World Learning’s Top 10 Stories of 2018

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Stories have the power to inspire change. As we shared in our 2018 Impact Report, over 86 years, through education, sustainable development, and exchange programs, World Learning has helped global citizens from 162 countries tell their stories.

This year, our 79 global programs have made a difference in lives around the world. We have helped thousands of kids go back to school in Lebanon thanks to a new fleet of buses. Professionals in fields ranging from environmental justice to law enforcement have developed their careers through our programs. And our exchange participants of all ages have built their leadership skills and strengthened their commitment to inclusion.

As we look forward to telling more stories in a new year, please join us in taking a look back at World Learning’s top 10 stories of 2018:

Iraqi Youth Gather in Baghdad to Celebrate 10 Years of International Exchange

World Learning celebrated a very special milestone in 2018: the 10th anniversary of the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP), which helps transform Iraqi students into leaders in their communities and their country. To mark the occasion, more than 250 alumni from provinces across Iraq came together in Baghdad to share their stories and their ideas for their country’s future.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman delivered remarks at the conference praising IYLEP alumni for their passion and their drive. “You really are the cream of the crop, the best and the brightest of Iraq,” he said. “You learn in this program how to develop your communities, how to help your families, how to think the big thoughts, and how to make Iraq a better place in the future.” Read highlights from the conference.

The Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program is sponsored by the U.S. Embassy Baghdad and the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by World Learning.

Five Amazing Innovations from the WiSci STEAM Camp

What if you had high heels that could transform into flats in an instant? Or a backpack so lightweight it never strained your back? Would it solve some of your everyday problems? If so, you’re in luck: These were among some of the innovations that arose from this summer’s Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM Camp in Windhoek, Namibia.

In June, World Learning and its partners gathered nearly 100 high school girls from the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa for the camp, which emphasizes cross-cultural connections and skills in science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and mathematics. After two weeks of learning how to code, build autonomous robots, and create apps, the girls teamed up to solve problems through entrepreneurship. As one of the girls said of the experience: “I feel like a scientist.” Read about five of our favorite innovations from the camp.

The Women in Science Girls STEAM Camp is a private-public partnership (PPP) between the U.S. Department of State’s Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, UN Foundation’s Girl Up Initiative, Intel Corporation, and Google. It is administered by World Learning.

In Lebanon, a New Bus Fleet is Helping Thousands of Kids Go Back to School

Each fall, children around the world start a new school year. But, for some, just getting to school can be an insurmountable challenge. In Lebanon, for example, students who live in rural areas lack the transportation they need to access their education.

This year, World Learning and its partners helped thousands of children in Lebanon return to school, thanks to a fleet of 100 new buses serving 100 public schools in 24 districts across the country. The buses were made possible due to a $4.6 million donation from the Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvement (QITABI) program. “It will provide a safe, reliable, and modern transportation system to get Lebanese children to school,” said U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard at the bus unveiling ceremony. “And I cannot think of a more important mission for us to be supporting.” Read more about the new bus fleet.

QITABI is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon. The QITABI Consortium is led by World Learning, and includes Ana Aqra’, AMIDEAST, and Management Systems International (MSI).

Exploring Maryland’s Maritime Heritage by Living It

In Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, cultural heritage is defined by its maritime traditions such as watermen harvesting blue crabs on Skipjack boats. This summer, a group of students from Maryland and Bosnia and Herzegovina came together to learn about those traditions firsthand through World Learning’s Communities Connecting Heritage program, which connects people from the U.S. and other countries to explore cultural heritage.

According to World learning Program Officer Sean Mooney, who accompanied the trip, our emphasis on experiential learning made a difference. “Instead of being told about the traditional way of life in the Chesapeake Bay, our participants were able to feel, smell, taste, hear, and see how these communities are preserving the maritime cultural heritage of the bay in their day-to-day lives,” he wrote of the exchange. Read more about the trip.

Communities Connecting Heritage is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by World Learning.

An Innovative Approach to International Education in Algeria

On any given day, you might hear the buzz of drones or see robots crashing into walls at World Learning’s STEAM Center in Algiers, Algeria. Here, grade school children from across the capital city come to learn all kinds of skills such as coding, programming, design thinking, virtual reality, and robotics.

Last month, in honor of International Education Week, World Learning Algeria Country Representative Leah Bitat explained how the STEAM Center’s innovative approach to education is making a difference. “It’s really accessible to a lot of people,” she said. “You don’t have to be this super-accomplished whiz kid, great at school and computing and formulas and all that. The practical approach really unlocks it for kids who didn’t think that they were the robotics type. We deeply believe that science can be unlocked for anybody.” Read more about the STEAM Center.

The Algiers STEAM Center is sponsored by Anadarko Petroleum, DOW Chemical, and The Boeing Company, and was launched with additional support from the U.S. Embassy in Algiers.

How a Summer Abroad Helped One Aspiring Chef Explore the World of French Pastry

Hailey Pacyna has known from an early age that she wants to become a pastry chef one day. This year, as a rising high school senior, she spent the summer honing her skills and learning about her career possibilities while traveling in France with The Experiment in International Living.

The Experiment’s French Language & Culinary Training program took Pacyna and her peers to Paris and Lyon — both gourmet centers — and a homestay in southeastern France. They also spent a week training at the Institut Paul Bocuse, one of the world’s most prestigious culinary schools. Beyond improving her knife skills, Pacyna also had the opportunity to meet with an admissions counselor to discuss the possibility of enrolling there when she graduates from high school. “I loved it,” she said. “I felt like I was where I belong.” Read more of Pacyna’s story.

The Experiment in International Living is the most experienced provider of summer abroad programs for high school students. It is a program of World Learning Inc.

Tackling Environmental Issues with an App in Germany

When Devon Payne-Sturges was selected as a Fulbright Specialist, she had no idea that a month at the University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, Germany, would fine-tune her academic focus and enrich her students’ learning opportunities.

As an expert in the field of environmental justice — an area that addresses the racial and economic disparities of exposure to environmental contaminants — Payne-Sturges teamed up with her host institution to study noise pollution in lower-income neighborhoods and its connection with serious health problems like sleep deprivation and increased cardiovascular risk. The experience broadened Payne-Sturges’ own perception of environmental justice and sparked follow-on projects with her students at the University of Maryland. “None of this would have been possible without the Fulbright Specialist Program,” she said. Read more about her experience.

The Fulbright Specialist Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and partner countries around the world and is administered by World Learning.

Meet an Australian Teen Who Transformed His Community’s LGBT Awareness

If you ask Phoebe Hooper to pinpoint when his life took off on a new trajectory — when he gained independence, developed a passion for travel, and, most importantly, discovered his own capacity to accomplish amazing things — he would say it was the three weeks he spent in the United States as part of an international youth exchange program.

In 2014, the 15-year-old Hooper traveled to the U.S. for the Youth Leadership Program (YLP) On Demand with Australia and New Zealand. In the years since, Hooper founded a nonprofit called Keep Talking NT, which advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community in Australia’s Northern Territory — even organizing the community’s first Pride celebration. “Without the YLP program, I would have never had the confidence or drive to push the envelope and start something from the ground up in a town where it isn’t very accepted,” Hooper wrote. Read his story here.

Youth Leadership Program On Demand is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by World Learning.

Meet Mongolia’s Changemakers

To truly change a community for the better, you must include all voices from that community. Earlier this year, the Leaders Advancing Democracy (LEAD) Mongolia program released a documentary that explores why inclusive practices are essential to progress. The film features seven LEAD Mongolia fellows and their work to connect young people with disabilities to employment, provide quality education to students in Mongolia’s Kazakh minority, and more.

These fellows gained a new outlook on social inclusion by participating in a pilot for World Learning’s Transforming Agency, Access, and Power (TAAP) Initiative, a systematic approach to integrating inclusion throughout a project’s lifecycle by “tapping” into the voices, skills, and experiences of all people, including those marginalized and excluded from power. “LEAD made me think differently,” said LEAD Fellow Enkhjin Selenge. “I realized we can be stronger when we’re a diverse team and include everyone. If we want to develop our country, we have to be inclusive of everyone. There’s no other choice.” Watch the documentary and read more about the LEAD Mongolia fellows.

LEAD Mongolia is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by World Learning.

Building a More Secure World Through International Exchange

In an increasingly globalized world, law enforcement officials agree that cross border cooperation is vital to their success, especially those who investigate and prosecute organized crime, trafficking, and money laundering. In April, World Learning brought a group of 80 law enforcement officials to the U.S. to participate in a three-week International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) exchange with the focus Towards a More Safe and Secure World: Combating Transnational and Organized Crime.

During the exchange, participants made new contacts and gained deeper insight into best practices in the U.S. and other countries — knowledge that they could bring home to enhance their own work. “The lessons I have learned here will help me a great deal,” said Juan Antonio Mateo Ciprian, a public prosecutor for the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic and director of the Department of Counterfeiting Investigations. Read more about the exchange.

The International Visitor Leadership Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by World Learning.

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

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