By Shane Blijer (YES 2022-2023, Suriname, placed by CIEE in Florence, SC)
I am very grateful to have had the chance to participate with the YES program, but I was very excited to be back home to be with my family and friends again. As an alumnus, I have made sure to stay connected with the new network that I gained in my country. Since returning home, I have been a part of a number of activities.
In June, Suriname celebrated the 20th anniversary of YES, and I got to meet alumni from different cohorts. I was asked to write a YES song, and got the chance to perform the song at the event. I was happy that I got to share my gratitude through what I do best.
On July 8, I did my first project with my fellow alumni. We decided to organize a "Sports and Fun" day for a children’s home. This project was inspired by a lot of activities that I have been a part of in my country, as well as activities in America. In the past, I went to summer school at that children’s home, where we participated in similar activities, and in America, for Senior Week, we also had a "Sport and Fun" day. I enjoyed these activities and decided to make that my first project as an alumnus.
When I had a conversation with the director of the children’s home, she told me that since COVID-19, they have not been getting as much funding from the government anymore. They have not been getting as many donations as well, and because of this, they have not been able to do a lot of fun activities with the kids. Together with the sub-head of the Department of Regional Development and Sport, we implemented this project idea for the kids. The kids had a blast, and they showed their gratitude.
In August, I went to an alumni networking event with some fellow alumni. As I said before, I love networking. We met alumni from other organizations, and got to hear and share all of the beautiful stories. This is important because having partnerships can allow you to do more projects, do more for yourself, and you can find people with the same interests as you.
On September 16, I organized a "Gardening and Clean-up" day for an elderly home along with some fellow alumni from YES and an alumni from the Youth Ambassador Program. Since World Cleanup Day is in September, we decided that this would be a great project. After COVID-19, the elderly home has also not been getting as much funding and donations, so they appreciated this.
In elderly homes, we have all sorts of people. These people have contributed to our country. Now that they are retired, their families want a place where they can be taken care of, so we wanted to make this a place where they can have peace. That is why we decided to clean up and tidy the yard–not that it was a big mess, but the place could have used some work, such as mowing, raking, and removing plastic bottles and plastic bags. We also put up a garden in the backyard with more than seven types of vegetables.
By working together as a team, we were able to put up the little garden. This was surely not a one-man job as the ground was tough, so we had to put in a lot of strength when we were digging holes to plant fertilizer. Now the elders at that home can take care of the plants together, with support from the staff, and have a nice garden from which they can also eat. The staff and residents were very happy and thankful for what we contributed to them, and I do not regret any of the hours that I spent at the elderly home.