Ahmed Khalid Alghamdi grew up a world away but in the midst of a pandemic provided crucial support to HCO individuals in the Winona Community. In 2015, Ahmed was living 7400 miles away in Saudi Arabia and was researching a school where he could learn English. In just three short months, he was approved to the NSU English program in Oklahoma, completed visa and legal papers and arrived to Dallas, TX which had all of the Southern hospitality he had heard about.

In 2016, he became bilingual in both his native Arabic and English. He was able to establish friendships and enjoyed learning more about American culture. He felt that everyone invited him to their holidays and really made him feel like this was home. In 2017, he enrolled at a community college in Rochester, MN and the following year started studying Recreation/Tourism at Winona State University. He is very appreciative to his academic advisors for helping him get on his future career track and building on his leadership skills. Through WSU and other students he learned that HCO offered practicum opportunities and he was drawn to their mission.

This past fall, he started a practicum at HCO helping provide social interaction to individuals that could not work due to COVID-19. Through technology, he had a caseload of individuals that he spent one-on-one time with providing an important connection and was able to lead recreation activities to people in the safety of their own homes.

Ahmed did not have any experience working with a non-profit or in the field of disability services but his colleagues wouldn’t have realized it. Ahmed is a natural with supporting people of all abilities and understanding person-centered philosophy. He would immediately be able to connect with people and would be able to adapt the activities that he was planning based on those that were planning to attend and the needs that they had. Everyone enjoyed the time they spent with Ahmed while also being able to learn more about his culture. HCO individuals loved to hear stories of Ahmed’s parents’ pets, which are camels!

Ahmed enjoyed his practicum with HCO so much that he applied to also complete his full internship spring semester. This past semester he has had the opportunity to lead his fellow students that were completing their practicum while also being able to continue to grow his leadership skills. As the semester progressed the workforce shortage continued to increase at HCO and Ahmed was able to provide support that was needed in the HCO homes to those he had built a relationship with throughout the last year. He helped out wherever he could from helping an individual be able to play bingo through technology with all of his friends to being the support available to go on walks to help those that wanted to exercise and have some social opportunities outside of their home. Ahmed shared “I have learned a lot and I would love to continue to be in the non-profit area. HCO and WSU have taught me recreation theories and ideas that I never would have imagined.”

Ahmed graduated in May and is preparing to move back to Saudi Arabia. During the pandemic, he was not able to see his parents and he was so thankful for the home atmosphere that he experienced at HCO. He feels that he learned tremendous lessons that he could not have just learned in school and will be eternally grateful to everyone at HCO. He is hoping to stay in touch and is looking forward to sending desert pictures to his friends at HCO next winter.

Not only was Ahmed able to make an incredible impact on the individuals at HCO, he is now taking the important experiences he has learned back across the world. The heartfelt moments that he experienced at HCO will always be with him and will now help guide him as he continues down his career path. “I am thankful to WSU and HCO and everyone who welcomed me to this country and made it feel like home. I have had a great experience and I have loved growing my education in this county and I will keep loving my experience until my last breath. Thank you to WSU and HCO for making this journey happen and making me feel like family.”

Students like Ahmed provide critical support to HCO while also ensuring a quality, well-rounded experience. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer or complete an internship through HCO, please contact Lynette Johnson at LynetteJ@hco.org.