YES Programs



Connected Through Portals

Five alumni posing in front of a black curtain

Ten YES alumni participated in an intercultural activity organized by Heba Alsaidi ‘14. The event was a three-day portal with different countries hosted at the Mercy Corps Headquarters in Gaza. The portals are small virtual rooms connecting people from different countries together to discuss a diverse range of topics. The event was organized in partnership with Shared Studios, a mission-oriented business that focuses on cultural exchange, and We Are Not Numbers, a project for Palestinian youth to share their narratives with the English-speaking world.  

Three alumni sitting in front of a black curtain

The first portal took place on May 15 with freshmen and seniors from Winnacunnet High School in New Hampshire, and four members of We Are Not Numbers. The alumni and We Are Not Numbers members shared how narratives shape the world we live in. The students asked questions about culture, religion, daily life, cuisine, and the major differences between the U.S. and Palestine. The alumni shared that it was a similar experience to introducing their country and culture in their host schools in the U.S.  

The second portal was held on May 25, and connected the YES alumni with middle school students in Lagos, Nigeria through the Sustainable Green Environment Initiative of Nigeria. The alumni and the students learned more about climate change, its causes, its effects, and what they can do to make an impact on this issue. The alumni and students then discussed the topic, as well as their daily lives, cultures and cuisines. Karam Abu Qassem ‘13 also taught the students a few Arabic phrases that they could use in their daily life.  

The back of two alumni facing a projected video call with several people

The third portal took place on May 30 with Doha Debates, a project of the Qatar Foundation that provides youth with a space to have debates and conversations about human rights advocacy. The alumni participated in the event with participants in the International Conference for Debate and Dialogue hailing from a number of countries including Syria, Afghanistan, Ghana, and Yemen. They discussed conflict resolution and negotiation. Two of the alumni participants, Iyad Hmidat ‘15 and Rita Abu Rahma ‘17, were particularly interested in participating in this event, since the former is a political science and economics graduate, and the latter is a practicing lawyer.  

By participating in these events, the alumni strengthened their bonds as alumni and engaged in cultural exchange. They also developed and honed their negotiation and critical thinking skills to help them better engage in debate and dialogue in the future.  

Heba Alsaidi (YES 2013-2014, Gaza, placed by CIEE in Lake Stevens, WA) 

Karam Abu Qassem (YES 2012-2013, Gaza, placed by AYA/AIFS in Douglas, GA) 

Iyad Hmidat (YES 2014-2015, Gaza, placed by PAX in Westerville, OH) 

Rita Abu Rahma (YES 2016-2017, Gaza, placed by AYUSA in Glendale, AZ)