By Maram Albandak (YES 2013-2014, West Bank, placed with PAX in Locust Grove, GA)
During my exchange year in Georgia from 2013-2014, I fell in love with freedom—the freedom of speech and the freedom to express oneself. My experiences in the U.S. opened my eyes to the vast opportunities of the world, not limited by boundaries or continents. I wanted to bring that freedom to my community, especially to young girls and women who have visions of change in their societies but do not know where to start. And that’s how my journey as an activist started.
As a poet and an advocate of women’s rights, I started my own blog “Mental Stimulation” to give a voice to the women unable to speak up, and to slowly change the unsafe mentality about women in my community. I joined local organizations in my community to defend and provide assistance, participated in protests, revolted against injustice and, most importantly, with every setback I still had faith that change starts with small steps.
In 2017, I mentored two teams of young schoolgirls for Technovation Girls, a yearly challenge that inspires girls to be leaders in their communities. My teams won first and third places in the regional summit. There is no greater feeling than helping other women succeed. I realized that every step, every action, every experience you have should make the world a better place for somebody. To me, that is the most beautiful feeling—to affect as many people as I can, despite the boundaries of the world.
In March 2019, I participated in the international YES Gender Parity Specialist Workshop in Lebanon. What I learned from my inspiring fellow speakers is that you do not need too many resources and power to start making a change. You just have to get started, and your path will become clearer with every step. This knowledge boosted my confidence to fight inequality in any way and place that I can.
My vision for bettering the world grew even more after I mentored a group of diverse alumni on Project Media Development last month as part of the YES News Literacy Online Workshop. The feedback I received from my mentees only deepened my passion for helping others attain their goals. My vision does not stop there I am currently a fifth-year medical student with a dream of building a hospital in Palestine that will help produce a more equitable healthcare system. I am also currently working towards taking the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam.
My blog always ends with the same three words: Think, Write, Revolt. Justice is not just a concept that we read about in books, it is a tangible measure of how safe we feel in our own homes. Thanks to the YES Program and the U.S. Department of State, I became the person I am today, able to fight for justice and build a safer world.