HANDS recently hosted ten young men and women from Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia who work in non-governmental organizations that promote disability rights. These professionals participated in month-long fellowships at disability-focused organizations in Seattle, WA and Chicago, IL through the Professional Fellows Program. This program is funded by the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and presents an opportunity for participants to exchange experiences and build global networks.
Middle East-North Africa Region Fellows at the US Department of State
At their placements, our fellows focused on enhancing their skills in organizational development, leadership, and advocacy. Notable placements included Disability Rights Washington and the Chicago Mayor’s Office for Persons with Disabilities. In addition to completing fellowships, the young professionals attended nonprofit leadership seminars on relevant topics such as capacity building and fundraising. Based on what they learned from their fellowship experience, each individual developed a project that will enable their organizations to continue empowering persons with disabilities in their home countries.
Fellows Arbi Chouikh (Tunisia) and Ali Alahiane (Morocco) introduce themselves at the Professional Fellows Congress
The fellows’ time in the US culminated with the Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, DC, which provided a forum for the young professionals to share insights and explore ways to incorporate their learning and expertise into concrete, innovative activities upon returning home. Outside of the congress, our fellows met with Ms. Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, and her colleagues. The Egyptian Ambassador to the US Yasser Reda, the Moroccan Ambassador to the US Rachad Bouhlal, and Tunisian Embassy Counselor Amel Ben Younnes also welcomed and supported the fellows during their time in DC.
Egyptian fellows with Ambassador Reda at the US Embassy of Egypt
Upon reflection of their time in the US, our fellows shared with us their successes and project ideas. The inclusive clubs for children with disabilities that Tunisian fellow Maroua Ben Said observed while at Envision Unlimited in Chicago inspired her to implement an initiative back home at Handicap International that will establish similar clubs. Peter Faragallah, who works at the Development Association for Empowering Special Needs in Cairo, thought of himself as “just a trainer” for the visually impaired before his placement at the Blind Services Association. Throughout his time here, however, Peter realized his leadership potential and returned home with the goal of collaborating with other Egyptian fellows on a large-scale project.
Professional fellow Ghada Nassar discussing plans for her upcoming project
It was an honor for HANDS to play a role in helping these inspirational nonprofit leaders acquire new professional skills, knowledge and networks. We look forward to seeing them on the reverse exchange when their American counterparts travel to North Africa to continue building long-lasting professional and personal relationships.
Fellows visiting the White House in Washington, DC
We are thankful to the US Department of State, the fellowship host organizations, our partner organizations and our other generous donors who are making this opportunity possible for these emerging leaders.

For more information on individual fellows and their experience in the US, please watch the video they presented at the Professional Fellows Congress at