YES Appreciation Day (October 15) is right around the corner. YES Appreciation Day is an annual event for YES students, alumni, and other program stakeholders to reflect and share all the ways the program has impacted their lives. YES alumni are global changemakers who give back to their communities and amplify the impact of the YES program. Here are ten reasons we say “#ThankYouYES alumni!”
1. Thank you, YES alumni, for protecting the environment.
On June 1, Albania banned manufacturing, importing, and selling of single-use plastic bags. To celebrate this new policy, City Representative Sefeda Lazaj collaborated with the Vlora Regional Administration of Protected Areas to organize an activity with 25 first grade students from Bilal Pelari School in Orikum. The students learned about the environmental damage and pollution caused by plastic. Participants then engaged the local community with posters to raise awareness about the use of plastic and distributed paper bags to people they encountered in restaurants, shops, cafes, and on the street as a cleaner alternative to plastic bags. (Photo above)
Sefeda Lazaj (YES 2019-2020, Albania, placed by Aspect in Broomfield, CO)
2. Thank you, YES alumni, for promoting inclusion of persons with disabilities.
In celebration of International Youth Day, alumni in Pasay City, Philippines organized a workshop in partnership with the Philippine National School for the Blind. The Gabay (which translates to “guide”) Workshop gathered seven YES alumni and 19 non-alumni participants, 12 of whom were persons with disabilities. The workshop aimed to increase awareness about discrimination and bridge gaps between people with and without disabilities to create a more inclusive community. Participants engaged in activities designed to increase understanding of the challenges faced by the disability community and facilitate communication and connection between participants.
3. Thank you, YES alumni, for supporting the education of underprivileged youth.
Throughout the month of August, Marco Marco organized a fundraiser to benefit the children of the underserved community of Bupu-Mkuranga, Tanzania. After meeting with community leaders and assessing the most urgent needs, Marco collaborated with the Institute of Financial Management to organize a fundraiser. The group collected four bags of clothing and 200 USD, which was used to purchase books, school uniforms, and school supplies for more than 40 children in the community.
Marco Marco (YES 2012-2013, Tanzania, placed by PAX in Cedar Rapids, IA)
4. Thank you, YES alumni, for your eagerness to jump right in with alumni activities immediately upon returning home.
Koryeyon Talley wasted no time in becoming an active alumnus and organizing his own projects after returning home from the YES program this summer. On August 20, he and eight volunteers engaged in an environmental awareness campaign and cleanup of Dolphin Beach in Monrovia, Liberia. After collecting trash and debris from the beach, the volunteers knocked on doors and spoke with 30 community members about the importance of caring for the beach to save marine species and avoid pollution. Then on August 24, Koryeyon and ten volunteers held an environmental awareness campaign that reached 70 community members of Peace Island. The volunteers explained to the community why mangroves should not be cut down as they help protect marine wildlife, support sustainable water sources, and reduce flooding.
Koryeyon Talley (YES 2021-2022, Liberia, placed by PAX in Lewisville, AR)
5. Thank you, YES alumni, for organizing projects to benefit your fellow USG program participants and alumni.
Sarah Almzainy has partnered with the Trauma-Free Gaza initiative to promote mental health awareness among English Access Microscholarship students in Gaza. In June, 15 Access students engaged in a session at which they were introduced to common mental health issues, societal stigma, and the power of youth to raise awareness about mental health. The group also discussed the importance of working through childhood trauma. Then Sarah organized a second session in August for 19 Access students, which focused on how to have a positive outlook, how to process and cope with negative emotions, and the importance of media literacy to avoid the emotional toll of inaccurate information.
Sarah Almzainy (YES 2015-2016, Gaza, placed by AYA in Evansville, IN)
6. Thank you, YES alumni (and YES Abroad students!), for promoting cultural exchange on the global stage.
In July, YES alumni, YES Abroad students, and the host families of the YES Abroad students visited the Cabinet of the President of North Macedonia in Skopje. The YES Abroad students shared their impressions of North Macedonia with President Stevo Pendarovski and presented about their culture and backgrounds. The meeting served as an opportunity for YES alumni and YES Abroad students to demonstrate their roles as young cultural ambassadors and the lasting relations with one’s host country as a result of cultural exchange programs.
7. Thank you, YES alumni, for working to address COVID’s negative impact on youth mental health.
In May, 14 alumni implemented a workshop for 37 high school students at Phatthalung School in Thailand. The workshop addressed the rise in stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues among youth since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants were guided through self-reflection exercises and sessions designed to increase their coping skills using active listening, mindfulness, time management, goal setting, self-care, and empathy.
8. Thank you, YES alumni, for dedicating your time and attention to children without families.
In July, Asad Ali and Moghera Ilyas implemented the Tree Planting Project, a one-day event at the SOS Village Lahore in Pakistan. The alumni taught 10 orphans, ages 7 to 12, about climate change and the importance of preserving natural resources, planting trees, and raising awareness on how to be eco-friendly. The participants created art on the theme of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” and planted seeds to grow moringa, amla, tulsi, mountain eboy, papaya, and lychee trees around the orphanage.
Asad Ali (YES 2013-2014, Pakistan, placed by ACES in Redding, CA)
Muhammad Moghera Ilyas (YES 2021-2022, Pakistan, placed by AFS-USA in Hillsboro, MO)
9. Thank you, YES alumni, for amplifying the opportunities you receive by continuing to spread your newfound knowledge.
In June, six alumni organized a workshop for 15 high school students and five staff at Eshraka Orphanage in Sheikh Zayed City, Egypt to provide participants with the skills and tools to improve their community. The workshop consisted of interactive sessions, including an overview of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, examples of alumni projects related to the SDGs, and best practices for delivering an effective presentation. This workshop was a follow-on project from the Changemakers Workshop held in Egypt in 2021.
10. Thank you, YES alumni, for combatting hunger in your communities.
In April, Youssef Badawy organized food drive for alumni to collect and donate food to those in need in Salmiya, Kuwait. Youssef, two alumni, and a 2022-23 YES finalist shopped for canned food, pasta, and juice, prepared the donation packages at the Amideast office, and then distributed the packages to those in need they encountered on the streets.
Youssef Badawy (YES 2019-2020, Kuwait, placed by CIEE in Nampa, ID)
We want to hear from you! What impact has the YES program had on you? Tell us about what or who you appreciate from your YES experience, whether it’s your host family, a teacher, a club you’ve joined, or your host family pet! Submit your #ThankYouYES story for the website. Bonus Challenge: Share a video that highlights what you appreciate from your YES program.