YES Programs



Learning New Traditions

Students at Interfaith Activity

Last month, YES students placed by AFS-USA in the Boston, MA region participated in an interfaith activity with local volunteers. They first visited the Unitarian Universalist church in Cohasset and met with Reverand Dan Harper. He reviewed the history of religion during the British colonial era and how the practices of faith, separation of church and state, and religious practices evolved over the years.

Group of students stand in a circle in a church listening to a male speaker with white hair
YES students speak with Reverend Dan Harper

Divya from India commented, “It was my first time at a church and discussing with the minister of the church about the origins of different religions was certainly interesting. There were some beautiful old Bible books from the 1700s and 1800s, and we learnt the main principles of Christianity.”

Afterwards the group met with Deborah Johnson, a Cantor in a Jewish community, who led a discussion about Jewish beliefs and the celebration of Hanukah. The students then had a chance to practice their culinary skills as they learned how to make latkes, potato pancakes eaten during Hanukah.

A student holds a candle lighting a Hanukah menorah while other students watch
YES students help to light a Hanukah menorah

Malek from Tunisia writes, “We all have different names, cultures, traditions, religions… I’ve always thought that people are beautiful the way they are, and I realized since I came here and today that I am actually right. This is why I will try my best to spread awareness about how difference is important in our lives. I mean wouldn’t it be boring talking to people that have the SAME EXACT ideas as you? First, I will start in my home community by making it clear that people can be different and there is no right or wrong thing about that. You can’t be hated just because you’re Jewish or Muslim, and I hope that the next generations will think this way too because peace can’t be achieved if we just hate on the differences between us.”

A group of students posing with Santa Claus

The students then ended their exciting and educational day with a holiday concert performed by an all-volunteer community band. The concert, which took place at a historic local church, was also a fundraiser for the local soup kitchen. Douae from Morocco noted, “I will teach my own people about different religions and clear the stereotypes they have about other religions or communities in general and I also would not judge people before getting to know them and actually talking to them.”

Virgie Pallangan, Indonesia, YES 2023-24

Douae Naji, Morocco, YES 2023-24

Phillipp Knecht, Germany, Congress-Bundestag 2023-24

Gergana Shirokova, Bulgaria, YES 2023-24

Anas Khalfi, Morocco, YES 2023-24

Mohamed Malek Jemai, Tunisia, YES 2023-24

Divya Shukla, India, YES 2023-24

Lukhanyo Sijadu, South Africa, YES 2023-24