What’s at the heart of nearly all the activities and projects that YES alumni organize? Easy answers might be “a desire to improve their communities,” “to help others,” or “to give back.” While these motivations are true, it’s deeper than that. At the core of the amazing work our alumni do is a firm belief that a society rooted in the values of democracy is the best kind to live in. The belief that the world is a better place when people are free to be who they are, when they have the right to express themselves and to believe in a way that aligns with their values and passions, and when they have equal access to opportunity, is behind everything YES alumni do. Here are nine examples of how YES alumni work to shape this future each and every day.
1. YES (and USG!) alumni sustain and strengthen the ties between their home countries and the U.S., bolstering global development and cooperation.
Joseph Lambe ’13, deputy secretary general and events committee member of the Cameroon USG alumni network, assisted the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé in implementing a three-day symposium in April on the theme of Driving Youth Action for Cameroon’s Economic Development. Nine YES alumni, 100 USG alumni, and 150 others attended the event, which aimed to strengthen collaboration among USG alumni, contribute to the personal and professional development of alumni, and deepen the connection between the U.S. and Cameroon.
Joseph Lambe (YES 2011-2012, Cameroon, placed by AFS-USA in Eden, NY)
2. YES alumni assemble for causes they believe in.
Alumni in Hilaliyeh Saida, Lebanon organized a youth and women’s empowerment festival in June, in collaboration with the Hilaliyeh Women’s Development Committee. An additional 18 alumni volunteered at the event, and more than 15 local businesses hosted exhibits to engage the 1050 attendees. The festival's exhibitions, arts, and performances showcased the talent and resilience of local businesses and artisans and highlighted the vital role women play in building thriving communities.
3. YES alumni promote personal rights, wellbeing, and opportunity, both off and online.
Ally Abdallah ’19 and six volunteers organized a digital rights workshop in May for 28 youths in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Participants learned about their digital rights, including combatting cyberbullying and protecting one’s personal accounts. Additionally, the workshop aimed to reduce youth unemployment by introducing online opportunities in freelancing and digital marketing.
Ally Abdallah (YES 2018-2019, Tanzania, placed by IRIS in Atlantic, IA)
4. YES alumni envision a world in which all are included.
Alumni organized an interactive, skills development workshop for 38 youth with disabilities in El Fayoum, Egypt. Sessions included team building exercises and intercultural learning concepts. The event was held at a community sports club, which allowed alumni to increase visibility and promote the YES program to club members.
5. YES alumni exemplify freedom of thought and speech.
Eight 2021-22 YES and FLEX alumni from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia collaborated to organize the Loesje Campaign in their home cities throughout the month of June. They were inspired by the international free speech organization Loesje, which aims to stimulate reflection on global events and societal issues through witty, creative posters that encourage critical thinking. Alumni took to their city squares, pedestrian streets, and parks to hand out thought-provoking prompts and quotes to passersby, such as, “empathy is how kind hearts breathe” or “the longer you wait for the future, the shorter it will be.” (Highlight photo above)
6. YES alumni proudly believe that love is love.
On June 24, seven alumni organized Coming In, Coming Out: Understanding SOGIE, a virtual workshop to educate 23 participants about sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE) and its significance in the Philippines. Participants gained insight into challenges faced by LGBTQI+ individuals, explored strategies for creating safe and inclusive spaces, and reflected on individual and collective action to promote acceptance and equality for LGBTQI+ individuals in the country.
7. YES alumni believe in equal access to medical care.
Farah Al-Kafaween ’09 organized another edition of Doctors for Peace, a medical mission with seven alumni and 14 physicians from the U.S., Germany, Spain, and Portugal. They provided free medical services, medication, and infant formula to 2,500 underprivileged community members in Mafraq, Jordan.
Farah Al-Kafaween (YES 2008-2009, Jordan, placed by Ayusa in Finley Kennewick, WA)
8. YES alumni teach and empower their fellow youth to meet the needs of their communities.
Alumni held a First Aid Student Training (FAST) event for 35 high school students in Rangpur, Bangladesh to learn CPR and first aid through hands-on demonstration, training, and assessment. After the training, alumni led an informational session about the YES program to encourage participants to apply.
9. YES alumni promote equal access by combatting stigma and stereotypes that oppress and marginalize.
Alumni in Gombe, Nigeria held a seminar for 20 participants to raise awareness about menstrual health, hygiene, and period poverty and to commemorate Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28. The alumni also taught participants how to sew reusable menstrual pads.