By Asmae Azzamouri - Oujda, Morocco - “I have been admitted in the MEPI program,” said a friend of mine with a naïf smile on his face. Was it surprising? Was it unexpected? The answer is for sure, “No."
By Asmae Azzamouri – Oujda, Morocco – “I have been admitted in the MEPI program,” said a friend of mine with a naïf smile on his face. Was it surprising? Was it unexpected? The answer is for sure, “No.”
He fulfilled all criteria to be selected as one of the young MEPI leaders; he was ambitious, pro-active and leadership ran in his blood. Now, you might be wondering: what is the MEPI program? What does the word itself stand for? And what do they do?
MEPI, “Middle East Partnership Initiative,” is a US-state department program that provides financial aids for Non-governmental organizations, development projects, fosters talented individuals in MENA region to become civil society activists, and, promote political, economic, and social long-term reform.
Since its launch in 2002, MEPI’s staff has been working towards realizing a variety of objectives. Empowering women, developing civil society, and supporting literacy are examples of goals for their organization. MEPI Student Leaders is a cultural exchange program, amongst many others, that serves to engage youth, strengthen their leadership potential and it’s the one my friend took part in.
Nearly 120 undergraduate students throughout the Middle East and North Africa began a life changing adventure in summer 2013. The starting point was Washington DC, afterwards, they were divided into separate groups among six host universities in US. Each Institute offers a rich and versatile program that focuses on the development of the participants’ leadership skills and expands their understanding of American society and culture.
“Benedictine University in Lisle, Il is indeed an outstanding university; more diversified in terms of their program, activities, as well as the quality of lessons and staff,” says Ayoub Belgharbi, a young leader from Morocco.
Belgharbi continues. “Being part of this perfectly organized program has contributed to my personality betterment and my growth as an individual”
During their stay, participants were enrolled in an intensive five-week program where they were taught by scholars and experts in various domains, notably leadership, cross-cultural communication, conflict resolution, and human rights. The program includes study tours in both Washington and New York City, meeting influential figures and people working in government. In addition to volunteering and community service activities within non-profit organizations such as “ROC Wheels,” “Northern Illinois Food Bank,” “North West Harvest”, etc.
To describe her experience, Noor Mehdawe, a Palestinian entrepreneur said, “The program’s goal was to connect young social leaders from the MENA region and to empower them to become inspiring change makers… I feel really blessed because I got to be part of the MEPI family; not only that I learned uncountable things, but I also made everlasting honest friendships”
At the end of their journey, alumni go back to their home countries full of positive energy, hopes for a better tomorrow, and inspiration to make a difference. Yet, before heading to the airport, they have to face the moment of truth; to bear the ache in their hearts and to send their new best friends, brothers and sisters good-bye. This, I believe, is the worse part that comes with this miraculous adventure. Students will start working on civic engagement projects to enrich different fields in their communities. Successful projects get presented at the annual MEPI Leadership Conference held in Jordan within first months of 2014.
“One would think that the program overwhelmed us with only intensive courses, but the organizing committee made sure we had as much fun as possible, they got us to do laser tag, bowling, kayaking, sightseeing, tours, shows, and many other fun activities,” said the alumni Ahmad Ehab, an Egyptian engineer.
Thanks to MEPI program, 120 young leaders left US with a new vision to the world, and a roaring hurricane of special memories.
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