TWELVE participants from the Asean and Pacific regions recently completed the three-week International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) in the United States.
Themed ‘Asean Youth and Volunteerism,’ the programme ran from January 17 to February 7 in four cities across the United States, which were Washington, DC; Pensacola, Florida; Iowa City, Iowa and Seattle, Washington.
The visitors consisted of youth and young professionals from various backgrounds, including social work, education, entrepreneurship and volunteerism.
The objectives of the programme were to explore traditional and creative efforts and programmes designed to foster civic participation and engagement in communities, particularly for underserved communities (women and youth) as well as to expose the participants to NGO management including organisation, fundraising, managing volunteers, and public outreach.
Additionally, the programme also helped participants study community activism and diversity in the United States, and efforts towards social inclusion and equity for marginalised communities and youth in particular; explore advocacy and leadership strategies that facilitate social empowerment and justice; illustrate volunteer projects and community service initiatives across the United States, and how organisations develop new leaders and recruit and retain volunteers; and to examine efforts to counter violent extremism through community activism, volunteerism, and promoting civic awareness.
The IVLP also offered visitors a chance to take part in various volunteering activities throughout their stay by engaging with various organisations in each city.
In Washington DC, the visitors worked with City Year in a beautification project at Eastern High School, which was also part of the Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service, celebrated all over the United States.
In Pensacola, they participated in a joint volunteer activity with residents of Escambia Boys Base by helping to prepare materials needed for house construction for low-income families under Habitat for Humanity.
In Iowa City, they helped to repackage food for a food bank ran by the Crisis Center of Johnson County, while in Seattle, they helped to prepare and serve food for homeless youth at the Orion Center, which is a multi-service facility managed by YouthCare.
Focus of the programme was also to give the visitors a chance to meet with various organisations that are actively engaging youth and volunteers and are leading agencies supporting a number of social causes.
Some of the highlights of their meetings were with the Corporation for National and Community Service, Ashoka Youth Venture, Atlas Service Corps, Inc, The Iowa Youth Writing Project, Pacific Market International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The meetings allowed them to discuss challenges and find the best practices and opportunities that can be adapted in their own countries. The meetings covered different focus including policies, governmental support, funding, volunteer management as well as different sectors including education, social welfare, environment and migrant workers.
The volunteers also enjoyed cultural exposure through concerts, musical theatre and visits to museums as well as home hospitality activities.
Sponsored by the US Department of State, the IVLP annually supports over 4,500 participants from all over the world to travel to the United States to meet and confer with their professional counterparts.
The programme itself was beyond exposure to the work of various nonprofit organisations; it was also about understanding the service-learning culture that is ingrained from a very young age.