When we asked Global UGRAD alumni to share their stories of volunteerism, the response was overwhelming! So many are sharing their time and talents for the betterment of their home communities across the globe. Their stories prove to us that service is the one of the best ways to keep the Global UGRAD spirit alive, even after leaving the U.S.
Hopefully you had a chance to read stories of community service in last month’s edition of the Global Gazette. We have even more to share in this edition. Keep up the great work, Global UGRADs!
Tunisia: Yosr Jouini, Global UGRAD 2015-2016
One of the things I appreciated most during my time at North Dakota State University was the support system provided to the students. Having someone with more experience to go to when looking for advice can make a student’s progress much easier and faster. Once home, I got elected as a president of one of my university’s leading students clubs. Along with my team, I elaborated a mentoring program that aims to help students develop both their technical and soft skills. Starting off with simple ideas, the mentees were provided with coaching sessions to turn these ideas into concrete projects. After months of hard work and while staying in touch with their mentors, last December, we organized a gathering to meet startup founders with the program participants to share their progress and experiences. I’m looking forward to the next chapter of this mentorship program and hoping to keep it going in the upcoming years.
Serbia: Mijat Barjaktarevic, Global UGRAD 2015-2016
“Say YES to the Right Faculty” is a three-day seminar which helps high school students, through a series of interactive lectures, to discover their interests. The aim of the project is to help students who are in the process of choosing a university. The project has been held for five years in a row and for those five years we had more than 1,500 participants. This year it was held for the seventh time and there were 299 participants. As an alumni member of the Student Parliament and the Association of Young Enthusiasts, I was a part of team that created and released this project. I was also working as a trainer on this seminar. Every year the workshops have different topics. This year, my job as a trainer was to teach students about team work through a series of interesting workshops. It is always a pleasure to work with young people that are open minded and full of positive energy.
Moldova: Ion Mocan, Global UGRAD 2015-2016
I am very fortunate to have many opportunities for volunteering in my home country of Moldova. Last fall, in September 2016, I joined a program created by the UK Embassy called the “British School for Young Leaders”. Alina Gisca, my friend and colleague from Global UGRAD, also joined me. Upon completion of the program in September, we applied for a grant from the UK Embassy. Our goal was to help four teenagers from vulnerable families with their professional development. We found four teenagers, researched their situations, and chose four courses for them that matched their passions and abilities. Artiom, a 17 year old, joined massage courses. He is now finishing a course and starting the second one already. Ana Maria and Aliara (both 17 year olds) joined accounting courses. Renata (16 years old) joined hairstyle courses. I am glad to be able to do very little with my team for these teens, but that will have a great impact on their lives. I encourage Global UGRADs to search for opportunities in their home countries and to help other people. #onceaUGRADalwaysaUGRAD!
Turkmenistan: Aylar Mammetmyradova, Global UGRAD 2015-2016
This August, with a help of two FLEX alumni, I organized a two-day summer workshop for high school students (25 in total) at American Councils in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. The main purpose of this workshop was to introduce participants to the American culture and help them improve their English language skills. The first day of workshops was dedicated to the U.S. culture – we discussed U.S. holidays, popular sports, and played a trivia game (general questions about U.S. culture, geography, history, and people). The second day was about English language. I made a presentation called, “The Effective Way of Learning English” and we learned the most popular English idioms and expressions. All of that was followed by discussion and vocabulary games.
From the 1st of September to the 30th of November, I led an English Practice class at the Informational Resource Center (IRC) in Ashgabt. I had free weekly classes for the IRC visitors, where every Friday we learned the most common idioms and expressions on a specific topic (education, sports, relationships, employment, people’s traits). This class was open to everyone and attendants were of different ages, with different language levels, employed and unemployed, high school and university students. Attendance was high – there very usually from 40 to 60 attendees.
Also, since June 2016 I’m a member of the Y-Peer Youth Network that is coordinated by UNFPA in Turkmenistan. As a Y-peer volunteer, I’ve participated in activities related to the main focus of Y-Peer – reproductive health of teenagers, healthy lifestyle, and gender equality. One of the activities I’ve participated in is volunteering in the UN building in Ashgabat and raising awareness on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Bahrain: Ali Hasan, Global UGRAD 2015-2016
A while ago, we had a nice cooperative experience with Zain Group, as a part of their CSR (Community Service Responsibility) initiative. CSR is mandatory for major companies in Bahrain, in which they have to dedicate a fraction of their yearly earnings to community service. We planned a visit to a place to be known as the “Abandoned Kids Home”. You can guess by the name of the place what the place is like, and that’s what I guessed too. We worked in parallel with the management of the place to plan a fun night for the kids there. I had never been to this place before, and I didn’t know what to expect. Once we got there, the feeling we had as a team was overwhelming. The kids were raised to call every older man “dad”, and every older woman “mom”! Everything we did made the kids laugh, like they had never laughed before, and every simple gesture we made felt like Christmas to them. We watched kids’ movies, played some games, had pizza and snacks, and then left. Once we got out of the door, almost everyone burst in tears. This night made us all appreciate what we have, and work harder to give more to the less fortunate.
I had a volunteer opportunity to train elementary school girls on some basic self-defense techniques. It lasted about two hours as I started with a short seminar talking about verbal, physical, and sexual harassment in Jordan. The girls were a bit shy talking about such subjects in the beginning. Later on, they started sharing their stories and what happens to them walking to school everyday. Most of them did not know that it is okay to defend yourself even if it makes you hurt the attacker. So it was great to teach those girls that they CAN defend themselves and that it’s not about hurting or using violence but rather getting yourself out of certain situations. After that, we started giving them some basic self-defense techniques that could help them on their way walking to school. They seemed to really enjoy it and they felt empowered about the idea of self-defense. I cannot describe the feeling I get after every workshop I deliver, especially to the young girls where you can see the power in their eyes after learning each technique. I guess that’s what keeps me moving forward in what I am doing and always trying to involve myself in such voluntary works.
Is there life after Global UGRAD? No doubt! When I came back to Ukraine, I continued to develop myself professionally and to contribute to the development of my community. Reuniting with the NGO “European Youth Parliament – Ukraine” (EYP), I was invited to be a Head Trainer of the organization’s 5th Alumni Weekend. The main topic of the event was “Communications”, so I was able to contribute both the knowledge I gained in the U.S. and during my internships. In addition, after coming back, I started a volunteer internship in the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine where I am still working as a member of the communications team.
Egypt: Islam Ayoub, Global UGRAD 2015-2016
I started leading an English Conversation Club in a co-working space named I-Gate. With the assistance of others, I led a session every Friday for three hours. We play games, discuss topics, prepare presentations, have fun, and practice English. We, ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), also started another English conversation club in our school where we lead a session each Wednesday for two hours.
Bangladesh: Mahmudul Hassan, Global UGRAD 2015-2016
I volunteered as one of two conveners at “JMS Holding-CU InterVarsity Debate 16” which was held between November 4-5, 2016. In the event, we hosted 32 teams from different universities in Bangladesh at our university campus. The purpose of the event was to promote critical thinking, rational discourse, and better policy-making through debate. I also worked as a tournament director of a similar kind of debate event named “PEDS Expedition Open 16” that hosted 32 teams in Chittagong, Bangladesh between August 6-7, 2016.
Belarus: Darya “Dasha” Shaban & Ksenia Mahaileuskaya, Global UGRAD 2015-2016
Dasha: People say, “when you teach someone, you understand the subject better yourself”. We organized an open event where we, three Global UGRADs from Belarus, and people (mostly our friends) who participated in other educational and social programs in our country and around the world, shared their experiences. The main goal of it was to get people a) acquainted with the opportunities they have, and b) motivated and inspired to accept the challenges and participate in different programs. The format was a lecture where we provided general information about programs, our advice, and “lifehacks”. After that we had a Q&A session. People seemed really engaged. There is limited information that is getting advertised and people mostly get to know about opportunities from their friends. That is why we decided that it might be a good chance to share knowledge as well as provide our personal experiences that can help people a lot! This event was free of charge: we rented a small museum space, and shared the information about it through social networks! The event turned out to be pretty successful; we even repeated it a week later.
Ksenia: I’ve been honored to volunteer at my university and give a series of lectures to all first year students at Munsk Luinguistic University. My main aim was to help them find volunteer and educational exchange programs, which can be beneficial for them in their studies as it was for me. I was very exited to see that my stories inspired a lot of students to start participating in many volunteering and educational programs. Now I am a mentor of some of them who are trying to apply to programs (Global UGRAD being the most popular among them) and giving them tips based on my experience. I feel very excited about being a part of developing the education of Belarusian students!
Now Dasha and I are working with several other alumni of U.S. Embassy programs on an education seminar project. We are organizing a series of events for Belarusian students, which will develop different skills: teamwork, verbal and non-verbal communication, negotiations, etc. We are preparing the first meeting with students right now and inviting a very interesting speaker. Thanks to you and Simon, who was working with us during the D.C. workshop, we are using team building games that he showed us. So excited to start these projects and share with new generations of students in Belarus!