On May 4 this year, the U.S. State Department hosted the Emerging Young Leaders Award ceremony in Washington DC where ten award winners from around the world were recognized for their extraordinary efforts in reducing crime, expanding civic engagement, improving education, and promoting interfaith dialogue within their communities. Among the award winners was AMEL MOHANDI from Algeria.
Emerging Young Leaders award-winners are nominated and selected annually by the staff at U.S. Embassies around the world. While the 2017 award winners were a diverse group from different countries engaged in a variety of different projects, there was a common thread that connects them all: they recognized problems in their communities, identified solutions, and put those solutions into practice. Speaking at the awards ceremony in Washington DC, Mark Taplin, Acting US Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs said, “The Emerging Young Leaders Award winners didn’t passively wait for someone else to recognize the problem and fix it for them. They decided to take it upon themselves to own the challenge and help set into motion positive change.” He went on to say that any complaints about self-absorption among millennials didn’t apply to the ten award winners who are all aged between 16 and 24. “Our honorees are climbing mountains that other 20-somethings would typically not do” he said. “They’re ascending to new heights through courage and conviction that few would aspire to reach, and especially at their age.”
Among the award winners was Amel Mohandi who was born in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria, a Berber city known for its strong political and social engagement. At age 18, Amel founded a volunteer group to help children suffering from cancer. Her devotion toward protecting and promoting children’s rights led her to join the Algerian Network for the Defense of Children’s Rights. Her volleyball coach diploma helped her develop her mentoring and leadership skills with the younger generation. In 2014, she created ‘Vision TV’, an online program that encourages young people to engage in social, political, cultural and economic activities. Earlier this year, she launched a project called “Young People in Communication”, a communication platform to enable Algerian non-government organizations to promote their projects and activities on the web. Interviewed by Voice of America, Amel said she was honored to represent Algeria. “My inspiration for doing my project is to make a positive change in my community and encourage young people to communicate,” she said. “So, in the future, I hope that my web TV becomes a platform for different organizations so that we can talk about sensitive humanitarian issues such as refugees, children, women, and young people because I believe that young people are the future of Algeria.” Amel is currently pursuing her masters in communication and audiovisual studies at the University of Algiers, and working as a journalist reporter and moderator for Numidia TV, an Arabic language satellite television channel broadcasting from Algiers.
Along with the other award winners, Amel visited the United States for an intensive three-week program. Beside the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. and participation in Global Youth Service Day, an annual event which gathers young people from around the world, the group had meetings with U.S. government officials and non-governmental organizations and travelled to Roanoke-Blacksburg, Austin, and Chicago to participate in professional meetings and engage with their American counterparts. The young leaders reconvened in Washington, D.C. to share project plans and examine ways they could collaborate and build on their experiences. The exchange program will continue in their home communities with mentoring and support through a virtual exchange. Upon their return home, the awardees will be eligible to apply for individual grants to support their work.
The other Emerging Young Leaders award-winners were Naomi Bugre from Malta, Chamathya Fernando from Sri Lanka, Gharsanay Ibnul Ameen from Afghanistan, Raj Kumar from Pakistan, Quyên Lu’u from Vietnam, Jahongir Olimov from Tajikistan, Noé Petitjean from Belgium, Moisés Salazar Vila from Peru and Hanna Tams from Jerusalem.
For more information about the Emerging Young Leaders Award and Exchange program, visit www.eca.state.gov