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YES Abroad Celebrates GYSD 2017
On the weekend of April 21 to 23, YES Abroad students around the world participated in Global Youth Service Day (GYSD). Established in 1988, GYSD celebrates and mobilizes millions of young people to improve their communities through service. GYSD encourages young people to work together–and with schools, youth organizations, nonprofits, community and faith-based organizations, national service programs, government agencies, and adult mentors– to address the world’s most critical issues and change their communities.
YES Abroad students participated in a variety of service projects that addressed a range of issues just as diverse as the countries in which they are placed. Environmental sustainability, disability awareness, neighborhood clean-ups, and international education are just a few of the issues that YES Abroad students’ Global Youth Service Day projects addressed.
Durowaa Agyeman-Mensah, a YES Abroad student in the Philippines, spent her GYSD volunteering at a children’s shelter. While Durowaa had volunteered at the shelter in the past, with the hectic schedule of an exchange student she hadn’t been able to come recently. None the less Durowaa wrote: “The second I arrived at the gate, all the children had already started to jump on me and say things like, ‘you came back Ate DeeDee’ or ‘Ate Moana, it's been a long time.’ They have a lot of different volunteers there, so I felt really honored that [the children] still remembered me. I enjoyed the company of the kids so much.” Although Global Youth Service Day projects usually focus on larger community events, Durowaa’s experience demonstrates the enormous benefit that can come from smaller interactions.
YES Abroad students also promoted the benefits of cross-cultural education within their communities during GYSD. The YES Abroad students placed in Skopje, Macedonia, organized a presentation about American values and service in the United States (photo on right). The presentation also included a trivia portion! Jeremy Slater, one of the students facilitating the presentation, commented, “The trivia night was a wonderful exchange of interesting facts and humorous anecdotes from both Macedonians and Americans.” These types of interactions help build strong cross cultural bonds!
YES Aboard students also embraced the idea of citizen diplomacy on GYSD! Jaleh Shambayati and Krya Jasper in Macedonia teamed up with YES Abroad students in Morocco to organize a virtual exchange between Macedonians and YES Abroaders in Morocco. According to Jaleh, the Skype call, “started off by having kids in our class present some basic information about Macedonia – government, food, language – and then had a more general Q&A session. The students in Morocco were really interested in hearing about what teenagers in Skopje do for fun and how much freedom they have, while the kids [in Skopje] were interested in seeing pictures of Morocco and hearing about some of their religious traditions!” Activities like this are excellent examples of YES Abroad students acting as youth ambassadors, using their global network to facilitate cross cultural communication (see photos below).
Getting involved in host communities is an important part of exchange, and YES Abroad students used the opportunity of GYSD to get further involved in community-wide events. In Senegal, Shruthi Venkata volunteered with the Dakar Women’s Group “Eco-Fest.” Shruthi wrote that at the Eco-Fest, she and other volunteers, “taught youth about the importance of the environment and conservation. In addition, we gave out lunches to hundreds of children, including many who beg in the street, helped plant trees, and helped organize arts and crafts.”
Students placed in Bosnia and Herzegovina also got their hands dirty while participating in GYSD. Samantha Davis volunteered for Gladno Polje (The Hungry Fields), one of the only dog shelters in Sarajevo (photo to left). Samantha wrote: “I really enjoyed spending time working at the dog shelter. It was very therapeutic and the dog shelter is so underfunded that our small amount of help really made a difference.” Darcy Turin and Ben Blum along with many of their classmates, hiked to Mount Igman , a mountain just outside of Sarajevo, to plant trees for a reforestation project (photo at top of page). Darcy reflected that “it was great to make a permanent contribution to sustainability.” The effects of YES Abroad community service projects such as these will last long after the students return to the United States.
YES Abroad students truly embraced the ideals of Global Youth Service Day. From planting trees, to teaching English, to facilitating virtual exchanges, YES Abroad students sought to make an impact on their host community and succeeded!