I have sat down to write a "year end" note about 5 times. When does the year end? For a long time it ended in August when our last group left for home. Then we were awarded the Young Southeast Asian Leaders grant and our year "end" moved to mid-October. This year we were also honored to have our initial participants from the Balochistan University Partnership until December 14
Upon their departure it seemed to make sense to write a quick yearly summary at the actual end of the year and, of course, I am even late with that. I comfort myself by saying time is artificial.
This was a year that began with most of us believing, myself included, that Donald Trump couldn't win the primaries. We then did not believe he would win the general and he did. Even with Secretary Clinton winning 2.5 million more votes than Mr. Trump and significant evidence of international tampering, the inauguration later this week will signal the beginning of the Trump era as well as an era, or a burst, of nationalism around much of the world.
It is hard to tell what the election will mean to exchange programs and foreign aid. On the one hand, the incoming administration has indicated a desire to withdraw from the world but, on the other hand, even the current Republican Congress has been supportive of our efforts. It will be a while before political appointments reach down to the level of budgetary authority over exchange programs and there may even be a fight over the nominee for Secretary of State, further delaying any action. In the end it may all be a case study in checks and balances and bureaucracy.
2016 was our busiest year to date. Here are some numbers!
We managed seven programs: (SUSI is Study of the United States Institute)
- Pakistan Teachers 5 weeks 20 participants 4 staff
- Argentine Post Grads 3.5 weeks 22 participants 3 staff
- SUSI for scholars on American Politics 18 participants 6 weeks 3 staff
- SUSI for student leaders from Pakistan 30 participants 6 weeks 7 staff
- Iraqi Young Leaders program 25 students for five weeks 5 staff
- Young Southeast Asian Leaders program 21 students for 5 weeks 3 staff
- Balochistan University Partnership program 6 professors for 12 weeks 3 staff
We participated in programs abroad in Argentina, Armenia, and Pakistan
We worked with three office staff, four academic directors, and 21 student staff members.
That staff arranged 651 separate classes and events for our 142 participants. Those events included:
- Three community service projects
- 30 overnight home stays
- 47 family dinners
- 7 opening and closing ceremonies
- Visits to 16 cities
- Stays in 11 different hotels
- Way too many goodbyes
As of this writing we are planning our summer for our Pakistani Student program; our Iraqi student program; our Argentine Leaders program; our fall YSEALI program and two Balochistan programs. We have a reapplication in for our SUSI scholars program - an effort we have been involved in since 2005 - and we have three other grant projects in the works.
In addition to programs here, we are also planning two trips to Pakistan, on January 8
and the other in late April and we are working on a SUSI scholar's reunion for early May.
In addition to our normal grant writing and program management we are going to focus more effort in 2017 on Alumni relations and program evaluation. We have conducted our first large survey and plan on following it up with smaller, more focused efforts. With almost 2000 alumni now it has become a powerful networking tool as well as a large data set for the study of exchange programs in general.
I do believe, as all of us at Civic do, that people leave here - or we leave their country - with both a deeper understanding of each other and a feeling for the complexity of the world. We are the antithesis of the anti-Immigrant and Refugee rhetoric around the world. None of us believes we are going to fix any of the problems. I often quote from the Plague by Albert Camus. Here is one translation:
"All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences."
I think that is all we can really do. But later in the book, there is another quote, which I have not used:
"And indeed it could be said that once the faintest stirring of hope became possible, the dominion of plague was ended."
Over the next few years these lines will have more and more meaning and I think many of us will be called upon to try and offer hope, even just a little, in the face of despair. The friendships we have made and the people we have met have given us hope and optimism for the future. When given the chance people will show their best side. We wish you all a happy and productive 2017.
Executive Director, Civic Initiative