LEAD Alliance alumnus Kezang Dorji donating projectors for remote schools in Bhutan. (photo courtesy of Kezang Dorji)

World Learning’s global development programs support education, civic engagement, youth workforce development and entrepreneurship, and institutional strengthening initiatives in communities around the world. Alumni are using what they learned through these programs to increase youth civic engagement, promote mutual understanding between young people from different cultures, create a network of democracy activists, and much more. Here are just a few examples of the ways in which our development program alumni have made a difference in the world this past year.

“I learned a lot about advocacy and got a lot of inspiration learning about the work of youth leaders in other countries. I also learned the importance of networking and forged lifelong friendships with youth representatives from other countries on the program.”

Former LEAD Alliance Fellow Kezang Dorji is using rap music to inspire youth to become more civically engaged in his home country of Bhutan. He believes music is a “very powerful medium” and therefore incorporates positive messages into his lyrics and uses his platform as an artist to raise awareness about important social issues.

In 2017, he attended the LEAD Alliance summit, which is part of the Leaders Advancing Democracy (LEAD) Mongolia program, funded by USAID. The event connects emerging Mongolian leaders with counterparts in the region from Bhutan, Kyrgyzstan, and Myanmar. Dorji says it was a turning point in his career as an activist and unlocked opportunities to participate in future youth leadership programs.

Kezang Dorji—rap activist in Bhutan. (photo courtesy of Kezang Dorji)

“I learned a lot about advocacy and got a lot of inspiration learning about the work of youth leaders in other countries,” he says. “I also learned the importance of networking and forged lifelong friendships with youth representatives from other countries on the program.”

In Algeria, Djamila Azzouz has stayed connected with World Learning since participating in the Bawsala Mentorship Program (previously the Maharat Mentorship Program), an eight-month training program designed to help young Algerian women develop leadership and professional skills.

For the past two summers, the 22-year-old student has been putting those leadership skills to use as a facilitator for The Experiment Digital, an eight-week virtual exchange program that connects hundreds of high school students from Algeria, Iraq, Yemen, and the U.S. The Experiment Digital is supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute.

Djamila Azzouz, alumnus of the Maharat Mentorship Program and two-time facilitator for The Experiment Digital. (photo courtesy of Djamila Azzouz)

As a facilitator, Azzouz helps foster safe and engaging conversations between participants on a variety of topics, including leadership, identity, and civic engagement.

“A facilitator is a combination of things that are really important—teaching and mentoring,” she says.

According to Azzouz, the Bawsala Mentorship Program helped her expand her ideas about her future career prospects.

“Before I just wanted to teach and now, I want to teach but I also want to mentor and design programs. Because doing World Learning’s [Bawsala] program I realized that’s possible,” she says.

Since the Institute for Civic and Political Engagement (iPACE) in Myanmar launched seven years ago, more than 3,000 democracy activists from across the country have taken part in its civic education trainings. In late 2019, these participants formalized and strengthened their connection by establishing an alumni organization, iPACE Alumni Myanmar (iAM). Supported by the iPACE program team and trainers, alumni developed the organization’s mission, vision, and structure. Then, using the skills and knowledge they learned in the iPACE classroom, they organized their own election for the iAM Board of Directors to choose the group’s first leaders.

iPACE alumni in Myanmar

The network has so far focused on promoting civic engagement among citizens, especially ahead of Myanmar’s November 8 general election. In addition, 18 iPACE alumni ran for office in the general election and 15 won their races. As elected officials, they will have the opportunity to use the skills they built through the iPACE program to foster more representative and accountable democratic governance in their country.

Alumni of World Learning’s global development programs are finding ways to use their unique talents in music, education, civil society, politics, and a many other fields to actively engage with their communities to bring positive social change and inspire their peers to get involved as well.

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