the visit is that freedom is not given it is demanded and the one who has the highest moral position no matter how weak he/she is they will prevail. That’s why the confederate lost the war and union won during the American civil war and while the U.S capitol was nearing its final construction phase.

Post written by Vuyani Maduna, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from South Africa

Reflecting on the Experiential Learning & Volunteer Fair

As I always says, my experience in this program is beyond my expectation because my experience is greater than and beyond my imagination. But if I want to categorize my experiences, the greatest of it all was the experiential learning and  volunteer fair. This was organize by CCI coordinators for we the participants to get the opportunity to meet business organizations to seek internships and volunteer opportunities.

This gave me a chance to meet the various representatives to introduced my self and shared my experience on the working field to them. I also represented my resume to them to check my track records and to know my education level and also my specific course of study. The first person I met, I was little nervous and pressure so I couldn’t express myself to my fullest satisfaction but as I moved on, all the tension and the fear in me vanished and I was able to impress them. And as a marketer, our greatest asset in communication skills and interpersonal relationships that will make you to attract and persuade customers to buy your products. It was amazing for me because it gave me that opportunity to talked to business and I can now present myself before companies to seek for internships and volunteer opportunities. There is no word I Patrick can use to describe CCI Program because the impacts that this program has made just two months in my life is magnificent and I want to take this opportunity to thank my coordinators for the marvelous works they have being doing for us. We are so grateful.

Post written by Patrick  Asampana, 2017-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale from Ghana

Washington Nationals Baseball Game

It was my first time I attend a baseball match. Thank you Mrs Kelly & Ms Kate for the beautiful gift. First when we reached at National park stadium I was really excited to see a large crowd,everyone was enjoying the day by food drink and Music, but everything was massup because of the rain, but i really appreciate National park management team they clean the water so quickly and we was able to see the match. Well though it was my first time in a baseball ground, but my feeling was just like a home run.

Thank you CCI Program to exchange my dream with reality!

Post written by Shuvajit Saha, 2017-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India

 

 

CCI NOVA Participates at the IYLA 2017, Washington, DC

August is the international youth month and on the 12th ,  the world bank group hosted young people from across the world to commemorate the international youth day at their headquarters in Washington, DC. The umbrella of the commemoration was the International Young Leaders Assembly(IYLA) 2017- which according to John Dickson, Chairman, Global Young Leaders Academy, took a long time to organize. The assembly was all about finding solutions to problems that plague young people and also to discuss some of the challenges that stagnate youth development. It was wonderful to see young adults and youngsters deliberating on issues of national and global importance. There were two sessions on the day – the service session and the entrepreneur session – before the commencement of the sessions, Daniel Pierini, Alternate Executive Director for Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, World Bank delivered a keynote address which centered around the impact that young people have in the world and what role they have in policy creation.

For the service session, there was a distinguished panel of Political leaders, ambassadors (former and current) and development experts. They all shared what they are involved in and how they impacted the communities they are involved with. Koby J. Langley, Senior vice president, Service to the Armed Force & International Humanitarian Law, American Red Cross, shared a story about his involvement in the Iraqi war – He was brought in as a young law expert, his duty was to ensure that the soldiers even though they are in war they respect human life and abide by the Laws of War. He indicated that at one point there would go on for three months without taking a bath, the conditions were tough and hard but one thing kept him and everyone going, the gifts and messages they received from the American people, one moment that prompted him to have a new definition for leadership was when he got a box of crushed Oreos and a broken toothbrush, He thought for a moment about his gifts and pictured the people who might have sent these wonderful essentials, which are in most cases trivial items, but in war they are highly important – at that moment he figured that Maybe leadership is about love and compassion, for he was convinced that the Unknown Americans who sent them gifts were doing that because of love and compassion. He said that made him to work even hard to protect human life in the war-torn Iraq.

 

I would like to share everyone’s story unfortunately I can’t, I will need to write a book to do that. Another story that I think is worth sharing is from Navya Maitri Konda, Co-Founder & President, GOAL; Stanford University, – who was visiting India at one time – she visited a center that offered learners to study and to do their homework after school. She felt happy that such a center was available to all the children in the community. One night the lights went off and the kids started to pack their books and left, she got hold of one of the children and asked why they are leaving to which he replied, “The power outages happen all the time and we don’t know when the power might be restored it can go on for days”. Hearing this she was perplexed, she came back to the United States and she started to look for solutions – she talked to colleagues, consulted professors and energy experts so that she can eliminate the problem that has the potential of ruining a good initiative and destroying the future of the children. She got the help needed and they erected solar powerlines for this particular study center. Her talk on leadership is that you do not need to be directly affected by a problem before you could find a solution to it, if it is affecting somebody and you have the means to solve it, get on it. She believes leadership is solving problems even though they have nothing to do with you.

There were closing remarks for the first session from the member of parliament in Uganda, Hon. Babirye Sarah Kityo Breeze. Her address was tailored for leaders in government. She stressed the need for young leaders in world governments so that young people’s voices can be heard in high level of power so that they can be tackled effectively. She mentioned a fact that got her applause – 60% of the members of parliament in Uganda are young women. Which is higher that any other country in the world.

The second session moved very quick and the panel was comprised of young and old entrepreneurs. They all shared stories about their businesses and how they got them to be successful. What I learned from them was that you will never be successful in business if you do not take risks and make necessary sacrifices. “To be an entrepreneur is not something you wish for, it is something that you live – it becomes a part of you”. Wise words from one of the panelists. They also had a special advice for NGOs – “it is important for NGOs to not rely only on donations, they should really think of developing their own product that can generate income to fund some of their initiatives “, said Robert Dowling founder, PennDPC; co-Founder, repurpose.

 

As young people, we are agents of change but we seem not to understand what that means. We are still hiding in the shadows. The young leader assembly was successful and most issues were discussed and the solutions were diverse, but they lacked scientific reasoning. After the two sessions were concluded there was a group discussion of about 17 core issues that are common to all the countries of the world – sustainable energy, infrastructure development, childcare, and all the way to climate change. The solutions from young were all social solutions but none of them were scientific even on issues that required science and technology. That troubled me – it means this generation lacks a holistic view of what is happening around them – some even narrowed their solutions to political rhetoric that lacks facts.

As the CCI cohort from NOVA we learned a lot from the panel that was invited to the Assembly but we learned nothing from our peers, the same cannot be said about the CCI cohort. We participated in every discussion and contributed greatly in those discussions, but scientific reasoning was still missing.

Post written by Vuyani Maduna, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from South Africa