When Ana K. from one of the IFS member organizations in Hungary became a successful International Fellow in the highly competitive IREX Community Solutions Program in 2018 (funded by the US State Department for 4-month professional exchanges for mid-career NGO leaders), she was excited to be headed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
But her housing fell through at the last minute. She and IFS Board member Peter Giczey got in touch with IFS board member Melissa Aase in NYC, who got in touch with settlement house leaders in Milwaukee to help her out. Ana had a great Fellowship experience and at the end introduced the IFS board members in the US to the leaders at IREX to discuss a partnership.
The IFS board vetted and supported the partnership, and four US settlement houses volunteered to host Fellows in 2019, three in NYC and one in Cleveland, Ohio. A total of X amazing NGO leaders worked with our teams and learned from our movement for four months, from September to December 2019. They are from the countries of Botswana, Papua New Guinea, Dominican Republic, Hungary and Kyrgyzstan.
In summarizing their learning and experiences, All of these amazing leaders expressed the intention to “go back home and develop a Settlement house” of their own! They are all required to test something new upon returning home and we hope IFS members, leaders and resources will support their efforts.
From the host perspective, our teams also learned a great deal, both about the work our Fellows had already been leading in their home countries and through the process of describing our methods, values and history of our own organizations and movement. Teaching others always teaches the teacher, too.
IFS members are encouraged to offer Fellowship opportunities, and we also hope that IFS members from the designated countries (see link HERE) will help staff members apply to do the exchanges. It is a very competitive process (6,000 applicants!).
We are encouraging our members from eligible countries to apply so that we can endorse their candidacy and also create a placement in an IFS host organization.
Melissa Aase, University Settlement of New York.