The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange Program (YES) was founded with the understanding that there is a pressing need to empower the youth to become ambassadors of goodwill through establishing non-violent methods for peace, to counter prejudice and discrimination through intercultural understanding, and to become leaders that advances volunteerism and citizen responsibility.
With focus on celebrating the 15th anniversary of YES Program, AFS Intercultural Programs India in partnership with DLF Public School, Sahibabad and Delhi Public School, Srinagar conducted a Domestic Exchange Program, ‘Discovering Through Experience’ from 3rd to 11th April 2018.
The need to confront intolerance, preconceptions, ignorance and fear of differences is much needed in today’s society. The aim of the program was to provide the opportunity for dialogue and facilitating further inclusivity through intercultural immersions, structured experiential learning, goals-based curriculum and methods, involving high school students from DPS Srinagar and DLF, Sahibabad.
Throughout the week, 12 students from DPS Srinagar were hosted by the DLF School. With 17 students from DLF School, the hosted students had a tremendous cultural immersive experience. Being with a host family gave them an opportunity to create a strong bond and a lifelong intercultural relationship.
While keeping in mind the objectives of the program, several goal-based curriculum sessions on topics such as Peace Education, Global Citizenship, Conflict Transformation and Interfaith Harmony were facilitated by AFS INDIA YES Alumni. During the program, we also had an external speaker, Maria Khan, a member of Centre for Peace and Spirituality, to give a talk on the theme of Interfaith Harmony.
DLF School provided a wonderful platform to all the participating students to learn and be one with the new culture. They welcomed them wholeheartedly. From day one, the hosted students were given same love and care as the DLF students. With the aim of giving back to the community and to be an active Global Citizen, all the participating students took part in the Community Service Project during their time in DLF School. The school also provided lessons on Yoga, Meditation & Sculpture Making.
Domestic Exchange also gave an opportunity to the participating students to see the rich heritage of the hosting city through several cultural visits to places such as Jama Masjid and Delhi Haat. At Delhi Haat, they had the chance to explore and discover the diversified beauty and culture of India by experiencing the food and artifacts from various parts of the country. The whole one-week long Domestic Exchange Program structured experiential learning to increase the intercultural competencies and leadership skills of participating students as well as educators during the Program. The hosted students also shared their own cultures and traditions bridging the gap between the diversified India. At the end of the program, a farewell was organized by DLF School for all the hosted students and hosting families where they were given token of appreciation from AFS IND for opening their hearts and homes to the DPS Srinagar students. Host families, educators, participating students and YES Alumni appreciated the Domestic Exchange Program and the thought of having the same.
AFS India would like to extend their sincere gratitude to DLF School for being the Hosting school for the program. Special shout-out to Dr. Mirgnaini, Executive Director & Mrs. Seema Jerath, Principal for their continuous support. We’re thankful to all the educators who worked extensively to make this program a success. Much appreciation to Ms. Syed Sumaira (DPS Srinagar) and Ms. Swagata Ganguly for their time and contribution to this program. We’re also happy and proud to have YES Alumni as facilitators for the Domestic Exchange Program.
Few quotes by the participating students:
“Being a participant of this exchange program helped me develop a sense of oneness with the people of the entire world. I learned that there are no borders, we have created them. I learned the importance of tolerance and to be more acceptable towards other cultures, religions, lifestyle & their views and perspectives. Knowing more about interfaith harmony, about other religions and beliefs made me more aware. I also explored how to adjust and inculcate peace education in our lifestyle. With new skills, I also have cherishable memories that I’m going to take with me.”
“There are so many faiths out there. I came to know about the ways to interlink different faiths and also to create harmony between different religions and people from various faiths.”
“I learned to be independent, to do things on my own. I learned to adapt in other surroundings. I came to know about my host family’s religion. Throughout the week, I learned about new skills which are going to help me in the future. Facilitators taught us how to live with unity and shun violence with focus on peaceful world.”
“In the past week, I have been studying the cultural and global values which enshrined my desire to learn more and more. The exchange program has increased my motivation and self-confidence. I know about the process of creative thinking and to look above the superficial appearance. I also came to know about the importance of adaptation in different stages of life. Here at DLF School, I saw diversity of different cultures and flexibility to handle issues independently. I also developed intercultural effectiveness and learned about being a Global Citizen.”
“For every person you meet, with every interaction we have with people, there are take-aways. Sometimes we can get too comfortable in our own world. AFS brought this new experience to us. An experience that brought me out of my own world and experience something new, something new to learn in a different and positive way. It made me interact with people of diverse backgrounds, ability to practice my verbal communication skills. I came alive with new creative ideas to pump my life. The best part of this program was making new friends. I was expecting them to be a bit shy and quiet but once we got to know each other well, we spoke together and got into fights with each other the way friends do. Few of them became friends, few became best friends and few part of family. All of them came in as strangers and are leaving as part of a family that will always stick together and will always be there for each other.”