Giving Back to My Community: How the Fulbright Program Gave Me a Platform to Improve English Education in Yemen

I participated in the Fulbright Foreign Student Program in 2003 and received my Master’s of Science in Education at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Studying with the Fulbright Program for two years was a fantastic learning experience both academically and culturally. When I returned to Yemen, I felt a difference in the way I conducted myself professionally. Two years of research, seminars, workshops, and conferences helped my professional development in ways I never could have imagined before.

When I received the Fulbright Alumni Development Grant in 2012 and completed my TESOL certification, I started thinking of how I could offer a similar course in Yemen. I established my own foundation, called Future Horizons Foundation for Translation, Training, and Development, and began marketing the program to recruit English teachers in Yemen. Unfortunately, the war broke out in Yemen in 2015, which created issues for implementing my initiative. However, things seemed to look up a few years later. In 2018, I received an email from Amideast calling for applications for the Alumni Community Action Grant. I applied and was so lucky to receive the grant and execute my project to help Yemeni TESOL teachers develop English teaching skills to speakers of other languages.

In 2021, I received another email from Amideast about applying for a special edition of the Fulbright Alumni Community Action Grant. Despite its competitive nature, I decided to apply and was extremely lucky to receive the grant yet again. My intention was to implement a project in my community to help Yemeni TESOL teachers undergo professional training during the war. The grant was used to train 50 Yemeni TESOL teachers, consisting of 25 males and 25 females. I believe it is of the utmost importance to empower women in our society because they are often not granted opportunities for professional development. Overall, the implementation of the project went smoothly. I divided the trainees into five groups of ten — five males and five females in each group — over a period of eight months. The first group started in October 2021, but due to heavy airstrikes and an oil crisis that affected the availability of transportation in Sana’a, our efforts did not go as planned in January and February of 2022. Nevertheless, the trainees did their best to finish the program. We had to run the last two groups in the same month, but we finally managed to complete the program on time. The last two groups were held from February 12 to March 16, 2022.

This project is extremely important because it develops English teaching skills in Yemeni TESOL teachers. There is a high demand for learning English in Yemen, but most of the teachers lack these skills. Therefore, this teacher training course fills in the missing gaps of the training these teachers might have had previously.

Personally, I learned a lot from this training course. This project allowed me to meet so many new Yemeni TESOL teachers and allowed me to help them achieve their goals. I felt so much joy when they finished the program and told me how much they learned and how their performance has improved in their classes.

My advice for any Fulbright Alumni is to keep in touch with Amideast and update your contact information so Amideast can reach you when they have upcoming opportunities. The Alumni Community Action Grant is a great opportunity to help your community and empower people back home.

I am so grateful to the Fulbright program, Amideast, and the U.S. Department of State for awarding me this grant to help improve the quality of education in Yemen.

Abdullah is a 2003 Fulbright alumnus from Yemen. He studied Education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

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