By Shaker Nairat (YES 2012-13, West Bank, hosted by AFS in St. Louis, MO)
Nothing inspires me more than seeing the actual results and impact of what we do. Seeing people who share similar passions and eagerness work together towards a common goal is one of the most beautiful and rewarding things in life. After returning from my YES exchange year, I was more eager than ever to be involved in my community and become an active citizen, and help lead the change that I want to see happen in my country and community. Thankfully, the YES alumni network offered me the opportunity to do just that, and the ability to use my energy and utilize it through working with an amazing group of people who are just as eager and motivated to participate in giving back to our community.
Through YES alumni activities and projects, we are able to bring alumni together to work towards a common goal of a better future for all, while also raising awareness about so many issues that are important to us, like women empowerment, corruption, poverty, and education. Through our many activities, we have reached thousands of alumni and locals in our community, building lasting relationships that strengthen our network and our responsibility towards our community.
Because of my active involvement within the network, I was elected to be a YES alumni steering committee member. I was also then selected to be on the U.S. Consulate’s Alumni Advisory Board, representing all YES, Access, and Abraham Lincoln alumni. In February, 2017, I became the Access alumni coordinator, and since then we have implemented more than 70 alumni activities that target Access and YES alumni in the West Bank and Jerusalem – almost 10 times more than the two years before!
During my exchange year, I was introduced to renewable energy through my school when I took a civil and architectural engineering class, and since then, it has become my main passion. Last year, I founded my startup Future Green Arabia (FGA), the first ever solar energy assembly, installation, and consultancy company in the Middle East and North Africa. We advanced to the regional finals of the Hult Prize in 2017 in Malaysia, and we just won second place at the Palestinian Green Competition and a prize to attend the SwitchMed Connect conference in Barcelona, Spain. In July, I was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Global Shaper for my youth and environmental activism in the Middle East. I’m also a founding member of the Palestinian National Youth Council.
I work now with a United Nations funded project called the Global People's Summit as a Fellows Coordinator and Global Engagement Associate. This year, I was invited to New York City during the General Assembly to participate in the production of the Global People's Summit and attend meetings and sessions at the United Nations like the Social Good Summit, the Solutions Summit, the SDG Media Lounge, and others.
Hard work is the key; I came back from my exchange year more motivated and inspired than ever. Meeting people from different backgrounds and fields who achieved so much and reached great places just because of their hard work taught me that nothing is impossible with hard work and dedication. During my experience in the U.S. I learned how when a group of people or a community come together to work on improving their circumstances great things happen, and a new reality is born out of that. When I learned about U.S. history I discovered how the U.S. is always in a state of improving and fixing its issues, the people are always involved and the wheel of progress never stops, that is what motivates me the most. Whether it was the American Revolution or the Civil War, whether it was abolishment of slavery or the civil right act, whether it was giving women the right to vote or working towards reaching an equal pay for both genders, the U.S. is always trying to be a better place for its people, and I want that for my country.