Exchange Matters / January 10, 2024

Inspiring Communities Through Arts and Education: 2023 CDAF Project Spotlights

The Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund provides small grants to teams of U.S. government-sponsored exchange program alumni (ExchangeAlumni) to carry out public service projects using the skills, knowledge, and networks gained during their exchange experiences. CDAF launched in 2019 and has since granted 236 U.S. ExchangeAlumni teams more than $1.85 million to support their communities. The 2023 CDAF contest was the most competitive to date, with 47 winning teams selected out of 187 applications. In the snapshots below, we highlight five of these winning teams and recognize their commitment to inspiring communities globally through arts and education. For more information on the 2023 CDAF winners, check out the full list HERE. 

Creating Educational Leaders for Underserved Areas in Pakistan 

Project Location: Pakistan 

English language teacher trainers pose with their training certificates. Photo by the project team.  

Working with 20 participants, this CDAF project team empowered Pakistani English Language Teacher Trainers (ELTs) to design and deliver professional development workshops to fellow English language educators in underserved and rural areas.  

The team selected participants from an applicant pool of 200+ ELTs from across Pakistan – to engage in a series of trainings co-led with local partner organization Evolution, Igniting Potential. Course content equipped the ELTs with up-to-date language teaching and learning practices and polished their technical literacy and management skills. The participants went on to lead 20 workshops over a six-week period to present their newly developed skills and resources to fellow educators, reaching an additional 516 educators across underserved areas of Pakistan.  

“The project’s focus on connecting experienced English Language Teachers with educators lacking English language and digital skills has shown me the transformative power of mentorship and peer support,” said the project team. The team is confident their project can help scale quality English language learning in underserved and rural regions of Pakistan. 

Cultural Exchange Through Teen-Centered (High School) Theatre 

Project Locations: Burkina Faso and Ohio, U.S. 

Students in Bowling Green, Ohio perform “From One World to Another.” Photo by BG Independent Media.

Connecting teens from the Plateau Central Region of Burkina Faso with peers in Bowling Green, Ohio was the goal of this 2023 CDAF project, which sought to build global community and understanding through theater. 

During the project, students in Burkina Faso explored socio-economic problems faced by youths in their community, and students in Ohio adapted Burkinabé folktales into an original piece titled “From One World to Another.” Students in Bowling Green also had the opportunity to collaborate directly with one of the ExchangeAlumni team leads who visited their school, and to craft costumes from Burkinabé Faso Danfani fabric. The script writing and rehearsals culminated in performances held over a 10-day period in November in both communities, with guided discussions after each performance to further cultural exchange and understanding. The class in Burkina Faso read the script and watched the recording of the play to improve their language skills, planning to create a production of their own in coming semesters. 

The project team was thrilled to see the successful exchanges between U.S. and Burkinabè students, reporting: “The students are inspiring one another, they are lifting one another (up), and learning to go towards other cultures and not to be afraid.” Learn more about the “From One World to Another” performance in Bowling Green, in this local article. 

Empowering Young Kenyans to Respond to Misinformation & Disinformation

Project Location: Kenya 

      Empowering Young Kenyans project participants. Photo by the project team. 

This 2023 CDAF project equipped teens and the community-based organizations that serve them with a media literacy toolkit to help them identify and respond to false and misleading information. The project was implemented in collaboration with local partner organizations in Nairobi, Kenya, including the Emerging Leaders Foundation (ELF).   

“We conducted almost 30 extensive interviews with civil society, government, and academia on misinformation and disinformation in Kenya…[these] interviews have validated our findings and provided us with fresh new ideas to include in our toolkit,” said the project team. After the initial research and design, the team hosted a Training of Trainers workshop in July to pilot the toolkit and collect feedback from partner organizations. The project team plans to launch the toolkit as a permanent resource in the coming weeks and incorporate it into ELF’s existing youth mentorship program. At a time when young people are particularly vulnerable to inaccurate and deceptive information, the team hopes their project can be a resource to young voters in Kenya. 

Once Upon a Future – Fostering Youth Development in Nigeria Through the Arts 

Project Location: Nigeria 

Nigerian youth performers at their final showcase in August 2023. Photo by the project team. 

This 2023 CDAF team aimed to build the capacity of secondary school students in Nigeria who are interested in creative and performing arts. The project encouraged talented young Nigerians ages 8-17 from both public and private schools in Ogun State to pursue their interests in the arts. Selected participants attended rehearsals every week for three months and hosted a final showcase featuring musical stage plays and an art exhibition in Abeokuta, Ogun State. 

Youth Artpreneurship Training  

Project Locations: Zimbabwe and Louisiana, U.S.

Project participants and facilitators. Photo by MNS Photography. 

Youth Artpreneurship provided youth ages 18-21 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe with skills to create positive change in their communities, with a particular focus on environmental protection. This 2023 CDAF project connected participants with fellow students in New Orleans, Louisiana to exchange ideas on topics including sustainability and community service. Last fall, the project team held their Environmental Protection Talent Show, which gave students a chance to apply skills they learned during the project and kickstart activism within their community. Read more about the creative performances, which were covered by local media HERE.