World Learning’s Top 10 Stories of 2019

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World Learning kicked off 2019 on a reflective note, asking what works — and what still needs to be done — to address global challenges like security, economic stability, and social inequity. We laid out our three biggest questions and how we planned to address them in the coming year.

On our list of priorities, we asked how we can equip the youth of today with skills they need to be the leaders of tomorrow; how we can contribute to inclusive and resilient communities; and how we can develop partnerships for sustainability and self-reliance.

Throughout the year, we followed through on our commitment to finding innovative answers to those critical questions — and we shared our results right here on our blog. Beyond highlighting the successes of our many alumni who are thriving at school, work, and beyond, we’ve pulled back the curtain to show how and why our programs help our alumni reach their goals.

As we look forward to a new year filled with new challenges and new possibilities, please join us in taking one last look back at our favorite stories from 2019:

World Learning Launches Virtual Tours Exploring Careers Across the Globe

February 6, 2019

Imagine stepping into the shoes of a teacher at Mongolia’s only school for deaf students, or an engineer working to find a solution to air pollution — without leaving your home. This year, World Learning made that possible. Working with a team at Google, we launched a series of virtual reality tours designed to help young people explore the careers and daily lives of professionals all over the world. So far, the series has visited Mongolia and Algeria, where we’ve featured careers like renewable energy engineering and architecture.

“Virtual reality is just beginning to open up new possibilities for learning and experiencing the world,” says Dr. Catherine Honeyman, Senior Youth Workforce Specialist at World Learning. “What I love about these virtual career tours is how they help us get beyond the limitations of our social relationships. You don’t have to personally know an energy engineer to visit her workplace. She has already invited you to come have a look just by using your phone!”

In Virginia, an International Exchange Program Leaves a Legacy

March 25, 2019

In its short lifespan, the Leaders Advancing Democracy (LEAD) Mongolia program has driven remarkable change. LEAD fellows, who are the country’s most promising future leaders, are helping children access quality education in remote areas, fighting corruption in their government, and standing up to sexual harassment and domestic abuse.

But the program has also left its mark on communities across Virginia through its international exchange component, which takes fellows to Charlottesville, Virginia. In this article, we talked to our partners at the University of Virginia (UVA) Center for Politics, as well as various community leaders and business owners, to find out why they value international exchange programs like LEAD Mongolia. As they told us, international exchange promotes global alliances and stability, builds cross-cultural relationships, enables them to share best practices, and even has economic benefits for their communities.

LEAD Mongolia is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Before and After: The Life-Changing Effects of an International Exchange Program

April 23, 2019

Three weeks may not seem like a lot of time. But when you’re on an international exchange program, three weeks can be transformative. This spring, high school students from Argentina and Chile shared just such a life-changing experience as part of the Youth Ambassadors Program. World Learning caught up with the group at the beginning and end of the exchange to find out what difference it made.

“I had no idea how many doors would be opened for me,” said Paula Castro, a participant from Mendoza, Argentina. “Now I just see the world differently. I just want to keep on doing this, keep on inspiring, keep on traveling, and keep on learning things. This was easily the best experience of my life.”

Youth Ambassadors is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.

In Iraq, a Reunion Brings Young Changemakers Back Together to Learn From and Inspire One Another

May 22, 2019

Ask almost anyone who has participated in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) and they’ll tell you that traveling to the U.S. to learn about leadership and civic engagement was life-changing. But the IYLEP experience doesn’t end when they get home. The program encourages participants to serve their communities — even offering competitive small grants to fund projects such as one high school senior’s women’s empowerment initiative — and also gives them another chance to learn from and inspire one another at the IYLEP National Reunion.

At these two-day conferences, IYLEP alumni present the projects they carried out in their communities, share their knowledge in an Ideas Market, and build their social and professional networks. World Learning spoke with alumni from last summer’s high school and undergraduate class to find out why this reunion is key to helping them become the leaders of tomorrow.

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.

10 Ways International Exchanges Cultivate Global Citizenship on College Campuses

June 11, 2019

Educators know better than anyone the value of global citizenship in an increasingly interconnected world. That’s why higher education institutions across the United States, in partnership with World Learning, are making it a priority to develop their students’ global competence.

Earlier this year, we spoke with partners at colleges and universities from North Carolina to Montana to find out how academic exchanges like the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD) and Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program transform their campuses. “[Exchanges are] a chance for us to bring the world to Montana,” says Janelle Rasmussen, director of international training and professional development at Montana State University. “Bringing students here creates an opportunity for [Montana students] to engage and see a new perspective without even having to leave Montana.”

The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.

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.

How a New Tool Could Help Children Everywhere Learn to Read

July 12, 2019

All children have the right to learn to read — no matter what language they speak or where they live. But, too often, the resources that help kids develop reading skills aren’t available to everyone. In March, World Learning’s global education team sought to address those gaps with the launch of Teaching Struggling Readers Around the World, a free massive online open course (also known as a MOOC) created in partnership with The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The course was a clear success. Teaching Struggling Readers Around the World attracted more than 7,500 participants and an extraordinarily high percentage of participants completed the course. Moreover, they came away better equipped to help children learn to read. We examined the responses from our post-program survey — in which 99.8 percent of participants agreed the course was a good resource — to identify how and why this MOOC is helping to bridge the literacy gap.

How a Partnership is Paving the Way to STEM Education in Kurdistan

September 6, 2019

Partnerships are essential to our work. World Learning’s local partners make it possible to carry out our programs and drive change in their communities. They also ensure that change is sustainable by taking ownership of our work long after our programs end. That’s why we are committed to sharing best practices and offering trainings to our local partners.

Kurdistan Save the Children (KSC) is one of those partners. This Iraqi nonprofit is our partner in Kids Can Code, a program that teaches basic coding and English language skills to Syrian children living in refugee camps in Iraq. In this feature story, Sara Rashid, an officer at the organization, explains how World Learning’s training of trainers has made it possible for KSC to launch its own STEM education programs throughout Kurdistan, the autonomous northern region of Iraq.

World Learning launched Kids Can Code alongside technology company Kano and Kurdistan Save the Children (KSC), with funding from the Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education.

9 Ways Mexican Youth Are Transforming Their Communities

October 31, 2019

In Mexico, high school students across the country are currently hard at work addressing problems in their communities. They’re ending bullying, promoting financial literacy, and protecting the natural environment. And, they’re doing so as participants in Jóvenes en Acción, a 10-month civic education and leadership program.

Earlier this year, World Learning brought the current class of Jóvenes en Acción participants to the United States for four weeks of leadership training and to learn about U.S. culture at homestays across the country. They also developed service projects to carry out when they return home. During their visit to Washington, DC, we interviewed several of the participants to find out how they plan to drive change in their communities.

Jóvenes en Acción is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City with funding provided by the U.S. government, La Secretaría de Educación Pública, and private funders.

10 Apps to Build Employability and Soft Skills

October 11, 2019

What does it take to build the soft skills young people need? Common sense suggests that most soft skills — things like communication, social skills, empathy, and even having a positive belief about yourself — must be built through interaction with other people.

But in-person training isn’t our only option. World Learning dove into Google Play’s app store to investigate dozens of free smartphone apps geared to building soft skills and employability skills, specifically focusing on interactive apps that provide a fun and experiential approach. In this piece, we shared our 10 favorites.

Q&A: World Learning’s Juanita Adames on the Importance of Including All Voices in Global Development

October 25, 2019

One of our goals this year was to contribute to building inclusive and resilient communities. One of the primary ways we’ve done so is by expanding on our Transforming Agency, Access, and Power (TAAP) initiative, which ensures that our programs, and those of our partners, amplify the voices, opportunities, and dignity of all people.

World Learning Social Inclusion Officer Juanita Adames sat down with us to discuss our progress so far on goals like nurturing collaboration among development practitioners through the TAAP Community of Practice. She also explains how World Learning will continue incorporating inclusive practices into our work in the years to come. (For example, check out this interview with Senior Education and Research Specialist Deepa Srikantaiah on our plan to create classrooms that are inclusive for children with and without disabilities.)

It has truly been a remarkable year. We’re continually inspired by our alumni and partners and look forward to sharing even more of their stories in the new year.

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

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