This spring, Hands Along the Nile welcomed 10 young professionals from Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia to the US. For four weeks, they had the opportunity to work with American organizations in Seattle and Chicago through the Professional Fellows Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

HANDS fellows from Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia enjoy a warm welcome upon their arrival in Chicago.


The theme of this exchange was NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) development for those improving the lives of people with disabilities. With the help of HANDS partners World Chicago and the World Affairs Council of Seattle, each fellow was matched with an organization that closely aligned with both their professional backgrounds and their goals for the future.


In Seattle, fellows had the opportunity to work with the Seattle Children’s Autism Center, Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy, the Outdoors for All Foundation and Provail. In Chicago, fellows gained experience through placements with Access Living, the Family Resource Center on Disabilities, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, the Chicago Community Trust, the Chicago Hearing Society and the Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago. Each of these organizations generously opened their doors and shared time and resources with HANDS’ fellows, giving them an incredible depth of experience over the course of their one-month fellowship placements.


One fellow, reflecting on his experience, said:

“The trip to the US offered me many things. I got the opportunity to live independently in a foreign country and learn about another culture.  I did a fellowship with a very strong organization that defends the rights of PwDs [People with Disabilities]. I learnt a lot about how to advocate & demand rights for people with disabilities from my fellowship.”

HANDS Professional Fellow Tifitri El Asri from Morocco gives a presentation at JJ’s List, a Chicago-based organization that helps people with disabilities access the services that they need.


The program ended with the Professional Fellows Congress, which took place in Washington, DC. During the Congress, HANDS fellows had the opportunity to hear speakers and panelists on a wide range of social development topics as well as the opportunity to participate in workshops that helped them to perfect the “pitch” for the follow-on projects that each fellow will implement following the program. A highlight of the Professional Fellows Congress was a reception at the Benjamin Franklin Room at the US State Department, where HANDS fellows were able to mingle with over 200 other
young professionals from all over the world.


In the past, HANDS professional fellows have gone on to do great work in their home countries, including running for parliament, writing articles in their countries’ new constitutions and expanding the work of their organizations. We look forward to seeing how this group of fellows will open new doors for people with disabilities in their countries.


Many thanks to the US Department of State and other generous HANDS donors for making this program possible!

Professional Fellows Peter Isaac and Mohamed Kamal from Egypt and Mohamed Amine from Tunisia enjoy a day off exploring Seattle.