By Tamba Abdulai (YES 2013-2014, Sierra Leone, hosted by AYUSA in Greeley, CO)
Returning to the U.S. in February for a “mini-exchange” – as a YES Civic Education Workshop Alumni Ambassador and to visit my host family again – was amazing.
It was an honor to meet with the current YES students during the Civic Education Workshop and tell them about my alumni work in women’s empowerment and supporting girls’ education. The YES students I met with were very mature and had many vibrant ideas about how to help their community when they return home.
It was a blessing to meet and present my story to staff on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Department of State, and the volunteer evaluators at American Councils for International Education. It gave me the opportunity to reflect and share about my YES experience and my work as an alumnus since my return home in 2014. I was also fortunate to be asked to do a podcast interview at the State Department.
Participating in the Civic Education Workshop inspired me in so many ways, but the most notable was witnessing women in leadership positions in the various encounters I had during CEW, as women’s equality and education is my passion issue.
After the Civic Education Workshop, I visited my host family and friends in Greeley, Colorado for one week after a long time of not seeing them. My host family had anticipated that I would get to stay at least a month and have more time to strengthen our family bonds. Fortunately (but in a small way, unfortunately), I just got promoted to a new position at my job, so I couldn’t spend as much time as I wished in Greeley. The promotion is of course a blessing, but I wish it would have come after my visit to my second home!
The week I spent in my host community was one of a kind. Not only did I get time with my family, but I also reunited with so many friends and some of my high school teachers. We had a great time together. The YES program made it possible for me to rebuild relationships and connect with old and new friends. My friends and I learned a lot from one another during the short time we spent together again; we continued to share and discuss about our cultural, social, and religious differences as we used to do during my YES year.
Many thanks to the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for giving me this great opportunity to represent the YES program and reconnect with all the special people from my exchange year.