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Changemaking in Action

Posted on Friday, August 18th, 2017 at 5:00 pm.

By Olga Adamovich, Director of Participant Experience, CIEE

Mahmoud Abdelkareem from the West Bank

During the first week of August, a select group of participants from the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program gathered on the campus of the American University in Washington, D.C. for the fifth annual CIEE Civic Leadership Summit. This is the third time two different designated J-1 sponsor organizations, CENET and CIEE, have partnered to bring together participants. This year, 45 fellows from 40 countries participated in the activities. This diversity of the participants intensified the richness of the summit experience as fellows worked together across country, culture, and language borders.

The three day program was comprised of a series of dynamic workshops designed to build intercultural awareness, social entrepreneurship skills, understanding of civics, and rule of law. To attend the summit, these young leaders were chosen from more than 2,100 applicants. Here is a sampling of their observations, told in their own words.

Amy Allen from the United Kingdom

“During the summit I had the opportunity to meet 45 students, innovators, motivators and thinkers from all over the world. The people all shared similar traits: they want to make the world a better place; they shared common grounds and cultures despite being thousands of miles away from each other; they shared respect, thought, innovation, and many other attitudes of great world leaders. I made some deep connections with all of them and learned something new about every single one of them. This summit taught me how to think in a different way, including how a couple of people from different cultures can get together and solve common issues in little or no time. You don’t need time or lots of money, you just need some mutual respect and support. That’s what will get us through at the end of the day.

I realize now that this wasn’t a trip to Washington, D.C. This was a trip all around the world. DC was just a connecting flight.”

“It may seem as though the tour of D.C. would be an obvious favourite part of the week, but for me, I loved the cultural development sessions and the other deep conversations I had with the fellows regarding our cultures and global issues. This week has ignited something within me to make a change and difference, as well as travel to all these amazing countries and experience their cultures for myself. As Deputy Assistant Secretary Kevin Saba said: ‘You can make a change if you have a passion and the willingness to take a risk.’”

Gresë Kosa at the Green Art Festival

As the summit was coming to an end, the fellows heard from two 2016 alumni from Kosovo, Gresë Kosa and Guxim Klinaku, who shared their changemaker success story about the project they started following the 2016 Civic Leadership Summit. With the support of their fellow changemakers from around the world, Gresë and Guxim took their Summit venture idea, developed it further, and started an environmental non-profit in Kosovo “Keep it Green,” with the primary mission to develop and create projects that are related to environmental protection. The organization recently hosted its first Green Art Festival to raise awareness about environmental issues among citizens.

Guxium shared his reflections: “Gresë and I just finished a wonderful project in Obiliq, Kosovo. This idea was developed in CIEE Leadership Summit last year. We worked with a lot of friends from all around the world to implement this idea that I’ve had for a long time. Green Art Festival, the first of its kind in my country, started its first edition with a painting and photo competition. The CIEE leadership fellows contributed a lot to make this idea perfect. A profound thank you to everyone for their feedback and contribution!”

Want to learn more about this event? Watch this video and read this blog entry from last year’s Summit.

Categories: Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

G. Kevin Saba

G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

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