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Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Yehya Mamdouh Hassan

Interview with Yehya Mamdouh Hassan from Egypt (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2013)

What made you interested in doing an exchange experience in the United States?

In my opinion, the United States is still the most aspired to and most influential country in the world. Its soft power extends all over the globe. Movies and music produced in the United States shapes the life of youngsters all over the world. I dreamed of visiting the United States and seeing the sites that are featured so heavily in pop culture like the Statue of Liberty and Times Square in New York! Like the Seven Wonders of the World, all of those locations in the U.S. were ingrained into our minds since we were young. Many other youngsters all across the world dream of visiting such locations but they do not all have the means to achieve this. I consider myself privileged to have been able to experience the United States first-hand!

What is the most important thing you learned at the Civic Leadership Summit?

The Civic Leadership Summit was a truly outstanding experience. For the first time in my life, I had the privilege to listen to the problems facing other enthusiastic and proactive young people from all over the world, from Ireland to China! I learned a lot by interacting and discussing problems with them. One of the greatest things I managed to grasp from such a forum is that many of the problems that are endemic to developing countries are actually quite similar, despite the existence of borders and different cultures. It was interesting to talk about and hear how different nations deal with issues of child illiteracy, underage marriage, pollution, and human trafficking.

How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

The Civic Leadership Summit installed a wanderlust in me that I am not able to quench to this very day. In my free time, I just have to travel and experience new places and meet new people!

Where are you now? What are you doing now?

I am currently in New Zealand working on my PhD in international law and peace and conflict studies.

What makes you a changemaker?

After I finish my degree, I have several planned projects in mind that I would like to enact once I return to Egypt. Unfortunately, the current authorities do not look favorably on those who run civil projects and NGOS that are outside of the state jurisdiction and supervision. They view all human rights and NGO work as forums for dissent and places to breed conspiracy against the regime. Four years ago, when I returned from the U.S., I tried and succeeded in forming an NGO dedicated to fighting sexual harassment, which is rampant in the streets of Cairo. We developed an app where users can place a mark on the map were they experienced harassment and share their story on the online map so that other people will be aware. However, our headquarters were closed down, all of our assets were confiscated by the state, and the app was banned. I hope to try again once I finish my postgrad degree!

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