Category Archives: Fellows Blog

Fall 2015 Fellows Learn Lessons

Greeting America, PFP Fall 2015

For seven years, Legacy International  has administered the Professional Fellows Program (PFP) that brings leaders in the fields of civic engagement, NGO management, women and youth empowerment and entrepreneurship from Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria to the United States to broaden their professional expertise and create the groundwork for further international cooperation and world development.

This fall 16 fellows with strong leadership skills from Algeria and Egypt joined PFP. They grew professionally and personally during their fellowship in various non-profit organizations and companies in Washington DC, being exposed to the management, fundraising and project coordination process.

Heba Ghannam and Tech Change

Fellows learned a lot from and with their host organization but most important, they made a significant impact on organizations’ work and on-going projects. For instance, Sarah Romeili, who had fellowship with Congressional Hunger Center, has had her research published and presented at the Annual Board Meeting. Eman Ezat, hosted by KABOOM, delivered a lecture about human rights in a high school and assisted in building a new playground in poor areas in Baltimore. Heba Ghannam, who was hosted by TechChange, was an important part of the panel discussion in the Italian embassy on Digital Diplomacy. Many fellows bonded tightly with their host organizations and established a lasting partnership.

Eman Ezat and KABOOM, building play ground in Baltimore.

Fellows also had a great opportunity to experience American warm hospitality, and American traditions and customs during their time with American families. One of the fellows mentioned that it was one of the best time during the program, as she felt like she was at home, with her own parents.

At the conclusion of the program, a 3-day Professional Fellows Congress was held in Washington DC gathering more than 200 fellows from all around the world to engage in important discussions and provide opportunities for networking and establishing strong cooperation and partnerships in the future.

During PFP fellows developed and presented their projects aimed to serve the needs of  their communities. Legacy will be providing more information about the Fellows’ Follow on projects during their implementations.

Read More: Enjoy the PFP Fellows Blog.

Tech Change Welcomes Heba

Here’s the welcome that Tech Change provided to a PFP Fellow this Fall. Tech Change provides online professional development in technology and social change. Around the world, implementers in public health, emergency response, monitoring and evaluation, all struggle to solve pressing issues with limited resources. Tech Change connects them with relevant content, experts, and certification using our facilitated learning platform.techchange-heba

“We are excited to welcome Heba Ghannam, a PFP Fellow (Professional Fellows Program) from Egypt! The Professional Fellows Program is a US state department fellowship organised by Legacy International, that brings emerging leaders from the public and private sector from around the world to the United States for an intensive five-week fellowship, designed to broaden their professional expertise. This year, TechChange is excited to host Heba!

Heba is an Egyptian social activist with a strong passion for democracy, human rights, development and social change. After earning her Bachelors degree in political science from Cairo University, Heba worked for Procter & Gamble for four years, travelling between Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria while doing lots of development work with local NGOs as a volunteer. After the January 25 Revolution, Heba quit her job to join the first Middle-Eastern incubator for social enterprises. She then joined “Tahrir Academy”, a non-profit online collaborative learning platform replicating the Khan Academy model for Arabic speaking countries. She currently works for UNICEF Egypt where her work focuses on adolescent development and gender. In her spare time, Heba loves reading, especially about anthropology, Sufism, and history.

Heba will be at TechChange as for her PFP fellowship for 5 weeks. Welcome Heba!

Hello from NDI Tech

Professional Fellows from Egypt and Algeria are now serving in unique fellowship placements in Washington, DC. The fellows are highly-accomplished young professionals  appreciative of the opportunity to share knowledge and information and to learn from American entrepreneurs and innovative non-profit organizations.
Following blog is reposted from the NDITech blog :
“My name is Alia Mokbel and I am from lovely Cairo, Egypt. I have the good fortune to be placed at  NDI [National Democratic Institute] during my three-week fellowship program, which is organized by Legacy International and sponsored by the U.S. State Department. alia
 I am passionate about improving Egyptian society through engaging technology in development interventions. I believe that change starts with a small idea that becomes passion, which then grows into a well-organized team of people seeking to change their communities, while at the same changing as people and enhancing their leadership skills. You can see such a process played out in this video.
The best thing about working at an NGO is that you get to really know your country. It was only after I have worked at mine, Etijah, that I became aware of the fact that ambitious youth are not centralized in Cairo. On the contrary, ambitious youth are really clustered in southern Egypt, in really marginalized areas with very few opportunities for school or work, away from media attention, and with much fewer community resources. Yet, they are so active and passionate to develop their local communities and to lead that change, so giving more access to those youth for developing and changing their communities would be an essential milestone in the development process.
Getting engaged in projects on different topics of interest enhances one’s skills in project planning, leading conversations, building a wider network of human relations, volunteer management, and gives a detailed focus on results to be achieved. While doing this, one senses the real needs of the target group and the best tools and techniques to respond to those needs, which, in my case, came to be technology. Egypt’s civil society needs technological tools to engage citizens and to participate in the development of the country, regardless of the topic, to work on empowerment of women, youth employability, volunteer recruitment and retention, or many other topics.
I am currently working on the “Youth Citizenship Ambassadors Group” Project, in collaboration with UN Women, which builds the capacity of young volunteers to design and implement community initiatives for raising awareness among women and girls about the importance of issuing national identification cards. This matches with the goals of NDI which is focused on building democracy and fostering citizen participation and gender equality.
NDI is multicultural, interdisciplinary, and highly collaborative. Such an environment would help any NGO professional in their work,. The organization is large, comprising around 300 employees, and is already teaching me how to organize and execute plans, delegate tasks, systemize workflows, and manage time more effectively. Through my work here, I’m already developing the skills needed to network with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds and with people in different capacities, from local NGO leaders to top officials working at the international level.
During my fellowship at NDI, I am eager to learn about different channels of engagement between technology and development generally and democracy in particular. I’m especially interested to wisely use resources and capacities towards achieving equality, social justice, and freedom, as well as identify ambitious youths driven by the same principles.
The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

On My Way to Serve DC

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Safae Lacheheb, Morocco, PFP Fellow

“I spent the majority of my fellowship journey in the District of Columbia, where I was assigned by Legacy International to fulfill a unique experience in a governmental organization in my field of work on community service and volunteerism.

Upon my arrival to DC, it took me a while to figure out the status of this unique area in the United States. It is an independent city, not part of any U.S state, yet formed by land donated by the two states of Maryland and Virginia. After a while I figured out this is not the only unique aspect of DC, and to fully understand this place I took five steps toward learning and living as a true citizen of DC.

First step: Embrace the Local Culture
After a long trip here I arrived in the capital of the United States, surprisingly the first thing that caught my eyes were not the tall buildings, but the abundant greenery, the multiple forests, and the beautiful lakes. When I came across the buildings, I was delighted by the beauty of the architecture, and its original style due to different influences from distant times and places, from classical Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, to France in the 19th century.

safae2The District hosted the world foreign embassies, the headquarters of many international organizations and non-profits, the white house, the capitol, as well as many other prestigious buildings. During a tour with the other fellows I realized that the cultural aspect is very present as the district is home to many national monuments and museums, all of which one can visit for free.

I enjoyed the numerous advantages of being a DC citizen, including going on free trolley tours, visiting the local parks and learning about the wildlife while being approached by cute squirrels, walking in one street and hearing more than five different languages and encountering people from many ethnicities. As diverse as New York, the District welcomes with open arms new coming immigrants, all of whom bring perceivable cultural influences. It offers the large choices of the big city in terms of restaurants and gastronomical variety, international brands, different cultural entertainment and sport events, and when you’re tired of the city’s hustle and bustle, you can also find quite spaces where you may admire the nature symphony.

When you live in DC, you see musicians on the roads and on your way to the subway, you know the metro lines colors very well, you drive by car a long distance and you think it’s short, you serve yourself in restaurants, you recycle your trash, you favor organic food, and you probably have a pet at home, either a dog or a cat. You wear summer clothes and carry an umbrella and you can’t expect what surprise the weather is hiding for you.

You respect the traffic code, you easily access the transportation and public facilities if you are with limited capacity and you will meet with friendly Americans who will be glad to use their smart phones to show you the way. One of the skills you master when you’re a DC citizen is you speak very fast and you’re probably able to win Guinness record for number of words pronounced per minute.

Step 2: Spend time with an American family
I was lucky to be hosted by two wonderful families and to experience the warmth of American houses. Though short, my stay with these American micro-societies gave me an insight about the local culture.

safae1After a busy day of my fellowship activities and visiting places in DC, I appreciated the peaceful moments at home around the dinner table and a generously home-prepared meal, during which I had interesting discussions with my hosts about our cultural differences and similarities.

During weekends, we played fun board games and enjoyed family evenings in the backyard surrounded by trees. I particularly remember our visit to the Potomac River where I had a very pleasant time hiking with the family, learning names of the plants on the sides of the river, and watching the great falls and the kayakers.

The time I spent with the two families made me realize that they have different habits and that the word American lifestyle does not apply to all American families the same way. This is an understandable conclusion as they don’t share the same background. However, I couldn’t help but to observe some shared values, I noticed they’re devoted parents who work hard to provide the best education for their children, and was glad to see the effort they do to involve them in many activities, encourage them to find and pursue their passions and help them become independent. As they grant great importance to learning, they make sure to convey clear messages and expectations, and stimulate their spirit of curiosity towards other languages and cultures.

Both families happened to be responsible citizens and validated my theory about Americans’ engagement in environment conservation and community service. They promoted environment sustainability by preserving trees, recycling waste, and using bicycles for transportation, and were engaged in serving their local communities through different projects and activities.

Step 3: Work in an American organization
At High Atlas Foundation in Morocco we work towards establishing development projects that derive sustainable socio-economic and environmental benefits. Organized under a commitment of empowering community development through participatory approaches, High Atlas Foundation has supported projects for youth empowerment and created partnerships with Moroccan universities to implement service learning programs to the benefit of students and promote their civic engagement and social responsibility towards their communities.

To learn from the best practices of American peers in community service, Legacy arranged a fellowship placement in the governmental organization named “Serve DC,” related to the Mayor’s Office. It works on volunteerism, and its mission is to promote citizenship and cultivate commitment to service among the DC population as a sustainable solution to the community’s most pressing needs.

Initially my fellowship consisted of learning about the organization’s vision, organizational structure and systems and management model. With a small enthusiastic team, they run multiple programs engaging hundreds of volunteers, including the AmeriCorps State national service program to help NGOs create programs that fight poverty and advance economic opportunity and academic achievement. They also manage different service days to connect residents with volunteer opportunities such as Global Youth Service day, DC Public Schools Beautification day, National Day of Service and Remembrance, World AIDS Day and Martin Luther King Day of Service.

One of the programs I had the chance to explore in depth is called Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) which is a critical one to the agency as DC is known for high rates of deaths due to incidents that could be prevented. Thus, this program is designed to engage residents with free emergency preparedness training to ensure they have the skills and resources necessary to serve their communities in times of crisis and threats such as disasters, crime and terrorism.
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In addition to the skills I acquired as a participant in this training program, it was interesting for me to learn about different aspects of “Serve DC” including: i) partnership building and collaboration with community, NGOs, private sector, and local and federal government; ii) conducting outreach and public relations and elaborating a successful communication strategy to engage and motivate volunteers; iii) coordination with external agencies. In this regard I attended meetings organized with different stakeholders involved in preparation for major emergencies, including homeland security, health organizations, department of aging and disability services, sheltering department, water infrastructure and others. These meetings were about preparing action plans, sharing responsibilities, and coordinating efforts to face any sort of potential emergencies and to make sure all categories of citizens are represented and included; Vi) The main challenges they face in managing and training an important number of volunteers, keeping them engaged and motivated and involving new volunteers, taking into account the bureaucracy and all the procedures it takes to get funding from the federal government to keep the program running.

Step 4: Learn about civil society and community service
Community service in the US is structured in the framework of a national program that is expanded over the country. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is the federal agency mentoring this program and coordinating national service initiatives for the citizens as well as for the nonprofit sector. “Serve DC” is the Commission representing the District of Columbia, and it provides funding and supports AmeriCorps members who serve at more than 60 nonprofit and community-based organizations. I had the chance to meet with some of these nonprofits and get one step closer to understand the service culture in the US.

I attended different activities in schools where they provide after schools programs for highly impoverished communities, including reading and math tutoring, homework help, language skills for kids with learning difficulties and kids of new coming immigrants. Other activities included play-works for behavior coaching, and social-emotional activities to foster independence and leadership among children and prevent bullying in school recess. In the Youth Community Center I witnessed an activity by a nonprofit working towards increasing opportunities for youth from disadvantaged communities through culture, sport and health education in order to promote healthy behaviors and safe transition to adulthood.

All these organizations rely on a high number of volunteers to support their programs, and this is observation among others proved to me the high level of youth civic engagement in this country.

safae and yaniTo learn about engagement of university students, my supervisor in “Serve DC” kindly arranged for me a meeting in one of the most well-known universities in the US, Georgetown University, in order to learn about the experience of student’s service learning. The university offers opportunities allowing students to participate in Service projects and initiatives which range from tutoring disadvantaged children in math and reading to offering pro bono legal services and health care in the District of Columbia’s most underserved neighborhoods. Recently, CERT program was included to address the unique challenges faced by college campuses and their communities. The goal of the program is to create a group of trained volunteers who can safely support emergency services workers.

One of the important lessons I will remember about engaging volunteers, is that they should be always reminded of the goal and the vision of the service they’re providing and be ambitious to stay motivated, otherwise service will be nothing more than free labor.

Step 5: Serve DC
I couldn’t claim to be a true citizen of DC until I completed one final mission, to participate in a community service activity. For this reason, I joined community members of Arlington and a local nonprofit to work together to clean a local park and remove invasive plants that are killing native plants and restore balance to the ecosystem.

Community members from all ages and abilities were invited to participate in this activity. As it was also meant to be educational, before we started, a member supervising the activity explained the objectives to the group, the types of different plants, and how to proceed and eliminate the invasive ones in the target area before they spread.

I started working with the group of volunteers while learning about their motivations, some of them were doing it as a requirement for school, and for others it was really about the feeling of self satisfaction that every volunteer seeks and experiences when accomplishing a service for the community.

I can say that after a period of five weeks I consider my mission complete. As I’m preparing my luggage to go back to my country, I’m carrying back many memories, resources and precious lessons that I intend to share with our volunteers to better serve Morocco.

Thank you to all the people who showed me DC through their eyes, my thanks go particularly to my two host families, to my hosts in “Serve DC” who made sure I had the most rewarding experience, to all the organizations who shared their knowledge with me, to Legacy International and its amazing staff for putting together this unique program, to the State Department for sponsoring it, to my fellow colleagues who added salt and sugar to this experience, and finally to all DC residents by whom my heart is deeply touched by generosity and kindness.” ~ Safae Lacheheb, Training Coordinator, Center of Community Consensus-Building and Sustainable Development, High Atlas Foundation

Sixteen Moroccan and Tunisian fellows served in fellowships as part of Legacy International’s “Professional Fellows Program in Non-profit Development for North Africa (PFP).” The fellowships are with non-profit and public-sector offices in Washington, DC, and in Roanoke, Virginia.

Learn more from the Fellows in the Fellows Blog

We are all Human After All

“Before I came to visit the US in 2013, I thought all Americans are like Robots. All they care about is money, money and only money, work, work, work. Before coming to the States, I had read different travel accounts about both America (by Arab writers) and about Arab countries (by European and American writers).limame

The Arab writers’ texts include Tangier’s Eyes on America by Abdelatif Akbib, “A Stranger in the West: The Trip of Mikhail Asad Rustum to America 1885-1894) by Mikhail Asad Rustum, “The America I Have Seen: In the Scale of Human Values,” by Sayyid Qutb (1951), “America for Sale,” by Mahmud Amara (1991) along with other accounts compiled in an Anthology entitled America in an Arab Mirror: Images of America in Arabic Travel Literature, 1668 to 9/11 and Beyond, (eds.) Kamal Abdelmalek & Mouna El Kahla (2000). Texts about the Orient by European and American writers include Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Spider’s House by Paul Bowles and Arabia Deserta by Charles Doughty among other travel narratives. In his account A Stranger in the West, for example, Mikhail Asad Rustum, contrasts American and Arab ways as follows:

Arabs                                                    Americans

– We write from right to left               – They write from left to right

– Women submit to their men              – Men submit to their ladies

-We say “Please come over                 – They say “Please come over to our home we want to you.”                    to our home to see us.”[1]

In another account, “America for Sale,” Mahmoud Amara recounts that he came across some ads wherein one finds “American wives put their husbands for sale.”

In the same sort of representational pattern, the reader of Paul Bowles’s texts is introduced to a part of the Arab World (Morocco) which is full of drugs, prostitution, primitiveness, lustfulness and backwardness.

However, though my first visit was so limited in terms of scope and experience, as I couldn’t get out of the academia circle to see how American families and professionals work and live, I had the chance to go through some experiences that opened a door for me to correct those misconceptions I had in mind about Americans.

limame2 Now, with this new experience, granted to me through Legacy International, I have gone through tremendous experiences on both personal and professional levels.

At the personal level, recounting the following scenes would speak my mind nicely:

  • The very fact that Mr. J.E. Rash, the president of Legacy International, came to greet, meet, and talk to every member of the North African delegation showed to me that one’s rank doesn’t matter in this country (USA) as it does in some parts of the world. Maybe some people may think that he does so because he is at the top of the organization which is responsible for the program I am participating in. No, at all it is not, I would strongly say NO. He does so out of his strong belief in human values, whatever the situation is. Wherever I went, I could meet people occupying high positions. In Roanoke, I could, by chance, meet the Mayor of the city on one Sunday with his informal clothes walking through a local annual festival.
  • Whenever somebody happened to block unintentionally my way and whenever I did the same, I always heard “Excuse me, I am sorry, or Hey, how are you?” Whenever I spoke to an American about my project or the reason behind me coming to the States, all I heard is “Woow, excellent, awesome, or very excellent.” Likewise, after meeting an American, s/he would say “have a nice day, evening or morning.” However normal all these expressions might be, to many, they meant a lot to me, because they form a whole cultural system that is driven by positive thinking.
  • I never imagined myself begged by an American for a few dollars (This happened to me and my colleague from Tunisia, Yomna, three or four times). This taught me that poverty is a global concern and phenomenon.limame3

At the professional level, I have learned a lot from the Roanoke based non-profit organization where I did my fellowship, Total Action for Progress (TAP) and all those agencies I could visit through TAP. I have learned how to be honest in what you do, how to love what you do, how to develop a results-oriented strategy for work, and how to develop an organization culture. I would never forget an outstanding professional and personal value which has driven TAP to be what it is nowadays. I had the chance to learn this value from somebody who devoted more than 40 years of his life to extend the work of TAP; Mr. Ted Edlich – the ex-president of TAP. He said, “When you and your team manage to work something out successfully, look through the window and thank everybody, but when one of your staff fails to do something, look at the mirror and blame yourself.”

By way of conclusion, like I said on the thank you event for Host Family and Fellowship Hosts, this exchange program is not only for skills-building to empower people living in poor conditions, but also a great chance to correct those misconceptions stated above and their likes. It is really a golden opportunity to put the intercultural dialogue in action. Thank you Legacy International.” ~ Limame Barbouchi, Administrator, National Initiative for Human Development in the Province of Taourirt

Sixteen Moroccan and Tunisian fellows are currently serving in fellowships as part of Legacy International’s “Professional Fellows Program in Non-profit Development for North Africa (PFP).” The fellowships are with non-profit and public-sector offices in Washington, DC, and in Roanoke, Virginia.

Learn more from the Fellows in the Fellows Blog

[1] Kamal Abdel-Malek, America in an Arab Mirror, (New York: St.Martins , 2000). P.6

Tunisia is a North African Democracy

” It’s fantastic that Tunisia is the only democracy in the Middle-East? In fact Tunisia isn’t in the Middle East, but in North Africa

zied1This common mistake made by lots of DC think tank policy analysts reflects how little US elites have knowledge about Tunisia. By initiating the Arab Spring, the country has appeared suddenly on the US foreign policy radar. Yet it doesn’t receive the attention it needs. For example, US assistance for Tunisia last year was a paltry $66 million, compared to $1.45 billion for Al Sisi’s Egyptian government.

The May 20th meeting between Barack Obama and Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi, emphased the strategic importance for the US to have a democratic model in the region. Personally speaking, I have felt this support and sympathy during every meeting I had with staff deputies or simple citizens aware about the Arab Spring.

zied2That led me to the question why such a strong moral support for so little concrete action. Luckily enough I am doing my fellowship in a DC think tank (Foreign Policy Initiative) that helped me to understand how the US democratic system and the “the hill” works.

After three weeks of fellowship the answer was clear to me: Tunisia doesn’t have a lobby to advocate for her at all stages of the system because the administration allocates the budget, that is after being modified and voted on by both the House of Representative and the Senate, in order to be finally validated. Obviously Tunisia has to be more present in the second stage by engaging in more vigorous lobbying in order to be more effective.

Therefore I am thinking more and more to do a PFP follow-up project that will try to deal with this issue…to be continued.” – Zied Touzani , Founder and President, Tun’Act

Sixteen Moroccan and Tunisian fellows are currently serving in fellowships as part of Legacy International’s “Professional Fellows Program in Non-profit Development for North Africa (PFP).” The fellowships are with non-profit and public-sector offices in Washington, DC, and in Roanoke, Virginia.

Learn more from the Fellows in the Fellows Blog

For Science, For Action, For Health

“With this short slogan, The American Public Health Association summarizes its mission, as well as my journey in the 5-story building of the APHA headquarters in Washington, DC. My experience here has exposed me to the incredible world of public health, the world where APHA staff try to close the gap between science and action.

The APHA is committed to knowledge and to research, and the journal they publish, The American Journal of Public Health is the preeminent peer reviewed journal for public health workers and academics. Their award-winning newspaper The Nation’s Health is published ten times per year with public health news to keep the American people updated on issues related to their health. Besides that The American Public Health Association publishes and sells over 70 public health books and texts. Several of these are the reference sources for their specialty within public health practice. The APHA meetings are also an opportunity to advance the exchange of knowledge. On any given day the staff learn more about the ongoing projects, new research findings in public health or simply discover the public health issues and challenges in a far country in North Africa. APHA gave me the opportunity to present the Tunisian public health issues and to share the opportunities for reform in my home country’s health sector.

Outside the world of academic journals, and  in coordination with its members and state and regional affiliates, APHA works with key decision-makers to shape public policy to address today’s ongoing public health concerns.

Yassine at aphaKeeping the 25,000 members of APHA informed, delivering advocacy tools, and continuing training are the key actions to advocate for a healthy nation. APHA is committed to comment on every Public Health law and to deliver statements on major health reforms in the United States.

APHA is also engaged in education and training and offers a wide range of internship and fellowship positions which are opportunities to build and strengthen professional skills particularly in research, analysis, writing, organization and interpersonal communications.

My fellowship mentor is Dr Regina Davis, the Associate Executive Director of Health Policy and Practice. Sharing and guiding me toward the values I have learnt in my fellowship, she was always there to give me more insights and information about health equity and health disparities in the USA and with her support I was able to have many valuable meetings with public health experts in the USA.
The fellowship is more than just lectures, theories and practices. The staff of APHA and the intercultural experience they bring with very unique. We were from different regions, religions and beliefs but we shared one cause: a better future for our countries, for fair societies and healthy lives. During the fellowship it was a pleasure meeting every one, sharing knowledge and learning from each other, building partnerships, and making long and lasting friendships.” ~ Yassine Kalboussi, Public Health Intern, Cardiovascular Epidemiology and Prevention Research Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine, Tunisia

Sixteen Moroccan and Tunisian fellows are currently serving in fellowships as part of Legacy International’s “Professional Fellows Program in Non-profit Development for North Africa (PFP).” The fellowships are with non-profit and public-sector offices in Washington, DC, and in Roanoke, Virginia.

Learn more from the Fellows in the Fellows Blog

Be the Change You Want to See

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Yassine Zegzouti, Founding President, Director Association Mawarid for Environment and Energy

“When I founded the Mawarid non-government organization to address environmental issues in Morocco in 2009, my goals was to promote new attitudes that support and anchor environmental values within the Moroccan society. This mission wasn’t easy because there are other priorities which are now viewed by citizens as more important.

yassine1I always believe that change is possible. That is why I keep working, and I have initiated the first campaign to stop the circulation of non-biodegradable plastic bags in several prominent cities in Morocco. This campaign introduced a series of advocacy and awareness workshops that led to the adoption of fair-trade eco-friendly bags in the market. After the success of this campaign, Mawarid has been recognized as a prominent environmental actor by leading national and international institutions, and most importantly local citizens.

As such, I was invited on behalf of Mawarid, the only young association in Morocco’s environmental circles, to UNESCO to participate in the International Congress on Education for Sustainable Development, which was recently held in November 2014 in the city of Aichi-Nagoya, Japan.

yassine2 Furthermore, I have another recognition at the international level, that I was selected to participate in the Professional Fellows Program in the US, led by Legacy international. This program is unique in that Legacy International establishes your fellowship program according to your area of interest. This helps me to focus more on environmental issues and to deepen my knowledge about the methods of making a positive impact on my community through civil society. I consider also this program as a great opportunity to get in touch with American culture.

Moreover, I have learned from Legacy that during the kaufman-zegoutiplanning phase of each project we should take into consideration all details, even the small details.  By this way, all your partners respect and trust you more. I also consider this program as a great opportunity to get in touch with American culture and the educational system.

Each day of my fellowship is a new experience, and new inspiring people encourage me to continue the work to make environmental protection a top priority in Morocco … Yes, it’s possible. Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~ Yassine

Sixteen Moroccan and Tunisian fellows are currently serving in fellowships as part of Legacy International’s “Professional Fellows Program in Non-profit Development for North Africa (PFP).” The fellowships are with non-profit and public-sector offices in Washington, DC, and in Roanoke, Virginia.

Learn more from the Fellows in the Fellows Blog

Similar and Different: In the US

pfp-hanineSanae Hanine, from Rabat, Morocco, is the Marketing Manager with the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Promotion of Social Works in education training.

“Visiting the United States, the most powerful country in the world, was a dream. This would be impossible without the help of Legacy International and the Department of State, and I thank them.

sanae2Needless to say that my first visit to the USA is a unique experience from all points of views: cultural, professional, social and personal. In the handbook that Legacy International gave us to guide us on our journey, there was a section on culture shock. I did not think that I could have culture shock, and laughed about that. It is true that the Atlantic separates Morocco from the United States, but it occurred to me that this is two different planets. But to pretend to know a culture in a period of one month is only a claim.

Even though I think that people are the same everywhere, culturally, the differences are huge: especially for values and attitudes. Admittedly, the people I’ve had the chance to meet are extremely kind, helpful and extremely generous. I was struck by the professionalism of American people and the extreme attention they pay to details. They took everything seriously, unlike in my country where things are taken less seriously. This tendency towards perfectionism sometimes tends to plunge the US into a competitiveness that generates a lot of stress. People eat lunch at the office, which is just inconceivable in Morocco. The bar is always placed very high, there is no room for amateurism.

sanae1Regarding generosity, I noticed that everywhere there are gifts for any cause; especially studies. There is a greater awareness of each other and those who need help. I had the chance to attend a working session organized by a sorority that helps finance a student’s education with $10,000. It is almost inconceivable in my country.

I was also struck by the fact that in the United States the human person is sacred. A large value is given to all categories of people: children, adults and aging people.

sanae6In my humble opinion, people are very free, but the incredible number of laws and restrictions that regulate almost every civil act actually limits freedom. Another thing I noticed, which is subjective, is that Americans are focused on themselves; they do not know much about the world.

One thing I have not adapted to in the country, is the food. I could not imagine how much we could eat sugar and fat. I miss Moroccan gastronomy so much. I was shocked to learn that the US did not have a national dish.

sanae3On a personal level, it was a great challenge. Meeting new people, speaking a foreign language, it was like to jump from the top of a mountain. Fortunately the people I have met have been so communicative that it happened with great ease. I learned many new things including the US National education system. It goes without saying that this is a very competitive system but very inclusive, and it gives equal opportunities to all especially at the primary level. I grabbed the strengths of this system which makes it among the best in the world.

During my meeting with the union of teachers, I found that teachers have several things in common: the same fighting spirit, the same commitment, etc.

Regarding my delegation, I had the chance to meet wonderful people. The energy flows between us almost naturally. Their presence was invaluable and a great support. We reassured each other and laughed a lot. I understand that there are many opportunities for us to seize to achieve things together. I hope I will keep in touch with all those wonderful people.

Soon I will join with my host family in their home. And I’m about to live a new and wonderful experience.

It goes without saying that this experience will leave an undeniable mark on the rest of my life. I expect to see my behavior altered on my return. Certainly, many things will change.” ~ Sanae

Sixteen Moroccan and Tunisian fellows are currently serving in fellowships as part of Legacy International’s “Professional Fellows Program in Non-profit Development for North Africa (PFP).” The fellowships are with non-profit and public-sector offices in Washington, DC, and in Roanoke, Virginia.

Learn more from the Fellows in the Fellows Blog

Alice in Wonderland

pfp-karouiYomna Karoui, from Jandouba, Tunisia, works with the Association of Development and Social Reform in this rural town in western Tunisia.

The Vibrant City

“My first days in Washington were different from those in Roanoke. In Washington there’s hustle and bustle, traffic, public transportation, and big businesses. We had the chance to meet some representatives of the government, they hosted us with a big smile on their faces.PFP-yomna

When we had a tour inside the buildings of the United States Capitol, I realized that we are far away from this great civilization. They are pretty much aware of their past and history is made in every step. It’s not easy for me to compare Tunisia to the United States, some things are incomparable. In the Arabic world we are proud of having a great history, we are proud that we have a great past without really reminding ourselves of our great history. Some people do, but they still don’t know why we should be proud of it!In our tour in the US capitol building I felt like I was in an art museum. Beautiful paintings and historical statues made me touch the spirit of America; So magical that you can almost hear a beautiful classical melody in your ears. It’s hard for me to believe that this building is actually made for political activities.pfp-yomna-dc
In the building you will be surprised to see that every state representative has an office with a sign next to his door saying ‘welcome in’ and anybody is free to enter the building. I was wondering, why is it so hard for people in Tunisia to reach the Tunisian government representatives? And I just answered myself, maybe because if they do the same, the whole Tunisian population will come to their doors and spread the chaos. Maybe in some countries like Tunisia we should work on people’s attitudes before trying to practice democracy. People who don’t respect values cannot apply it properly. Democracy is not only about voting and respecting the results, democracy is so much more than that.

Star City

Roanoke…. Hmmm I fell in love with this small city. It reminds me of my home town Jendouba; the mountains, river, fresh air, green trees…. Here, you feel more like you are in Uncle Sam’s country. We have been on a food tour and we passed by seven restaurants to discover various food that I’ve never tasted before. In Mountain Falls, we watched a Broadway Musical play. So magical that I felt myself disconnected from the world and taken to a wonderful place of colors. I felt like Alice traveling through time.

Observations

yomna-Roanoke2For most Americans, everyday life remains the same, and people work so hard to eat. In some areas like Roanoke the poverty rate shocked us. There’s a huge gap between Washington, DC, and the Roanoke area. People from Africa are struggling to survive. You can find them everywhere in stores and low incomes jobs. They are suffering but they keep in mind that to live in poverty here is still better than poverty in African countries.

I never imagined that I would be begged by an American for money. Yesterday, a well-dressed man just told me and my colleague that he doesn’t have enough money to go back to Carolina. People here are complaining about the educational system and the health care system. Going to college is expensive, which is a huge waste of talented human capitol. You have to be rich and talented to go to the best universities. There are some chances for the poor to get scholarships, so there is some hope. For the health care I just don’t understand why it’s very expensive while in countries like Tunisia it is so much less.

Alice has to work, too…

In my fellowship, every day is a discovery day…I met so many people that I forget their names and I gathered dozens of business cards. Everything is well organized and planned, even small details. It’s hard to believe that this huge work was done by so few people. I hope that legacy staff team members were well paid for this work.yomna-Roanoke

Here in my fellowship placement, everyone that I met works hard and cares about his work. I attended meetings almost every day. Actually, they don’t have a daily routine. They are an inspired team who inspire me through their high dedication to work and team spirit. They run so many programs that it would take three ministries in my country to do it.” ~Yomna

Sixteen Moroccan and Tunisian fellows are currently serving in fellowships as part of Legacy International’s “Professional Fellows Program in Non-profit Development for North Africa (PFP).” The fellowships are with non-profit and public-sector offices in Washington, DC, and in Roanoke, Virginia.

Learn more from the Fellows in the Fellows Blog