#Ambassadorof

The #Ambassadorof Campaign was made possible by Kate Otto of EverydayAmbassador.org

What is the #AmbassadorOf Campaign? In a world that is still full of violence, discrimination, and conflict, we need Everyday Ambassadors more than EVER to foster peace and overcome divisiveness. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t require any special degree, passport, income level, or language skills in order to change the world for the better! All it takes is YOU, an everyday person, to reach out and connect with another human being.

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Take your selfie today and tag #AmbassadorOf on Facebook,  Twitter (@everydayAMB), or Instagram (@everydayambassador), and we’ll repost to share with the whole community! We’ll post more pics as they come in on our blog and on Twitter.

Sarah Wall presents at Columbia about Gender Issues

Unofficial Ambassador Sarah Wall gave a presentation at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) April 5, 2015, on her work in the summer of 2014, interning in Yogyakarta, Indonesia with a women’s health organization, PKBI DIY.

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Sarah organized her talk to students at Columbia through SIPA’s Gender Specialization track. During the presentation Sarah highlighted key aspects of PKBI DIY’s work in Indonesia such as sexual education, improving access to clinics, and youth outreach.

Americas Unofficial Ambassadors would like to thank Sarah for her service and her continued role as an Unofficial Ambassador.

About PKBI DIY

Established in 1957 with the aim of promoting equal and fair reproductive and sexual health rights for all, PKBI DIY initially ran both educational programs for youth and a clinic-based program that provides counseling services. Since 2005, the organization has widened its support to include services for marginalized groups such as sex workers, street children, LGBT communities, and people living with AIDS through a community organizing program. PKBI DIY also campaigns against gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination.
 

Help Amaris Reach Her Goal!

Donate Today

Amaris Prince is currently raising money to teach English abroad in Tajikistan. Amaris is a sophomore at Guilford College studying English and Education with future plans to work in government on Education Policies. Amaris  chose this country because she wanted to expand her understanding of the Muslim culture and journey beyond the borders of New York through AUA’s program.

Amaris

“I chose this country because I wanted to expand my understanding of the Muslim culture and journey beyond the borders of New York through this program”

To learn more Visit her gofundme page today!

Link to give a gift of $20:
http://www.gofundme.com/EducateTajikistan

S2S: Andi Webb Arrives in Aceh

Walking from the airplane into the airport in Banda Aceh brought back so many memories from this past summer. While I waited for my luggage, I anxiously looked for my friends outside the terminal. I was elated when I saw them and hugs and handshakes ensued. After arriving at Sukma Bangsa Pidie, I quickly settled into a house with four other ladies. There have yet to be any problems over sharing a bathroom!

On Saturday, I observed and taught in an elementary classroom. We discussed respect, treating others with kindness, and allowing time for others to think before blurting out answers. The students shared with their teachers that they felt they could concentrate more when they weren’t allowed to shout out answers. At the request of a student, I shared a fable. I was quite impressed as he explained to me what a fable is and asked me if I knew one. I shared the Tortoise and the Hare and encouraged the children not to brag on themselves and to never give up. Slow and steady can indeed win the race!
On Sunday, I visited the girls’ dormitory and truly enjoyed my time with them. We talked about a myriad of topics ranging from life living with so many other girls to an Indian soap opera on television. It was a relaxing and fun time just hanging out with the teen girls of Sukma Bangsa.

I taught two English lessons today to junior high students. We discussed when to use is/are/am/do/does and other issues of English grammar. I grouped the students into partners and they were allowed to only speak in English. They also each had to write their answers to my questions in English in their notebooks so all students were actively engaged. I think the lessons were successful because I tried to relate my questions to the students’ lives. The questions pertained to One Direction and Taylor Swift after I asked about their favorite singers. The children began writing very simple sentences but I challenged them to make their sentences more complex and they did very well with the challenge. The sentences started out simple: I do like Taylor Swift. They soon became more complex: Taylor Swift is a beautiful young lady. At the end of the second lesson, one student agreed to sing a Taylor Swift song and she shared quite the performance!

Students at Sukma Bangsa are busy preparing for their national examination and the teachers are also busy with their school recruitment period. Sukma Bangsa has a reputation for integrity and it shows in the actions of the students I speak with and encounter daily.

– Andi Webb

School-2-School: Andi Webb Returns to Aceh

Editor’s Note: The School-2-School program has expanded in 2015 to include four partnerships linking schools in the United States with partner schools in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Morocco and the West Bank. The first S2S Teacher to visit a partner school this year is Andi Webb, a 2014 S2S alum, who is returning to the Sukma Bangsa Schools in Aceh, Indonesia to teach and conduct a series of teacher training sessions on topics like ESL education, mentoring and classroom management. This post marks Andi’s departure for Aceh after several months of virtual exchanges between her class at Alderman Road Elementary in Fayetteville, North Carolina and classrooms at Sukma Bangsa. 

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When we Skyped from Alderman Road Elementary with Sukma Bangsa Pidie on Friday, March 27, 2015, I was able to say “See you next Friday!”

It would be so great if we could Skype with students in my own school while I am in Indonesia. (Yet, they are of on break too, of course!)

As I have been packing, I’ve looked back through mementos and thought of the sweet, kind people who gave them to me at the end of last June, early July. It’s hard to believe I’ll be back in Aceh in just a couple days! I am excited, a little nervous, and happy to see my Acehnese family.
My goals are to teach lessons with Sukma Bangsa teachers on classroom management, ways to teach English as a Second Language, differentiation strategies, and much more! I hope to observe their teachers teaching and also teach classes for students. I also hope to deepen my understanding of Acehnese/Indonesian culture and work together with Sukma Bangsa to dispel stereotypes of both our cultures.

My prayer is for safe travels and a wonderful time in my second home!

Paying it Forward

The following is a post from Alessandra. This past Summer Alessandra taught English at the Al-Akhawayn Azrou Center for Community Development in Ifrane, Morocco

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Giving back to the community is an important part of serving as an Unofficial Ambassador. This past summer, I shared English skills with over 50 students between the levels of kindergarten and Ph.D in a spacious classroom in the Al-Akhawayn Azrou Center for Community Development in Ifrane, Morocco. While I was acting as an American cultural ambassador in the way I looked and spoke English and broken Arabic in Morocco, I was also able to represent Moroccan culture I absorbed back home in the United States. As soon as I stepped off the airplane in JFK, I was answering questions from curious friends and family members about exactly how Moroccan people lived, what they spoke, what they ate, how Islam worked, and my thoughts on my experiences.

Last Tuesday, I gave my second presentation at a Social Justice Fair headed by our school’s chapter of New Jersey Christian Fellowship, a Christian group I belong to at The College of New Jersey. Seated next to a girl who headed a table on Trenton’s education system, I presented my ESL experiences in Morocco. I focused on the international education aspect of my internship by showing pictures of mystudents taking vocabulary tests, presenting their skits and choreographed songs at the end of our six weeks together, and handwritten notes some of my students made me. I also showed a chart of the Arabic alphabet I made when I was first starting out my Arabic minor. Many students who stopped by our tables were curious about the differences between American and Moroccan education systems, so I was able to share what I picked up in Morocco. While Morocco has a Western-style system of education given its French colonial history, these same influences have created friction between “French-educated” and “Moroccan-educated” students. Not surprisingly, students who go through the French-style education system are stereotyped as being privileged, rich, and given preference for university admissions while their Moroccan-educated counterparts are viewed as being vindictive and not as well educated.

Thanks to AUA, I was able to use my knowledge and experience in Morocco to communicate the differences and similarities that people in other parts in the world experience. I was initially excited to be giving my presentation at a Christian event because I thought that it would spark important and revelatory discussions on Christianity and Islam. Surprisingly enough, I got more questions about the Moroccan language than on Islam, and I certainly experienced the same last summer. Perhaps religion is less of a barrier than we are led to believe.

Alessandra

I, Too, Represent America

Returned Unofficial Ambassadors continue the AUA mission of tolerance-building even long after the come back from service abroad. We’ve just seen a fantastic example in this project by AUA Tajikistan alum Okxana Cordova-Hoyos, who served last year with IRODA, an organization in Dushanbe dedicated to serving children with autism and their families.

Okxana helping with art time

Okxana helping during art time at IRODA

Using some of the Web skills she honed during her service, Okxana has launched I, Too, Represent America, a fantastic social media initiative aimed at encouraging dialogue about race in America. Here’s some info from the site if you want to take part.

Post a picture of your unique and diverse self and tag us on Instagram (@itoorepresentamerica), Twitter (@i2representusa) or Facebook . Caption it with what makes you special and be sure to add the hashtag #itoorepresentamerica. Spread the word to your friends and have them join in on helping to change what it means to be “true” American!

Follow this link to the site.

Read: Words matter, and Obama got it right on countering violent extremism – AUA Director Ben Orbach in The Hill

In the wake of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, AUA Director’s Ben Orbach wrote this piece for The Hill about the importance of protecting equal rights for all Americans and keeping government out of the business of religious reformation while we counter the threats posed by ISIS and al Qaeda. If you have a chance, take a look at the comments to Ben’s essay. They are a reminder of why we each need to contribute to the work of building mutual understanding. Those comments are just a sample of the sentiment that is out there and further evidence as to why it is so important that our unofficial ambassadors share their experiences, through words and photos and perhaps most importantly, through their community presentations.

A week after the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, pundits are still hammering away at President Obama for his choice of words in describing the threats we face from extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda. Calling this particular threat by an Islamic name might gratify those who believe we are engaged in a clash of civilizations, but doing so would undermine our efforts to defeat these groups.

Sitting in the audience last Wednesday, I appreciated how the president articulated this conflict, what we need to do and what his administration is actually capable of accomplishing. This speech was not an exercise in political correctness or a head-in-the-sand example of naivete. It was an accurate assessment of the complex challenge that we face. The president strategically identified that there are specific roles government can and cannot play in this war with ISIS and al Qaeda.

Obama does not want to refer to ISIS or al Qaeda in religious terms because he believes that would grant recognition to their claims of representing Islam. He explained, “They are not religious leaders — they are terrorists. And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

In no way, though, did the president shy away from this threat’s religious claims and origins, nor did he absolve the individuals most threatened by ISIS and al Qaeda of their responsibility to join in this shared struggle. The president called on Muslim leaders — in the room, across America and around the world — to confront extremists and their ideas. Selectively quoted texts from the Koran may not be representative of the religion, but, as Obama asserted, it is the role of religious leaders to “push back on this twisted interpretation of their faith.”

Follow this link to read the full article.

Countering Violent Extremism: The President’s Call to Action: AUA Director Ben Orbach on The Huffington Post

I had a chance to attend the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism last week, and I was struck by these lines of the president’s speech:

“I want to challenge all of us to build new partnerships that unleash the talents and creativity of young people — young Muslims — not just to expose the lies of extremists but empower youth to service, and to lift up people’s lives here in America and around the world. And that can be a calling for your generation.” 

That’s why we started America’s Unofficial Ambassadors and that’s what we’ve been doing for the last few years. I recently wrote the following for the Huffington Post about the summit if you’d like to read more:

President ObamaIMG_5848 nailed it this week in his speech on countering violent extremism. At the close of Wednesday’s sessions at the White House, the president made the case for where we should concentrate our efforts, and in a call to action, he offered an honest accounting for the division of labor between government and civil society.

Government is the only actor that can physically destroy groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, provide development assistance in countries that are home to the largest numbers of foreign fighters, and call for progress on national grievances — from human rights abuses to corruption — in our bilateral dialogues. Civil society has a crucial role in debunking this ideology of extremism and the narrative that America and the West are at war with Islam.

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AUA Volunteer Sawyer French with new friends in Aceh, Indonesia.

For an American audience grappling with brutal actions of ISIS and al-Qaeda, the call to action for civil society was the most interesting part of the speech for two reasons. First, the president placed an emphasis on the special role that Muslim-American leaders (and Muslim leaders worldwide) have to play with defeating this strand of extremism. While few would deny that Muslim-Americans have faced discrimination since 9/11, nowhere else in the world do Muslims enjoy more rights and opportunities than in the United States. Yet that isn’t the prevailing storyline about America and Islam throughout the Muslim World.

Follow this link to read the full article.