March 1, 2024

Art, Reforestation, and Women's Financial Literacy: Spotlighting Our Amazing YES Alumni

A group of volunteers for a reforestation event in Sierra Leone.

Meet Fatma, Amadu, and Shamsa, our esteemed YES alumni placed by Ayusa, who are actively shaping their communities through their innovative endeavors. We are eager to spotlight their transformative projects across diverse domains, including the promotion of art and photography in Libya, the advancement of reforestation efforts in Sierra Leone, and the empowerment of women through financial literacy workshops in Kenya.

Birwaz Art Exhibition

Fatma Ayad
YES 2021-2022, Libya, placed by Ayusa in Marengo, IN

The YES Alumni Association Libya brought to life the vision of preserving cherished memories through art with their project "Birwaz," an Arabic term meaning "frame." Featuring 25 Libyan artists and photographers, the exhibition aimed to connect youth with the country's vibrant art scene while providing a platform for emerging talent. Held over two days in Tripoli, the event attracted over 500 attendees, including Arab ambassadors, journalists, and art enthusiasts.

Read more about it in Fatma's own words here.

Group of organizers at the Birwaz Art Exhibition

Green Horizons: Empowering Communities in Sierra Leone

Amadu Gbassay Kabia
YES 2010-2011, Sierra Leone, placed by Ayusa in Harper, TX

Amadu volunteered with the Auradicals Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy in an afforestation initiative at Malempeh Village in the Tonkolili District. Collaborating with the United Bank of Africa (UBA) Sierra Leone, the project aimed to plant 5,000 trees to address environmental concerns and provide socio-economic benefits to targeted communities. During the inaugural phase, Amadu, along with 300 participants, planted over 3,000 economic trees, meticulously documenting each tree for monitoring purposes. His commitment to community service, driven by his YES experience, led him to actively participate in planting and geotagging 20 trees, contributing significantly to the project's success. The deliberate choice of planting economic trees aims to discourage deforestation practices while supporting local communities with access to fresh fruits. Reflecting on the event, Amadu is motivated to collaborate with fellow YES alumni to expand similar initiatives across Sierra Leone, promoting environmental sustainability on a broader scale.

Read more about this and Amadu’s other inspiring community projects here:

Tree planing event in the Malempeh Village in Sierra Leone

YES Alumni Grant: Women's Empowerment through Financial Literacy

Shamsa Abdi Jele
YES 2014-2015, Kenya, placed by Ayusa in Atlanta, GA

Shamsa embarked on a mission to address the lack of financial literacy, particularly among women, in her community. Motivated by personal experiences and armed with a YES Alumni Grant, she initiated a financial literacy project that empowered 40 women between the ages of 21 and 55. The project, supported by knowledgeable speakers and the partnership of Stima Sacco bank, covered topics ranging from personal finance to savings, investment, and debt management. Participants not only gained practical skills but also committed to sharing their knowledge with others, aiming to build a community of 120 financially literate women.

Read more about it here.

Participants doing a group activity at Shamsa's Financial Literacy Workshop

YES Alumni Coordinator of the Month

Erta Prifti
YES 2014-2015, Albania, placed by Ayusa in North Branch, MN

We would also like to highlight that Erta Prifti ’15, placed by Ayusa, was the December 2023 Alumni Coordinator of the Month!

Since the beginning of the term in August 2023, Erta has demonstrated values any person should strive for in their work - diligence, responsibility, quality, and commitment. During the month of December, there were five events reported in Albania, three of which were organized by Erta. Through these activities engaging 31 alumni and 71 non-alumni participants. Out of these activities, one can highlight both the networking meeting with professor Dr. Erion Kristo and the Secret Santa alumni activities, as they involved a significant number of alumni, enabled them to strengthen their relationships, and helped them learn new and valuable things from a member of Albanian academia. During the previous months, Erta implemented or supported the implementation of activities on cultural exchange, crafting, and holiday traditions.

Erta has organized or supported the organization of 35 events, engaging 223 alumni overall, in eight Albanian cities and online. Another of Erta's notable contributions is her representing YES alumni in the Regional Exchange of Best practices organized in Tirana by Albanian United Alumni Association (AUSA), November 18-19, that brought together several members of the Boards of the U.S. Alumni Associations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. The activities Erta has organized during the last several months have been oriented toward maintaining some positive traditions, such as the networking meetings, promotion of the YES program, and helped with the promotion of the RISE program through the network of IT teachers. Erta has successfully managed to build a good and strong relationship with younger alumni, proving she is dedicated not only to trying and re-involving senior alumni in programming, but also to find means to keep younger alumni engaged and keep offering them programming tailored to their needs. Senior alumni are a wealth for every country's alumni community, but having a senior alumna be an Alumni Coordinator is not only valuable, but working with Erta also clearly a pleasure. Congratulations on a well-deserved award, Erta!

Read more about our alumni highlights here!

Sharing cultures and building communities with high school exchange.

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