14 young professionals and high school students who traveled to the United States this summer were welcomed back home to Chad by Ambassador James Knight and other American diplomats at the U.S. embassy on Monday, September 8. The travelers — who had participated in three separate exchange programs — had an opportunity to share their American adventures with one another, and to brief members of the Chadian media about their programs and experiences.
Speaking first, six students from the Lycees Felix Ebour, Roi Faycal, Al Kanemi, Handan Ben Rachid and College Angelique described their brief but intense experience as participants in the 2014 “Women2Women” exchange program. Designed to develop leadership skills and create a network of friendship among young women from the United States and Muslim countries, W2W brought our Chadians and young women from 12 other countries to Boston, Massachusetts for a week of leadership workshops, conflict resolution seminars, and trust building exercises – all done in English. There was also time for some good fun touring as well — on Cape Cod Bay they saw whales leaping and dancing in the waves; they also visited Harvard University, Babson College, and discovered the joys of American pizza!
Next to speak were six participants from the “Pan-Africa Youth Leadership” program. They joined 18 other high school students from three francophone African countries for a series of conferences and symposia on the themes of civic education, civil society, and community leadership. Their programs took them to Washington DC and two other American cities. The students were recruited for this year’s program from the Lycée la Concorde, Ibrahim Mahamat Itno, and de la Paix.
The final speakers were two young professionals who had been invited by the White House to participate in the newly inaugurated Young African Leaders Initiative “Mandela-Washington Fellowship” program. In early June, 500 young and talented men and women from 49 African nations gathered in Washington DC for high level meetings and briefings by American officials from President Obama on down. Two Chadian Fellows then traveled to the University of Minnesota for six weeks of academic training and field work in public administration and community development. (A third Chadian stayed in Washington DC for training at Howard University; she is still in the United States working as an intern at an international NGO.) At the end of July all the Fellows gathered again in Washington for a special three day Presidential Summit at the White House.
Their American sojourns are just the start of a long term relationship between the Chadian travelers and the U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena. During the coming year they will work together on small scale school and community projects – proposed and carried out by the students and young professionals themselves – using special follow-up funds from the three American exchange programs.