by Monique Jafta, YES 2013-14, South Africa, hosted with AFS in Indiana
Before seeing the application for the YES Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop in Cairo, Egypt, I had been looking for opportunities for growth. When I saw the application for the YES ToT workshop I knew this was it. I was a bit hesitant to apply because of deadlines at college and work, but I decided to apply anyway.
Arriving in Cairo, I was filled with great excitement and only positive emotions. I arrived with another alumna from South Africa, Carmen, and two other alumni from Mozambique, Roberto and Malik, and we arrived a day later than the rest. However, when we got there we were warmly welcomed, and everyone was extremely friendly and interactive which just set a great atmosphere for learning.
On the first day of our training, we learned about the recipe for successful training, how to conduct an effective training session and how to identify problems in your community to develop a topic for our practice training session, called trainbacks. We also learned how to develop goals and objectives for our trainback session. The information in these sessions was extremely helpful and already gave me an idea for the topic of my practice session.
The highlight of this day was the small-group activity of building a YES building only using straws, marshmallows and clay. I must admit that I have never worked with such an amazing group before, where everyone could deliver instructions but also listen. We built an amazing structure and got to experience how to work with and as leaders in an effective team. I really loved that experience because I am studying marketing and we always work in groups but there was just something extraordinary about the way we worked together that day.
Over the next few days, we learned about different learning styles and why it is important to keep them in mind when conducting a training session in order to keep participants engaged. We learned about the different methodologies one can use in a training session as well as how to give and receive feedback. All these activities assisted us in creating amazing practice training sessions.
The trainbacks we had in our separate groups was one of the activities that truly had a great impact on my life and has had an influence on how I do things now as compared to before. Mariam, an alumna from Egypt, delivered a training session on self-motivation that has helped me identify what gets me up in the morning and what I need to do to in order to be and stay self-motivated. Since the workshop, I have found myself working harder than I usually do because I know why I am doing everything I do. Raj, from India, conducted a trainback on the importance of recycling plastic and finding your purpose through volunteerism. Since I returned home, I no longer use plastic straws and I have also been trying to reduce my plastic usage where I can. I am also encouraging a few of my friends to do the same.
Adding these small changes in my life was also encouraged by Roberto’s practice training session on being a change maker. The trainbacks given by the other alumni in my group, Nabila and Roniex, have shown me how fortunate I am to be in a community where we do accommodate people with disabilities and that we are educated quite well on the importance of nutrition. It was a great experience learning from these alumni and they have made an impact on my life for which I will be forever grateful.
During our breakfast, lunch and dinner breaks, as well as outings to places such as the Pyramids of Giza, Old Cairo, a local cafe and the Mall of Arabia, I had the privilege of getting to know some of the most amazing alumni and had some very impactful conversations with all of them. They have all earned a special place in my heart and have had an impact in my life in a lot of ways even though it may seem small. I have not only learned from the workshop itself, but I have also learned a lot from them and I really look up to the amazing people they are and the great things they do.
This workshop has been a great experience and has even given me the opportunity to rekindle an old friendship with an alumnus, Abdelrahman, who was hosted in the same state and school that I’d been hosted in during my YES year. It was nice to see how he was doing and what he has been up to since I last saw him 5 years ago. As alumni we tend to drift apart once we get to our own countries and do not speak as much as we would like. I really miss the friends I made when I was on the YES program, but Abdoo and I are in a Whatsapp group where we keep in touch with other alumni who were also hosted in the same city, Kendallville, at the same time as we were, and as one of them said, “the era of reunions has begun.”
Attending this workshop has reminded me of the opportunities that the YES program has given to all of us to make a change in our communities, to strive toward a better future for our different communities and thus, a better future for the world.