Message from the President and Chair
DEVELOPING SKILLS FOR SUCCESS
Our capacity to promote the development of life-changing skills has come a long way since we introduced our first training programs in the 1960s. In 2021, our publicly offered courses supported the language-learning and professional goals of more than 35,000 individuals across the MENA region. Thanks to the support of donors and local, regional, and international sponsors, we also empowered thousands of young men and women from under-resourced and marginalized communities, nurtured young entrepreneurs, and prepared young minds to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Reaching Underserved Youth
More than 5,000 teenagers in under-resourced and marginalized communities acquired English language and other skills through special programs. They included more than 3,000 enrolled in the U.S. Department of State-funded English Access Microscholarship (Access) Program in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and the West Bank/Gaza and in similar programs for youth in Libya, the UAE, and Yemen.
With funding from UNICEF, we supported 480 Syrian refugee youth living in Azraq refugee camp in Jordan, intervening at a critical moment when many were at risk of dropping out of formal education by delivering English language and academic skills development designed to improve their chances of succeeding in national secondary exams, qualifying for international scholarships, and securing employment opportunities within the camp. Meanwhile, in Egypt, we partnered with local NGO Etijah to advance the higher education prospects of 220 secondary students in Beheira, Beni Suef, Kafr El Sheikh, and Qena Governorates by helping them develop the English language skills needed to successfully apply for English-based undergraduate programs.
Improving the Teaching of English
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Professional Certificate in English Language Teaching (PCELT), developed by Amideast in collaboration with World Learning/SIT Graduate Institute to provide a much-needed professional development opportunity for regional English language teachers seeking to raise the quality of English language instruction. That more than 1,000 educators had earned PCELT certification by year’s end testifies to the impact of this initiative.
As the pandemic continued to challenge teachers grappling with the transition to online instruction, a team of our top teachers and trainers, with funding from the Office of Palestinian Affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, piloted Developing Online Teaching Skills (DOTS), a 36-hour course designed to help teachers effectively engage students online through interactive activities, real-time and self-paced assignments, and ongoing feedback as they continue to develop their English skills.
In Egypt, we launched Teach to Lead for teachers in low-income public schools. The new program, with funding from the Boeing Company, enabled 50 female teachers in Greater Cairo to integrate interactive learning methodologies and affordable technologies in their classrooms and empowered them to become agents of change and leaders in their schools and communities.
Building on our Skills for Success® curriculum, we delivered programs that addressed one of the region’s most intractable problems: high youth unemployment. These programs included:
- The Education and Training for Employability Program, launched in 2020 in partnership with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) affiliate In Morocco, to deliver employability skills training to more than 650 young men and women. To date, this results-based employment program has placed more than 400 youth in jobs in high-demand employment sectors.
- A new partnership with the government of Morocco’s Rhamna Province to build the capacity of more than 200 young men and women through training in soft and life skills, workplace English and French, digital literacy, and job-search skills.
- The International Labour Organization (ILO)-funded Career Counseling Program to provide training and career counseling to 350 jobseekers in Jordan, the majority of them living in rural areas, while also creating a cadre of counselors trained in career counseling to advance the Ministry of Labor’s future efforts to provide support to jobseekers.
- Training funded by European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the United Kingdom designed to enable 80 Jordanian and Syrian jobseekers — primarily in the tourism and hospitality sectors, which were hard hit during the pandemic — to reenter the workforce.
Equipping Young Entrepreneurs
We again offered support to young men and women across the region who seek entrepreneurship tools that will enable them to realize their self-employment goals and develop solutions to local problems.
In the face of their country’s economic crisis, more than 100 young Lebanese turned to our Beirut-based Amideast Entrepreneur Institute (AEI) to learn the business basics needed to pursue self-employment. While the pandemic limited onsite training, AEI took advantage of its successful transition to virtual alternatives in 2020 to offer interactive online workshops focusing on topics such as ideation, pitching for investors, and finance for entrepreneurs. By advancing its online training capabilities, AEI was able to partner with the Amideast-managed America House in Jerusalem to extend its signature Start Your Own Business workshops to aspiring entrepreneurs in the West Bank and Gaza.
Entrepreneurship training was also an important component of our new partnership with the government of Morocco’s Rhamna Province, where we delivered training in basic business skills to more than 50 new and aspiring entrepreneurs. To enhance their chances of raising seed funding, our trainers also taught them how to pitch their concepts to financial institutions. Our efforts culminated in a collaboration with INJAZ Al-Maghrib to stage a local junior enterprise competition.
“I want to inspire teachers in the future, in the same way that PCELT has inspired me.”
“I think that anyone who is hardworking and ambitious will achieve anything they set their mind to.”
Education and Training for Employability Program
“The training that Amideast offered had a huge role in helping me organize my time and develop myself. For this, I thank Amideast and Citi Foundation.”
AMIRA NASSER ABDELHAMID
Skills for Success: Employability and Entrepreneurship Program
Empowering Women and Girls
Throughout our 70-year history, we have recognized the advantages women and girls gain for themselves, their families, and their communities from scholarships and skills training programs. In addition to helping them challenge the roles and stereotypes that contribute to their exclusion, these opportunities are increasingly recognized as key to improving the MENA region’s development prospects, where historically low female labor participation rates represent a missed opportunity. In 2021, we partnered with several program sponsors to advance the prospects of women and girls.
- More than half of the 600 training slots created by the Millennium Challenge Corporation in Morocco were allocated to women, reflecting the high priority it places on improving the prospects of women job seekers and helping Morocco raise its female labor participation rate.
- Nearly two-thirds of youth selected for the skills training in Morocco’s Rhamna Province capacity-building program were women, for whom Amideast provided training in soft and life skills, workplace English and French, digital literacy, and job-search skills.
- Thanks to funding from the EBRD and UK, 90 Jordanian women, unemployed because of the pandemic, gained skills that equipped them to re-enter the labor market.
- Our partnerships with the Boeing Company and the U.S. Embassy enabled our Kuwait office to deliver two rounds of its Women Empowerment through Career Development program, strengthening the career prospects of 80 women.
- 180 Jordanian girls in grades eight and nine developed STEM-related skills in an environment that builds confidence, self-actualization and innovation through design thinking, creative problem solving, and teamwork using LEGOs. Amideast launched the SPARK program in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and the Boeing Company.
- All May Access Learning (AMAL@Amideast) — our Aden office's first fully online English language program — demonstrated the ability of virtual technologies to reach women in remote areas of Yemen and Yemeni expatriates residing in Saudi Arabia — offering “a window of new hope for me,” according to one participant.
Preparing Today’s Youth for Tomorrow
Today’s youth need to prepare for tomorrow’s world by acquiring interpersonal skills, higher-order thinking skills and self-efficacy, and global-mindedness. In 2021, we contributed to the development of this important skillset through STEM and innovation programming.
- STEM: Our partnership with the Boeing Company allowed us to engage young learners through STEM programs in Jordan and Kuwait, and to bring to near completion our STEM Center in Cairo. Scheduled for launch in December 2021, this new facility will engage youth and educators in Egypt and beyond in activities that build awareness of STEM-based solutions to environmental, public health, and other problems facing the region and the world.
- INNOVATION: Through our partnership with Pittsburgh-based Inventionland and its subsidiary, the Inventionland Institute, and in collaboration with Jordan’s Ministry of Youth, we engaged 100 young Jordanians in creative design, collaborative learning, problem-solving, and the inventing process. One invention — a silicon lid for beverage containers called “The Amazing Lid” — was selected for commercialization.
- RISE: We were pleased to partner with Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust to conduct outreach for Rise, an initiative that connects talented young people between the ages of 15 and 17 and supports them for life as they build a better world through their talents. Of note, four of Rise’s first 100 global winners were from the MENA: two Egyptians, one Moroccan, and one Palestinian.
“This life-changing workshop … allowed me [to] become a high achiever in my career.”
Career Skills Development Program
“I learned so much in SPARK about science, building, problem-solving, and Newton’s Laws.”
Syrian Refugee in Jordan
Building Our Online Training Capabilities
The shift to online training that we began in 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic continued well into 2021. While ongoing pandemic-induced restrictions limited a full return to in-person instruction, demand for training across the region remained strong. In response, we expanded our e-learning capabilities to offer both online and blended instruction. During the first half of the year, 7,000 new users accessed our e-learning platform Amideast Online to take nearly 650 classes of all types, proving the platform’s mantra, “At Amideast, learning never stops.”
Even after conditions improved by mid-year, permitting a return to face-to-face instruction in many countries, interest in e-learning continued. This reflected, in no small measure, the favorable response to the quality of instruction in our online courses, with many learners commenting on the significant level of interaction and teacher support that enhanced their virtual learning.
What was a necessity in 2020 has since become an advantage. The success of our e-learning programming has made it possible for us to expand program diversity and availability to those beyond the reach of our physical offices, both within countries with an Amideast presence and elsewhere in the region. Along with classroom-based learning and experiential approaches such as community- and service-based learning models, our online program capabilities provide us with new ways of reaching those we seek to benefit through our programs and services.
DEVELOPING GLOBAL CITIZENS
Since our earliest days, international education and cultural exchange have been central to our mission of strengthening mutual understanding and cooperation between Americans and the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa. Today, as our priorities and capabilities have evolved, our programs also seek to instill the global perspective that youth will need to address 21st-century challenges.
Even as the Covid-19 pandemic continued throughout 2021, we worked with our partners to resume in-country programs once travel conditions improved and student safety could be ensured. At the same time, we continued to develop virtual options that would expand exchange opportunities for students and young professionals from across the MENA region and the United States.
Programs for MENA Students and Professionals
HIGH SCHOOL EXCHANGE
Cancellation of travel due to Covid-19 for 214 scholarship recipients on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program for 2020–21 challenged our staff to find new ways of contributing to their growth as global citizens with a passion for community service. Working together with other program partners, Amideast helped develop the first-ever YES virtual program, offering a meaningful exchange experience for the 48 students who opted to participate. Most others chose to defer their YES enrollment and later joined a cohort of 180 students representing Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the West Bank/Gaza that would spend the 2021-22 academic year in the United States.
A Virtual Exchange First
In 2021, Amideast launched its first stand-alone virtual exchange program: Qisasna (Our Stories). Made possible through the Aspen Institute’s Stevens Initiative, the new program facilitates cross-cultural exchange between American and Yemeni students who work in teams to produce podcasts focused on global issues, cross-cultural perceptions, career opportunities for young people, and community service. Participating youth are developing production skills, global citizenship values and understanding of others, and storytelling skills through which they can convey more nuanced and empathetic views of others with the broader public. The program will train 32 virtual teams consisting of 10 participants each evenly divided between Americans and Yemenis, for a total of 320 participants. In 2021, 160 began the fall semester program.
Thanks to the generous support of donors and sponsors, nearly 700 underserved young men and women were pursuing academic excellence at higher education institutions in the United States and elsewhere, including:
- 158 young scholars from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen, who were benefiting from generous institutional scholarships and supplemental support from Amideast’s Diana Kamal Scholarship Search Fund (DKSSF) and Hope Fund.
- 42 civic-minded, academically strong youths with leadership potential from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen who qualified for scholarships to study at the American University of Beirut, the American University in Cairo, and the Lebanese American University through the Tomorrow’s Leaders Scholarship Program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)
- 472 Egyptian students from disadvantaged backgrounds who enrolled in “excellence programs” in Egyptian public universities through the U.S.-Egypt Higher Education Initiative (HEI) Public University Scholarships program. In its sixth program year, this Amideast-managed program provided students with numerous benefits, including English language training, career counseling, internships and other types of business/entrepreneurship experiences, and study abroad for a semester or summer session in the United States.
“My exchange experiences showed me that I am a part of something much larger than myself, my community, or my country.”
YES and MEPI Tomorrow’s Leaders
“There will always be someone to help – just like Amideast was there whenever things got rough.”
“Being a Fulbrighter is … about being a part of a community of passionate people promoting cross-cultural exchange, championing diversity, and building bridges.”
GRADUATE AND POST-GRADUATE STUDIES
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Amideast administered Fulbright Foreign Student Program grants for 274 master’s, doctoral, and research grantees from 12 MENA countries or territories and worked with the binational Fulbright commissions in Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco to place 212 Fulbright program nominees in study programs for the 2021–22 academic year. As elsewhere in the Fulbright Program, the pandemic prevented a number of incoming grantees from travelling to the United States to start their programs on time in person, and others in the United States only had the option of virtual classes. To help these students have a full Fulbright experience, Amideast, in coordination with the U.S. Department of State, created the CommunityConnect Program to provide a virtual opportunity for cultural exchange and community building between Fulbrighters from the MENA region and American graduate students. Over 100 first year students, 35 second year students, and 40 American students participated in the five online sessions conducted between October 2020 and June 2021.
The easing of pandemic conditions also allowed a resumption of the Fulbright Junior Faculty Program again after a one-year hiatus. The program placed 13 scholars — two from Egypt and 11 from Jordan — at selected U.S. host institutions for faculty development, mentoring, and cultural exchange activities between June and September 2021.
Partnerships with donors and sponsors elsewhere in the regional enabled us to support additional students pursuing graduate studies in the United States. Through the Onsi Sawiris Scholarship Program, an impactful program that we have been pleased to support for 20 years, we have placed 88 Egyptian undergraduate and graduate students to date at highly competitive U.S. universities in fields that will contribute to Egypt’s economic prosperity. In our second year of administering the Ireland-Palestine Scholarship Programme, we facilitated master’s degree study in Ireland for nearly 40 Palestinian students. Also of note, in Saudi Arabia, we partnered with NEOM to help manage its new scholarship program for Saudi nationals who aspire to careers in the media, placing five students in master’s degree programs and assisting 50 students as they completed certificates at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, United Kingdom.
Our partnerships with the U.S. Department of State-funded America House programs in the West Bank and Gaza, and American Corners in Iraq and Tunisia, continued to build the global perspectives of thousands of visitors through cultural activities and opportunities to develop English language and other skills. In Iraq, the popularity of the initial six university-hosted American Corners led to the U.S. government’s decision to develop a seventh such center, and a new American Corner was being renovated for opening in 2022 at our newly acquired facility in Alexandria, Egypt.
Amideast-managed EducationUSA advising centers in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, the West Bank/Gaza, and Yemen provided information on U.S. study to 100,000 contacts, promoting and responding to continuing interest in U.S. study largely through virtual advising as Covid-19 continued to constrain face-to-face outreach. Through EducationUSA Competitive College Clubs and Opportunity Grants, our EducationUSA advisers provided guidance on university readiness as well application and test preparation support for over 200 academically outstanding young men and women, the majority seeking undergraduate admissions and scholarships.
Through several new initiatives, Amideast helped additional numbers of students prepare for university study and navigate the college application process. Forty-four youth selected for the Sawiris Linkage Program in the Upper Egypt governorate of Sohag began developing the English and academic skills they will need for competitive university admission; the Quincy College Prep Program, funded by the U.S. Department of State, offered 30 gifted and talented Saudi youth a year of educational support; and the U.S. University Readiness Program, which Amideast implemented in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in the UAE, the Ministry of Education and the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, helped 105 Emirati youth improve their English language and academic skills, prepare for required standardized tests, and navigate the college admissions process.
Amideast’s extensive testing services throughout the MENA region advanced the educational and career goals of tens of thousands of individuals through the distribution of a wide range of testing and language-learning tools and the administration of more than 210,000 paper and online language, aptitude, achievement, and professional qualifying exams.
Introducing Remote Test Proctoring
As a representative for the TOEIC® and TOEFL® family of tests throughout the region, Amideast faced a major challenge after governments introduced restrictions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic: how to provide proctored language assessments in this new environment? Working with ETS Global, Amideast developed a remote proctoring option for test-takers in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, the West Bank, and the UAE. The solution met our high standards for ensuring quality, fairness, and equity while offering the flexible response required in academic, corporate, and other settings. The success of these initial efforts indicates that remote proctoring is likely to remain a fixture of the post-pandemic world.
Amideast was proud to join the global Fulbright community in celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program — the U.S. Department of State’s flagship exchange program that Amideast has had the privilege to partner with since 1970, supporting Fulbright grants to more than 3,000 outstanding participants across the region. As nothing exemplifies the Fulbright spirit better than the contributions of program alumni, Amideast, in close collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, marked the occasion by awarding a special edition of Amideast’s Alumni Community Action Grants to seven alumni from Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, and Yemen to implement projects in areas such as public health, STEM education, community planning, English language teaching, and creative expression through the arts, with a focus on providing this enrichment opportunity to underserved communities.
Programs for Participants from the U.S.
EDUCATION ABROAD IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
The expansion of Amideast Education Abroad’s virtual academic and cultural exchange capacity that began during the pandemic is here to stay, providing added flexibility and innovation for students and partners through onsite, virtual, and hybrid program models. In addition to virtual customized programs, Amideast virtually implemented the U.S. Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange (YES) Abroad and National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Programs throughout 2021. While all programs were run primarily from host countries Morocco and Jordan, the virtual modality made it possible to include peer exchange and expert cultural content from Tunisia as well. The virtual space has made it possible for Amideast to incorporate multi-site collaborations into all its education abroad programming. Approximately 115 participants studied virtually with Amideast in 2021.
Responding to equity imperatives, Amideast introduced its own Virtual Learning and Cultural Exchange program with an innovative pricing structure that makes enrollment in virtual classes widely accessible, especially for participants from institutions not well represented among U.S. study abroad participants, such as community colleges and tribal colleges and universities. We were pleased to welcome our first students on this program in fall 2020, most of whom enrolled in Arabic language classes not available at their home institutions.
Onsite programs resumed in summer 2021 when some U.S. universities began to approve study abroad travel again; Amideast welcomed a total of 25 students in intensive Arabic programs in Morocco and Jordan, in the Action Amideast: Social Innovation Abroad program in Tunisia, and in a customized program in Jordan. Nearly 70 more completed Amideast’s summer intensive Arabic language study online. Morocco and Jordan both hosted onsite education abroad students in fall 2021 — a total of 17 students in Amideast’s Arabic and Area Studies semester program and another 11 YES Abroad participants. Meanwhile, Amideast was pleased to announce a new direct-enroll partnership with the American University of Dubai (AUD). The first cohort of students will join AUD in the fall 2022 semester.
After so long without travel and with so much uncertainty in their lives, the return to onsite programming resulted in extraordinary reflection among participants. In post-program evaluations, participants discussed the extent to which they took advantage of being mobile again, and how much they appreciated their host community as a unique experiential classroom. While learning about their host country, participants charted their own personal growth, noting that navigating their day-to-day lives abroad gave them confidence in their ability to meet and overcome challenges. To a person, they indicated that this positive experience has made them think about their future in new ways.
“The program opened my eyes.”
USA in Tunisia
“My thoughts of giving back to my community have only grown since I left Lebanon.”
Alumni and the Importance of Giving Back
The experience of international education and cultural exchange is not only life-changing for the individual, but it can equip them to have a much larger impact in their home and host communities through community service and volunteer activities. Such activities are integrated into our exchange programs themselves, and into Amideast-managed alumni networks that encourage returnees to continue to give back after they return home. In 2021, the Amideast Leaders, Alumni, and Mentors (ALAM) network expanded its efforts to engage beneficiaries of all Amideast-administered programs through cross-cutting alumni development work, with the goal of connecting the thousands of alumni from diverse programs and countries through online platforms and virtual programming. Opportunities were added through the Localized online community for ALAM members to share resources, receive training, mentor one another, attend career fairs, and connect with Amideast as well as with experts associated with the MENA region. In addition, the “ALAM in the Arts” event series hosted four live virtual sessions featuring alumni experts and enthusiasts from a variety of artistic pursuits, engaging thousands of participants through online viewing and discussion and setting the stage for future ALAM events on other topics of interest to Amideast stakeholders.
Amideast has worked with international and regional partners to support large-scale projects that bring much-needed institutional strengthening and capacity building to realize their development goals. During 2021, we were proud to support efforts to increase institutional capacity in the workforce and civil society sectors in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen.
MAKING HIGHER EDUCATION IN EGYPT MORE ACCESSIBLE
A priority of the U.S.-Egypt Higher Education Initiative (HEI) Public University Scholarships program since its launch in 2017 has been to provide equitable access to higher education for students with disabilities. Initially, our efforts focused on ensuring that students with disabilities would be among the nearly 700 who would receive HEI scholarships. The program succeeded in awarding seven percent of HEI scholarships to students with disabilities, providing them an opportunity for higher education and subsequent employment that most had not previously envisioned would be possible for them.
A second priority has been to partner with Egyptian universities to establish Disability Service Centers. In 2021, such centers were formally opened at Ain Shams, Alexandria, Assiut, Cairo, and Mansoura Universities. Their success in increasing access to quality education for students with disabilities has resulted in plans to establish such centers at another 15 Egyptian universities.
RESTORING HOPE IN YEMEN THROUGH VOCATIONAL TRAINING
Amideast continued to work with youth from a broad crosssection of Yemeni society through the Nahdhat Shabab (Yemen Youth Restoring Hope) Project, which concluded in 2021. By year’s end, Amideast had trained 780 young women and men in a variety of vocational, professional, and business skills. By coordinating with more than 125 local partners and other diverse community actors to develop Community Advisory Boards (CABs), the project linked 640 of these youth to mentors in their communities and enabled participants to become involved in community rebuilding, restoration, and recovery projects at selected community spaces and local organizations. Toward the end of the project, Amideast worked with CAB members and local youth to establish a trade association — the Solar Doctors Forum — that is working to enhance renewable energy training standards in Yemen.
ADVANCING CIVIL SOCIETY
Local civil society organizations (CSOs) are often the best placed to implement impactful programs in their communities, but many have never had the opportunity or resources to develop their skills in project design and implementation. Amideast designed Building Local Associations for Development and Innovation (BLADI) to address this need. In partnership with Tunisian associations Shanti and Jamaity, Amideast enabled nascent CSOs across Tunisia to undergo a four-month incubation and training period, followed by an opportunity to receive funding for a project of their own design aimed at countering violent extremism in their vulnerable communities. BLADI ended in January 2021.
Local civil society organizations can be instrumental in the success of a broader peace and reconciliation strategy. In Yemen, Amideast worked with local associations and residents to build their capacity to participate in stabilization efforts at the community level. With funding from the Yemen Affairs Unit’s Public Affairs Section, the Civil Society Mini-Grants (CSMG) Project enhanced the capacities of 20 selected initiatives and associations. Our work included training as well as financial grants to approximately 10 initiatives and associations to promote local peace and reconciliation projects of their own design.
“Amideast works with us youth, as we are the future leaders.”
Nahdhat Shabab Project