America's Unofficial Ambassadors

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.

Noureen Shallwani’s pre-departure post!

Noureen Shallwanni shares her volunteer experiences from the past and what teaching English at the Dushanbe Boarding School in Dushanbe, Tajikistan will be like this summer.

This post was originally written by Noureen.

As an eighteen year old, I can say that there are only afew things I genuinely know about myself: I enjoy reading and sometimes writing and I don’t like apple pie or pie in general, I am currently a student at the Oxford College of Emory University, I enjoy taking risks with nature like skydiving or jet skiing, and I know I’m on a pre-law track (but honestly, who really knows what track they are on after their freshman year of college?). The one thing I am most certain of, however, is my passion for service.

The necessity of service in my life began as far back as I can remember. Whether it be volunteering at my Jamatkhana (place of prayer)since the age of eight, volunteering Saturday mornings to service homeless people, or participating in the Bonner Leader Program and completing 225 hours of community service in the past year — service has found a permanent place in my life. I am thrilled to be able to say I get to try a new form of service in a new country with people, language, and a culture I am not familiar with through the America’s Unofficial Ambassadors program.

I depart May 26th, 2014 for Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, to volunteer in the Dushanbe Boarding School. Here I will have the opportunity to bond with 10-20 students between the ages of 13 to 16 as I teach them English and provide enrichment activities to help foster their minds. For a college student who spent a majority of her community service working with kids, this opportunity is exciting, novel, and daunting at the same time.

However, with all this new experience thrill, it would be very easy to lose sight of my purpose of this internship, which goes further than just serving for six weeks. So, alas, I made a list of three goals that I hope to accomplish while abroad. These are not hard and fast rules, and I probably will not be able to follow them perfectly, but I hope to keep these goals in the back of mind and use them as a guiding tool to maximize my experience.


  1. Learn more from whom I’m serving, rather than expecting them to learn about me. In the latter part of my Bonner year, I learned that service is not solely about the volunteer giving their time and effort. While serving, you are not only giving,but also receiving. People often describe this as that “good” feeling they get after they’ve helped someone, but I think this can be taken a step further by learning something from the people you’re working with. Service is a two way street – you give some and you learn some, and with this experience, I hope  to learn just as much, if not more, than I teach.
  2. Max out in every capacity that I can, in every situation. This is a more self-explanatory goal, and I’m sure for most people it is an embedded concept. However, I know I am walking into a foreign land with a foreign language, new people, and no personal support system. This may lead to discouragement, or it may, at times, be seen as an insurmountable hurdle, but to counter that possible issue, I’ve made it a priority to ensure I always give it my all by trying to never drop the ball, staying on top of my work, and going into every situation with a positive attitude.
  3. Represent who I am with care and humility. Growing up, I’ve always been very self aware of who I am; being an Ismaili Muslim, a woman, a South Asian, and a Texan – has many impacts on my role and place in my society. With that said, I feel it is my responsibility to represent who I am, as well as what I stand for with delicate care and humility. I’ve always made it a priority to show my values and my personality through my words and actions, and I intend to continue this while working with a whole new group of people. I hopefully I can show whoever I meet a positive experience with a Texan and with a woman who is capable of more than what is socially assigned.


As I finish out this first post, I’d like to reiterate that I’m beyond excited and honored to be able to have this experience and opportunity to help and learn from all those that I can. I’m going into this experience with an open mind and open heart and intend to absorb, teach, and evolve through this process. Thank you for reading, and as I remember my love for service, I cannot wait to arrive in Tajikistan and start this incredible journey.


One comment on “Noureen Shallwani’s pre-departure post!

  1. Pingback: Noureen Shallwani volunteers teaching English at Dushanbe Boarding School with America’s Unofficial Ambassadors | Ismailimail

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This entry was posted on June 2, 2014 by in AUA Network, Volunteer Voices and tagged , , , , , .
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