There Is Something Special Here…

Iadh Torki (left) and Osama Amin Saad (right) were perfect strangers when they first entered into their fellowship at NCC in May. When they left, they were a welcomed addition to the NCC family. Osama and Iadh were brought to NCC through the Hands Along the Nile Development Services (HANDS) Professional Fellows Program. HANDS is a non-profit agency located in Alexandria, Virginia who is committed to building relationships between the USA and the Middle East/North Africa to increase cultural understanding of under-served people in their society.

The Professional Fellows Program is an international exchange program that focuses on enhancing the skill sets of international middle management leaders to enhance their abilities to create solutions to challenges they have in their communities supporting children and adults with disabilities. NCC was honored to host two (2) fellows, Osama from Egypt and Iadh from Tunisia for a four (4) week fellowship that started on May 3rd and ended on May 25th.

Our fellows were able to fully embrace all aspects of NCC, from the Community Living Services to the Early Learning Center. They were able to fully grasp the work that we do here. They had a detailed schedule each day, from having dinner with the residents at the Gallatin Street home, they even managed to squeeze in lunch at the National Harbor with our CEO, Patricia Browne, and Vice President of Community Support Services, Belinda Wiley, and a ride on the Capitol Wheel. There were no stones left unturned through their experience, and I took some time to chat with them before they returned home.

KB: What did you gain from the experience?

Iadh– “I’ve seen different settings of people with disabilities, that is not available in my country. I’m use to seeing small organizations that work with people with disabilities and this one is really huge with a lot of resources. I did learn that we should invest more and offer more services to people with disabilities so they can have a better quality of life.”

Osama– “I attended a lot of meeting about self-advocacy because that will help me a lot especially the self advocacy groups. My project when I return to Egypt is to build a self advocacy group, so they gave me lots of experience about how they work, what are their laws, how they choose their communication channels, transfer their problems, and the ways they make their voices heard to the decision makers.”

KB: Please share one of your most memorable experiences.

Iadh: “The Metro Station, we don’t have Metro so it was really amazing, the accessibility to people with disabilities is really a great thing and we should do the same in our country, we still need to improve the stability of people with disabilities.”

Osama: “There are a lot especially when I go to the Maryland School, they showed me some things about how they train the adults to be able to be responsible for themselves. I visited the job sites and I saw how the adults with disabilities work and it was amazing.”

KB: How would you describe the culture of NCC vs. your home country?

Iadh: “Human rights, we still have a long way to go to reach this kind of setup. Here everything is organized, so many rules (laws), we still have to make more rules (laws). My country has more flexibility, we have so many rules that have never been implemented, they exist on paper, not in real life.”

Osama: “I think that there are a lot of similarities here and in our country. We have similar programs, like music and art; and we also have teachers that train the adults on how to be responsible for themselves in the community. For example, buying things from the market and understanding our currency.”

KB: “How will this experience factor into your long term goals in this industry?

Iadh: “This is my first time traveling from my country, and my first time using a plane. I discovered another culture, and it makes me want to continue my work and my education.”

Osama: “I gained lots of experience from here, especially the self advocacy. I would like to continue this work in the future. This experience was perfect.”

Osama closed out our interview by expressing his gratitude for this experience, and he stated, “There is something special here…this doesn’t happen in Egypt.”

On their last day, we hosted a “Fellows Send Off” where the fellows were served an incredible lunch by Chef Nelson and his team, given completion certificates, NCC paraphernalia and an official NCC badge to formally make them a part of the team. While in the United States for the program, Osama and his wife welcomed a new addition to their family, their baby girl, Mary.

The Fellows Programs has a unique outbound exchange program for the host organization (NCC) to travel to Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco in 2018 to meet with the fellows and staff in their organizations, learn more about what they do, to work and advise the fellows on implementing their special project as well as learning about their culture and society. This will be a great way to build relationships and partnerships internationally that will last a lifetime.

Thank you to everyone that had a hand in this experience for Osama and Iadh, this is an experience that they will never forget. The best part of the HANDS program is exactly what came out of the experience for both fellows, to extend their knowledge for the betterment of our community.