Center and Academy for Educational Development Host Special Evening:
Arab Youth: Positive Contributors To Their Countries’ Development
January 29 at AED before an audience of Arabs, Arab-Americans and others with an
interest in the Arab world, the founders of Voice of Arab Youth shared their
dream - a world where Arab youth, working with their families and communities,
can show they have a positive role to play in shaping their countries’ future.
AED wants to help them realize that dream.
a two-hour presentation and conversation moderated by Mounzer Sleiman and
sponsored by the Al-Hewar Center, three of the project’s creators answered
questions about the community development and youth empowerment initiative and
received feedback from the Arab-American community. The young founders of Voice
of Arab Youth are Fadi ElSalameen, a Palestinian student; Maryah Bader Al-Dafa,
a Qatari student; Gregory Valadié, a French professional who lived in the
Middle East; and Sandy MacDonald, an experienced cultural exchange professional.
Furthermore, also present to reinforce the expertise and strength of the
conversation, were May Rihani, directing the Middle East Initiative at AED, and
Bill Smith, Executive Vice President of AED.
of Arab Youth is not another exchange or training program, but a chance to show
what young Arabs can do in the real world. Each year the program, which is
seeking funding, will select 200 young Arabs (18-25) from throughout the region
to gather for two months in the Middle East to create specific community
development projects. Participants will identify sponsoring organizations in
their own countries and then return with small grants to carry out their
projects under the guidance of their families and communities.
is a very important concept through which Arab youth could translate the ethics
and values of our culture,” said Dr. Hussein Hassouna, Ambassador of the
League of Arab States, in a letter read during the presentation.
projects will range from micro-enterprise to the promotion of girls education
and the development of health projects. The ideas will come from the
participants and their families. But they will be forged with the help of
experienced adults committed to youth development.
many as 40 of the 200 participants will be given the chance to come to the U.S.
as legislative interns across the country. Part of AED’s responsibility will
be to prepare these young people to perform as top-notch interns with the skills
needed for these positions.
initiative also received the support of Ambassador Nabil Fahmy of Egypt. The
Arab world and the U.S. need more of these types of efforts “with a view to
enhancing mutual understanding and respect as well as overcoming sources of
mistrust and misperception between both parties,” he said in written remarks
prepared for the event.
the whole project together will be the World Wide Web and regular phone contact.
All the participants will keep in touch weekly and share stories of challenges
and successes through an AED-moderated chat room.
understands these are very complex issues. But after decades of experience in
the Middle East and youth development around the world, we believe these four
students and young professionals have the right idea about helping Arab youth
make a difference in their communities.