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.
Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity to embark on a very exciting experience and go on my first volunteering trip to Africa, specifically to the island of Zanzibar. This volunteering experience, facilitated by my employer, presents me with an opportunity to influence the lives of others and share the knowledge and skills I have learned during my four years of work in the international development field. Through this experience, I would also like to build strong social connections with the people I will be working with.
On the plane ride to Zanzibar, I was asked by an Ethiopian professor of economics about my reasons for wanting to be a part of this volunteering trip. My desire to serve the international community was influenced by both the professional and personal experiences in my life. I am here to learn the valuable lessons that I could never learn working in in the comfort of my office in Washington DC. I believe it is critical to be involved in programs at a community level and be able to interact with direct recipients of foreign assistance programs. Through this experience, I would like to learn more about the challenges local communities face on a daily basis and find ways to address them in US assistance programs. Upon my return back home, I would like to share my experience and bring lessons learned in Zanzibar to the States in order to change ways how Americans view the Muslim World. Through the process of sharing my experience in Zanzibar, I hope to empower and encourage others in my country to make a direct contribution to others by volunteering in addition to traditional ways of gaining experience through internships in the corporate world.
During these two short weeks, I will be working with a very successful local non-profit organization called Zayadesa that was founded in 1997 to address youth issues in Zanzibar. I will support their objectives to empower youth through capacity building activities, education and vocational training, and awareness on HIV/AIDS and substance abuse. During this trip, I will also have an opportunity to conduct field visits to local schools and attend other AUA initiatives in Zanzibar. I have three main objectives for the volunteer program with Zayadesa: 1) to work with Zayadesa’s leadership to increase their capacity to raise donor funds to support their mission; 2) to increase their capacity to analyze and apply research findings to focus on current activities; and 3) to improve their capacity to develop and track organizational and project budgets. Even though I feel comfortable with the given scope of work, I hope I will accomplish all in-country objectives within the two weeks of work with Zayadesa’s leadership.I will bring my experience in proposal development working with a DC-based development organization that works in over 25 countries to implement projects in education, governance and civil society, elections and political transitions.
While working with the organization to meet my objectives, I hope to understand their organizational structure and identify opportunities to improve the existing systems in order to maximize their efforts. It is important to recognize Zayadesa’s success in the areas of youth employment, health, HIV/AIDS awareness, and education. I believe the most effective way to contribute to Zayadesa is to build on the work it has already done. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I hope to accomplish my objectives by building on existing systems that are in use and by offering support to ongoing initiatives.
By the end of this trip, I hope to accomplish all my objectives and support Zayadesa’s leadership in their efforts to apply for a USAID indigenous people food security grant in this fall. I am looking forward to seeing Zayadesa’s work in HIV/AIDS awareness and interacting with the recipients of its programs. I am also looking forward to working with Zayadesa leadership and getting to know everyone on the team. During this trip, I hope to discover as much as possible about the local community challenges and to share my experiences with colleagues, friends, and family upon my return to the United States.