World Learning’s Top 10 Stories of 2017

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World Learning has had so many inspiring stories to tell this year, thanks to its nearly 100 global development and exchange programs. These programs helped educators gain the tools they need to create learning environments in which students can thrive in Lebanon and El Salvador. We worked with emerging leaders in Mongolia to resolve critical issues in their communities. We brought professionals and emerging young leaders from around the world to the U.S. to build cross-cultural understanding, too.

As we look forward to the new year, here’s a look back at World Learning’s top 10 stories of 2017:

Iraqi Students Lead New Efforts to Aid Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons

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Hamsa Ahmed and Ghuroob Alsheikh Gumar presented a proposal to host an arts festival in Baghdad for internally displaced children.

Conflict and instability have forced millions of Iraqis to leave their homes in recent years — a crisis that requires the support of the international community. Yet Iraqi high school students are making a difference, too. This summer, World Learning brought students from the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program to the U.S., where they developed plans to help refugees and internally displaced people in their country. Read about how they’re connecting with their government and creating change.

Journey to Job: New Film Explores Inequality and Unemployment in Mongolia

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LEAD Mongolia Fellows at the premiere of “Journey to Job”

Mongolia’s unemployment rate has risen steeply in recent years, but certain segments of the population — including youth and people with disabilities — have been hit particularly hard. In July, a group of Leaders Advancing Democracy (LEAD) Mongolia fellows released a film titled “Journey to Job,” which aims to raise awareness of the social inequalities underlying the unemployment crisis. Read about how these emerging activists are using their film to change hiring policies across the country.

How a Robotics Competition Could Transform Algeria — And the World

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Team Algeria works on their robot at the First Global international robotics challenge.

Diplomacy. Teamwork. Robots. In July, hundreds of high schoolers from around the world converged on Washington, DC, to celebrate these values and compete during the inaugural FIRST Global international robotics challenge. Team Algeria got their start in robotics at World Learning’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) Center in Algiers. Read about their experiences and why World Bank President Jim Yong Kim believes they’re the key to changing the world.

The Storyteller of Nabatieh: World Learning’s QITABI Program Improves Reading Skills in Lebanon

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A second-grade student reads to her classmates during the “Hakawati” or Storyteller activity.

Ghina didn’t always like playing the role of Hakawati — Arabic for “storyteller” — in her second-grade class. But she discovered her passion for reading aloud to her classmates thanks to the Leveled Classroom Library and other early grade reading interventions introduced at her school in southern Lebanon as part of World Learning’s Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvement project. Read about how QITABI has transformed public primary schools across Lebanon.

Seattle’s International Exchanges Spur Growth, Citizen Diplomacy, and Friendships

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Keun Joung Yoo from South Korea (center) with Seattle hosts Kirsten Smith (left) and Pete Lawson (right).

Every year, World Learning brings people from around the world to the U.S. for academic and professional exchanges. But these exchanges don’t only benefit participants: they also have a real and lasting impact on American host communities around the country. In Seattle, World Learning’s international exchange programs have generated economic growth and nurtured enduring cross-cultural friendships.. Read about how our exchange programs help American communities.

Embracing the LGBT Community in Mongolia

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Nyampurev Galsanjamts, a fellow on World Learning’s LEAD Mongolia program working to help destigmatize the LGBT community.

Nyampurev Galsanjamts wants to end discrimination against the LGBT community in Mongolia — and he’s working toward that goal with the help of our Leaders Advancing Democracy (LEAD) Mongolia program. Galsanjamts traveled to the U.S. this year as a participant in the LEAD program, a two-year initiative funded by USAID that brings emerging Mongolian activists together to learn about democracy and tackle pressing issues. Learn how he’s leading the fight against LGBT stigma in Ulaanbaatar.

Hidden Figures Are All Around Us

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SIT alumna Justice Shorter

In the early months of 2017, the film “Hidden Figures” — which tells the story of three brilliant African American women whose expertise was vital to helping NASA launch John Glenn into orbit — demonstrated how discrimination and marginalization can bury extraordinary accomplishments. In an op-ed, SIT alumna Justice Shorter, a crisis communication professional who earned her master’s degree at SIT Graduate Institute, argues that we need to look for the hidden figures in our own lives, too.

Using Space Technology to Manage Disasters in South Africa

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Fulbright Specialist Scott Madry with graduate students and faculty at the University of Cape Town’s SpaceLab

Scott Madry trains people to use technology that’s more often associated with space exploration than earthly problems like natural disasters, climate change, and urban planning. As a Fulbright Specialist to South Africa, he’s showing graduate students and faculty at the University of Cape Town’s SpaceLab how to use geospatial tools to map fires, floods, and deforestation, among other threats that affect people around the world. Learn how this could be a game-changer for disaster management.

In El Salvador, This Educator is Transforming How Students Learn English

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Universidad Autonoma de Santa Ana language department coordinator Mike Hernandez (right) and his students.

When Mike Hernandez noticed that his students at the Universidad Autonoma de Santa Ana in El Salvador were bored with their English classes, he took action. With the skills he’d learned from a workshop organized by World Learning’s Higher Education for Economic Growth Project, Hernandez created an English for Specific Purposes program that designs the content of English language classes around subjects relevant to academic tracks like medicine or communications. Read his story here.

Dialogue & Youth Empowerment Takes Center Stage in New Delhi

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Aditi (left) fielding and translating audience questions for cast members.

Can the performing arts help build understanding across class, caste, religion, gender, disability, and refugee status in India? Aditi Rao believes it can. With the help of World Learning’s Advancing Leadership Award, Rao launched a volunteer collective that brings teenagers together to discuss their lives and challenges, and then weaves those stories together into a theatrical production. Learn how her initiative has helped transform these young people.

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World Learning empowers people, communities, and institutions to create a more peaceful and just world.

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