Post-Fellowship Highlights: Applying the PFP Experience

This update was shared by Exan (Salic Sharief Jr.), Spring 2018 YSEALI PFP Fellow from the Philippines

Right after the fellowship, I went back to Mindanao and applied my learning. I partnered with the Philip Morris Foundation Inc. to provide back to school programs to marginalized communities in the region. I also went back to assist in the Marawi Rehabilitation and Recovery effort through work with the Department of Trade and Industry. We provided consultations on the livelihood skills needed and attempted to establish and revive trade centers within communities of internally displaced persons, transitional shelters and tent cities.

Awarding of “Peace Builder of the Year” during the 2018 SDG Champion Awards

In addition, I met with Equal Access International, a nonprofit organization based in Washington DC. We initially conducted formative research on the situation of violent extremism in southern Mindanao and I eventually landed a position as the Senior Program Manager for the start-up country office in Cagayan de Oro. After a few months, I was promoted and I am currently the Country Director of said representative office.

Equal Access International – Philippines team with the US Embassy in Manila Representatives

YSEALI PFP has indeed brought many positive changes because the skills learned during the fellowship were very useful as I finished my political course in the Academy of Political Management within the same year of the PFP. This also brought me more invitations for speaking engagements in inspiring the youth of Mindanao. I also received the award “Peacebuilder of the Year” during the 2018 Young SDG Champion Awards.

YSEALI UrFarm Coffee Project during outreach activity in Mindanao


Breaking Stereotypes and Discovering Little Rock

written by Liliia Kurii, Spring 2019 Fellow from Ukraine

Four weeks in Arkansas was a mosaic of vivid places, events and important meetings. Toni Carr and Global Ties Arkansas made this experience really unforgettable doing their best to show us every corner of this amazing state with abundant nature and wildlife. I was especially lucky to have her as a host mother, as her house is always open for people from all over the world.

Arkansas Capital Corporation – a place of my fellowship amazed me by it’s supportive corporate culture and by multiple opportunities they offer for businesses. People here are recognized and contribution of everyone is appreciated. Nobody concentrates on mistakes but are supportive enough to concentrate on people’s successes. It is believed that a small word of encouragement can make a world better.

CEOs want to know all the ideas which their staff have. They accept all the ideas. No opinion is denied. During my fellowship some of the most common stereotypes I used to know about Americans were broken:

Many American families are traditional. Number of family members are engaged with church activities. Church communities are really strong in the US, they organize festivals, raise money for charities, help homeless, do a lot of volunteering work. Americans really care about their grandchildren, they spend time with them, try not to miss their baseball games and graduation parties. They celebrate holidays and spend vacations together. Some even pay for their grandchildren school and college education.

American Art and museums by no aspects concede to European ones. The art in museums and orchestra performances I was lucky to view is the high-level art.

People who want to try themselves in business have their right for failure. They learn from failures. Common value is: ”Nobody is perfect. You can try, then try again, then fail, and then succeed.”

UA Liliia Kurii

During my Professional Fellows Program, I learned much about leaders who are not heroes but hosts. In Arkansas I had a chance to meet three humble and inclusive leaders who became the best examples of contemporary leadership for me. The first is Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson whom I was lucky to accompany to the Rural Development Conference in Hot Springs. It was an amazing  experience watching how a head of the state was preparing his speech to make it really impactful. He put every small farmer in it and voiced their every urgent need. He was very close to people and it was in his art to make every community member so important. Governor’s staff told me that they enjoy so much working with him, that they put themselves wholly into their everyday job.

The second leader I was honored to shadow is CEO of Arkansas Capital Corporation – Rush Deacon. He is a strong visionary convincing his staff that their success is not about how competitive they are – it’s about how relevant they are meeting community needs. Rush Deacon is a high level professional, a unique personality who sees people, understands their needs, knows how to put them into teams for achieving the best results. He appreciates his colleagues opinion and takes it into account when making decisions. Rush is one of the leaders who cherish difference, embrace disruption, and foster a speak-up culture.

Toni Carr is another passionate leader who puts all her wisdom and patience into making Arkansas open and hospitable place for every traveler who passes by. She creates a place which is really inclusive for people of different backgrounds and nationalities. By maintaining the atmosphere of communication and support it is in her power to make this experience really unforgettable for us – the Arkansas Travelers.

UA Liliia and Mi Kyu with Toni and Jim Carr

No doubt, this time made a significant shift in my personality towards open-mindedness, new vision, and leadership.

Feeding the World

written by Duane Voy, St Paul Regional Office Director, USDA Risk Management Agency

Visiting different places is a great way to expand thinking beyond the silos we normally work in.  It can spur new ideas but also show how much people have in common, such as a need for food and food security.    USDA provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management.  USDA also has a vision to provide economic opportunity through innovation, helping rural America to thrive; to promote agriculture production that better nourishes Americans while also helping feed others throughout the world; and to preserve our Nation’s natural resources through conservation, restored forests, improved watersheds, and healthy private working lands.


May 11-25, 2019, St Paul Regional Office Director Duane Voy, had the opportunity through the U.S. State Department Professional Fellows Program (PFP) to travel to Azerbaijan to listen, learn, and interact with farmers, processors, educators, government officials, insurance companies, and banks to discuss agriculture development.

Azerbaijan’s agricultural producers do not have adequate capital to invest in newer technologies to make their farming operations more efficient and productive. Bankers and lending institutions are cautious about lending large sums of money to agricultural producers because of the frequency and severity of losses due to uncontrollable events such as weather.

60096521_10156404012253087_4132880014842527744_n.jpgOne initiative is to bring technology to farmers through a display Expo called Caspian Agro.   U.S. Ambassador Lee Litzenberger is pictured with Director Voy at the U.S. Pavilion of Caspian Agro, where seven U.S. agricultural companies were displaying their products and technology.  Director Voy also attended the USAID and US Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce MOU signing ceremony at the home of William Gill, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy.  Mr. Voy also met with the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Inam Karimov who visited Illinois in April and is planning to visit Oklahoma in September.

Director Voy spoke at the elite Academy of Public Administration and met with the Assistant to the President for Agrarian Policy Issues, Dr. Azer Amiraslanov and Mirza Aliyev, Chairman of the Agency for Agro Credit and Development (AKIA) about agricultural issues, agro credit, crop insurance, agricultural data, and agrarian initiatives of the President.

Near the town of Ismaylli, is a Russian community and farm called Ivanovka.  The farm grows grapes, produces wine, grows wheat, forage, and other crops organically.  Ivanovka has its own brand label which is recognized as organic and good quality. The farm would like to invest in milking machines but has not been able to access the agricultural credit for many needed upgrades.  Banks see agricultural investment as very risky and charge interest rates of 16% or more.  Azerbaijan was very interested in the USDA low interest loan programs that help agricultural producers obtain access to affordable low interest loans.


After traveling back to Baku, Director Voy met with the major insurance companies (ASA) and lenders interested in the crop insurance program being established in Azerbaijan, followed by a television interview (ARB) on the purpose of the visit.

The U.S. Embassy, Azerbaijan government, and the Universities all invited Director Voy to return and not wait 5 years to do so. Azerbaijan is a developing country with wonderful people, history, and culture.

DC Small Business Week

written by Olena Yatskivska, Spring 2019 PFP Fellow from Ukraine

For more than 50 years, the President of the United States issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of entrepreneurs and small business owners to the strength of the American economy.

For District of Columbia it is one of the most important event. In Washington DC, small business represent 92.3 percent of all employers and employ 46.9 percent of the private-sector labor force. Small business – big impact.

During first weeks of my fellowship with DC Chamber of Commerce I had an apt opportunity to explore Small Business Week from inside. DC Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit organization that addresses the needs of all businesses in the District of Columbia. DC Chamber provides invaluable tools to help businesses develop, and it leverages relationships with key contacts in the DC Council and the Federal government to improve the business climate and attract new businesses to the District. The DC Chamber organizes numerous major events that provide a rare opportunity for companies to engage with business leaders, key policymakers to develop own business and to harmonize relationships.

UA Olena Yatskivska

The first event I attended was 4th Annual PowerUp DC, A National Small Business Week Forum at Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade center, May 7, 2019. Together with my supervisor we hosted our expo table.  I took part in the workshop “Moving in the right direction: how to start your business” and after we had a lunch with business panels and the speed business coaching. All workshops usually hold Q&A session for business representatives organized by moderator. As a result you receive a firsthand information, create a trust to business and connect with consumers. I was impressed by professionalism and the ways how they build networks. In the evening DC Chamber organized National Small Business Week Kick-Off Reception at Tony&Joes Seafood place. It’s like a corporative event or exclusive business networking to engage new business members and build relationships in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

On Thursday, May 9, 2019, I presented a presentation about Ukraine and my native town Radomyshl to all staff of DC Chamber. The main purpose of my presentation was to tell more about advantages and positive changes in the Ukraine, to show that we are thankful for ongoing American support (according to official information of Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine the major donor in 2018 for Ukraine was the USA – more than 2 billion dollars (124 projects)) and we are open to communication and cooperation (ongoing decentralization reform makes Ukraine more democratic, transparent, and development).

What is more I’m proud of is that I helped to prepare for a big event – 2019 DC Chamber Small Business and Economic Development Summit (May 10, 2019). To be exact I was responsible for organizing workshop Access to Capital (email and phone communication with 10 banks). In total we organized 6 different interesting workshops. After plenary session and breakout workshops was held awards luncheon. Each year the DC Chamber of Commerce honors the success of small businesses who have contributed to the business and economic growth of community. This year the award categories were: Small Business of the Year, Small Business Person of the Year, Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Non-Profit Organization of the Year, Small Business Champion of the Year and Women in Business Champion of the Year. During lunch the President and Chief Executive Officer of the DC Chamber Vincent Orange introduced me to the audience, thanked for my work with helping to organize this event. This was unexpected. It was the most memorable moment. It is very important when your work is appreciated.

UA Olena Yatskivska DC Chamber.jpg

I’m very pleased to work with the DC Chamber of Commerce. They are doing a really good job. They are innovative, open minded, creative and very active. They gave me examples of how to cooperate and how to build networks of professionals.

I think the President and CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce have organized the best in the culture of business and this gives an opportunity to me to disseminate knowledge on economic development, innovation, and small business. I will learn and will follow the style of the DC Chamber of Commerce.

The Inclusive Community

written by Anastasia Para, Spring 2019 Fellow from Moldova

The most exciting and wonderful aspect of my experience in the PFP was to “feel on my skin” the true inclusive community spirit. Diversity is the key word for American society, and this makes it possible for anyone to become an active and full member. I had the opportunity to visit specialized institutions, centers, and programs for people with disabilities. All those services and settings have the same final goal – to create as many opportunities as possible for the people with disabilities (and particularly people with autism) to be part of society and to live a full life.

I learned a lot of useful and applicative technics during the program. With a particular emphasis on building a less restrictive environment for people with disabilities and increasing their independence, namely:

  • the job shadowing programs in St. Coletta of Greater Washington for people with autism, and the cooperation with potential employers;
  • the inclusive education program developed by Virginia Institute of Autism in public schools;
  • the Caregiver Skills Training developed by Autism Speaks and the World Health Organization and implemented in 30 countries around the world with middle and low income.

I will be able to apply all this and many other knowledge in Moldova as a parent of an autistic child and head of a local NGO. This experience also influenced my personal attitude and understanding of the topic of autism. I learned about the support groups for parents of children diagnosed with autism and their role for the autistic community. This led me to the idea of creating a similar practice in Moldova and creating a link between parents with similar problems and fears to help them improve the quality of life of their children and their families.

In conclusion, the PFP experience represents for me not only a professional program, but also a chain of invaluable human resources, of which I am a part now and of which I am very proud.

MD Anastasia Para St. Coletta