From Asia and the Middle East all the way to Bend, students from around the world visited a nonprofit devoted to horse-centered therapy on Friday, but these students were at Healing Reins for a different type of lesson.
"They help people, they really help people," said Kazakh student Aizhan Khairullina. "When I would return back to my country, I would also like to develop such things."
Fourteen students representing universities from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Thailand are part of a prestigious program called Co-Serve International. They've come to America to visit businesses and nonprofits in Bend, among other cities in Oregon and Washington.
"All of these students in this program are future leaders of their countries," said Program Director Daniel Ballast.
And that's the very point of the program. For many of these students, as they were growing up, their country's leaders were not people they admired.
"Leadership as we knew (them sought) to have power, and it's not such a good thing," Khairullina said.
Program officials hope leaders in the U.S. will be the inspiring real-life examples of concepts the students studied all year.
"The best leaders, we think, are maybe those who don't see themselves at the top, but even potentially see themselves at the bottom -- serving people, supporting them, empowering them," Ballast said.
Afghan student Aziz Herawy is on his first trip to the U.S. He said trips to Pakistan have prepared him for America.
Herawy said he hopes to take lessons from the trip back to his leadership program in his home city.
"I think I am in a land of quality," Herawy said, describing his first reactions to experiencing America. "That's what I could see in relationships, in people, in properties and the streets."
After their trip ends, the students will return to their countries and work on leadership projects, seeking to develop change in their communities.
"Can they change their country?" Ballast asked, then answered. "We hope so."
So why did the program come to Bend? The group has a partnership Deschutes Economic Alliance. Ballast also said Bend offers exceptional businesses and nonprofits and is a great place for the students to tour and play.
To learn more, visit: http://www.co-serve.org