By Mifta Sugesty, YES 2008-2009, Indonesia, hosted by PAX in Ballston Spa, NY
My name is Mifta Sugesty from Aceh, Indonesia, and I recently graduated with my Masters in Social Psychology from Lancaster University in the U.K. During my YES exchange year, I presented more than a hundred hours total about Indonesia and Islam to diverse American communities, from church groups to elementary school students, rotary club members to local librarians. I also attended a Model UN Conference at the UN Headquarters and was the keynote speaker. I spoke about global citizenship and how we can help one another during difficult times in the name of humanity. I used examples of how the global community helped rebuild my home, Aceh, after the mega-earthquake and tsunami hit the province in 2004. On the final leg of my YES journey, I was active in a cookie fundraiser in order to travel to New Orleans with the Unitarian Universalist Church youth group. For one week in New Orleans, we painted houses that were hit badly by Hurricane Katrina, read stories to children in foster homes, changed lightbulbs in elderly people’s homes, and cooked meals for the homeless. It was a full circle spiritual journey in which America had helped my hometown, and I went to New Orleans to return the favor. In 2009, I was also chosen to attend the Better Understanding for Better World conference in Orlando, Florida. During the conference, I learned about other religions, beliefs, and rituals. We discussed how to end religious conflict and bring better understanding about religious differences to the world community.
After returning to Indonesia, nine friends and I founded a non-governmental youth organization called The Leader. The Leader aims to create positive change through youth from the community to global level. Our focus is on education, youth participation and development, health, environment, disaster preparedness, and entrepreneurship. Aceh has experienced long-term armed conflict, unemployment, poverty, and limited access to quality education, further stoked by the 2004 tsunami. To counter this, we aim to empower Acehnese youth to realize their potential and become changemakers. In 2014, The Leader was awarded the Indonesia Millennium Development Goals Award in Education. Since its inception, The Leader has trained more than 5,000 youths in 11 districts in Aceh and five provinces in Indonesia.
Funded by a YES Alumni Grant, my team and I established a social enterprise called Dream Maker Institute in 2017. The institute is a creative learning center for youths ages 15-30, offering extensive professional training in youth empowerment and activism, social entrepreneurship, non-formal education, social impact measurement, organizational development, social justice, leadership, public speaking, and communication skills. Since September 2017, we have trained more than 300 youths. We are also launching peer counseling services in which youths can speak with a counselor about challenges they face. If necessary, we can refer them to a mental health professional.
Through the Dream Maker Institute, we encourage participants to think outside the box by providing a learning environment that stimulates individual creativity and unique expression. We promote diversity and aim to introduce a “global-yet-local” perspective to the youth of Aceh. This is a platform for youths to nurture their talents, passions, and dreams, as well as fight their fears and barriers.
As co-founder, I oversee the programs the institute offers, monitor and evaluate my team, and support development projects that keep the institute sustainable. This has been a growth opportunity for me to advance my personal and professional skills and competencies, and help take the organizations I founded to the next level.
My team and I offer great thanks to the donors who made this project happen. The Dream Maker Institute was fully funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Thank you to the YES Program and Bina Antarbudaya Indonesia who supported us in this project. And, of course, a big “thank you” to my team at The Leader. I am delighted to work with such wonderful team; they are the best, most talented youth in Aceh, always willing to invest their time to help this project succeed. To them I owe so much.