Our programs prepare participants to confront the most critical global issues of our time. This year, alumni around the world have been using these skills to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting their fellow citizens and local communities as they grapple with the impacts of a global crisis.
In late December 2019, the novel coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China, and by January the city was shutting down to contain its spread. From the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan Consul General Jamie Fouss, an SIT Graduate Institute alumnus (pictured above with his classmates), headed up the U.S. Consulate’s evacuation from China. This meant hurriedly preparing 43 American personnel and family members to leave the country and quarantine at an Air Reserve Base in Southern California. Together with the rest of the 195 Americans on board their flight, they were the first U.S. citizens quarantined since 1963. Fouss credits his time at SIT with helping him develop the skills required to handle such an urgent and complex situation.
“I think SIT prepared me well for my career,” says Fouss. “It made me realize that I learn from my environment and taught me about managing cross culturally.”
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tawhida Shiropa (pictured above), the founder and CEO of the social enterprise Moner Bondhu, has been applying the training she received on World Learning’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to counteract a parallel contagion spreading through her community—fear. Soon after returning home from her IVLP exchange in February 2020, the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Bangladesh and a climate of anxiety and confusion took hold. Shiropa says IVLP equipped her with the exact tools she needed at that time.
"There is a great need for programs, campaigns, and activities that help demonstrate and have youth feel the real impact and power their participation can bring… if I had not been to LEAD, I would not have understood the importance of my participation."
Elsewhere in Asia, alumni of World Learning’s USAID-funded Leaders Advancing Democracy (LEAD) Mongolia program have been essential in helping free and fair national elections continue across the country during the pandemic, assisting with election observation efforts, and working to increase young Mongolians’ civic participation. As the pandemic canceled international election observation missions, local civil society observations became all the more important. Enkhbayar Tumurbaatar, a 2019 fellow, says her LEAD Mongolia experience showed her the importance of civic participation in a democracy and inspired her to participate as an election observer for the first time this June.
“There is a great need for programs, campaigns, and activities that help demonstrate and have youth feel the real impact and power their participation can bring…if I had not been to LEAD, I would not have understood the importance of my participation,” says Tumurbaatar.