Tag Archives: Community

A Brand New Story

By Willy-Edgar Y. Jefferson Kouakou

Visiting with other Côte d’Ivoire students in Washington, D.C.

Have ever found yourself in an unbelievable situation? A situation you cannot explain how you got in. A situation like a dream? If yes, then you should be able to imagine how I was, and how I am since the first day I got selected for the CCI Program. Coming to the United States of America was a dream that came to pass, and for this opportunity I am totally grateful.

I would like to share with you a portion of my experience since I came in the United States of America. For my second time to take the flight, I was very excited because of the destination. It was hard to leave my family for this adventure, but I took it as a new challenge for building within me some skills and abilities. In fact, the Community College Initiative Program is a life changing opportunity. Each day is full of experiences, lessons, idea and fun. 

At the very beginning, I met extraordinary people from all around the world; the other CCI Participants. We got to know each other daily. One thing I am grateful for is to have all these cultures represented right with me every day. That is incredible how diverse our world is! I was just proud and thankful to be part of this cross-cultural program occurring in a cross-cultural country. I felt glad to interact with people and moreover, I was very excited when it came to speak about my country, my cultures, the way we do things, the way we understand the world and how we interact with people. I realized that in less than two months that many of my childhood and teenage dreams were fulfilled, one was to come is the U.S, another one was to see famous places like The White House, The Capitol Building, The Pentagon, the Washington Monument, and one other dream was to speak before an assembly of youth from all round the World. On the 07, August 2019, we all went to a youth summit in Washington DC, at the World Bank and there, I got the privilege to take the floor and express myself in front of hundreds of people. I still remember when I told the assembly that that day was the Independence Day Anniversary of my country, my dear Cote D’Ivoire; they gave a round of applause before I kept on and once again, I felt grateful.

CCI Participants at the World Bank Summit in Lafayette Square

A brand-new story started, and I am no more the same! Here, I am taking classes of Social Media and Marketing in NOVA (Northern Virginia) Community College – Annandale campus. For me Marketing was just what everyone of us thinks it is but after my first class with an amazing Teacher called Zulma Westney, I understood that marketing was more than that. Every day builds me up and strengthens in me more skills. 

As the story kept on going on, I am still feeling blessed by the crowd of opportunities we are exposed to. Volunteering activities, new places discovery, new food tasting and meeting of new people are making my stay in the U.S. My experience is getting more enriched and amazing through workshops, museums visit, Holidays like Thanksgiving, but above all, the kindness of my Social families (Mindi & Alan) – (Barbara & Wayne). They are always taking care of me as a genuine child of them. Thank you for being so kind and available.

Recently, I got a brand new Internship in Washington DC. I could not believe to get this opportunity at this period. There also, I am learning a lot in my field of study because of the practical thing we do. I am blessed to be part of this program, I am blessed to have met such great coordinators who really help me and all the CCI participants. I am blessed to be part of the G7 Team (the Ivorian CCI Participant) always supported by Mr. Gbagbakou, I am blessed to be part of IF NOVA and I am also blessed to share with you my experience. To conclude I would like to encourage everyone reading my article to strongly believe that nothing is impossible if only we can work hard and believe in us; here is the proof, from the Capitol of Bouake (Cote D’Ivoire), I got to the Capitol of the United States of America. If you do not believe in yourself nobody will do it for you and always remember that by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.

Thank you.

God bless you. 

Look for opportunities by going your own way

What would you do if you apply to the CCI program and get a NOT as an answer three times in a row? Would you give up on your dream or would you remain stubborn, and try one more time in an effort to finally be selected? The answer seems obvious now, but after a 4th attempt, I was finally chosen to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. Being a CCI participant to me means that dreams actually do come true. I know it sounds cliche but I did not stop until I reached this spot where I am today and that’s the best definition I could find for it.

Ten months may look like a long period of time, but actually that number is not that big as one might think. Let a day pass without taking advantage of it; then you would have wasted an opportunity. When you fight hard for something the way I did you realize that there is no room for wasting chances to meet new people and learn. It is equally important to move out of your comfort zone, go your own way, and seek for those things happening around you. The day I arrived in the United States, I set as a goal that I was determined to bring out the best in me, and so far I am achieving and molding this new philosophy in my life every single day.

District Creatives: A Creative discussion with Rebecca Stonebraker

I am well aware that opportunities never knock twice the door; you have to look for them! Something I love about the Washington DC Metro area is the creativity pouring from every corner. In DC, for example, designers, communicators, and entrepreneurs gather together to create groups with the objective of mutual learning, exchanging of ideas, networking, and genuinely growing; whether is a workshop, a panel with experts, or just a meeting in a cafe I always learn something different from each one of them.

ONA DC, Media Entrepreneurship workshop

The first event I attended was a meetup in a group called “District Creatives.” This group focuses on creative careers. This is an excellent place to learn and know what is trending today in our field. There are a lot more groups and communities I have successfully joined and they have been providing a platform to show myself and make connections. ONA DC, Design + Donuts, and Design Thinking: DC are just a few to mention. I am a firm believer that people should not be scared of walking alone in order to find ways to improve and grow just as I am doing here. Four months have passed and I feel like I have been here for two years.

National Public Radio panel

I would like to finish with the following example: Lindsey Stirling, the famous and super talented violinist was once told she was not marketable while participating in America’s Got Talent and was eliminated from the competition. This event did not stop her; she knew her worth, she continued learning, and practicing; today, she is one of the most successful American performers. The process of learning never ends if you know what exactly it is what you want; limitless chances are waiting for you but the question is: Are you willing to work for them?

Post written by Juan Gabriel Tangarife Usuga, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Colombia

The Best Semester I Could Have Had

My fall semester was different from all the other CCI participants. I think this was the hardest semester of my life. When I arrived my English wasn’t so good and I needed to improve it as soon as possible. After the summer semester classes, I took the English test, and then I started my intensive English classes. Three months of good laughs and a tremendous improvement of my English. I learned a lot from my classes. My teacher was always providing us with something different in the classroom, like videos and music. We always made presentations and shared our experiences. I know that my English is really better now, thanks to my performance, my English classes and also the help of my housemates, Sarah and Helen.

Schawany with her housemates Sarah (Egypt) and Helen (Indonesia)

I got a better improvement also with volunteers. Talking to someone who speaks English has made me learn a lot and also lose the fear of speaking English. The conversation with an American is different and I find it a bit difficult. I learned that I do not have to be afraid to make mistakes in this phase of learning that I find myself in, it is super normal to make mistakes and I will not be judged because of them. All the people I met during my volunteers were very kind and patient with me, and this behavior made me a bit more confident about my English.

Now I can express myself, take other classes, and have long conversations with much more confidence. Those were good months of good use. I hope to get much more confidence when I start my internship, it will be another great step to complete.

Post written by Schawany Brito from Brazil, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

Two Things I Love the Most about CCI Program

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling”

Cecelia Ahern

I still remember the moment when I applied for CCI Program. It is still fresh in my mind. It was in November 2017 and now here I am in the United State of America, the land of opportunity (sounds awesome right?). When I got the selected email confirming that I was one of the participants from Indonesia, I felt so blessed and grateful for the opportunity. Then, something crossed my mind. Would I be fine there knowing that I would not be around people I know and I love for almost a year? Would I be good enough? Would I be accepted there? It my sound cliché, but it was true. I would not be able to be around my loved ones. The feeling crept in my mind every single minute along with other million questions every single person going abroad for such a long time could have asked. Like it or not, I have to face it – myself strengthening.

I remember one of the questions I had to answer in the CCI Program essay was about what I would need besides other things the program has provided. I answered home. At that time, I knew that the participants would get a place (I thought it would be a house) to stay at, but house is not a home. They are two different clans; I needed the feeling of home. And guess what? I found home here. Here are the two reasons why I say so.

“Hey gentlemen, I am Mindi and I will be your social host this year”, that is the email I got from my social host. Yas, you are right, it is social host program that makes me feel home already. The perk of being CCI participants is that we are given a social host; persons who have been living in US for such a long time that are willing to give their time to introduce, teach, and help us experience US better.

My social host is Mrs. Mindi Maline, an English teacher at Northern Virginia Community College, place where I am pursuing my study in Business Management. She is superb nice. My friend from India and I got the same social host. First time we met was on Annandale campus after I had my English presentation in which I did not do well. The first impression I got was she was so calming and supporting even though it was our first meeting. I told her about my presentation and she calmed me like a mother calms her son. I felt like home already. She also invited us to join family dinner with her big family. She cooked chicken (our request) and she also made us apple pie and pumpkin pie. It was my first time trying the American typical pies; apple and pumpkin pie. I did not like them. I loved them. We got to hang out with the whole family; her husband, her son, and some relatives. We talked and shared about many things, study, life and culture. I learned a lot. I felt like I was home already. It was such a good experience.

Sundar and Elfis eating pie for the first time.

Another reason is I have housemates. I am living with my five other brothers from other mothers. Honestly speaking, at first, I thought I would be hard to live with them. I mean we are too many in an apartment. There would be less privacy. I was wrong. After living with them for almost three months I finally realize why the program put more people in an apartment. There were (sure there will be) ups and downs, like you have no one to talk to or you feel homesick and other feelings. That happens, and it is normal. I don’t understand but somehow when I had a rough day and be back at apartment and met them, I felt better. we talked, laughed, and we sang together (only God knows how I love singing). My point is they make your days better. There were also clashes. And again, it is normal. I think that what makes us understand and appreciate each other better.

Elfis with two of his housemates from Brazil and India.

I had a small talk with one of my housemates when other housemates were out. He said that our last day will be on Wednesday, May 15th 2019 and he will miss us. I told him that I will not miss them. I lied. It is hard to describe the feeling of goodbye when you know exactly the time you will be apart. Going back home, living our normal life without seeing your housemates every day. Time does fly. I just want to say one thing. Enjoy the time here, make the most out of it. Be kind and nice to each other because you will never know when you will see them again. Last thank you goes to CCI Program for making this happen. It has always been a privilege for me to experience new things, but this year has been amazing and thank you for making me feel home already. #themoreyouknowCCIProgram

Post written by Elfis Adu from Indonesia, a 2018-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

The Importance of Learning a Second Language

CCI Student Oscar Casilla interviewed stakeholders in the NOVA community about their experience learning Spanish and the ways in which it has benefited their professional and personal lives.

Video created by Oscar Casilla, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from the Dominican Republic.

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

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