All Hands on Deck! Stories of Community Service from Around the World

Community service is a hallmark of the Global UGRAD Program. Not only is volunteerism a way of paying it forward, but it also provides ample opportunity for participants to get a closer look at their host communities and local resources.

“I wanted to contribute to my local community because in this short period of time I became a real part of it. I met so many people thanks to my volunteering hours, and without community service, my experience in the U.S. wouldn’t have been as good.”

This semester, each participant will complete a minimum of 20 hours of service. To kick off the season of volunteerism, we asked  alumni to share how they have continued the Global UGRAD tradition of community service after returning to their home communities. We hope you are as inspired as we are to hear how alumni are making strides to positively impact their home communities.

Costa Rica: Jorge Rojas Ortega, Global UGRAD Program 2014-2015

All University of Costa Rica students have the opportunity to work on a community service program in order to build a better country, and I would like to tell you my experience. My colleagues and I spent a recent Saturday morning giving people information about human trafficking, which is a hidden crime that affects our nation and the entire world. This activity belongs to a project called “Migrants as Political Actors: New Ways of Expression.”

We provided, through our signs, not only meaningful information to raise public awareness of the issue, but also shared some phone numbers related to reporting irregular activities to the police. In particular, one of the most shocking facts that we posted was that, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, only 1 out of 20 victims of human trafficking is identified by the police. In brief, as a result of our research and face-to-face interactions, we want people to have more tools to protect human rights.

This picture was taken around one of the most iconic places in downtown San José, the National Theatre of Costa Rica, which is visited by thousands of local and international tourists throughout the year.

Niger: Souleymane Mamane Illia, Global UGRAD Program 2015-2016

Since returning home I got involved in many community service activities. One of the achievements I made is the successful running of two campaigns I initiated which consist of reaching out to young people in order to discuss issues such as peace and democracy. As an English major, I also got interested in language teaching and focused more on students, especially those living in the suburbs. I have been volunteering as an English teacher in a suburban middle school for three months and hope to keep up with it until the end of this academic year. I have been also teaching English at the American Corner of my hometown and been monitoring weekly debates taking place there. The most challenging thing to me was combining those activities with my studies as I’m a double major (English and Communication). Something important I learned from my Global UGRAD experience is action planning and time management; that is what made it easier for me to run all the activities I mentioned above while simultaneously keeping up with my studies. So, I am proud to be a Global UGRAD participant because it made me greater. Once a UGRAD, always a UGRAD!


Kyrgyzstan: Asel Kaldybaeva, Global UGRAD Program 2015-2016

A Global UGRAD experience once more proved for me that education is the best investment, which can bring you wherever you want to be.

On November 10, 2016 me and my friend started an “Empower Youth” project in my village. A goal of this project is to motivate teenagers from rural areas of Kyrgyzstan to self education, be pro-active, and engage socially. After presentations to about 100 students, we selected 16 high-potential teenagers and conducted intensive trainings on self development and social engagement. With financial support from external organizations, our participants visited (after 8 hours long from the village to Bishkek) the best universities of Kyrgyzstan, such as the American University of Central Asia and Manas Universities. Many of them were visiting the capital of our country for the first time, which was an even more exciting part of our project. Aziza Khalbekova, another Global UGRAD fellow’s support was very helpful in showing our students her university. In addition to exciting university excursions, our participants had productive workshops with successful students who shared techniques on studying in effective way, implementing social projects, and on exploring the world through studying and traveling to stunning destinations as Antarctica, USA, South Korea etc.

The main success indicator of the ‘Empower Youth” (EY) Project is our participants’ admission to best universities on a scholarship basis. However, we are already happy to see how our project is changing the mindsets of our participants, who have already realized social projects we developed together, established their goals for the next five years, and strengthened their weaknesses together with their EY fellows.

This project was a great experience for me as well, because I have learned through teaching and found new friends. Reading project feedback from our participants, I would really love to widen such kinds of projects in the future.

Azerbaijan: Nail Mustafazade, Global UGRAD Program 2015-2016

I was working as an instructor in a STEM school called “Engineering for Kids”. The school’s purpose is to educate kids about science through fun methods. They learned to build robots with Lego Mindstorm sets and the basics of chemistry and mechanics. At the same time it was very fun, because we were teaching them by making contests and doing experimentation with things that they made in the class. For example, races between robots made by kids in the class was very popular. Sometimes we were launching model rockets made by kids in the garden.

I believe that such activities have great impact on kids which helps them develop interest in science and education, and shape their future.

Indonesia: Global UGRAD Program participants 2015-2016
Alvin Kurnia Sandy

Recently, I finished a 40-day community service program in a rural area called Seputih Banyak in my province, Lampung, Indonesia. I was there with a group of twelve students. We did programs like holding traditional games to celebrate the 71st independence day of Indonesia, establishing a youth organization at the village, teaching English to local children who didn’t have access to proper education, teaching local children how to read the Koran in Arabic, etc. Global UGRAD has inspired me to inspire and help people around me.

 Putri Permata Sari

My volunteering experience in the U.S. inspired me to contribute to the society in my home country. On January 29th, 2017, I and my five friends arranged a free discussion for youth. This discussion aimed to convince the citizens of Palembang to do more activities at the park, boost the confidence of youth to speak English, and to find solutions to the current issues in the city. Our plan is to hold the discussion once every two months. For the first discussion, we worked together in preparing foods and discussion material, and inviting the participants. We successfully held the discussion with a theme of decent work and economic growth. The result of the first discussion is to do a social media campaign which aims to encourage the beginner entrepreneur. We will also visit the small enterprises in Palembang next month.

Runi Virzia

West Borneo, the province where I live, has a low rate of tourism development—it is not a common tourist destination. Last year from September to November, I joined as a volunteer in a project called West Borneo Project: The Hidden Gem. Local youth wanted this project in order to find a way to boost the West Borneo tourism sector. We embraced the people from villages around the hidden places with high potential to be tourists destinations, along with young people from Ukraine, Malaysia, Egypt, China, and Vietnam as part of the team. For two months, we went deep into the forest, climbed to the top of the hill, and sailed from island to island to reach the local people and gather data and documentation. We wrapped up the project with a cultural festival attended by hundreds of people, showcasing our trip finding “The Hidden Gems” of West Borneo.

Wa Ode Siti Amanah

I have opened a free English speaking class to current students or fresh graduates of my university, Halu Oleo University. This is due to the fact that a common problem shared by the EFL learners in my country is speaking. They understand tenses, sentence structure, and have enough vocabulary, but they have no place to practice their speaking. That’s why I offer a free speaking class every Saturday afternoon where I am the instructor and lead them with activities that I have designed to help them practice.

Half of my class is from the English Education Department, and the rest are Economic, Law, and Mathematics majors. It is always so much fun to interact with them. They are not the only ones  learning. I feel like I grow with them, learning about being a good instructor and of course, being a good teacher.

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