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SPAN Connecting to International Disability Advocacy Efforts

In October 2016, The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) hosted Jessica Lim, a Fellow from Brunei. Jessica works in Brunei, South Asia, at Learning Ladders, a non-profit organization that provides services to children with autism spectrum disorders. During her stay in the U.S., Jessica was deeply involved for three weeks in SPAN activities. She learned how SPAN is committed to empowering families as advocates and partners in improving education, health, and mental health outcomes for infants, toddlers, children and youth.

When Jessica visited the US, she was part of the YSEALI Professional Fellows Program. The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) is the U.S. government's signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia. The YSEALI Professional Fellows Program gives participants ages 25-35 the opportunity to spend five weeks in the United States, including four weeks working directly with American counterparts in individually tailored work placements with non-profit organizations, state and local government, and private-sector offices across the country.  During these placements, Fellows build their practical expertise, leadership skills, and professional networks. (YSEALI asean.usmission.gov/yseali/)

The Professional Fellows Program is one of many professional exchange programs funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. These exchanges are designed to foster mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

The Professional Fellows Program brings emerging leaders from around the world to the United States for intensive short-term fellowships designed to broaden their professional expertise. Participants are placed in non-profit organizations, media outlets, private sector businesses, and government offices across the country to learn first-hand how issues in their field are addressed in the U.S. Participants build a broad network with both their American colleagues and their fellow participants. The program also creates an opportunity for them to develop a deeper understanding of American society. Thousands of Americans host, work with, and learn from the foreign fellows while they are in the United States, and the second phase of the Professional Fellows Programs involves selection of Americans to take part in official follow-on programs overseas, in conjunction with the fellows they hosted in the U.S. The main goal of the program is to create institutionalized long-term partnerships that support emerging leaders and their institutions in the ASEAN countries and the U.S. to inspire change in creating responsive, open, and accountable governance.

Myriam Alizo was part of the second phase of the program when she was selected to participate in the YSEALI Professional Fellows Program. In February 2017, Jessica and the organization she represents, Learning Ladders, hosted Myriam for two weeks in Brunei. Brunei Darussalam is a remote tropical country, rich in culture and heritage. It is a small, peaceful, safe, prosperous kingdom on the ecologically-rich island of Borneo.