The Community Solutions Program is a U.S.-based professional development fellowship for community leaders from around the world who work in the fields of transparency and accountability, tolerance and conflict resolution, environmental issues and women’s issues. Fellows are based at a non-profit, government office or legislative body for four months, where they work with community leaders to enhance their practical expertise, leadership skills and professional contacts to address societal issues in their home communities. Throughout the fellowship, fellows also develop leadership and organizational management skills through online and in-person trainings. To be eligible, applicants must be community leaders, age 25-38, currently working on a community engagement initiative in their home countries and have at least two years of professional experience in this capacity.
To learn more about this extraordinary opportunity, we interviewed Abdillah Zamzuri of Singapore who was a 2013 Community Solutions Program Fellow.
1. What inspired you to apply for the Community Solutions Program?
I was first introduced to the Community Solutions Program fellowship by a friend from Indonesia. He suggested that I apply for it since he felt that I would be a good candidate considering he had some understanding of the work I have been doing in Singapore. So, when I took a look at the application, I thought that it would be a great opportunity for me to learn and explore new concepts and ideas as well as find new and creative ways to help the community in Singapore.
At the time when I applied for the fellowship, I was already running 2 businesses focused on arts, education and sports and have been volunteering for more than 10 years focusing on at-risk youths and minorities. I wanted to find meaningful ways to help Singaporeans and foreigners working in Singapore to live harmoniously. At the time, the environment in Singapore was very hostile towards foreigners and there were several controversial news stories because a foreigner had insulted Singaporeans on Facebook. That insult caught on overnight and the following morning, the foreigner was sacked from her job and left Singapore. I felt that social media played a big role in how the turn of events had played out.
2. How has the fellowship experience impacted your career?
When I was in the US, I was based at the University of California, Irvine, to advise Students for Global Peacebuilding (SGP), a new student group that had just started the semester before I arrived. My arrival was timely as there were some racial tensions on campus at that time due to a blackface incident. The SGP was a student-initiated effort to try to inculcate peace on campus.
During my time there, I assisted the students in developing a peace training program for new students coming to live in the halls. The program helped them learn how to manage conflict, but more importantly, how to develop a better understanding of one another in order to live harmoniously. This was in line with the work that I had planned to initiate when I arrived back in Singapore, a project entitled, “InterFaith-InterCultural Understanding Program” (IF-IC UP). This would essentially be a structured training program to train and support youth leaders from schools or organizations.
Although implementing the program has been a challenge in Singapore due to the sensitivities involved, I have managed to make small milestones through giving talks to undergraduates as part of the school graduation or as part of a module that they are taking in class. Separately, a part of the program I developed will also be used to train volunteer mentors under my organization. As part of my ongoing commitment to implementing this project, I have begun reaching out through social media, leveraging stories that have happened in the community to educate my friends and followers.
3. What tips would you give others applying to the Community Solutions Program?
As this program is a 4-month long overseas commitment, candidates need to be fully committed and have the support of their immediate family members, friends and colleagues. Candidates must be mentally and emotionally prepared for the long separation. Individuals with good experience in a leadership capacity, strong English language fluency, and community work experience are highly recommended to apply for the fellowship.
The entire selection process takes a few months and includes a phone interview in English. This tests your ability to not only be conversant in English but also your ability to commit to the program as well as a TOEFL test which you will have to pass above a certain grade to be accepted.
But most importantly, let your personality and commitment shine!
Abdillah Zamzuri is a highly self-motivated individual with a passion for youth, education, arts and civil society. Co-founder of By Definition Pte Ltd and Singa-sports Academy, he is also currently the Vice-Chairman for Cairnhill Community Centre’s Youth Executive Committee (YEC). Abdillah is also a professional emcee, events organizer and certified C-VAT psychometric coach. In his free time, he enjoys reading, making music covers and going on adventures.
© Victoria Johnson 2015, all rights reserved.