We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
By Ben Orbach,
Stone town, Zanzibar – A white-sailed dhow drifts along against the purples and oranges of an Indian Ocean sunset as the call to prayer rings out from competing loudspeakers. The voices of what seems like 10 different muezzins ricochet off of one hundred year-old wooden doors and through the winding alleys of Stone Town.
I’m coming home tomorrow, after two weeks of helping our unofficial ambassadors to Zanzibar get started with their volunteer service. Next week more volunteers will depart for Indonesia and the following week Morocco. I like thinking of sunset from Indonesia to Zanzibar to Morocco and of our unofficial ambassadors doing the little things to make a difference in the relationship between America and the Muslim World.
Here in Zanzibar, it is fun to think about Emma’s debate club arguing vociferously with each other, in English, about the merits and drawbacks of corporal punishment, and Zulekha’s students showing the same passion as they debate the positives and negatives of science and technology. I marvel at how Kayla has spent the last two days with colleagues at Zayedesa encouraging young people to be tested for HIV at “sober houses.” And last Friday, Valerie introduced students at the Zanzibar Commercial School to her “tales from the Bronx,” while yesterday Zeeshan instructed them in the art of writing dialogue. This is all just the first week!
This summer, our “volunteer voices” blog is going to be running the stories of our unofficial ambassadors’ volunteer service in Zanzibar, Indonesia, and Morocco. Nineteen unofficial ambassadors are interning with us as teachers; summer camp counselors; and communications officers for NGOs, national parks, and micro-enterprises. Each of them has individual goals related to having a human development impact through their service and supporting the education, women’s empowerment, human rights, and environmental initiatives of our partner organizations.
In the process, our unofficial ambassadors are building people-to-people partnerships that dispel stereotypes. They represent the diversity of America and come from nine different universities; hail from California to Alabama to Massachusetts; and range in age from 19 -28. I invite you to get to know them on this blog, to learn about their incredible partners in Tanzania, Morocco, and Indonesia, and to read about and to watch videos of their experiences over the course of this summer.
They are an impressive group of people who made the decision to spend their summer making a personal contribution to better relations between America and the Muslim World. Join us in following their stories and journeys as they unfold.