Moving Forward

‘’Pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They are products of enlightened education and continuous investment by governments and all civil societies in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the world’s citizen.’’
-Aga Khan IV

The greatest thing can happen only when you move your one foot forward, then you can’t imagine how many good things can come across you. Yes, I took one step forward to learn, to experience and to meet some good people. I came across an opportunity that seemed very interesting to me. I read the missions and goals of the organization and I decided that I want to be a part of this organization. It is a nonprofit organization named Atlas Corps. I applied for a position as the executive intern and luckily, I got accepted for the position. I was glad and nervous at the same time. I asked my friends how am I going to do it well, they answered ‘just believe in yourself’. Believe me this simple advice helped to bring the best out of me.

My first day at Atlas Corps was great and I can’t forget that one moment I saw different faces with beautiful welcoming smile. They introduced me to everyone and by seeing their smiling faces gave me the comfort. My supervisor is the greatest person I’ve ever met, Mr. Calum Field, who welcomed and showed me around the office.

On that day, my first assignment was something I’ve never done before and it excited me that I was going to learn something new. Mr. Calum Field is a very well-planned and active Executive Assistant   and on the higher position is Mr. Scott Beale, the Executive Director, a great man with great ideas. I found him very friendly and helpful. I came across many good things I can learn from them such as; how international organizations works, how they put together the work and idea of a diverse group of leaders. They all are leaders from different countries and I found myself as part of the team. My contribution was little but valuable for them as well as for me. What they do is they bring young leaders from all around the world to the United States of America to do volunteer work for one year. Atlas Corps is an international network of leaders of nonprofit organizations and they all promote innovation, cooperation, and solutions to address critical social challenges by building young leaders, and supporting innovation through an overseas fellowship of skilled professionals.

 

 

 

 

This internship taught me many things and increased my network as well. I am glad that there is an organization like Atlas Corps that focuses on developing professional youth and promoting innovations among skillful young leaders. Atlas Corps gives opportunity to the youths and focuses on their contribution to the economy.

I am also grateful for CCI Program for giving me such an opportunity to learn and to improve my leadership skills, networking skills and to learn from some great individuals.

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

My Experiential Learning

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” (Benjamin Franklin).

It is sad when something so special to you comes to an end, my time would end in the United States of America very soon, but on the other hand, I am so grateful and happy for the incredible experience in a place where I never imagined I would ever venture to go to. CCI is the program which provide me this golden opportunity to visit my dream land. This program provide me many opportunities in these 10 months to learn technical skills, enhance my leadership capabilities and strengthen my language proficiency, networking and service learning, for which I am very thankful. I am going to talk about one the best opportunity provide by this program to learn and develop my professional skills is the internship program or experiential learning.

Currently I am working as a program assistant in Lincolnia Senior Center Virginia, United States. This is a community center which provide residence, meals, supportive services, medical guardian, transportation, shopping services and social, physical, emotional, and intellectual needs for older citizens. I am incredibly happy to have been a part of this organization as I have a strong will to help others in my life. My duties are to create a weekly calendar, Manage activities for seniors, engaged them in activities and games, maintaining suggestion programs, taking interview and making their life stories. I spend most of the time learning administrative stuff like, planning and implementation of activities for residents. Designs programs to encourage their social life, provide entertainment, relaxation, and fulfillment, and improve daily living skills. This is a wonderful opportunity I got to learn new things.

I was thinking that it will be very hard for me to adjust and understand in a new organizational culture and stratification in the beginning but when I start communicating and discuss thing with my director I felt relax. As a program assistant, I work under the guidance of the program director Miss Carolyn Martin who has an experience of almost 30 years in her respective field, and I feel fortunate to have met all the other staff as well. They are all colorful characters; people who have experienced a lot and are willing to share their knowledge with the younger generations. This is also a wonderful opportunity for me to make Networking. It prepared me to produce, team work and enhance leadership skills. Furthermore, what I most embraced about this internship is, I got chance to work in a democratic leadership environment that they include every staff in meetings, discussions and making decisions. My director always give much value for my openings and that gives me a great sense of importance, belonging and encouragement. I learned to be patient, to show good judgement and respect the different backgrounds and experience of a diverse group of people. I have increased my knowledge, humility, faith, hope, and passion I learned from my boss that I should not limit myself. Go out there and explore the world that is meant to be explored. She is one of the special, and influential person that has been a big part of my life. She gives me wonderful advice, and has taught me a lot about life.  She has taught me so much in such a short amount of time.

Post written by Naveen, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017 from Pakistan

Mom Again…. My Experience as a Social Host in the Community College Initiative Program

My husband emailed me at work one day in early August of 2016 – he wanted to sign up to be a “social host” for the Community College Initiative Program.  I had no idea what that meant – and my first reaction was “absolutely not”.  Knowing that as “mom”, a full time lawyer, the “manager” of our family (and we had just adopted a 7 month old puppy!)– it would be one more thing added to my already full plate.

About a week later, my husband sent me a confirmation letter.  We were matched with a student from Ghana.  Reluctantly, I agreed to participate.

Our first meeting was at the NOVA Annandale campus.  We met Eben, our student from Ghana.  He is a tall young man, with a wide smile. Eager to meet his new family, share his culture and learn about ours.  The meeting went well. Our eleven year old daughter, Maya, was excited.  I remember feeling bad, because we were about to leave on vacation.  But we promised that we would connect upon our return and begin our duties as “social hosts.”

We quickly became Facebook friends with Eben.  I think he “liked” every photo on my page.  We went on vacation and upon our return, the whirlwind of back-to-school time began.  How do I have time for this student, I thought?

Well – sharing time with Eben became easy. I first invited him to one of Maya’s basketball games and dinner. I thought – “this is our life, he should see what we do.”

With Grandma in tow, we picked up Eben for our first outing.  Eben quickly became an active participant, bouncing the ball back and forth to Maya when she wasn’t playing.  Eben began teaching me words in his language.

Our first dinner outing made me realize how fortunate we are – and what little Eben knew about American life.  He wanted help deciding what to order, questioned why there were so many forks on the table and why the servers kept filling our water glass.  We guided him through it.  Maya took an active role in this, teaching Eben to place his napkin on his lap and to use the large sharp knife to cut his steak.  Eben savored every bite – and showed his appreciation to us.

And so it began: the relationship that would change my life.  We invited Eben to the pumpkin patch.  He was so amazed – this is not what a farm in Ghana looked like – there were pumpkins, hay rides, goats to feed, swings, and huge slides to go down.  By the end of the day, Eben was exclaiming to us that “America is great!”  At this time, we were about to go into an election, where our soon-to-be President wanted to make our country great again.  I thought, ‘Eben is right – America is already great.’

Soon after this trip, I became “mom” to Eben.  I was a bit taken aback, but decided to roll with it. I learned that his own mother was not currently part of his life. I felt awkward and honored that he would bestow that title on me.

We continued on with our journey.  We took Eben to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate his birthday.  As “mom”, I began looking out for him. He’s allergic to corn, so I would discuss that with the servers. We made sure he received lots of gifts and wore the Sombrero.  He invited his roommate, Mehedi.  Little did I know, I was about to be a “mom” to both students.

We invited Eben to Ohio for Thanksgiving. He met my family. He saw snow!  If you really want to get to know someone – take them on a road trip.  It was then that I began to realize that Eben is an amazing young man.  He soaked in every moment of the trip, thanking us profusely along the way.  We toured Cleveland with him, took him to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, the waterfront, Dave & Busters, and a Hibachi restaurant. He met my high school friends, saw my grade school, my high school, my college and prayed in mother’s church.  I was moved beyond measure at how much this simple gesture – sharing my past – meant to him.

Inviting Eben and his roommate Mehedi to events with our family then became second nature.  They attended Maya’s piano recital, we went to Georgetown cupcake, we went to church.  They learned how crazy American’s are about their pets when I threw a 1st birthday party for our dog, Munchie.

We planned a trip to New York City, my husband’s parents live outside the city.  Eben and Mehedi met Ed’s family, toured NYC, and explored great restaurants.  They photographed EVERYTHING along the way!  It is amazing to know that even a subway sign is new and exciting to some.

As I said before, if you really want to get to know someone, take them on a road trip.  Because after this trip, I now had two sons. I was now “mom” to Eben and Mehedi. I didn’t mind one bit anymore. They were now part of me, my family and my heart.

Family birthday parties were to follow.  The Women’s March on Washington, roller skating, bowling, the Harlem Globetrotters, my birthday celebration, the movies.  They became family.  More church services.  We brought Mehedi to church services.  What an eye opener to see a Christian church experience through the eyes of a Muslim.  He soaked it all in – enjoying every minute.  We brought
them to Palm Sunday service, dyed Easter eggs, attended a vigil, they helped with lawn work at our home and even received a visit from the Easter Bunny and brought more friends to our Easter dinner and egg hunt!  Eben and Mehedi brought friends from the program and visited Maya’s school.  They shared a wealth of knowledge about their countries with Maya’s class.  And the class – they took up a donation of school supplies to send to Ghana.

Our time now is coming to an end. We are jamming in many more moments together before they leave to go home. I keep thinking that these are my boys and this is their home.  The students that I was so unsure of back in August will be leaving me, and it breaks my heart.  I am hoping they both return to the U.S as both hoping to come back and pursue more schooling here.  I am hoping to take Maya to Ghana and Bangladesh someday.  I want to meet both of their father’s that I have only spoken to on the phone.I know this experience has changed me.  I opened my heart and I learned so much about two young, amazing men and their cultures. My daughter has learned that she is very fortunate. And she has learned that if you work hard, you can overcome and succeed.

My advice to other families that consider being a social host – these students want to be a part of your life. Participate only if you have the time. Believe it or not, you probably do have the time – because all they really want is to experience the life you are already living.  And as I taught Eben and Mehedi, when you do something like this, you should “go big or go home.”  So take them along for the ride.

To my sons – forever – Eben and Mehedi.  Wherever life takes you, take me in your heart, as you will be in mine.

This experience was amazing and it went by way to fast. In fact, if I had blinked, I would have missed it….

Love,

Mom

Post written by Doreen Manchester, CCI Program Social Host 2016-2017

THE HUMPHREY FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM, NOVA AND CCI PROGRAM CREATE MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING

This article originally appeared in the Northern Virginia Community College’s newspaper Above the Fold

Ms. Huyen Pham, a fellow from the Humphrey Fellowship Program from Vietnam, visited Northern Virginia Community College during the week of March 26 to participate in an international exchange of information and mutual understanding of major global issues -such as public health, while creating long-lasting meaningful and productive relationships and partnerships between NOVA and other countries. The week culminated on Friday, March 31, with a discussion with the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program participants about the Fellowship Program and the HIV/AIDS issues and substance abuse.

Ms. Pham has been a senior researcher for drug policy related studies with the Center for Research and Training on HIV/AIDS (CREATA) at Hanoi Medical University since 2009, and was previously awarded with a scholarship at the Australian Agency for International Development.

As part of the NOVA core mission of educational experience, the international exchange participation with Ms. Pham opened doors for the exchange of information with the NOVA and local community about issues of public health, substance use and abuse, HIV/AIDS, prevention, policies and human rights.

Meeting with Associate Dean Hemchand Gossai (left) & Dean Burton Peretti (right) of the Liberal Arts Division)

During the week, the members of the Humphrey committee organized meetings with the college members, staff and students at the Annandale and Medical Center campuses, and with experts from the National Institute of Health, the World Bank, Chris Atwood Foundation, and George Mason University. She had the opportunity to network and create significant connection that, according to her, “will help her to research and conduct evidence to advocate for different policies, involve the government, and change perspectives.”

Huyen & Kelly with Andrew B. Cornell, Dean of Allied Health & Interim Provost of MEC

The last day, Ms. Pham visited the participants of the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program at NOVA. Both the CCI Program and the Humphrey Fellowship Program are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provide ten months of non-degree academic studies in related fields, and foster a mutual exchange of understanding and knowledge.

Ms. Pham motivated the CCI Program participants to look for opportunities to learn and to give back to their communities. Naik Alam, CCI participant from Pakistan, said he is “interested in poverty alleviation in general, and the role of women in this cause. I really wish to have this kind of opportunities in the future, where we can work with our government on a policy level.” Rajesh Shanmugan, CCI participant from India, expressed that he wants to be a Humphrey Fellow in the future: “I want to make researches to find methods to cure cigarettes and alcoholism addiction, because many families in India are seriously affected by them.”

During the discussion, Ms. Pham said her major goals are to share her knowledge with the younger generation, to change policies, and to enhance the voice of those who are going through drugs and IHV/AIDS problems, and who are discriminated against by society, so that they can find support in the community. “They deserve to be seen as sick, not as criminals. They are humans as well,” she mentioned. Her work in ethnography studies has led her to be labeled as a drug consumer, since she spends most of her time with them. “I do it because I need to understand the reasons why they do it and what are their challenges,” she added.

Problems such as drug addiction and HIV/AIDS affect every nation, so she believes that through networking, conferences, and cooperation, the problem can be addressed. The goal is to inform and educate people from different parts of the world, and that is what the CCI Program is promoting with Humphrey Fellowship Program’s help.

 

Kgaogelo Mbewe, from South Africa, said “I though HIV/AIDS was only a problem in Africa, and after today’s discussion, my eyes have been opened to the fact that it is a worldwide problem, and that countries need to work together to educate people about the virus, how to protect themselves, and how to live and accept those who are already infected.” These issues are affecting all counties, because it is not only happening in Vietnam but everywhere. As Ms. Pham said, “What happens anywhere can happen everywhere.”

Post written by Vanesa de la Cruz, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Colombia

Touch Your Society

Coming from a country like South Africa that has a history of white supremacy and black oppression, I always knew that racial differences exist and are becoming problematic yet again in other countries including the United States of America. I had heard of people saying there are way too many racial issues in this country, I am fortunate so far to have never came across any racial prejudice but this has impacted my stay in this country in other ways. I am one person who loves having the television playing in the background when I study and often I’d be drawn by a racial incident involving a white cop and a black child, or some comment made to the Muslims / Mexican people. I can always feel the hair on my back stand up every time I see a police car; I am terrified to even help people in the street because the popular belief is that black people aren’t capable of any good deed. When I walk around campus, seeing Muslim students my heart aches with pain because I can almost smell their fear due to the current political climate that is building up in the country.

Hearing about how innocent people are killed and mistreated because of their race, religion, sexual orientation etc really boils my blood and it gives me even more motive to encourage people to travel more often and to connect with people outside their race, religion, tribe and country. And you probably asking yourselves why I’m talking about racial issues well let me take you out of the curiosity box: our scholarship program exists for cultural exchange, academic reasons and building relationships. It is important that we as beneficiaries of this program go back to our home countries and erase all this myths and stereotypes that exist in our own families and societies about other people.

I feel that it is now our responsibility to create world peace, honestly we cannot change the globe at once but if each and everyone one of us touches their society eventually the entire globe will see the light. Sometimes people are not even aware of their discriminating comments, not because they are ignorant but simply because they are not informed and were never exposed to a different group of people. We have been afforded the opportunity to learn about 13 different countries, their cultures, the traditions and their belief about other people-what now ? Now you go back home and be an ambassador for a world free of discrimination & the elimination of any supremacy.

The world is big enough for everyone to live in harmony and peace, without fear of being mistreated or killed for being different.

Post written by Ramaabele Millicent Mabotha, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, South Africa

Time

I have always wanted to experiment with something new; something meaningful for my life, something that changes who I am.

Moises Gomez, Photo by Vanesa de la Cruz

My experience with the CCI has been more than amazing. The people, culture, and the continuous learning experiences have been part of this journey that I call “life”.

During this process, I have become more receptive to the details and important things in my life. Before, I thought that I was living, but, I was just in a rush to obtain the things that I wanted. I was always focused on my dreams, and never enjoyed the journey to obtain them.

When I let go of my anxiety about the future, in that moment, and just in that moment, I opened my eyes. Before, I couldn’t see the things that were around me, and I totally forgot to live my life, because I was always trying to achieve my dreams no matter at what cost.

Being here has made me realize that the most important thing is to not only just achieve a dream, but, to enjoy the journey. Doing what I love brings happiness to my life. As Steve Jobs said “your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do a great work is to love what you do”.

This program, that brought me outside of my comfort zone, took me from what I know to the unknown, and helped me to realize that dreams can be achieved. The process won’t be easy, and maybe there will be failures and doubts, but, at the end, what matters is not how fast we can achieve our goals, it’s about how we live during the journey.

Your time to live is limited, so don’t waste it. Our life is full of options; what happens today happens because of what we chose in the past.

Post written by Moises Gomez, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Colombia

No need to be colored

Spending 10 months with people you never thought you will see or meet one day. People that you don’t choose to live with. People that you just heard about them through media. When you get to meet them and live with them it is just an awesome experience.

Have you ever asked yourself how it feels to sit by somebody who looks physically different from you?? Without even talking to that person? Yes I made it and did more than that. From Pakistan to Dominican Republic, passing by Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Columbia, Ghana, South Africa, Turkey, Brazil, Yemen, even my own country, Côte D’Ivoire. What a great opportunity.  The best way for our world to come together is to communicate. It is true that it will be difficult the first time but isn’t it true that strength lies in diversity???

These simple things are not really taken into consideration but they are all linked. If only the world can see it. How important it is to learn from each other, regardless the color of the skin, or the differences. We have much more to learn.  We all complete each other. We are divided because we don’t understand. Let’s just take a little bit of our time to know each other. We just need to be open minded, we need to get out of our box to see how awesome it is to learn other culture.

Post written by Adjoke Therese Babalola, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Côte D’Ivoire

Share the Love

Sharing is caring. CCI Program has given me the opportunity to experience this beautiful phrase through volunteering. I have witnessed how American loves to give back to the community and to help those in need. There are people who are willing to sacrifice their time, energy, mind, and even money to put smiles on somebody’s else face.

As CCI participant we are required to do minimum 125 hours of volunteering, therefore I and some friends signed up to help Alexandria Dept. of Community and Human Services last year, December 11th-14th, distributing Christmas presents for low-income families.

I was amazed of the number of presents were delivered to the office. There were literally more than 1000 boxes and bags filled up with things. I and some other volunteers were marking and counting the presents, we put them in different sections based on their numbers to make it easy for us to find them when the listed families came to take them the next few days. More and more presents were delivered each day by those who signed up as donors. Little children came with their parents holding small boxes they had helped wrapping to be given to people they never even met before. There were new and beautiful bicycles coming in ready to be taken away to make other small children happy, Christmas trees and its ornaments to lighten up some more houses, jackets and gloves to warm some more people during winter, and many other things.

The fact that the donors didn’t even know the people they have been assigned to help personally but still they joyfully spent their time, energy, and money to brighten up those people’s holidays just really touched my heart. The donors simply registered through the office’s website, then they were given lists of families they could choose to help. Some of them even did more than one families. They received lists of things the family needed and then they started shopping, wrapping and delivering them to the office. Later on, the families came to the office to take them. We as the volunteers helped around to carry the things out for the families and to load them into their cars. I really enjoyed the work I did during those four days since I was able to witness the joy expressed on those people’s faces especially the children when they got new bikes or other cool stuffs. Even the donors came in happily with bags and boxes knowing that some people would have merrier Christmas or happier holidays time this year.


Volunteering has been a great learning process for me and also an eye opener of how much an individual or group of people can do to make better life for everybody else. What you do matters, you can choose to either put sulk or smile on other’s face. For me a smile it is.

Post written by Picessylia Anakay, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia

Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students