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Tanzanian KL-YES Students Volunteer at Local Museum Before Coming to U.S.

September 19, 2011

In February of this year, IRIS selected 19 Tanzanian youth to participate in this year’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program. The YES program was established in October, 2002 and is funded by the U.S. Department of State and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA). They provide scholarships for high school students (15-17 years) from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend one academic year in the United State. Students live with host families, attend high school, engage in activities to learn about American society and values, acquire leadership skills and learn about community service and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures.

In late July, those students took part in pre-departure orientation activities to help prepare them for their year in America. In addition to learning how to adjust to another culture, the students learned about community service and the importance of volunteerism.  While in the U.S., each student will be required to take part in community service activities and when they return home after one year, they work as YES alumni to coordinate and participate in community service projects in their home communities.

To emphasize the point of community service, the students recently volunteered to clear trails and clean up around the Makumbusho Village Museum in Dar es Salaam. Makumbusho Village features traditional homes found in different parts of Tanzania, representing 18 ethnic tribes. Visitors can walk through the homes and watch examples of traditional painting, weaving and carving by artists and craftsmen. The dwellings include furnished huts, cattle pens, and meeting places. The Makumbusho Village Museum holds Ngoma, traditional dances each Thursday and Sunday as well as other cultural activities. The performances include recruits from all over Tanzania.

The students worked throughout the morning and then were treated to a tour of all the traditional homes on display.  Many students said it was the first time they had seen such homes or learned about some of the tribes, which were located in their parts of the country from where they grew up.  They were surprised to learn so much about the various cultures within their own country and are looking forward to sharing that information and more with their American peers as they serve as youth ambassadors during the 2011-2012 YES program year.

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