YES Programs



Projects for All Grant: Beyond Any Boundary

Lawal A Guest Presents Certificate Startup Kit To A Deaf Participant

By Aliyu Lawal Abdussamad (YES 2014-2015, Nigeria, placed with IRIS in Fort Dodge, IA)

My name is Aliyu Lawal Abdussamad. I'm a medical student and the national secretary of YES alumni in Nigeria. I was hosted in a small town called Fort Dodge during my exchange year. My host mom, Terri, was a special education teacher at the town's middle school and a big influence on my desire to develop projects that will benefit people with disabilities in my home community. I used to go with my host mom to volunteer at the community service organization House of Compassion and at her church. This volunteer experience made me understand the importance of giving back to the community. 

Nigerian participants sit in a classroom wearing masks and learning.

After participating in the Projects for All workshop in November 2020, I realized there was much I could do to promote a more inclusive community. I decided to make good use of the long COVID-19 lockdown and my school’s closure by applying for a Projects for All grant for my idea — the Beyond Any Boundary (BAB) workshop. The goal was to organize a workshop exclusively for people with disabilities to equip them with skills and entrepreneurial training, which they could use to earn a living and be self-reliant. I wanted to break down the education and employment barriers that stand between PWDs and the general population in my community.

The Beyond Any Boundary workshop was conducted every weekend for four weeks, bringing together 20 female participants with disabilities who learned culinary skills and 20 male participants with disabilities who learned shoemaking. To make the project sustainable, we tasked each participant with teaching at least two other people the skills that they learned within three months of the BAB workshop. 

The project was successful, and we were able to present the products of the participants’ work during the closing ceremony. Each shoemaking trainee was able to design a shoe from scratch and each of the culinary program trainees were able to prepare six types of snacks by the end of the training. Ninety percent of participants knew nothing of these skills prior to the start of the workshop. In interviews with the beneficiaries during the closing ceremony, they expressed profound gratitude to the organizers and sponsors of the workshop and promised to make good use of the skills they acquired.

My hope for this workshop is that it was a turning point in the lives of the beneficiaries, a way for them to start their own businesses and hopefully also teach and employ other people with disabilities to work with them.

Lawal with two special advisers sit and listen.

It's a great honor and pleasure to carry out a grant project, which I'd been too nervous to apply for before now. This workshop has widened my horizons and opened my eyes to the beauty in giving back to the community and promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities. It has also made me realized the importance of teamwork and community involvement. I also learned to multitask as I was able to conduct the project while school was in session.

The making of this workshop started from the moment I was selected for the YES program; it's what taught me to give back to my community. I am grateful to the YES program, my recruiting organization Iowa Resource for International Service (IRIS), the local IRIS office in Nigeria, the school that hosted our project, Alhuda Academy Katsina, and our coordinator and patrons. And I couldn't have accomplished all this without the support of my team and volunteers — I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. 

Lawal Some Alumni Volunteers And Trainers Pose For A Group Picture

I also must acknowledge the Office of the Chief Judge of the State, the Special Advisers to the Governor on Disability Matters, and Girl-Child Education for their contributions.

Special thanks to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for sponsoring this workshop through the YES program. We're very grateful for this opportunity. This project was a first for me — but it will not be the last time I work to bring positive developments to people with disabilities in my community!