The U.S. Department of State’s International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) connects emerging foreign leaders with their professional counterparts in the U.S. to cultivate international cooperation and understanding. In the past several months, Yusef Andre Wiley has met two IVLP groups, whose program topics were related to reentry for men and women in the United States. He spoke with both delegations about rehabilitation and prevention for at-risk populations and provided a unique, firsthand perspective to the issue of incarceration as an ex-gang member.
The first group hailed from all regions of the world and included international leaders working in the government, nonprofits, NGOs, universities, and religious institutions. Mr. Wiley kept the visitors engaged with his compelling personal narrative and passion for helping the incarcerated. One visitor from Togo wrote in his evaluation: “I appreciated Yusef Andre Wiley’s efforts and commitment for the inmate population as a process for them to gain freedom.” Another Kyrgyz visitor commented that because the founder of Timelist “has experienced and knows what it is like to be in prison for a long time, he has a competitive advantage of understanding prisoners.” The interpreters from the same group mentioned that Mr. Wiley had a “fascinating bio of a former inmate. It was of great interest to the visitors, and they asked many questions.” The second group came from Tajikistan and included journalists who specialized in covering the topic of violent extremism. Mr. Wiley addressed the support services for the incarcerated and examined best practices for preventing people from returning to prison. The interpreters commented that his “personality and experience were moving”.
Mr. Wiley was kind enough to provide his time and expertise for these two groups, who returned to their home countries with a deepened understanding of violent extremism within the context of the U.S.. All parties undoubtedly benefited not only from a professional standpoint, but also from the cultural exchange that resulted from these connections.