YES Programs



Making a Difference: My Journey

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Zagorka Panova (YES 2022-2023, North Macedonia, placed by PAX in Shelbyville, IN)

During my exchange year, I embarked on a transformative journey that broadened my horizons and ignited a passion for community involvement and social change. From volunteering opportunities to assuming the role of City Representative, each step of this journey has reinforced my commitment to making a positive impact in my local community.

Volunteering played a pivotal role in shaping my outlook on community engagement. Through various projects and initiatives, I had the opportunity to interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds and walks of life. What struck me most was the inclusive nature of these endeavors. Regardless of one's background, abilities, or circumstances, everyone was welcomed with open arms. There were no barriers or judgments, only a shared sense of purpose and camaraderie.

One of the most profound lessons I learned during my volunteering experiences was the importance of creating spaces where everyone feels accepted and valued for who they are. Witnessing the joy and fulfillment that individuals with disabilities found in participating in these activities was particularly inspiring. It reinforced my belief that true community strength lies in embracing diversity and fostering an environment of mutual respect and inclusion.

As I transitioned from a volunteer to a City Representative, I knew I wanted to continue championing these values of inclusivity and empowerment. One of my primary objectives has been to spearhead projects that specifically engage and uplift individuals with disabilities. Whether it's organizing accessible events, advocating for improved infrastructure, or providing support services, I am committed to ensuring that everyone in our community has the opportunity to thrive.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my role as a City Representative has been witnessing the transformative power of collective action. Through collaboration and cooperation, we have accomplished remarkable feats and brought about meaningful change. Every achievement from renovating public spaces to implementing inclusive policies is a testament to the strength of community solidarity and civic engagement.

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Moving forward, I aim to continue harnessing this collective energy and channeling it towards initiatives promoting equality, inclusion, and social cohesion. Whether it's through organizing community clean-up drives, hosting cultural exchange events, or facilitating dialogue between diverse groups, I am dedicated to fostering a sense of belonging and unity among all members of our community.

In essence, my exchange year has instilled in me a profound sense of responsibility and purpose. It has shown me that positive change is not just possible but achievable when individuals come together with a shared vision and determination. As I continue on this community leadership journey, I am filled with optimism and hope for the future. Together, we can build a more inclusive, compassionate, and vibrant community for generations.