By Ali Akil (YES 2014–2015, Lebanon, placed by AFS in Cranston, RI)
From March 6–11, 19 YES alumni from different YES program were selected to be part of the YES Alumni Designing for Inclusion Workshop in Alexandria, Virginia. This workshop was held in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the American Disability Act, a law that was passed in 1990 to protect the rights of people with disabilities by making both the public and workplace more inclusive and accessible.
I work as a nurse for the Neuro Intensive Care Unit and part of my job is to work with patients who suffer from an acute neurological problem. I applied for the workshop to broaden my perspective on the challenges that people with disabilities face and how to advocate for them. I was looking forward to meeting the trainers as well as the trainees since the workshop has a special emphasis on diversity. The diversity of the workshop included people from different parts of the world, the inclusion of people with different disabilities, and I was interested in learning how the workshop would be accessible for all the participants.
The goals of the workshop were to improve YES alumni training and leadership skills capacity; to provide YES alumni with skills and tools necessary to design and implement an accessible, inclusive, and impactful training; and finally, to empower YES alumni to become stronger advocates for people with disabilities and disability rights in their home countries. The workshop empowered the YES alumni with disabilities and their allies—who are interested in disability rights—to become better trainers and leaders. The training enlightened the participants with different steps, techniques, resources, team building skills as well as implementing an inclusive, accessible, and impactful training.
My favorite training was the session about “multiple intelligences.” This training explained that people have different types of intelligences in which they can understand, create, perform, and operate. This was an eye-opening session because I discovered my strongest intelligence. After every participant identified their type of intelligence, we formed groups to design a COVID-19 awareness campaign based on our different types of intelligence. This took us all out of our comfort zones and challenged us to be creative with one another.
At the end of the workshop a ceremony was held to distribute certificates of achievement and YES alumni t-shirts to all the new trainers. The new YES alumni trainers felt that their training and leadership skills capacity has improved after completion of the workshop. After attending this workshop, I am looking forward to working with other individuals in Lebanon who advocate for people with disabilities.