Cultural Vistas Blog

Five Innovations to Shape Southeast Asia’s Future

The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Seeds for the Future small grants competition provides funding to Southeast Asia’s most promising young leaders, enabling them to carry out projects that uplift communities across the ASEAN region through civic engagement, education, economic growth, and sustainable development.

Being involved with the competition has helped me realize that building the leadership capabilities of young social innovators, leaders, and agents of change is one of the most effective ways to overcome the world’s biggest challenges.

This year, 21 projects were selected from over 400 applications to be implemented over the course of nine months. While some of these are small initiatives affecting lives in local communities, others are ambitious programs with an impact that can be felt across borders.

Read on to learn about five of the unique initiatives that are positively impacting Southeast Asia’s future.

RISE Impact, one of the recipients of YSEALI small grants funding, offers a unique mentor-driven incubation program, educational workshops, and an impact venture clinic.

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Supporting Global Human Rights as a Muskie Intern in the U.S.

“I’ve got my visa, I’m coming!” Ying Xin texted me in the middle of the night.

Ying is an LGBTIQ rights activist from China participating in Columbia University’s 2019 Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP).

As an HRAP participant, she will soon be coming to New York City for four months to attend graduate classes at Columbia University, meet with international human rights organizations, and develop future partnerships that could help her in advancing LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) rights in China.

Ying Xin speaks at the 10-year anniversary of the Beijing LGBT Center, where she serves as its executive director.

As happy as Ying was to receive her visa, I was even more excited for her because I knew more about all the excellent opportunities she was about to experience in the U.S.

It was also easy for me to relate to her. I myself am interning with HRAP as a participant of the Edmund S. Muskie Internship program from Georgia, and I remember feeling the same excitement when I was accepted into my program.

Since I began working with HRAP, I’ve had the privilege of reliving the same sort of excitement for numerous human rights advocates from countries all over the globe, including Zimbabwe, Uganda, Chad, China, Mexico, Argentina, Ireland, Mauritania, and more.

Find out why I traveled all the way to the U.S. from Georgia to support human rights advocates all around the world.

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Exchange Day 2019: Giving Bread and Preserving History

Cultural Vistas celebrated the sixth annual Exchange Day with two separate organized community service events held on Saturday, August 3 in Washington, D.C. and Sunday, August 4 in New York City.

Exchange participants, staff, and friends of Cultural Vistas gathered in each city to “eat. play. give.” as a way to celebrate the impact of international exchanges and the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.

Even before the “eat” and “play” portions of Exchange Day, our volunteers in D.C. were in remarkably good spirits.

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Open Apertures, Open Minds: YSEALI Alum Photographs for Advocacy

Seeing Mount Kinabalu in Borneo as a thirteen-year-old-child was a turning point in Gab Mejia’s life. It was the first mountain he had seen up close and he felt a strange, yet powerful, desire to summit it. Though he was unsuccessful during that first attempt, the experience led to him discover his true calling in life.

Gab kept returning to the mountains and volcanoes in Philippines to learn hiking and experience nature. During these many trips, he discovered that, even more than summiting mountains, what he really loved to do was use his camera lens to tell stories and share experiences with others.

Now in his early twenties, Gab is an award-winning photographer, conservationist, mountaineer, and emerging storyteller.

Gab explores Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia.

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What Is Exchange Day?

Formerly known as “J Day,” the annual celebration of international education and exchanges known as Exchange Day brings together participants of the Exchange Visitor Program to #EatPlayGive as they participate in organized community service projects.

Since its launch in 2014, the celebration has grown significantly. In 2018, there were 47 J Day events held across 24 states and Washington, D.C.

But though the newly-renamed Exchange Day is a large-scale annual celebration taking place throughout the U.S., the concept behind it is very simple.

Exchange participants, alumni, and Cultural Vistas staff celebrated J Day in 2018 by assembling 720 children hygiene kits and donating 700+ diapers to the Greater DC Diaper Bank.

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