Tag Archive for youth leaders

American Middle Eastern Network for Dialog at Stanford (AMENDS 2013)

The AMENDS Summit 2013 is a free conference at Stanford that brings youth leaders (generally recent college graduates) from the Middle East (or the US with a strong interest connection there).  I attended (most of) the first session devoted to Impact Entrepreneurship.

Rena Zaubi (Palestine) looking at ways to enhance food security and development.  Shouldn’t focus on export cash crops, but rather providing food locally.  Forced to rely on Israel Civil Authority for access to inputs (fertilizer) and markets (export from Gaza to EU of strawberries, flowers), too often permits aren’t forthcoming.

Yad Faeq (Iraq):  Crowdfunding platform for IT businesses after his own startup failed due to lack of funding.  Still early stages.

Nadia Arouri (Palestine):  Organize children’s dance performances to create peace (focusing first on inner peace).  When they planned a trip for their students and teachers to present the performance in Israel, the Israel Civil Authority demanded magnetic cards first (typically only required of age 16+) after German embassy pushed for permit issuance, they did get 181 of the requested 200, but *none of the teachers/chaperones* so they were still unable to do the performance.

Al-Nasir Bellah Al-Nasiry (Iraq) recent medical school graduate:  talking about the empowerment of youth.  Two youth create a plan to celebrate International Peace Day in Baghdad.  Two years of being thrown road blocks (denied permits, etc.) 100’s of student leaders accomplished it at on 9/21/2011.  Thousands attended.  Inspired by that Peace Day celebration, convened a group of 15 youth leaders.  Want it to be “3 FREE’s” Free of Charge, on their Free time (weekend, evenings), Free of obligations/formalities (peer leadership). Training in leadership, advocacy training, public health awareness, entrepreneurship, environmental protection.  Each one-teach one (or 4) to grow exponentially.

Ali Chehade (Lebanon) DreamMatcher (Fulbright  Scholar) “We can all make the dreams come true.”   “What’s a dream you can realize for someone else?”  Someone sitting next to you might have a dream you can help.  Helping others gives you a dopamine boost.  www.thedreammatcher.com virtual and real-life social matching event.  Typical event brings 50-60 dreams from people who have never met before.  Think of your dreams–don’t ignore them.  Be aware of them and share them.  Remember your superpowers, what you can give other people.  Share our resources and where we really care about each other’s happiness.

Sarah Mousa (Egyptian- American, undergrad Princeton studying middle East and public policy, grad Georgetown, Fulbright Scholar in Cairo):  Use of solar energy for development.  In junior year, spent summer in Cairo.  Slums “half-hazards”  half of population of 20M live in “ashwayi” not recognized by government, so lack basic services (trash, water, education, health, sewage, etc).  Homemade solar water heater (made of readily available materials).  Little being done in Arab world in solar, in spite of appropriateness.  Lack of maintenance, and no way for new families to acquire heaters.  (1)  Awareness sessions on solar/renewable energy (2)  Training Workshops (a dozen trained in construction)  3)  Establish business of construction, installation, and maintenance of the hot water heaters.  Expanding team, gathering funding, have written proposals, have core team, applying for funding from NGO’s with a similar vision.  Current economic and political situation very difficult.  Areas that she’s working with are so focused on day-to-day needs, that they’re receptive, but NGO’s are distracted by the macro conditions.

Que Newbill (Washington, DC) Tupac documentary showing in Amman Jordan in 2011 on his first night there.  Slam poetry and spoken word in SF, connected with DJ’s explicitly political nature of the performance with one performance stopped when it became too political.)  Scoble Fellow / Middle East analyst in DC.  Innocence of Muslims film release:  Urban youth share a lot of common problems, could you connect US with Middle East:  Youth Speaks:  connect American Urban Youth with Middle East with goals:  Empowerment, Dialogue.  (Spaces to share experience)  Awareness  (increase social awareness, amplify experiences through global audience).  Pair US with MiddleEastern urban youth for weekly discussion, monthly workshops and annual conferences using rap and slam poetry.  Youth Speaks has 6 people 3 in DC, 3 in Amman, waiting to hear back from grant applications like Open Society Foundation (and other foundations focusing on urban youth and international projects).  Competitive.

AMENDS (American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford)

AMENDS delegates 2012

This convocation of 40 youth leaders from 20 countries (mostly Middle East and North Africa) is a remarkable effort from the Stanford student community. The youth are at Stanford for 5 days, and as part of the time, are giving talks which are free and open to the public. For more information, see: http://amends.stanford.edu/

Rawan Da’as from Jordan: Photographic Skills for Little Wonders

Using photography classes as a way to reach children in refugee camps, helping them think about apprenticeship / job training, relating to other people and the environment. Building their creative thinking and artistic skills and empowerment. Also train photographers to consider creating a career from their art by selling photos.

Need to invest in youth, and help them to be the change.

Aymen Abderrahman from Tunisia: Karari.org (mydecision)

A few days before election (first free elections) in Tunisia, only 55% said they planned to vote. As a stunt to shock people into action, a group raised a banner of deposed dictator Ben Ali. The citizens did take action, tearing it down, revealing a second, hidden banner, reading “Dictatorship can come back: Vote on ….)” See the YouTube version that Aymen played. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu-WjbD9NbE

Growing up, he was not permitted to speak out on political issues. 1/14/2011: The start of the Arab Spring with the deposing of dictator Ben Ali.

Karari.org is a web 2.0 website to maximize participative democracy. Allows user to interact with each other on political issues–be not just consumers but creators as well. (Available in English, French, Arabic). “Expert” tagged comments pinned to the top for people to learn from. Collective “like” votes determines ordering of comments. Supports social media features like: friends, sharing of links, articles, and status updates.

Political Rights Tools:

  1. Voices
  2. Petitions
  3. (yet to come) chat

Lists constitutions of 46 countries of the world.


  • 30% of Tunisians user internet
  • 2.8M FB accounts, hope to get 10% as users of Karari

Need creation of jobs (40% of college grads unable to find jobs). Seeking full-time webmaster, a data server & 4 computers & budget for a marketing campaign.

Heather Libbe from US (studied in Israel, West Bank, Jordan for 3 months): Euphrates Institute

Peace & Sustainability focus of her study

1) Complexity of conflict

2) Religious fundamentalism

3) Peace & Sustainability (intertwined)

Passion for peace building: Building bridges between Middle East & West through educational programs

1) Travel studies (adult trips & study abroad)

2) Fellows program (research)

Euphrates Institute: Energy, Security, and Religion: “Prepare for Peace” (founded by Iraq analyst from CIA for 2 years)

End the clash of civilizations (Muslim and west) in our life time:

Reach 20% of people (Everett Rogers, of Stanford) social change tipping point.

“Inform. Inspire. Transform.”

Fellows Program: based at Principia College (open to US undergrad & grad students): Campus activities on their own campuses.

13 students with individual research projects (e.g. water in Israel/Palestine, Islamic art, role of Turkey as mediator)

Goal to triple fellows program, expanded to other locations. http://www.euphratesinstitute.org

Brian Pellot: Free Speech Debate in the Digital Age

10 principles for global free speech posted at http://www.freespeechdebate.com

Naguib Sawairis

Coptic Christian in Egypt. Arrested for tweeting picture of Mickey & Minnie with beard & veil

IDF whistleblower who leaked documents

Placed on house arrest, super injunction (can’t even cover the
fact that there is an episode/injunction in the media)

2 billion users of the internet and social networks. Opportunities and challenges for free speech.

Countries no longer control, companies do (Google, Twitter, FB)

Religion, national security, privacy, SOPA

30 grad students running the site, translate principles, case studies.

Sonya Kassis : Watch your Waste e-Museum: Bridging Middle School Students through Art, Science and Technology in the United States and Jordan

Helping to compensate for the cuts in education budgets. Arab American National Museum:

Using environmental issues to connect students between (US, Jordan) on art, culture, advocacy.

Students connect using FB, YouTube, Flickr, hope to have in-person visits (but challenge, since they are middle school students)

Example of project:

Raising awareness of Water issue: The typical American uses 1.6 gallons per flush, which is greater than the daily access to water for cleaning, drinking, and washing in parts of Africa.

Looking at the omnipresent 500ml plastic water bottle: Americans dispose of 50 billion of them per year or 140 million per day. Producing each 500ml bottle takes 1.5 liters of water (not counting the contents) and 125 ml of petroleum. And of course, tap water is perfectly good to drink in nearly all of the country.

250M tons of trash per year from US: (4,837 Titanics worth each year)

Elizabeth Harmon from US: BabSharqi.org (Eastern Gate: Student gateway for planning study abroad in Middle East)

Elizabeth studied for a year in Syria (moved to Jordan after Arab Spring in Mar 2011) as time-off during her undergraduate studies.

The BabSharqi.org web site (under development) will feature:

  • Comprehensive list of program, with user reviews and Q&A forums
  • Info about scholarships and connections with previous scholars
  • Plans / backup plans for travel advisories
  • Visas, residency permits information
  • Info about housing and homestays
  • Q&A on transportation, money, tap water, books & libraries, health needs, banks, and the like
  • Recommendations for tutors and language exchange partners

Next steps: Western Gate (Arabs -> US), more languages, financial support

Need: funding, developers

Ifrah Magan from US, Chicago: Path to Peace: Story Telling in Somali Communities around the World

Ifrah was born in Mogadishu Somalia, fled from the war to Egypt for 10 years, resettled to Michigan, then went to Chicago for college.

“Look beyond the pirates and famine, to see the stories and culture,” she asked.

She is working to put together a book of stories of resettlement of Somalis around the world. “Coming from a lawless state, living in a dictatorship for 10 years, now seeing privilege of living in US” Highlight the voices, collaborate with NGO in Chicago (Davis Peace Project) $10K for purchasing library materials for literacy groups and peace workshops. Met for 6 weekly sessions (cultures of Peace, 2 state solution in Sudan, Iraqi history) chance to learn from each other, listen to the individuals tell their stories (to claim their stories and have a sense of ownership). Collaborate with different organizations in US in Diaspora, get the stories of resettlement from Somali refugees (effect of conflict, what peace means to them). In Somalia, people share the same language, are primarily Muslim, yet have had 2 decades of conflict. This is a way to bring voices together of Somali people. There have been 15 transitional federal governments since war started (20 years ago). Something is clearly not working. Let’s hear the people, humanize each story, it’s important for all of us.

Sam Adelsberg from Yale Law: Lowest Common Denominators: Microloans and Economic Opportunity in the West Bank

Although he had been part of a friendship “building bridges” delegation trip to New Orleans, he found that many of his contemporaries on both sides who were not “crossing checkpoints” or “in zones where rockets might fall” were assuming intractable positions. They were shouting slogans or joining Facebook groups, not doing something constructive, perhaps because they were feeling guilty for “not being there”. That degree of remove, Sam said, reinforces inability to see the “gray area.”

So, as a concrete action, he started www.lendforpeace.org a microcredit site for people to make loans to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

Launched 2 years ago, it has raised tens of thousands of dollars–and he now wonders how could it be used or applied more broadly.

Lack of jobs (25% unemployment rate): entrepreneurship as a way to spur job growth.

Belief in human right to control your economic destiny.

Giving individuals the power to chase their dreams. Arab Spring showed the power of grass-roots political organizing. Now let’s see the power of crowd sourced fund raising for microcredit.

Sam faced a tough question from a Palestinian woman in the audience who said that the issue is not the economic hardship that Palestinians face. Money is the last thing on her mind. Her consuming thought is freedom. He gracefully acknowledged that his project is not a panacea, or even a direct route to solve the conundrum, but he believes it is something that he can do (with help) to improve the situation and help to build trust through peaceful interaction.