What do Rwanda, Youthlinc, and USU have in common? Well let me tell you...

The greatest challenge of any nonprofit organization is demonstrating meaningful impact, showing that a passion does more than just make people feel good, but that it changes them. The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy (UCCD) works to show such impact through our Diplomacy In Action narratives. Some have been small, some more intricate, but none with impact quite as evident as the connection made through a small International Visitors Leadership Program three years ago.

In May 2019, UCCD welcomed 7 visitors from various countries to examine the topic of "volunteerism" and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) in the United States. Visitors met with Utah nonprofit organizations and government entities during their time here to understand volunteerism in that sphere. Organizations included:  Save Our Canyons, SpringBoard Utah, Office of the Lieutenant GovernorUtah Commission on Service and Volunteerism, Youthlinc, Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center, and the Housing and Community Development Division. These meetings gave our international visitors the opportunity for participants to learn about different practices they could implement or avoid in their home countries. 

While many visitors enjoyed their time experiencing Utah, there was one man with a mission. Mr. Mutemberezi Pascal came to the US not only to learn but also to form international connections and expand his work's reach. In his home country of Rwanda, Mr. Pascal is highly involved in NGO management and direction. Before his visit to Utah, he worked with the Rwandan government to monitor the efficacy of NGOs in the country. Additionally, he acts as the director of "Save Community Initiative," a nonprofit that works to empower vulnerable women and children through education and civic engagement. 

While in Utah, Mr. Pascal visited Youthlinc, an organization that focuses on engaging youth with lifelong humanitarian service in local and international communities. Recognizing the great potential of the partnership, Mr. Pascal solicited a connection between his organization and Youthlinc in which Youthlinc programs could visit Rwanda and help the 'Save Community Initiative.' Mr. Powell, the director of Youthlinc, was initially hesitant to the request as many requests for partnership do not come to fruition. However, Mr. Pascal was determined to make the connection a reality and persisted in his efforts. During this same time, Mr. Powell was working with Dr. Shannon Peterson of the Utah State University Office of Global Engagement to create student study abroad programs focused on conflict resolution. Realizing the excellent case study that Rwanda afforded, Mr. Powell and Dr. Peterson planned a scouting trip to visit Mr. Pascal in Rwanda and explore the possibility of both USU and Youthlinc programs. The scouting trip revealed excellent educational and service opportunities, and as of June and July of 2022, both study abroad and Youthlinc Service trips were completed.

Join us as we explore this connection's intricacies and how one meeting has resulted in a multifaceted and growing impact. This three-part blog series will feature the stories of Mr. Mutemberezi Pascal, Director Justin Powell, Dr. Shannon Peterson, and Utah State University study abroad participants.

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