by Aadil Fahim, Manager of Communications, Branding and Volunteer Development at AFS Intercultural Programs India
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 the focus on celebrating the 15th anniversary of YES Programs, AFS Intercultural Programs India in partnership with DLF Public School, Sahibabad and DPS Srinagar conducted a Domestic Exchange Program, ‘Discovering Through Experience’ from 3 to 11 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 facilitate further inclusivity through intercultural immersion, 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.
“The workshop helped me to understand that for demolishing the invisible religious barriers, one does not need fancy seminars or international delegations to promote interfaith peace and harmony. Harmony starts at home. Also, I realized that age is no barrier; even young kids these days are so well aware of differences in religions and what separates them. And within a span of a week, these same differences seized to exist! Every drop counts and thus, any and every effort by individuals can help in bringing harmony between people and religions would just be a way of life to follow!” said Vyom Raisura, YES alum and AFS India staff.
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 other DLF students. With the aim of giving back to the community and to be an active global citizens, 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 Indiaby 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 all. 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 a token of appreciation from AFS India 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.
“Being a participant of this exchange program helped me develop a sense of oneness with the people of the entire world. I learned the importance of tolerance and to be more accepting towards other cultures, religions, lifestyles 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,” shared a participant of the program.
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.