YES Programs



More Like a Family


When we asked Lebanese YES alumnus Mohammad Issa Jamal (YES 2007-2008, Lebanon, hosted by AYUSA in Bandera, TX) what it means to be part of the YES alumni network, he said, “You are truly my FAMILY and I mean it when I say that!”

In Lebanon, the YES family of over 450 alumni keeps growing every year. To keep the bond strong, and develop the ties between alumni of different cohort years, the YES program in Lebanon hosts an annual retreat for alumni from all YES cohort years.

On July 28-29, 104 YES alumni attended a two-day retreat in Fatka, a village in the hills of the Keserwan region of Lebanon. The theme of the retreat was team-building. Activities were designed to build their teamwork, develop skills, and provide alumni with a chance to network, mentor, and connect with one another.

During the retreat, YES alumni board members facilitated three team-building games as part of a friendly competition among the alumni regional groups. In order to win, the alumni had to coordinate with one another both physically and mentally. Each team had to start off with a riddle: naming all 50 American states and naming all YES countries in 15 minutes. In addition to the regional competition, one group of alumni bonded while playing a favorite game from their U.S. experience, American football, while another group participated in a yoga session. 


Since the YES program focuses on exchanging cultures, regional groups of alumni prepared and performed ten minute sketches representing each region in Lebanon as part of sharing their local culture within the alumni network. 

In addition to team-building games, YES alumni benefitted from two skills development training workshops: career aspirations and first aid training. The main purpose of these workshops was to help them think critically about their lives and career choices, and also teach them how to help people in their communities in case of emergencies.

YES alumni spanning cohort years from 2006 – 2018 came to this year’s retreat, and all alumni had the chance to exchange experiences and connect during retreat meals. For the dinner, YES alumni board members prepared a talent show showcasing the diverse talents of eight YES alumni. The talent show included singing, dancing, playing musical instruments (guitar, oud, derbake) and a magic show. After the talent show, the alumni cut a cake in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the YES program.


To focus on community work, alumni board members facilitated group discussions on how to work toward the betterment of their communities in each region through community service and volunteering projects.

By the end of the retreat, Lebanese YES alumnus Ali Hallal (YES 2013-2014, Lebanon, hosted by PAX in Dummerston, VT) shared, “Right before cutting the cake at night and standing between all of you, I saw a lot. I saw doctors, engineers, lawyers to be; I saw ambitious future leaders and many more outstanding characters. All of them enjoying the night as a one big family.”