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Enrichment

Enrichment Foreign Fulbright

A Tree Grows in Williamson: Seeking Sustainability in Appalachia

July 31, 2019
By Sayed Masihullah Fakhri, Fulbright Foreign Student, Afghanistan

The Fulbright-Amizade trip to Williamson, West Virginia was one of the most thought-provoking experiences I had during my stay in the United States. I have often thought about the sustainability of a single industry supporting a local economy, such as Williamson’s dependence on coal. Through this experience, I had the opportunity to see first-hand these effects in an Appalachian town.

Before coming to the United States, I used to work for the Ministry of Mines & Petroleum (MoMP) in Afghanistan, where the coal sector dominates, although it continues to lose ground to more sustainable sources of energy. At the program orientation in Charleston, South Carolina, I began to hear about Williamson’s efforts to switch to sustainable power sources. Once in Williamson, that sentiment was corroborated in many conversations with the residents, who were keen to talk about the town’s changing energy policy and industry. I believe this will help me advise MoMP’s “mining roadmap” revision, and add a well-thought out plan to address community sustainability issues related to booming bulk commodities, as is the case in Williamson.

Furthermore, I was impressed by the Williamson residents’ strong social bonds. These bonds help the community care for each other in turbulent times. Alexis Batausa, a local resident who successfully improved his health through lifestyle changes, is an amazing example. His efforts to better his life impressed the whole community, and now others join him in running and other healthy activities.  Jessie Spaulding, another Williamson resident, also impressed me with his commitment to sobriety. Talking to him, I began to understand his desire to help other residents combat their substance abuse problems and follow a better path. These individuals demonstrate that one person can make a difference!

After seeing Williamson’s dedication to community, I searched for a way to maintain a lasting connection with the town. I wanted something to remind me of the amazing moments I spent with the genuinely nice people I met, including moments of serene silence on Second Avenue, where I had a veggie omelet. Thus, I came up with the idea of planting a red maple tree in a quiet corner of Williamson’s elementary school, and someday, I hope to go back and pay a visit.

Enrichment Foreign Fulbright

Fulbright Amizade Participants Travel to Appalachia for Service Learning

May 2, 2018

The Fulbright Foreign Students participating in the 2018 Amizade service-learning seminar representing ten countries.

From April 28 – May 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsored ten Fulbright Foreign Student Program participants to engage in a week-long service-learning program in Williamson, West Virginia led by Amizade Global Service-Learning. The selected Fulbrighters, emerging leaders in a variety of fields, have all demonstrated a commitment to service in their communities. This is the third year that Amizade and Fulbright will work together in West Virginia.

This activity will support the Fulbright Program’s overall mission of increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by forging meaningful connections between these Fulbrighters and an American community with valuable lessons to share. The focus on service learning highlights the importance of volunteerism in the United States and how local communities in Appalachia are pioneering and engaging in thoughtful work to maintain their cultural framework while also creating a realm of new opportunities.

During their week-long program in Williamson, the group of ten Fulbrighters will participate in community service activities and learn about the town and its history. Williamson is a small, rural coal-mining town in Mingo County that was once home to 10,000 residents and a thriving coal economy in the mid-20th century. However, in recent years, Williamson has experienced a collapsed coal mining industry, a series of devastating floods, and de-population.

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Enrichment Foreign Fulbright

PHOTO ESSAY: Williamson, West Virginia, Revisited.

August 15, 2017

Editor’s note: In April 2017, twelve Fulbrighters engaged in a week-long service learning project in Williamson, West Virginia, an Appalachian community with valuable lessons to share about sustainability, perseverance and revitalization. This is one in a series of blog posts from the Fulbrighters who visited Williamson. This post by Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia, Jorge Caraballo, who accompanied the group as a photojournalist, captures the Fulbrighters’ experiences in Williamson, as well as their engagement with local American community leaders. Visit the Fulbright Amizade 2017 Storify for more details on their journey.

Last year I had to interrupt my first visit to Williamson because of a family emergency. I remember flying over the Appalachians on my way back to Boston feeling a soft window-seat nostalgia: This small city in southern West Virginia reminded me a lot of Colombia, my home country. I also grew up surrounded by mountains and immersed in a culture with a strong sense of belonging. Three days were enough for me to create a strong connection with Williamson and its people.

By Jorge Caraballo, 2015-2017, Colombia

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Enrichment Foreign Fulbright U.S. Fulbright

Fulbright Celebrates the 27th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

July 26, 2017

Today, the Fulbright Program wishes the Americans with Disabilities Act a very happy 27th anniversary! Fulbright strives to ensure that its participants reflect the full diversity of U.S. society and societies abroad.

Applicants with disabilities are encouraged to apply and can learn more about resources and opportunities at https://www.eca.state.gov/fulbright.

Please also visit the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange at http://www.miusa.org/ncde, a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by Mobility International USA, for more useful information on applying.

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Enrichment Foreign Fulbright

Two Words, Eight Letters: Thank You

June 1, 2017

Fulbright Amizade participants from left to right: Edward Lo, Fulbright U.S. Student to Brazil; David E. Natarén Oyuela, Fulbright Student from Honduras; Mylinh Huang, Fulbright U.S. Student to Vietnam; Kinga Zsofia Horvath, Fulbright Student from Hungary in front of 34:Ate, a Williamson local restaurant.

Editor’s note: In April 2017, twelve Fulbrighters engaged in a week-long service learning project in Williamson, West Virginia, an Appalachian community with valuable lessons to share about sustainability, perseverance and revitalization. This is one in a series of blog posts from the Fulbrighters who visited Williamson. The Fulbrighters were asked to focus on their experiences in Williamson, as well as their engagement with local American community leaders. Visit the Fulbright Amizade 2017 Storify for more details on their journey.

In the small coal-mining town of Williamson, West Virginia lie many gems: the wild and wonderful landscape, the hospitality of the community, and the persistent work of everyday heroes who make miracles there. In Williamson, it does not matter whether you meet an 8-year-old girl participating in an after-school program, a 40-year-old man playing basketball with underserved children, or a 70-year-old beekeeper, you can experience the fact that “giving back to the community” is ageless. During the first week of April 2017, twelve enthusiastic Fulbrighters were able to experience and contribute to the ways in which the residents of Williamson make a difference. We joined local residents in building community gardens, turning rocky mining lands into fertile soil, and teaching the next generation how to give back. This is a thank you note to all of the people who were part of the Fulbright Amizade service-learning project and made an impact on our lives, inspiring us to take our turn to build a better future for the next generation.

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