HANDS is proud to announce the successful completion of our most recent Professional Fellows Program exchange. Ten young disability rights advocates from Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia were graciously hosted in Seattle and Washington D.C. by organizations dedicated to helping people with disabilities in their communities.
With the goal of exploring strategies that can be used to enhance the inclusion of people with disabilities within their own societies, the visiting fellows engaged with their host organizations to gain insight on various aspects of their work. Fellows attended additional seminars, workshops and meetings each week to further advance their skills on networking, NGO management, influencing government policies, and raising community awareness.
An important part of the Professional Fellows Program is the opportunity for the visiting fellows to experience the importance of volunteerism in the U.S. In Seattle, the fellows had the opportunity to volunteer with the Footloose Sailing Association, which provides sailing programs for persons with all disabilities and their families. In Washington D.C., fellows worked with the Special Olympics Organization and volunteered at the D.C. Summer Games.
The fellows’ month-long stay also included immersion in the local society and culture. Fellows visited historic sites, enjoyed cultural performances, and shared meals, laughter, and meaningful conversation with local families who hosted them for dinners or weekend home-stays.
The exchange program ended with the Professional Fellows Congress, an exciting event that gathered over 260 fellows from 44 different countries. The HANDS fellows were able to share their experiences with other professional fellows across the country. At this event, each disability advocate shared their reflections on the strategies they’ve learned over the past month and their plans to enhance the inclusiveness of persons with disabilities in their home communities.
HANDS is currently planning the next Professional Fellows Program exchange, set to take place in Fall 2017, which will have a special focus on women’s empowerment. The intercultural dialogue will continue with this new exchange of professionals seeking to empower the lives of women in both societies.
HANDS would like to extend a special thank you to all our supporters, especially the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for their collaboration and sponsorship of the Professional Fellows Program and Congress. HANDS would also like to thank the World Affairs Council of Seattle for helping us implement this program in their city.