Communities across the globe will soon participate in innovative development projects, as 64 leaders from 21 countries return home from an extensive leadership training and practicum in the U.S. After four months of working at community improvement organizations and government offices across the U.S. and participating in an online leadership institute, Community Solutions  leaders gathered for their closing conference in mid-December.
On the first evening of the conference, leaders met with State Department officials and representatives of U.S. community improvement organizations during a reception to showcase their plans for community projects in the next six months. Ambassador Adam Ereli , Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, delivered the evening address and congratulated the leaders on their accomplishments.
Diana Berceanu, a leader from Romania, presented her project to train civil society organizations how to lobby local government and concluded by saying, “I used to feel kind of negative about whether things could really change. But now, after the program, I am going home more optimistic.” Berceanu is working on increasing transparency and accountability in government.
Eight leaders, selected by their peers, presented their action plans to State Department officials and their peers in a Community Development Project Fair and included demonstrations, photos, and step-by-step plans for implementation. Rehema Namarome, a leader from Uganda, won the competition for the most promising project for her plan to help protect deaf women and girls from sexual abuse. She presented her project with her host supervisor, Denise Pulfer, from Access to Independence in Wisconsin, a local NGO dedicated to helping persons with disabilities.
Other leaders presented inspiring plans for community change. Anita Thapa developed a plan to educate youth in her home country of Nepal about civic engagement. She is building on her experience at The Civic Education Project, Inc.  in Boston, where she helped shape a new program called Civic Schools that engages students in political processes. Another leader, James Byaruhanga of Uganda, presented his plan to bring participatory development planning to the impoverished district of Karamoja. He was supported by his host supervisor at the College of Saint Rose Institute for Community Research & Training  in Albany, New York.
IREX congratulates all of the leaders for their successes and looks forward to seeing their community projects come to fruition. Check back to read about leaders’ projects starting in January.