Saying YES and getting WILD 0

August is often the busiest month at MIUSA, and this August promises to be busier than ever, as our exchange team will be hosting 27 FLEX/YES high school exchange students and 27 WILD women from 27 countries.

The 6th International Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD) will bring together women with disabilities from Burundi to Bangladesh, Congo to Costa Rica, Ghana to Guatemala. Their disabilities are as varied as their international backgrounds, and all are emerging leaders who have often overcome long odds in homelands where access is difficult and negative perceptions about disabilities are common. WILD is an opportunity for them to connect, network, share their stories and to participate in three weeks of workshops on issues ranging from access and disability rights to inclusive international development and higher education. It’s also an opportunity for MIUSA and the host families working with this program to learn about the work WILD women are doing in their home countries as well as about their cultures and unique disability perspectives.

Meanwhile, MIUSA will also be hosting a five-day workshop for international high school students with disabilities from the FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange) and YES (Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study) programs. The FLEX program includes students from countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union while the YES program involves students from countries with significant Muslim populations. Throw in a student from A-SMYLE (American Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange), and this workshop also promises to bring together students from a wide range of backgrounds and disabilities as they prepare for a year of high school in the United States. It’s a critical time for these students as they deal not just with new schools, host families, cultural ways and a different language, but also with access issues and new ways of approaching disability.

WILD women are leaders in their communities today while FLEX and YES students will lead the way in their communities tomorrow. Our exchange team has been working long hours to plan these workshops, arrange visas and accessibility issues, and organize a million and one other things to make these programs a success, not just now but in the future, as our WILD women and FLEX/YES students continue to work for positive change in their communities.

WILD is supported in part by USAID and the USAID-funded Leadership, Management and Government project, and the Open Society Foundations.

The FLEX/YES program and workshops are funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

Photo credit: This photo is from the 2010 WILD program.