Amine Dridi is a lively young professional who works as a special educator for children with Down’s Syndrome and Autism in his home country of Tunisia. During HANDS’ most recent Professional Fellows Program,  which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and focused on NGO development for organizations improving the lives of people with disabilities, Amine had the opportunity to spend five weeks in the US in a professional fellowship placement with Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy (WAAA).




Amine with the preschool class at the Seattle Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center


Amine’s infectious smile gained him friends wherever he went, and during his fellowship with WAAA he was able to meet and network with numerous professionals who help children with autism in the Seattle area. He was eager to learn as much as possible about the different types of services available and was impressed by the individualized attention given to families with children on the autism spectrum and by the system of advocacy in place to help them. He was also very moved by the teamwork, time management, and empathy skills of his colleagues at WAAA.


While the primary focus of his time in the US was devoted to exploring the different services available to children with autism, Amine also enjoyed having an opportunity to work with children with different types of disabilities. He describes a site visit to the preschool at Seattle’s Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center as a highlight of his program experience. “The kids were very happy when they first saw me, and they directly invited me to play with them in their big classroom. We spent a lovely afternoon playing and learning together.”


Amine also told us that what surprised him most during the fellowship was “how much the concept of volunteering is highly developed in the US.  Everywhere there are volunteers ready to help and to give from their time even from the age of seven years. I was also surprised by how hard working the Americans are.”


Amine with   Arzu Forough, the founder and CEO of Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy







It’s been just two months since he returned to his home country of Tunisia, but Amine says that the HANDS program has already changed him in many ways.  “After I have been back to Tunisia I could feel being more self-reliant, more organized and more self-confident. I feel I can influence people around me at work and in my community. At work I feel I can make a difference by Introducing new ideas, propose initiatives and ways of doing things. Also I can make a difference in my community by introducing new activities and projects. I also feel I have more knowledge about the world and how is structured I know more about other cultures, people languages and way of life that are different from my culture and my way of life.”


Amine’s next project is to build a website for his organization in Tunisia to help raise awareness in his home country about developmental disabilities and the services that are available to help treat them. His long term goal is to start his own organization.


HANDS is grateful to the US Department of State, to our local partner the World Affairs Council of Seattle, and to our donors for making this program possible for enthusiastic and promising young professionals like Amine who strive to make a difference in their societies. We’re looking forward to staying in touch with Amine and with all of our fellows to see the amazing things they will accomplish in the future!




Amine enjoying some time off by exploring Seattle’s folklife festival