Tag Archives: Arizona

We have more things to learn than to teach

“You never know how the things that you are doing are going to impact others”, said Dr. Rahman and, as always, I listened to what he was saying carefully because his words are filled with truth and experience and because I already know that, if you listen to people like him and actually do what they advise, you can achieve and realize great things.

Dr. Syedur Rahman and Vanesa

I was sitting in a room with 5 other Alumni in Sedona, USA, being part of the Pathways to Success Program (PSP) after only two years of being a participant myself.

We were hiding from the current participants because we were a “surprise for them”, but I did not understand what that meant until the moment they saw us and start clapping and standing up for us. I don’t think they understand how much it mean for us, how humbled we were feeling and how filled our hearts were because a group of students who never met us before were so happy to see us. In that moment I remember what Dr. Rahman said, that we impact people in some many ways without realizing. What the participants do not know is that the surprise was for us and that we, the Alumni, were the ones who learned the most during the week.

We were there only to share our experiences in hope that the participants could learn something from them, to help them understand that going back is extremely hard but is necessary because is a process of growth, to remind them that they have been given a great opportunity and that for those “to whom much has been given, much is requested”, and to help them realize that failure is also a possibility, but not the last word. For us, as Alumni, it is also hard to stay motivated, to find resources and help, to create a path to follow and to keep working even when it seems like it is worthless. We are also humans. But we love our work, we are passionate about helping and we will not stop until we make the change we want to see in the world. Because, if it is not us, who else will do it?

I felt humble to be part of the PSP because my project is just starting, but I hoped I could teach that starting is a huge challenge and that it takes a lot of time and mistakes. I also felt honored to be able to learn from my fellow alumni:


Vanesa and the other alumni with Dr. Syedur Rahman

Analú, from Costa Rica, taught me that having a good team is very important; that if you are not given an opportunity, you must stand up and create your own; and that things do not usually go as expected, so you should always be prepared with a backup plan. She also showed me that real women help each other to shine bright!

Sharon, from South Africa, has the biggest smile to face anything that comes to her life and is a strong woman who can also help other women to grow, to learn and to be independent. She is not selfish with her knowledge and experience.

Sabinga, from Kenya, taught us another expression of love: he showed us that we can love, protect, and give up everything we have to help those who cannot speak by themselves, the animals. Our hearts are big enough to fit not only humans, but every being on the world.

Pradeep, from India, was the example of balance: he taught us that we can both create business opportunities and help those around us. Also, he has Learning by Locals to show that to help others, you first got to help yourself.

Jaya, from Indonesia, showed us that, little by little, you can achieve huge things and that trust is the most important thing you can gain from anyone.

Vanesa, Sabinga, Analú , Pradeep, Sharon, and Jaya

Everything we do will have an impact in our lives and everything we hear and see from others can change the way we think and can give us ideas about how to act. Sometimes, listening is more important than talking.

I also had the pleasure of speaking with current participants that helped me understand that the future is bright because they have great ideas and the willingness to make them come true. They have the same fears as we still have and so many questions, but that is part of the path. Eylül, (Turkey), for example, has a lot of energy and is a great ambassador of the program and of her country, and that is already a lot to start with. Roger and Carlos (from Colombia), are already making connections and presenting their project to possible partners. Lalit, from India, is passionate about is work and did not wait for the CCI to end to start acting. Sarah, from Egypt, mixed what she enjoys with her action plan. And like them, many more participants have strong plans to help their communities back home.

Vanesa with Eylül and Analú

Finally, I was able to go back to the same places I walked two years ago and to meet many people that I lived and spent time with. The moment the plane landed in Washington, DC I was very emotional and nostalgic and could not stop my tears. The place was the same, but the feeling was bittersweet because I was not there with many of the friends that I love and miss.

Those who I met, like Kelly, my coordinator, the CCI staff members and two of my best friends, Akram (from Yemen), and Stephanie (my Puerto Rican friend from Church), remain the same in their spirits and souls, but life has made them grow tons. Meeting them filled my heart and was one of the moments I will remember forever. I am blessed to have people so loving and caring.

Thank you CCI Program for changing my life and the life of so many more.

Post written by Vanesa de la Cruz from Colombia, 2016-2017 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale

Antelope Canyon: Beauty of Colors

Wow! amazing! I toured the Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona! It was quite a wonderful experience!.

Thanks to Mid-Year Retreat and Pathway to Success Program offered by CCI Consortium and the U.S Department of State, the six-day long Arizona tour becomes greatly remarkable with all high standard workshops again memorable with all these amazing landscapes.

The program includes touring four of the top-rated tourist spots-Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Cathedral Rock and Grand Canyon.

Lake Powell Reservoir, one of the premier boating destinations in the world, was right next to our first resort. I did not miss a single chance to appreciate its prepossessing beauty every moment I stayed there.

Roads in Arizona offer so scenic riding opportunities that you feel yourself lucky enough having a window seat in bus. But here today I write about my experience in Antelope Canyon.

It was astounding to see the beauty created by the force of flash floods and howling winds through the Canyon. Truly, I was immensely impressed.

Our guide made our whole experience so enjoyable, it wouldn’t have been the same without her guidance.
She showed us the many special sculptures within the Canyon created by nature itself. She sincerely helped us to capture the beautiful images perfectly on our camera.

Masud at the entrance of Antelope Canyon

I attended the lower canyon tour Tuesday, January 8, 2019. We took a jeep driven by our guide to get in the destination.
It was a sunny and beautiful day with no snow or rain.

At the entrance of the canyon our tour guide excellently provided a ton of information and details, not only about the canyon itself and how it was discovered and formed, but also the surrounding areas.

A canyon view close to the entrance

Once you have entered the canyon, the walk through the narrow passageways makes you feel thrilled. The place seemed to be dark at the beginning of the walk as the eyes take some time to adjust to rather dim lighting levels.

But after a while you find that all the canyons were always open to the sky and there is enough light to see the passage. The walks through the canyons were not very long or difficult.

It was amusing to witness inside the canyon what wind and water can do to rock.
The canyon and their walls have been carved very smoothly. We explored it and walked through them comfortably.
My friends and I really love what nature has done to these landscapes.

The guide is a skilled photographer and knows all about camera and Android/Apple phones. She captured awesome photos of ours and various sections in the canyon from different angels and taught us the perfect ways for capturing photos there. 
I learn from her that first and foremost task is to make some vital adjustments to camera settings before the click.

Looking up from the bottom of Antelope Canyon

The location really is a photographic gem. The texture on the walls of this natural canyon is incredible. 
A photo titled “Phantom” taken here by Landscape photographer Peter Lik was sold for $6.5 million to a private collector in November 2014.

The last part is walking back to the plain land to get in the vans to return us to our tour buses. She said “No more photos in way back. We now see it for ourselves”.

Another charm was there the route between mountains as they are everywhere in Arizona.
The hills were covered by the snow that turns them looking huge pile of white snow from some angels.

I believe the canyon is truly one of God’s finest creations! The tour was unbelievable. Our tour guide (wish I could remember her name) provided us with excellent narration and a rich history of the canyon.

Some of the “sculptures” created by the wind in Antelope Canyon

I consider this as one of the MOST enjoyable tour I have made so far.

Post written by Md Masud  from Bangladesh, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria.

Second inspiration by CCI that is going to affect my life!

Do you all remember the moment you heard about CCI? I still remember the sparkling that I felt. I was sitting in the back of the classroom and listening about what is CCI and how could we apply? Every sentence that I heard made me so excited and my eyes wet. I don’t know why, but I was so hopeful at that moment. I am telling you about back then because I ensure you, I felt the same thing during the Pathways to Success Program Alumni meeting.

We had done lots of things at Pathways to Success Program (PSP). This program was organized for us to keep on fresh and stay motivated as CCI participants. Also, we had a chance to engage with students from other colleges and countries. We heard about their action plans and CCI experience stories of participants that were in the panel. Shortly, all workshops we had were to help us improve ourselves.

Eylül with other CCI NOVA participants

I am kind of a person who likes listening success stories, mainly if the story somehow related something that I am trying to achieve in my life. On the 5th day of PSP, we started to hear about some alumni success. I was paying so much attention because I knew that I could find the inspiration that I need for my action plan. Firstly, we learned about Ana Lucia Cole (Costa Rica). She won the AIEF funding with her group, then we saw that Gilbert Sabinga Lekalau (Kenya) found a system to save elephants in his area. Jaya Gulo (Indonesia) helped his community children, providing them with books, bags and other school materials. Mokgadi Sharon Papetswa (South Africa), helped her community by starting a green company and giving the opportunity to women to start their franchised businesses. Pradeep Kumar (India), his NGO became #1 on TripAdvisor website and Vanesa De La Cruz Pavas (Colombia) created a CCI Colombian Alumni Club to stay in touch as alumni while volunteering and helping their community.


Eylül with CCI Alumni: Pradeep (India), Vanesa (Colombia) , and Sabinga (Kenya)

Hearing their stories from first hand has given me the courage to improve my action plan and after hearing them, I already feel filled with motivation, but as soon as they entered the room; I surprised and amazed. As I saw them, I felt the same sparkling in my heart as when I heard about the CCI Program. It is essential to have the same feeling, because that first sparkling was the reason that I am in the program now. I hope with the second one I will accomplish what I want from my Action Plan!

I also had a chance to engage with Vanesa. She was the person who inspired me the most. She replied my all questions patiently and sincerely and she made me understand that it isn’t a big deal to fail sometimes. It is important to have the courage to continue. Thank you, Vanesa! Thank you for sharing you story with me, I appreciate it!


Eylül with Vanesa de la Cruz,2016-2017 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale from Colombia

I think that almost everyone had lots of fun in Arizona! Meeting with our country people, sharing our memories, making new friends and networking was excellent.  I already feel sorry that it ended. I am sure that we all are going to remember everything about it, and I hope we will, also remember the workshops and ideas that CCI has given to us. Those were precious moments that we can’t get at the same time and same place. (Again) Thank you, CCI!


Eylül and Berke (Turkey) with NOVA CCI staff.

Post written by Emel Eylül Akbörü  from Turkey, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

There Must Be A Way

It was cloudy that day, January 12th 2017, our seventh day in Arizona for CCI Program mid year retreat. Sergio, our bus driver, rode the bus slow enough that we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way to Sedona. It took about 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach Cathedral Rock Trail where we would start our Silent Reflections Hike. Andrew, CCI staff who has become more like a friend, gave us short briefing about the hike and its purpose few minutes before we got off the bus. We were encouraged to stop talking the second we stepped down from the bus and to find our own path to climb up to the top of the rock therefore we could have personal time to reflect on our life and goals we have set or other things that matter. We could also skim for small rock along the trail which we felt like representing ourselves or things that are important to us and we might take it home as memory-keeper from Sedona for us. He understood that some of us might not take that silent hike seriously and he was right. Some people were still talking when we started walking up the trail. I decided to get off the bus after most of my friends had left. As my friends followed the trail, I turned to different path remembering what Andrew told us. I walked through a small river and bushes and trees without saying a word. At first I thought I would not enjoy that hike and the silence but it turned out to be different. I loved the silence so much that I wished I was the only person there at that very moment, or I could walk far enough that my friends’ voices wouldn’t be heard.

I kept walking and sometimes jumping over some rocks. There were times when I got scared thinking of snake or tarantula would come out from the rocks or bushes along my way but I remembered somebody once told me that they all would be hiding during winter so I should be safe. Once I got rid of all the scary thoughts that hike became more enjoyable. I confidently walked toward the big rocks standing in front of me and was determined to climb them up even though it seemed difficult. Whenever I reached the points where it looked like there was no way up, I would tell myself “No Cessy, there must be a way! Don’t give up!”. Then I would go round the rock and found that way. I crawled. I slid. I held on the tips of the rocks. I prayed that I will not fall down.

A small heart-shaped rock caught my eyes when I finally reached the top of the rocks. I took it and gave myself some time to think of the meaning of that small rock for me. I came to conclusion that love has always been the strongest force on earth for me. I always believe that whatever we do if it comes out of love it will bear fruit. In the middle of chaos and bad things that happen all around the world, even a small action of love will bring peace and hope for those who are hopeless. There will be times when I feel like giving up on people or my dreams to help my community, at those times I should remember the very reason why I start doing whatever I have planned on doing to help my community which is to share the love.
Silent hike was the best memory of mine during the midyear retreat simply because I learned not to give up easily when I reached the dead end but to try to find another way. I was also reminded that I should not underestimate the power of love, that it doesn’t matter how small the help I can be for my people as long as I do it with love it will touch them.

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