World Learning Algeria Helps Advance the UDL Field with New White Paper

By Eric House

Teacher trainees experience a UDL-designed programming activity.

Last month, World Learning Algeria partnered with international inclusive education advocates to publish a white paper on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The paper, titled “Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Impact on Policy, Practice, and Partnership for Inclusive Education,” is at the forefront of efforts to expand the knowledge and practice of UDL in international development education.

The UDL approach adapts teaching to all learners and their diverse individual needs to reduce barriers to learning. It stems from the principle that all learners, regardless of their needs or background, must have ample opportunities to learn, set goals, and gain skills for the future.

Led by country representative and program director Leah Bitat, World Learning Algeria has practiced UDL across its diverse portfolio of projects for the past 10 years in Algeria. The Algiers STEAM Center has presented on using UDL to reduce barriers to STEM education over the past three years at the Universal Design for Learning International Research Network Global Summits.

Bitat, who did her graduate work in education at Harvard University with David Rose, the founder of the UDL framework, is a member of the Global Campaign for Education Inclusive Education Steering Committee. She co-chaired a side event at the 2021 Global Education Summit with Dr. Loui Lord Nelson, another well-known scholar in the UDL field.

Joined by a diverse team of international education practitioners, the session included an interactive presentation on the impact of UDL on policy, research, education systems, and classrooms, and drove the need for the publication of a white paper to capture the knowledge shared.

Teachers celebrate their graduation from the UDL in STEM training.

“Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Impact on Policy, Practice, and Partnership for Inclusive Education” is the first white paper to capture insights on the impact of UDL in international education efforts through a knowledge-sharing event, rather than a literature review or independent study. The quality of the paper reflects how a diverse set of practitioners and participants came together from around the world to advance the knowledge and application of UDL.

The paper aims to move the discussion on UDL from broad-based theoretical recommendations to practical insights on implementation. It amplifies real-world recommendations by practitioners to increase impact in their current initiatives.

“The beauty of UDL is that it is a design framework, not a theory or product,” says Bitat. “It can be adapted to any educational environment. Because of that, UDL has experienced rapid application across World Learning Algeria’s project sites due to the positive impact that UDL-designed learning environments bring — not just to the students who learn in them, but especially for the teachers that feel a heightened sense of efficacy as creators of inclusive learning environments.”

With its recommendations for real-world application, “Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Impact on Policy, Practice, and Partnership for Inclusive Education” ensures that international development education sees more inclusive learning environments for students worldwide.

To learn more and access the white paper, click here.


The project helped nearly 24,000 Algerian youth to strengthen their potential to earn income and effectively manage their finances. To achieve this ambitious goal, World Learning provided technical support to partner institutions across Algeria, training community mentors to teach youth two critical skill sets: personal financial management and 21st-century job skills.

Over the project period, World Learning trained 713 community mentors to deliver the two course offerings and provided technical and logistical support as those mentors went on to train 22,544 youth in 42 wilayas (states). The project also strengthened the capacities of 51 local partner organizations capable of delivering project activities in the future.

HSBC and World Learning Launch Project to Support Financial Literacy and Employment in Algeria

With partners in 14 Wilayas, the two-year program will build personal finance and job skills for 27,000 youth

On January 19, HSBC Holdings plc and World Learning launched a new project to help Algerian youth manage their finances and earn an income.

In collaboration with local schools, student clubs, and youth organizations in 14 wilayas, the 21st Century Financial Resilience through Education and Employment (21 FREE) project will train more than 600 community mentors to teach youth personal financial management and job skills. World Learning will provide technical support to the mentoring institutions and educators over the two-year program, which aims to train 27,000 youth.

Modules will cover budgeting, communications, critical thinking, and job search skills. Following a three-month pilot phase in Algiers, Sétif, and Ouargla, the program will expand to an additional eleven communities, targeting underserved areas.

“In the face of the socio-economic challenges in Algeria and around the world that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought, HSBC and World Learning are committed to equipping youth with the skills they need to build successful careers and contribute to the development of the local economy,” said Leah Bitat, World Learning Algeria country representative.

“One of the four pillars of HSBC’s global strategy is to energize for growth, which means investing to attract, develop, and retain the talented individuals who will lead business into the future by nurturing a dynamic and diverse culture for people who want to make a positive impact in the community. The 21 FREE program is aligned with the Algeria National Vision 2030 where HSBC is investing in local talent and the development of Algerians as future leaders in the banking and finance sector,” says James Fielder, CEO of HSBC in Algeria. “The aim is to facilitate opportunities, generate meaningful income, and instill effective planning and managing of financial capabilities for disadvantaged communities.”

World Learning has worked in Algeria since 2005, partnering with local institutions to bring high-quality education for youth in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), English, and career development. More than 20,000 Algerians have received support as they started careers or implemented community and business ventures.

Schools, student clubs, and youth organizations interested in partnering to host trainings in their communities can contact World Learning at [email protected].

To learn more about World Learning’s activities visit: [email protected]. For HSBC in Algeria visit [email protected], Nick Edwards, +971 54 309 6285, [email protected].   

How World Learning Pivoted to Online Training Programs During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the whole world was forced to pivot to new ways of doing things, World Learning was able to use its long-standing expertise in online and hybrid teaching and training. At the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) conference, World Learning staff discussed projects focused on professional development for teachers and workforce development, all of which had to abruptly pivot to online programming early in the pandemic. Their presentations reviewed the opportunities this presented to refine and improve programs as well as the challenges they faced in quickly shifting to virtual programming.

Enhancing Online Learning with Local Peer Coaching Groups

Lois Scott-Conley, education advisor for curriculum and training, presented on World Learning’s U.S. Embassy–funded Madrassa English Language Teacher Training program in India. Over the past three years, the program has offered a blended learning professional development program for traditionally underserved Madrassa teachers. The program combines self-paced, expert-designed online courses with local peer coaching groups. Scott-Conley discussed the peer coaching format, how the program is being carried out solely online, and research that was carried out to help improve the program in its third year.

Career Mentorship at a Distance: Preparing Mentors to Teach and Engage Online

Hamza Koudri, director of programs for World Learning Algeria, presented on transitioning the Bawsala Mentorship Program, which provides career training, mentorship, and networking opportunities for young Algerian women, to an online format using the Canvas learning management platform. Moving the course online required new methods for training mentors to not only manage the online course platform but also to effectively build relationships with participants and keep them engaged during a virtual course.

Preparing Teachers to Teach Online: Lessons From a Case Study

Dr. Radmila Popvic, senior education and research specialist, presented a case study that examined how a cohort of 30 English language teachers integrated technology in their teaching after completing a five-week intensive training. The study explored teacher readiness to implement what they learned, their confidence about their digital and pedagogical skills, and practical difficulties or contextual constraints they encountered in implementing course learnings.

What Does it Take to Facilitate a Virtual Exchange Across Two Continents?

Ten Questions for The Experiment Digital Facilitator Djamila Azzouz

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Djamila Azzouz was a facilitator for The Experiment Digital programs in 2019 and 2020.

Djamila Azzouz is a 22-year-old Algerian student who worked as a facilitator for World Learning’s eight-week The Experiment Digital program in 2019 and 2020. The program is a virtual exchange designed to connect hundreds of young people across the U.S. with peers in Iraq, Algeria, Yemen, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa Region. Trained facilitators play an essential role in the exchange, fostering safe and intimate group conversations between participants — both in virtual ‘neighborhoods’, groups of 30–35 participants and ‘families’, small groups of 6–8 participants.

Azzouz is currently working on a master’s degree in Anglo Saxon literature and civilization and majoring in media studies at Abou EL Kacem Saâdallah University — also known as Algiers 2 — located in Algiers, the capital of Algeria. She is an alumna of World Learning’s Maharat Mentorship program, an eight-month training program designed to help young Algerian women develop leadership and professional skills.

Last summer, Azzouz was a facilitator for The Experiment Digital’s first cohort. When she’s not studying or facilitating, Azzouz teaches English and trains others in public speaking. She enjoys reading and drinking tea. We caught up with her at the end of her stint with The Experiment Digital to find out what her experience was like.

Tell us about the role of a facilitator for The Experiment Digital.

A facilitator is a combination of things that are really important — teaching and mentoring. For me, being a facilitator for The Experiment Digital is being the link between the participants and engaging them with the content of the program.

What kind of topics are covered?

The Experiment Digital participants are divided into neighborhoods and families facilitating small group discussions.

Each week we have a different topic, for example, during the first week we did topics related to self-discovery such as analyzing personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and what does leadership mean to you to introduce participants to each other. As we get deeper into the program, we talked about an area of improvement that you think would make your community better and a project proposal.

What does a typical week look like? What are some of your responsibilities?

Facilitators spend 8–10 hours a week working for the program. A week in which we have our family dialogue, that’s a really, really busy week. Otherwise facilitators are checking whether participants are moving on the right track, completing their activities, and engaging with others. In the morning when I wake up, I check my email and messages on Canvas [an online learning platform]. In the afternoon, I check again and see if there’s anything I have to keep an eye on.

It sounds like the family discussions are intense. Is your role to start them off and make sure they stay friendly even when people disagree?

In each neighborhood we have about 30–35 participants and it’s impossible to have one dialogue. So, we divided into small families. These family dialogues happen every two weeks, one hour each where we have a family that contains 6–8 participants. It can get really busy when everyone wants to share. Each week facilitators receive a guide from The Experiment Digital team that helps us facilitate a live dialogue on Zoom.

I always start by welcoming the participants and encouraging them to share and be open since it’s not recorded and it’s a safe space. We have general topics and I start asking questions to get the conversation going and the participants say what they think. During the last family discussion, we had time to talk about what we appreciated about each other and things we learned, and a lot of participants said thank you for making me see and learn things about myself.

You’ve been a facilitator twice. How did you prepare for this role?

Djamila Azzouz is majoring in media studies.

The training was 3 weeks [facilitators averaged 4 hours a week training]. They [The Experiment Digital team] gave us a lot of training material to learn about our tasks, our role, and the role of our peer mentor. We also did some activities. For example, they posted a video and we acted as if we were the participants and completed the exercise. It’s like what you do during soccer practice: some have to play the other team and then switch.

What was the best part of being a facilitator? How did you grow from the experience?

I think most facilitators would say that the best part is being part of the family dialogue. It’s the chance when we all get to really connect.

What advice do you have for someone interested in being a facilitator? What would you tell one of your friends if asked about what to expect?

One of my friends actually asked me this question! If I had to explain to someone what is facilitating for The Experiment Digital I would say it’s a two-month program where you have to transmit ideas and monitor the participants to see if they are following and completing the activities. It’s also about mentoring. You cannot really facilitate if you are not engaged in the outside world. It would be really hard to facilitate and understand others from different backgrounds if you weren’t interested in what’s going on. Advice I would give to someone who wants to apply is go for it. You will not regret it. Sometimes things aren’t perfect, and you think I can’t believe this happened but that’s ok because you’re learning. Just go for it. When I applied for the program the first time, I didn’t really know what I would do and what would be expected of me, but I did not regret it at all. That’s why I applied to do it again this summer. Since it’s World Learning I trusted it.

How do you think it will affect your future career prospects?

Djamila Azzouz is an alumna of World Learning’s Maharat Mentorship Program.

With facilitating and teaching at the same time I feel like I can easily manage a group of people without having any difficulty. Before I just wanted to teach and now, I want to teach but I also want to mentor and design programs. Because doing World Learning’s Maharat program I realized that’s possible. One day I’d like to work with World Learning Algeria.

What do you say to people who may be skeptical of virtual exchanges? How do you convince them that this is a worthwhile experience?

[Laughing] Even my mother doesn’t understand what I do. When I get ready to facilitate and I shut the door to the room she says ok you’re going to talk on the phone and I say no mom, I’m not talking on the phone. I’m working! It’s hard to explain. You have to see it for yourself.

What did you see for yourself that was life changing?

During one of the family dialogues when we were talking about stereotypes, I thought to myself this is why I applied to work with The Experiment Digital. When they were correcting each other’s presumptions and stereotypes and all of these ideas that we fill our heads with through media and social media were changing. A lot of them were saying, no, I don’t think that about you. I witnessed with my own eyes the change. It was amazing! Being part of an exchange program doesn’t necessarily mean travelling to another place. In some Middle Eastern countries, girls are not allowed to travel alone but The Experiment Digital is a really great opportunity to learn about others and learn about yourself all while staying at home behind the screen.

The Experiment Digital is supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute.

New Reality TV Show Will Support Up-and-Coming Entrepreneurs in Algeria

Entrepreneurship is key to helping economies thrive.

But start-ups across the world face serious obstacles — from wooing funders to navigating regulatory issues. That’s why it’s critical to make sure entrepreneurs have the support they need to thrive, too.

In Algeria, a new reality TV series aims to do just that.

Andi Hulm — Arabic for “I Have a Dream” — will feature 60 young Algerian entrepreneurs competing in challenges presented by representatives of leading U.S. companies operating in Algeria.

World Learning Algeria Field Director stands in front of contestants during filming for the new reality TV show
World Learning Algeria Field Director Andrew Farrand.

It marks World Learning’s first foray into the television business, and a new addition to its growing crop of entrepreneurship support programs worldwide. World Learning Algeria Field Director Andrew Farrand will host the 10-episode series, which has been conceived and sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Algiers and the American Chamber of Commerce in AlgeriaWorld Learning will oversee development of the program alongside the local production company Wellcom Advertising.

“Algeria is full of dynamic young people with big ideas who struggle to get started or to sustain new ventures,” Farrand says. “Ultimately, the goal of Andi Hulm is to give them a boost that can make the difference between success and failure, while also reinforcing the expanding ties between Algeria and the U.S., which benefit people in both countries.”

The U.S. Embassy selected Farrand to host the show given his high profile as a development practitioner, blogger, and photographer who has lived in Algeria for more than six years.“They were interested in having someone who straddles the line between U.S. and Algerian cultures,” he says. “When they reached out to see if I might be interested, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

As one of the partners producing the show, World Learning tapped into its extensive alumni network to recruit young entrepreneurs to participate in the series. Andi Hulm will also draw on the NGO’s experience designing programs that offer the comprehensive support these entrepreneurs need to thrive.

Contestants bend over a desk on set at Andi Hulm. They are very focused as they write notes on the paper in front of them.

“We will be helping to guide the show’s production so it resonates with Algerian youth and considers the real-life hurdles they face in pursuing their professional dreams,” Farrand says.

Each episode of the show will feature different challenges to test contestants’ perseverance and entrepreneurial skills, such as defining a brand identity, recruiting qualified staff, pitching investors, and connecting with potential customers. A four-member panel of judges — composed of three Algerian entrepreneurs, plus the CEO of each episode’s host company — will evaluate participants’ performances and ultimately narrow the competition to a final winner.

Though the winner will take home a cash prize, the goal of the show is to ensure that all the contestants benefit. Throughout the course of each episode, participants will have the opportunity seek advice from the CEOs of leading U.S. companies as well as gain exposure among the Algerian public.

“The measure of the show’s success won’t be how grueling the competition is,” Farrand says, “but how much the contestants refine their ideas, forge useful new relationships, and advance toward their dreams.”

Andi Hulm will debut in February on the Algerian channel Ennahar TV and will later be rebroadcast online. Watch the trailer below to learn more:

Explore Careers Across Algeria on these Virtual Tours

Architect Farida Chaalal visits the construction site of residential area project.

Want to learn what it’s like to sell cars, lead a marketing team, or build a residential development? In this second installment of World Learning’s virtual reality career tour series, we head to Algeria to explore what working life is like for professionals across the country.

Through these self-guided virtual tours, you’ll step onto the floor of a Renault showroom in Setif, pull up a chair at a marketing team meeting in Algiers, and study the blueprint for a residential site in Tizi Ouzou. You’ll learn how these three professionals built their careers, the challenges they face, and the skills they need to do their jobs well — many of which they learned by participating in training courses at career development centers sponsored by the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative and World Learning.

These tours can be viewed on any ordinary smartphone or laptop — no special equipment is required. For a fully immersive experience, drop your phone into an inexpensive VR viewer (like the Google Cardboard viewer) and explore the scene just by turning your head!

Career Expedition: Car Salesman

Click to explore a career as a car salesman in Algeria!

First, step onto the floor of a Renault car showroom in Setif for a day in the life of car salesman Mohamed Taguia, who studied management and marketing at the MBI School Setif. Follow along as he discusses payment options with a client, then brainstorms marketing strategies with his colleagues. Taguia says he was always shy and never imagined he would one day have a job that requires talking with customers all day. He credits the soft skills courses at the MBI School Setif’s career development center — supported by the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative and World Learning — with helping him overcome that challenge.

Career Expedition: Architect

Click to explore a career as an architect in Algeria!

Finally, join architect Farida Chaalal as she checks on the progress of a residential project overlooking Tizi Ouzou, one of the largest cities in Algeria. Chaalal specializes in civil engineering, meaning she focuses on the structural integrity of buildings. Learn about all the things she needs to take into account — like verifying that a window is level — as she develops the plan for the site. Then follow Chaalal back to her office, where she writes a report about the development and discusses new projects with her coworkers.

Chaalal says she was able to find a job in architecture consulting with help from the career center at the INSC Tizi Ouzou training institute. Supported by the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative and World Learning, the career center offered her valuable trainings in soft skills, job search strategies, and interview preparation.

Research Shows These 18 Skills Are Vital For Algerian Youth Seeking Employment

Akila Gouacem is one of more than 9,000 Algerian youth who have participated in job trainings through the Youth Employment Project, funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative and implemented by World Learning.

Entering the workforce can be daunting — if not seemingly impossible — for young people in a modern world where work opportunities are rapidly changing. That’s why youth workforce development practitioners are working in countries around the globe to help young people develop the hard and soft skills that will help them succeed in the 21st century workplace.

But, as in all development work, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Young people in one country may face a different set of obstacles from their peers in another country — and they may require different skills to overcome those obstacles. Context is essential.

In a new report, World Learning provides that context for the Algerian workforce, where young people face challenges such as regulatory obstacles, nepotism, gender discrimination, and more. Authored by World Learning’s Senior Youth Workforce Specialist Dr. Catherine A. Honeyman, the report asked: “What skills do youth most need in order to gain employment in Algeria?”

According to the qualitative research there are 12 soft skills and 6 functional job skills that can make a difference for Algerian youth seeking employment.

The Youth Employment Project has established career centers across Algeria, providing hard and soft skills training to more than 9,000 young people.

The research process — which was conducted by World Learning’s field office staff in Algeria — included interviews with Algerian employers as well as surveys and focus groups conducted with 90 employed and unemployed young men and women in six wilayas(administrative divisions) of Algeria who have taken part in trainings through World Learning’s Youth Employment Project (YEP), supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative. This qualitative research builds on the project’s large-scale quantitative tracer studies, reaching thousands of YEP graduates every six months.

“Local perspectives matter,” Honeyman wrote in the report. “While there may be robust international and regional research findings regarding the priority soft skills to emphasize for youth employment, the experiences of youth in a particular context — ­and the perspectives of their prospective future employers — must be taken into account in order to truly understand how to address the youth employment challenge.”

Soft skills were a key focus of the research.

In recent decades, there’s been a rising awareness in the global development community that soft skills make a difference in youth programming sectors such as workforce development, sexual and reproductive health, and peacebuilding. Large-scale literature reviews — such as one recently undertaken by USAID’s YouthPower initiative — have led to recommendations emphasizing five key soft skills that help improve youth workforce outcomes worldwide: positive self-concept, self-control, social skills, communication skills, and higher-order thinking skills.

These recommendations have solid grounding. Yet, as Honeyman notes in the report, “global recommendations can also sometimes miss the mark of what matters most to particular groups of youth in particular contexts — such as Algeria.”

Participants at YEP’s Youth Employment Summit 2.0 in 2016.

Algerian youth participants in the study identified nine priority soft skills that they felt to be crucial for finding employment in their country: positive self-concept, self-motivation, goal-orientation, social skills, communication skills, perseverance, adaptability, managing emotions — especially stress, and planning or time management. Employer interviews echoed many of these and also revealed a need for three additional soft skills: conscientiousness or work ethic, problem-solving, and professionalism.

“While some of these skills map onto the recommendations made in the international research literature, others highlight less-often prioritized skills,” the report notes.

Skills like perseverance and adaptability are particularly critical in an Algerian context. Not only is there a limited availability of entry-level work, but the work that does exist often pays low wages. Additionally, the country’s National Employment Agency — which serves as an intermediary between job-seekers and employers — often slows down the job search with regulations like residence requirements.

In these conditions, young job-seekers have found that soft skills pay off. As one young man recounted, “I decided to go volunteer at this factory. I went in every day even though they weren’t recruiting. I just helped around and filled in for any tasks they needed. They ended up hiring me because of my persistence.”

Chouaib Haddad took part in skills trainings at a career center that YEP established in his hometown, which led to him founding his own company.

In addition to soft skills, the report also identifies six functional job skills the Algerian youth need to improve in order to enter the workforce. These include, in order of the research data’s strength of evidence, language (English and French), general IT skills and software specific to their professions, career planning, job search strategies, CV and online profile creation, and job interviewing skills.

Though many of these skills are useful for job applicants anywhere, Algerian youth face a special challenge when it comes to language skills. Respondents indicated that they needed to improve in French or English — or both — in order to land jobs, even though neither is an official language of the country. For some, learning French is an emotionally charged task due to the country’s colonial past. “I hate French so much that I can’t really study it or learn it properly,” one participant noted.

So how can youth workforce development practitioners use the recommendations from this report to make a difference in the Algerian context?

Though YEP is already working to develop soft skills and functional job skills among Algerian youth through the WorkLinks Employability Skills Curriculum — which has reached more than 8,000 young people to date — the findings of this report will help World Learning staff refine that curriculum to meet the specific needs of Algerian job-seekers. (See the new curriculum in the chart below.)

With the help of this research, World Learning will continue building a future in which all young people and adults are equipped to find or create decent work.

World Learning’s WorkLinks curriculum structure:

Visit the Youth Employment Project and World Learning Algeria to learn more about World Learning’s youth workforce and entrepreneurship work in Algeria.

Meet the Modern Leaders Who Are Empowering Women Around the World

International Women’s Day, celebrated globally on March 8, is an opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and efforts to support them.

At World Learning Inc. — which includes World Learning, The Experiment in International Living, and School for International Training (SIT) — we work with emerging leaders around the world, equipping them with the skills and support to drive change in their communities and beyond. For example:

  • World Learning’s diverse portfolio of global development and exchange programs strengthens leadership, intercultural understanding, and civic engagement among young people and adults; strengthens education systems; trains people in 21st-century skills, and more.
  • The Experiment in International Living offers immersive study abroad experiences that give high school students a chance to explore the world while broadening their worldview and developing soft skills that will help them succeed in college and their careers.
  • School for International Training prepares students to be interculturally effective global citizens through field-based academic study abroad programs for undergraduates and accredited master’s degrees and certificates for graduates and professionals.

Today, we’re shining a light on how nine of our more than 125,000 alumni are working to empower women and make the world a more inclusive and just place.

World Learning alumni return to their communities and, using their new skills, networks, and small grant funding, become changemakers.

Nacira Amari

Nacira Amari has dedicated her career — which has taken her from mathematics professor to politician and director of an education institution — to creating new opportunities for women in Algeria. Amari joined the Leaders for Democracy Fellowship program, which provides academic and hands-on training to civil society leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa. There, she built her network and gained practical skills by working at the Arab Institute for Woman at Lebanese American University.

Those new skills have helped her make a difference. In 2017, Amari was elected to the Saida city council, where she has worked to increase women’s representation in government and to open schools that provide women with job skills training. She continues to urge other women to lead in their communities, too. “Women are [stronger] by developing themselves and then changing their society,” she says. “Victory is the ally of women who give others a better life.”

Allie Dyer

Former Fulbright U.S. student to Ghana Allie Dyer — along with other black, indigenous and leaders of color— noticed that health education was failing young women of color in their community of Portland, Oregon. They set out to change that. In 2017, Dyer earned a small grant to co-launch the program Brown Girl Rise. She did so after participating in the New Frontiers of Global Public Health seminar organized by U.S. Alumni Ties, which brings together alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs to learn about critical issues and collaborate with fellow alumni.

Brown Girl Rise leads health education and radical empowerment workshops rooted in community and culture for young girls and women in Portland. They discuss sisterhood and safe spaces, explore their historical connections to food and land, and share how racial and gender stereotypes impact how they view their bodies. “What we’ve learned is the holistic power of community — that community itself can be healing,” Dyer writes.

Brown Girl Rise is funded through an Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) small grant from the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by World Learning.

Alitzel Castillo, Jazmín Villalobos, Roberta S. Jacobson, Gladys Del Ángel, and Emmanuel Galindo

Violence against women is a serious problem facing communities around the world. In Puebla, Mexico, one group of high school students banded together to tackle that problem. In 2016, Alitzel Castillo, Jazmín Villalobos, Roberta S. Jacobson, Gladys Del Ángel, and Emmanuel Galindo took part in Jóvenes en Acción, a U.S. Department of State exchange program that builds civic engagement and leadership skills among students in Mexico. As part of the program, participants carry out projects in their communities.

These high schoolers launched a campaign to raise awareness about gender violence and the stereotypes that perpetuate it. “We knew that we had to make teenagers see that gender violence does not look just like some guy hitting a woman, or like street harassment,” Castillo writes in an email, “it looks more ‘familiar’ for all of us because we live surrounded by stereotypes and gender roles.” The students offered a series of workshops exploring gender stereotypes, LGBTQ issues, and sexual harassment, culminating in a Diversity and Gender Day, which brought more than 700 people for activities devoted to gender and inclusion.

The Jóvenes en Acción Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.

School for International Training alumni put their skills into practice, advancing social justice in their careers and lives.

Leslie Massicotte

Alice Rowan Swanson fellow Leslie Massicotte, an alumna of SIT Rwanda: Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding, works in Kigali, Rwanda, with the youth center Mind Leaps. The center aims to give at-risk youth a place for education, training, and fun. Massicotte, an ESL teacher, saw increasing numbers of pregnancies among the young women at the center, so she used the Swanson Fellowship support to bring sexual and reproductive education to Mind Leaps.

“The whole idea is to use the money to start the teaching, but to make the project sustainable and able to run without my help,” she says. Leslie sees this effort as a natural outgrowth of studying with SIT. “My passion for giving back, serving others, and being abroad came together at SIT.”

Read more about Massicotte’s work here.

Suman Pant

Suman Pant, academic director of SIT Nepal: Development, Gender, and Social Change in the Himalaya, strives to show students how the currents of gender and development intertwine in Nepal. Her PhD dissertation examined Nepal’s community forestry, in which women play a key role. “This idea of conservation emerges from eco-feminism theories. In Nepal, community forestry is very interesting because that’s the only platform where the national law mandates that there should be more women board members than men.”

Such ideas are relatively new to Nepal, Pant explains. “Thirty years ago, when education was still scarce and a little bit expensive, men went to school. Women didn’t. The illiteracy rate among women was very, very high. Now when you go to schools you’ll see — in primary schools, secondary schools — girls and boys [are] almost an equal percentage. I think Nepal’s case in terms of gender is very interesting because it has transitioned quite a bit, and at a fast pace and quite healthily, too.”

See a video of Pant discussing her program here.

Sunday Justin

Sunday Justin has ties both to SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute. He’s an alumnus of the CONTACT summer peacebuilding program, and academic coordinator for SIT in Rwanda. He’s part of our list for International Women’s Day for his women-focused work.

Rwanda’s civil war and genocide left many women who had become pregnant through rape. Sunday co-founded Iteme Foundation, which aims to support and empower not only the victims of rape, but also young mothers for whom prostitution has become a dangerous way out of poverty that often leads to pregnancy or HIV infection.

Being a single mother, Sunday says, “comes with a stigma. It comes with a judgment; it comes with a lot of conflict between them and their family and their children.”

Sunday’s story is part of SIT’s OnSITe podcast series.

Vicky Garcia

Vicky Garcia and Mary Hensley met in the early 2000s as International Management students at SIT Graduate Institute. After graduating from SIT, Garcia returned to her native Philippines, joining forces with Hensley to bring a new kind of economic security to the indigenous rice farmers of the Cordillera region of the Philippines. Building that kind of empowerment among indigenous farmers made sense to Garcia not only as a farmer’s daughter, but as someone who’d overcome physical and cultural challenges. She had contracted polio as a child and was left unable to walk.

Despite being told she’d never amount to anything because of her disability, Garcia eventually worked for the Philippine government, then came to the United States to attend SIT. Back home, she made her way to the very remote steppes of the Cordillera, where she has since helped farmers get assistance from the government and connected them to customers all over the world who appreciate the unique heirloom species of rice they grow. She runs Rice Inc. with Hensley.

Listen to their story here.


Experiment in International Living alumni return home transformed — and channel that transformation into their high schools and communities.

Yareni Murillo

Yareni Murillo has been an activist since her freshman year when, as one of few Latinas in a mostly white high school, she sought ways to connect with other students and founded the school’s first Hispanic Club. “I realized that if no one else is going to speak for me, then I have to speak up for myself,” she says.

Last summer, Yareni traveled to India with The Experiment — an experience she describes as the best in her life. Visiting a new country with a diverse, all-female group led to empowering discussions about intersectionality and patriarchy.

Yareni is now working on a digital history project about Mexican-American women in the Chicano movement, who are often overshadowed by men. She brought a sign to this year’s Women’s March in Washington, DC, that read, “If your feminism doesn’t include all women, then it’s not feminism.”

Hayeon Kayla Lee

Hayeon Kayla Lee went to Japan as a high school freshman, in part to confront some deeply held family beliefs. Some of her relatives experienced Japanese imperialism in South Korea during World War II and still harbored very negative opinions about Japan.

“I always feel that the way to solve conflict and interact with others is through learning the background and history of a culture you might not understand,” says Hayeon, now a senior at a boarding school in New Hampshire. That summer in Japan with The Experimentwas a turning point that helped Hayeon begin to separate her own views from her family’s.

When she’s at home in Los Angeles, Hayeon tutors students in her inner-city neighborhood, focusing on helping girls from low-income and immigrant backgrounds improve their English and creative writing.

As for her own education, in college Hayeon wants to study abroad again — in Japan.

Lauren Jasper

Lauren Jasper used to notice the Ujamaa Collective storefront in her Pittsburgh neighborhood, but didn’t know much about the nonprofit until last year, when the aspiring architect took a class at her high school called Global Leadership by Design. That’s where she found out about Ujamaa’s mission to create entrepreneurship and education opportunities for Africana women.

The same year, Lauren went to South Africa on The Experiment’s Leadership and Social Change program — an experience that ultimately drew her closer to Ujamaa’s purpose and her own. South Africa’s history of apartheid and social justice resonated with her, and the leadership aspect of the program was particularly important to Lauren, who knows she’ll need those skills in a the United States, where only 400 black women have ever been licensed as architects.

As a busy senior, Lauren still finds time to help in the Ujamaa boutique and create programming for teens. Through her architecture studies at Cornell, she hopes “to carry social justice into my designs to create affordable and sustainable housing.”

World Learning Organizes Youth Summit 2.0 in Algeria

Download the original press release.

Like many countries worldwide, Algeria is working to integrate young people into a dynamic and challenging global economy.

In July 2016, World Learning convened over 250 educators, employers, and officials for the inaugural Youth Employment Summit in Algiers. That event marked the public launch of the Algeria Youth Employment Project (YEP), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

At the summit, attendees learned from career development experts about the career development center model, along with international best practices and local examples for delivery of career services to help youth enter and succeed in the world of work.

Under the YEP project, World Learning has collaborated with private schools and associations to launch 9 career centers across Algeria. Since the first Summit, those centers have served over 7,000 young job-seekers through career orientation, soft skills and technical skills training, internship and job placement, employment fairs, and other services adapted to the needs of local employment markets.

The Youth Employment Summit 2.0 is a two-day conference, being held December 10-11 in Algiers, that will unite leading employers and government officials with representatives of public and private educational institutions, vocational training centers, private schools, and civil society organizations from across Algeria to explore career centers as a solution to modern employment challenges.

At the opening, the YEP career centers will join together to officially launch the first Algerian career center federation, which will work to spread the career center model nationwide for the benefit of Algerian youth. Employers and officials will be invited to meet the federation members to discuss possible collaboration.

Next, YEP career center staff and international experts will lead interactive workshops to guide participants in how to deliver effective career services to youth. With guidance from these professionals, participating institutions will explore ways to adapt the career center model to their local context, then will develop action-oriented workplans for offering career services to youth in their communities.

World Learning will also mark the close of the Maharat Mentorship Program, a highly successful pilot initiative sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Algeria linking young women job-seekers with established professionals.

The Algeria Youth Employment Project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). The Maharat Mentorship Program is sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Algeria.

World Learning is an international nonprofit organization advancing leadership through education, exchange, and sustainable development programs in more than 100 countries. Founded in 1932, the organization includes Global Development and Global Exchange divisions supported by the School for International Training (SIT), an accredited higher education institution providing world-class global education. World Learning has worked in Algeria since 2005. For more information, visit, or contact us at [email protected].

An Innovative Approach to International Education in Algeria

World Learning Algeria Country Representative Leah Bitat presents at Tech Camp.

On any given day, you might hear the buzz of drones or see robots crashing into walls at World Learning’s STEAM Center in Algiers, Algeria.

In April 2016, World Learning opened the center focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) with support from the U.S. Embassy in Algeria, the Anadarko Algeria Company, Dow Chemicals, and Boeing Aeronautics. Here, grade school children from across the capital city come to learn all kinds of STEAM skills such as coding, programming, design thinking, virtual reality, and robotics.

World Learning Algeria Country Representative Leah Bitat

“When I was a teenager it was a big deal if you could do the Rubik’s Cube,” says World Learning Algeria Country Representative Leah Bitat. “Now you’re building a robot that can do the Rubik’s Cube.”

Last year, the Algiers STEAM Center sent Algeria’s first team of competitors to the FIRST Global Challenge, an international robotics competition that’s often likened to the Olympics of robotics. For the competition, the students learned how to build a robot that could collect and sort plastic balls as it moved across a playing field. They then had to work together to operate the robot in real time as they competed with teams from other countries to pick up the most balls.

Competitions like these are among the international exchanges that World Learning is celebrating this week for International Education Week. A joint initiative between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, International Education Week explores the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.

In Algeria, those benefits are clear.

Team Algeria works on their robot at the First Global international robotics challenge.

For members of the robotics team, that international exchange was eye-opening.

“The opportunity to participate in that [competition] just explodes their minds with possibilities, different ways of working,” Bitat says. “They’re competing with other countries, so they learn a lot about different ways of thinking, different ways of working together, different ways of collaborating. And then that really feeds their continuing experience once they get back here.”

Participating in the robotics competition also strengthened the STEAM Center. When they returned to Algeria, the 2017 team members shared their observations and experiences from the competition. For example, they saw the importance of having a collaborative spirit: the teams that could come together under pressure performed well while those that did not collaborate often fell apart. The team also helped advise the 2018 robotics team, which won second place for the competition’s award for teams that documented their experience on social media.

“It was a great thing,” Bitat says. “Not just for robotics, but that whole process of designing something as a team, troubleshooting it, and working things out together in a collaborative way.”

International education and exchange opportunities also benefit Algeria more broadly. Bitat notes that the country can often feel disconnected from the rest of the world, as it’s difficult for Algerians to obtain a visa to get in or out. International exchanges and study abroad opportunities help bridge that disconnect. When Algerian students travel abroad—whether to the U.S., Turkey, or Bulgaria—they come back with knowledge that makes them better prepared for the workforce.

Students work on a STEM project at the Ouargla STEAM Center.

World Learning’s STEAM Center prepares students for those opportunities. By participating in hands-on activities—and discovering how science works in real-world applications—students gain the skills they need to earn scholarships and other opportunities at universities in Algeria and abroad, where they can further develop their STEAM knowledge.

“They start to become the darlings of the international exchange programs here,” Bitat says.

The STEAM program also builds confidence among students who may not have thought they could earn such opportunities.

“It’s really accessible to a lot of people,” she adds. “You don’t have to be this super-accomplished whiz kid, great at school and computing and formulas and all that. The practical approach really unlocks it for kids who didn’t think that they were the robotics type. We deeply believe that science can be unlocked for anybody.”

In fact, it has been so successful that World Learning recently opened a second STEAM center in Ouargla, a city in the southern Sahara. These two STEAM centers serve as hubs for seven “STEAM corners”—smaller STEAM initiatives run by former STEAM center volunteers throughout Algeria. In the future, World Learning hopes to establish even more STEAM centers and corners in that hub-and-spoke model.

“It really works beyond our expectations,” Bitat says.

How Development and Exchange Programs Helped Strengthen Career Centers in Algeria

Inspired by an international exchange program, eight career centers in Algeria are experimenting with new techniques to help young people find work.

Last fall, eight Algerian professionals visited career centers in the United States as part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Focused on career development and job creation for youth, the three-week trip was designed to give participants new insight for their work and share best practices. They came away inspired by the experience.

“The people who work on youth development and job creation [in the U.S.] are so passionate about what they do,” says Khaled Meddeb, a career counselor from El Oued. “That gave us the motivation to value the work that we do more and more.”

Now back in Algeria, all eight have returned to their regular roles in career centers in private vocational training schools supported by the Algeria Youth Employment Project (YEP), which is funded by the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and implemented by World Learning. Since YEP launched in 2015, nearly 6,000 first-time job-seekers have benefited from career services tailored to local job markets — including vocational training, soft skills courses, career counseling, and internship and job placement — via nine local career centers.

During the exchange trip, the Algerian participants visited public and private career centers, community colleges, vocational training institutes, and government-sponsored youth initiatives in Texas, Michigan, Vermont, and Washington, DC. At each site, they had the opportunity to observe the workings of American institutions similar to their own career centers and bring lessons back to Algeria with them.


“What I liked at all the career centers was that they orient and accompany youth from the youngest ages — from elementary school,” says Fatima Guenaou, a YEP career counselor from Oran. “They educate them in life principles, rules of good citizenship, and how to construct their social and professional identity.”

Since returning to Algeria, they have been busy putting to work all that they observed during their U.S. visit. In March, Meddeb’s career center in El Oued organized a career fair that drew on best practices he observed at a career fair in Austin, Texas. Exchange participants from career centers in Biskra, Blida, Oran, and Setif are holding career fairs this month as well.

Amel Henni Mansour, coordinator of the YEP career center in Blida, is one of them. “I was so inspired by the fair in Austin that I want to realize the same thing to give our youth — the chance to know and be in direct contact with employers in their fields and to ask them every question on their professional domain,” she says. Mansour added that she also started to

use bulletin boards for recruitment, training, and event announcements, and also encourage youth to volunteer as a means of gaining professional experience.

For both the State Department and World Learning, the trip presented a unique opportunity for internal collaboration: World Learning’s Global Development unit oversees the YEP career center project, which is funded by the State Department’s MEPI office. Those partners worked with World Learning’s Global Exchange unit — a selected implementer of the IVLP program through the State Department Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs — to organize the tour of U.S. career centers.

Today, thanks to that fruitful collaboration, the YEP-supported career centers are even better positioned to carry their work forward: In the months and years ahead, the IVLP exchange participants will continue build on the insights sparked by their time in the U.S. as they prepare Algeria’s job seekers for professional success.

World Learning Launches the STEAM Program in Algeria

On April 5, 2016, the U.S. Embassy in Algiers, The Boeing Company, DOW Chemical, Anadarko Petroleum and World Learning will gather with select guests to inaugurate the Algiers STEAM Resource and Training Center—the first of its kind in Algeria.

Standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics, STEAM education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with hands-on innovation. Students work on real-world problems in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school, community and the global world of work. Around the world, STEAM programs are multiplying in number and impact as modern industry seeks young people able to contribute to innovation in these fields.

The Algiers STEAM center is an industry-led initiative to strengthen the innovation, critical thinking and communication skills of the Algerian workforce via direct training of youth, targeted training of teachers and community education forums and events. The Boeing Company, DOW Chemical, Anadarko Petroleum and the U.S. Embassy are supporting the STEAM Center, which will be based in the headquarters of World Learning in Algeria.

World Learning is a non-profit international organization working to promote leadership, empower people and strengthening institutions in over 75 countries through education, development and exchange programs. World Learning has been active in Algeria since 2005, implementing projects in partnership with the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

During the inauguration, attendees will have the opportunity to observe numerous student and teacher activities that will illustrate the positive impact the STEAM program will generate for young Algerians over the coming years.