Reflections on an Outbound Project in Laos

written by Katie Neginskiy, Manager of Vocational and English Language Training at Heartland Alliance

I have just returned from my very valuable time in Savannakhet, Laos with Bounmy at Laos3her organization, New World Training Institute. We had three main points of focus. First, I spent time teaching the English classes and demonstrating techniques for the teachers. This was useful for both students and teachers because the teachers at the school are not native English speakers and they learned English from non-native speakers, so pronunciation is a challenge. We also created a program plan for her English classes and incorporated a “pen pal” program where her students will be exchanging projects regarding Lao life and culture with my students who will return projects to Bounmy’s students regarding US life and culture.

Second, I wanted to learn about the structure of vocational programming at different organizations in Laos, all of which focus on women, because I am currently trying to build similar programming at my organization in Chicago, for refugee women. Third, we spent time writing a grant application that she will submit in February, building a budget, and outlining reporting mechanisms to help Bounmy secure American funding. The entire project was useful for both me and Bounmy, but I think she most needed my help with honing her grant writing and budget making skills. Her programming is already impressive, but she needs more money to expand her offerings, and therefore needs additional funding. Her programming is a great pitch for funders, but she needed help designing outcomes, metrics, and reporting mechanisms for American grants. I so appreciate the gift of this time in Laos, to have been able to lend my experience to a valuable project in Savannakhet and also learn so much that I could bring back and use at my own organization, Refugee and Immigrant Community Services. It truly was an invaluable time.


A month’s experience worth remembering for a lifetime

written by Hsu Wai Htun, Fall 2019 Fellow from Myanmar

The first time I heard about YSEALI was several years ago through social media. Then I kept getting familiar with the program as I’ve come across my Facebook newsfeed which was to an extent, filled with the posts of my friends who joined the different YSEALI programs. Even without knowing the details of the program, I thought it is pretty cool to work and learn in the US for a few weeks. Then I started exploring the program, I made up my mind if there comes the right time, I will go for the program.

Now, chances have been taken. With the help and support of families, friends and colleagues, I am here in the US, even already at the end of the YSEALI PFP. This almost 6-weeks program was not a life-changing experience, but it was a life experience that will be remembered for a lifetime.

YSEALI PFP opened a lot of doors for me for my personal and professional development. It was not an easy thing to immerse in a whole new culture for weeks, but it has allowed us to progress to a next level of adaptability and flexibility.

My placement is at US-ASEAN Business Council, which does things very similar to what I have been doing back home and it also runs programs which are aligned with my personal interest. So, the 4-weeks-time at the Council was an opportunity for me to learn and contribute.

Living with a host family was also a whole new experience for me. I am and will ever be grateful to the host family for being very kind, nice and hospitable during our stay. I’ve never thought complete strangers can be this good to complete strangers. It was an eye-opener for me. The random conversations that I had with my host parents from little things about food to politics will stay forever in my memory.

Coming from a country with winter temperature of 25 degree Celsius or even higher, I have to say the weather was brutal and was even regretting to have joined the fall program. But thanks to a friend and host mom who lent winter clothes to keep me warm. J So, here is a word of advice to future fellows – bring enough warm clothes. It can be freezing here. J

Halloween was a lot more fun than I imagined. I never thought I would be curving pumpkins, but I nailed it. Volunteering at the neighborhood Halloween parade and party made my Halloween experience even more complete and fascinating. I truly felt I was experiencing the American culture.

What is the most pleasing to me is that I made it to 5 States within a short time. I worked in DC, lived in Virginia and visited around Maryland, Connecticut and the New York. I think I made the most out of it.

I’ve experienced a lot of the-very-first-in-life things in this trip – the very first time to the US, first experience under minus temperature, first time working as a professional fellow, first host family experience and a lot of other very fascinating first experiences.

What I like most about the program is that the program does not end as we fly back to our countries. There are always chances for us to work together with American counterparts with the support of the program. Being able to be part of the YSEALI alumni is already a fruitful opportunity, I would say.

Thanks to everyone who made it. I believe all the fellows including me, are and will forever be thankful for the efforts you have put in to contribute to the development of ASEAN through this incredible program. Thank you for making us feel we matter.

Learning and Working at Hawai’i Small Business Development Center

written by Triyanti Mandasari, Fall 2019 Fellow from Indonesia

I am currently participating as a fellow for the YSEALI Professional Fellows Program. This program provides young leaders from Southeast Asia countries the opportunity to spend 6 weeks in the United States, including working directly with American organizations. Fellows will be able to improve their leadership skills, professional networks and practical expertise while working in an international environment. This program also gives the opportunity to those young leaders to gain more understanding about American cultures by living with a host family.

I am being placed at Hawaii Small Business Development Center (SBDC). SBDC is a source to small business owners, providing advice, research, training to new entrepreneurs and even they help those entrepreneurs make financial statement. It’s related to what I do back in my country where I am as a Relationship Manager at a state-owned bank. My job includes distributing capital loans to small business owners, assist them to improve their businesses and help them make financial statement, because there are only a few of them being able to make financial statement and I also educate them to make their financial statement themselves in order to create accurate data.

UH Innovation Center

The last two days of working at SBDC, I attended an event aimed at small business owners to be able to do business with federal organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of The Navy. This event was held in order to give tips to small business owners about doing a partnership with those organizations where small business owners will be able to sell their products to them because it’s more difficult for small business owners to do business with federal organizations than corporations are. That’s why this event was a useful resource for them.

One of the federal organizations that gave a presentation was FEMA. FEMA is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, initially created by Triyanti StoryPresidential Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 and implemented by two Executive Orders on April 1, 1979. The agency’s primary purpose is to coordinate the response to a disaster that has occurred in the United States and that overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities. FEMA presented about tips and steps doing a partnership with FEMA, top commodities procured to support disaster that might be supplied by those small business owners.  Using The Industry Liaison Program (ILP), where it created a process that ensures information about a company’s products or services is routed to the appropriate FEMA contracting and acquisition professionals for possible supplemental market research.

I am so glad that I attended this kind of event because I really want to know how American organizations or institutions support local small business owners to expand their businesses.

Fellowship at UDC, Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education, Washington D.C.

written by Muhammad Nurfaiz Abd Kharim, Fall 2019 Fellow from Malaysia

I’ve been working at an agriculture technology company back in my country and wanted my professional fellowship to be in the field of agro-technology transfer, gardenentrepreneurship, research, and community empowerment. Therefore; my placement is at the University of The District of Columbia (UDC), College of Agricultural, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences under Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education. This is a community empowerment center through knowledge and gardening technique transfer program used to address “food deserts” in the surrounding metropolitan area. Food deserts or food swamps are called that to represent areas that have no full-service grocery store within a one-mile radius. The result of this is a lack of access to high quality, affordable, fresh food results in insufficiency for a significant number of the metropolitan households. Among the damaging effects on children are impaired cognitive development, lower education attainments, slower physical and mental growth, lack of school readiness and reduced in social development.

73322273_10215143954047964_3556873335071571968_nTherefore, UDC has built a prominent and successful urban agriculture and urban sustainability program that is the Urban Food Hubs model. This program exemplifies the commitment of the university to tackle the issue of food insufficiency within neighborhoods of Washington D.C. by highlighting four components; food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and water recovery. This allows them to provide access to fresh food, create more jobs, improve public health, mitigate water management problems thus creating urban resiliency.

The host placement at the UDC is a really good match and the best platform for me to learn and gain experiences as I expected. Even though it’s only been a week at the host placement, I had a chance to participating in a seminar, perform hands on field work at the farm and meet several people within my field. Therefore; seeing them here and making observations gave me the inspiration to start similar programs or practices once I return home.

In fact, since joining this program I’ve had the chance to meet fellows from the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative and Eurasia Professional Fellows Program which allowed me to exchange several ideas and knowledge for later outbound project that can give impactful to our community back in our countries. This opportunity will be among the most memorable experiences of my fellowship.

ASEAN handshake
“Fall 2019 YSEALI Fellows doing the ASEAN handshake representing mutual understanding, respect, and peace”

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


A Brief Report on New Business Hub: from San Diego to Malaysia

written by Akmal Sabaruddin, Spring ’18 YSEALI PFP Fellow from Malaysia

In spring 2018, I was selected to the YSEALI Economic Empowerment program and I spent my time in San Diego at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and Hera Labs, Sorrento Valley for an attachment under the supervision of Dr. Silvia Mah. With similar academic backgrounds, we were focusing on organizing entrepreneurial program for academics especially for undergraduate students. Other than focusing on the academic training, I was inspired to see the business hub at UCSD which also known as “The Basement”. This hub was designed to provide a space for entrepreneurial activities such as forums, lectures, meeting spaces for investors and for student’s startups to discuss and develop their product before it’s ready for the market. Apart from that, I also spent my time at Hera Labs, Sorrento Valley during my attachment in San Diego. Hera Labs is a business accelerator which empowers women entrepreneurs and startups to scale their businesses. My time with Hera Labs was really an eye opener for me to move forward in helping student’s startups by providing them with good facilities in a safe business environment.

In November 2018, my U.S. outbound project was selected for funding from the U.S. State Department. This was the only opportunity for me to convince the university management team to develop a business hub for student startups. I finally managed to get a space for the business hub from the faculty management team and it will be called as “FSK (Faculty of Health Sciences) Business Hub”. After trying many times and ways in finding grants, finally I got an approval from the university for strategic research funding. This is the golden opportunity for me to take a lead in the development of the faculty business hub. At the moment, the business hub is still undergoing some upgrading process and it is expected to complete by November 2019. I am glad for the opportunity given in the YSEALI PFP program where I can make a change for a better cause and contribute back to the university and the society.

Outbound Project in Indonesia: Jerod Lockhart and Nicky Pratiwi

written by Jerod Lockhart, Training Officer, Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

This was my first  time traveling overseas, I can genuinely state that it was a trip that will be embedded in my memory for a lifetime! My YSEALI PFP Outbound Project was hosted by fellow Nicky Pratiwi, the general manager of Thisable Enterprise, a local NGO that specializes in improving the economic empowerment for people with disabilities in Indonesia in urban and rural areas. Thisable Enterprise mission mirrors many of initiatives my office undertakes in the domain of transitioned-aged employment.

Bina NusantaraDuring a workshop at PSBN Tan Miyat Bekasi – School for the Blind, I was able to share the podium with individuals from the blind and disabled community who shared stories of overcoming adversity and strategies to help encourage young students and their parents to achieve their dreams. For example, I had the pleasure of meeting both a law and an architectural student who both vowed to use their education to advance the civil rights of people with disabilities. Furthermore, I also participated in a Q & A session with an advocate, and the parents of the students who attended the school. One of the most interesting questions I received from one of the students was how to get the government to endorse and provide more funding towards improving architectural accessibility, similar to the way we have it in the United States. I assured them that we still a long way to go to achieving full participation and citizenship for PWD; however, to keep pressuring government officials to make accessibility a priority for all.

I had the opportunity to visit Bina Nusantara (Bina University) where I was able to present to faculty and staff tasked with providing accessibility services for disabled students. Many disabled students are given scholarships to attend college; therefore the need to increase equal access was heightened. I gave a similar talk to stakeholders at Daya Dimensi Indonesia, one of the top leadership consulting firms in Indonesia, who were looking to connect employers with qualified candidates with disabilities.

My YSEALI PFP Outbound Project also included time to visit some of the beautiful sites inMasjid Istiqlal Jakarta; including President Barack Obama’s childhood school, U.S. Embassy, Indonesia’s independence monument, The Grand Indonesian Mall, and finally Masjid Istiqlal – the national mosque of the Republic of Indonesia. Nicky’s team (including Pratiwi) made me feel welcomed at every stop on our itinerary. Nicky was extremely hospitable; for example, she offered assistance when I needed an interpreter, transportation to cultural sites and food choices while dining at Padang Merdeka. Additionally, the visit to the U.S. Embassy was very enlightening. The new facility highlighted several Indonesia artists, as well as a history lesson of the U.S. Navy liberation of Indonesia from the Japanese during WWII. The people of Indonesia are some of the friendliest and respectful people I’ve come encountered. I hope I was able to provide as much knowledge regarding disability advocacy as I learned from Nicky and her colleagues, “Terima Kasih,  – Thank You.”

I want to thank the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, U.S. Department of State, American Councils for International Education, YSEALI PFP Outbound Project, Thisable Enterprise, Jaimie Holmes and Mauli Whitney from the American Councils for International Education for making this project successful. I also would like to thank, Emily, Renny, Gatut, and Putra from the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section for the tour of the Embassy.

Outbound Project in Singapore: Greg Cooper and Mark Cheng

written by Greg Cooper, Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP

I spent a once in a lifetime week on the Outbound segment of the Professional Fellows Program in Singapore.  I was hosted by fellow Mark Cheng, who partnered with the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Council, a semi-governmental organization in Singapore that focuses on professional development of Singaporean youth, on the Outbound project.

Mark and I, in coordination with NYAA, designed and implemented 3 days of workshops, the “YSAELI Youth Social Enterprise Conference,” at Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education in March 2019.  Approximately 100 Singaporean students from all areas of Singaporean society attended the workshops.  We designed a structured social enterprise workshop to help aspiring or current young social entrepreneurs improve their professional development skills and create a network for attendees to learn from and support each other.ysaeli_greg-cooper-and-mark-cheng_0281.jpg

The program featured a variety of professionals who shared their stories of how they became successful to inspire the students to work hard to achieve their goals.  Local successful social entrepreneurs shared their expertise and stories on the positive impact of their social enterprises.  The speakers included a member of parliament, established social entrepreneurs, and professionals from Deloitte Consulting USA and Deloitte Consulting Singapore.  The workshops culminated in a competition where all of the attendees presented their ideas for potential funding by NYAA.  I participated as a judge along with other Deloitte USA professionals.

I had the unique opportunity to get to know students from different facets of Singaporean society and learn about their thoughts on Singapore’s educational system and how to address Singapore’s environmental issues.  They shared stories about their background and the ideas they had to improve Singapore.  Common themes were helping students with learning disabilities and providing more educational support to students from all socio-economic backgrounds.  We talked a lot on how they can be proactive about creating their social enterprise organization, including expanding their network, developing their ideas, creating a business plan, and marketing and pitching their ideas to potential investors.  The students pitched their ideas at the end of the workshops, using the information they gained during the workshops. I was impressed with the thought and range of ideas they in the areas of fashion, education, health, and the environment, and was pleased that the students sought my advice on their presentations.  Some of the students requested to be connected on LinkedIn after the workshops ended.  I truly felt like I had made long last connections.


Singapore wasn’t all work.  I also explored the famous hawker centers and tried new food and drinks such as sugar cane, chili crab, chicken rice, sting ray, fried carrot cake, and dim sum. I ate at a 1-star Michelin restaurant after waiting in a long line, and the wait was worth it.  I am a big coffee drinker and happily discovered Singapore’s delicious Kopi coffee culture.  I also visited many of Singapore’s famous sites.  I learned about Singapore’s history at the National Museum of Singapore, visited the luminous steel trees at Gardens by the Bay at night, and explored Little India and Chinatown.

The support given by NYAA and ITE was integral to the success of the workshops.  ITE, where most of the attendees study, provided an inviting conference space.  Through NYAA, I met Singaporean social entrepreneurs and government representatives who gave inspiring speeches to the attendees on how they came from humble backgrounds and through hard work and perseverance were able to make an impact on Singaporean society.  Mark Cheng and NYAA have formed a long-term partnership that will result in additional workshops to continue training and supporting Singapore’s future social entrepreneurs.  I would be honored to participate in future workshops if the opportunity arises.

I would like to thank the U.S. Department of State, American Councils for International Education, Deloitte Consulting USA, Deloitte Singapore, NYAA, the Institute of Technical Education, and Jaimie Holmes and Mauli Whitney from the American Councils for International Education for making this project successful.

YSEALI_Dept of State_Deloitte

Outbound Project Reflection: Rosemary Max and Thi Kim Chi Vu in Hanoi

written by Rosemary Max, Executive Director of Global Engagement, Oakland University 

I had the opportunity to go to Vietnam for two weeks on the Outbound segment of the Professional Fellows Program. I was in Hanoi and hosted by my colleague Kim Chi Vu Thi, a lecturer at Banking Academy. During this time I was able to offer three workshops to students on the US higher education system, on the school to work transition and entrepreneurship, and on professional writing.  I was also able to meet and discuss potential partnerships with faculty from Banking Academy and 6 other universities in Hanoi. The visit culminated in a business case competition in which I participated as a judge.  The visit was an amazing opportunity because it gave me a window into the university system, students and life in Vietnam.  Students in Vietnam, much like students in the US, are focused on and preoccupied by getting a foothold in the working world after graduation. We talked a lot about how to be proactive during one’s university career, ie to develop competencies, networks, and experiences in addition to their coursework.  I am sure that my university will develop partnerships with a few Vietnamese universities because of this opportunity.

VT Rosemary leading workshop

I also took the time to visit cultural sites and to learn more about my host country. I visited several museums, Ho Chi Minh’s tomb and museum, saw a performance of water puppetry, and I took a cooking class. One of my favorite things to do in Hanoi was to find a Cong Café and to sit and have a Coconut coffee drink. Probably the best cold coffee drink I have ever had. It is the perfect mix of sweetened condensed milk, coffee with an icy coconut topping and it manages not to be too sweet. Cong Café has a retro revolutionary feel to it. It is a chain of cafes started by a Vietnamese female entrepreneur. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my money—in support of this successful woman owned business.


Outbound Project Story: Mallory Tuttle and Sitta Marattanachai

written by Mallory Tuttle, Strome Entrepreneurial Center Program Manager at Old Dominion University

Norfolk –> Bangkok –> Chiang Mai –> Bangkok –> Trang –> Bangkok –> Norfolk

The final leg of this amazing experience is almost over and I continue to be amazed by the passion and drive of the people here. Every person I met during my stay here was an entrepreneur – every single person. Thailand truly lives by the motto “entrepreneurship is for everyone”. I came prepared to share everything I knew about entrepreneurship but I gained much more during my two weeks here.

During the final week of the outbound project I was able to go back to my roots and apply my education and experience in eco-tourism and hospitality and tourism management to entrepreneurship and innovation.

Sindy Marattanachai provided introductions to two unique social impact startups. We toured Once Again Hostel and met the team that is empowering locals and improving the community with every stay. We also met up with the CareerVisa Thailand team, discussed career development services innovations and toured their space at dtac Accelerate.

I met an awesome group of leaders from NIA : National Innovation Agency, Thailand and discussed the ODU Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and specifically the student entrepreneurs we work with at the ODU Strome Entrepreneurial Center. I learned more about the programs they offer including Startup Thailand and Founder Apprentice and hope to establish a more formal partnership for collaboration with the organization moving forward.

We hosted our final Young Founder Essentials Workshop in Trang at Suan Dusit University. Students learned about tourism trends and used design thinking to develop solutions to problems facing the tourism industry within their community. The student teams completed their social business model canvases, presented their business pitches and engaged in Q&A with the panel of judges. Their ideas ranged from enhanced tourism itinerary app development to AR/VR tourism experiences.

We wrapped up our trip with a visit to Bohin Farmstay, a local eco-tourism destination that provides authentic tourism experiences for southern Thailand. Due in part to their sea grass replenishment project the conversation status of the Dugong species decreased from endangered to vulnerable.

Thank you again to the U.S. Department of StateAmerican Councils for International EducationOld Dominion University, Sindy Marattanachai, Aom Kwanpirom Suksri, Jaimie At AmericanCouncils, Mauli At AmericanCouncils, and all of the other organizations, faculty/staff and volunteers who made this project possible.

I am looking forward to bringing back new ideas, thoughts and connections to ODU. I’m pretty certain this will go down in the history books as the longest commute I’ll ever have but it was totally worth it!

TH Mallory Tuttle and SittaTH Mallory TuttleTH Young Founders Essentials