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Making a Difference

As part of their experience in the United States the UGRAD participants are doing a significant amount of volunteer work, in addition to excelling in their academic studies, making friends, and learning about America. Over the last four years alone, the students have put in over 18,000 hours in more than 600 institutions across the United States. Students have been given their time to the American Red Cross, Special Olympics, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Get Out to Vote, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, Head Start, domestic violence shelters, senior centers, elementary and middle schools, food banks and soup kitchens. Not only are they contributing to their host communities, but they are gaining invaluable skills and experience and first hand exposure to the great commitment to public service that exists in the United States.

Many of the UGRAD participants bring the experience of community service home to Eurasia in an effort to improve the lives of those around them.

Emil Zeynalov transferred his community service experience to disadvantaged children in his home country of Azerbaijan. Zeynalov organized a ten-day summer camp experience for 30 residents of the Nefchiler orphanage, providing the children with a rare opportunity to develop useful skills while having fun.

Armenian UGRAD alumna Karine Matinyan developed an anti-smoking campaign in her hometown of Vanadzor, Armenia. After her experience on the UGRAD program, Matinyan set out to raise public awareness and improve education about the dangers of smoking. Her campaign includes advertisements on local television and radio stations and print media as well as educational seminars being held at local schools and the distribution of brochures throughout the community.

The UGRAD participants’ enthusiasm for helping others has spread across Eurasia and has proven one of the most lasting rewards of the program.