Jordan and Lebanon have been the setting for a hugely successful project which promoted cultural heritage and its important role in opening minds to dialogue, citizenship, and social responsibility. The project was generously funded by the European Union through the Euromed Heritage Programme, which provides a framework for exchanges of experience, channels for disseminating best practices as well as new perspectives for the development of the cultural institutional environment at national and regional levels across North Africa and the Middle East.
Lebanon and Jordan are both rich in cultural offerings spanning civilizations over thousands of years. However, today many youth in both countries face social and economic challenges. Given that these youth are the harbingers of cultural heritage in the region, this programme played a significant role for them to serve as role models, promoting the value of cultural heritage, whilst laying strong foundations for future generations.
The programme, which started on 1 December 2009 and ran until 30 October 2011, had an overall objective “To promote ownership of diverse elements of tangible and non-tangible heritage in support of cultural pride and civic responsibility." Specifically, it sought “To promote increased accessibility to and sharing of cultural heritage to build pride and knowledge among youth and children in Lebanon and Jordan."
Over 2,200 youth in Jordan and Lebanon applied to be a part of this ground-breaking initiative, from which 72 from Jordan and 75 from Lebanon were successful. In order to fulfil this result and equip the youth with the relevant skills and knowledge, a range of trainings and cultural visits were organised. These included basics of filmmaking, photography and audio recording; all necessary to capture the essence of cultures in both countries. Experts also taught the youth various aspects of cultural heritage, including traditions and methods of cultural conservation and promotion. Field trips provided a chance for some practical hands-on experience and youth from both Jordan and Lebanon visited various historical and cultural locations, such as museums, archaeological sites, religious buildings, artists and music workshops and cultural centres. This theoretical and practical learning provided youth with an inspiring insight into their local cultural heritage. Using their new-found knowledge and skills, the youth then produced 51 multimedia projects documenting the tangible and non-tangible aspects of cultural heritage. These were exhibited at twelve exhibitions in Jordan and Lebanon in which over 3,000 people attended.
An educational cultural heritage toolkit was developed and distributed to 2,000 school teachers, and over 1,000 schools and NGOs in Jordan and Lebanon. Over 1,000 teachers were trained on using the toolkits which were designed to stimulate youth interest towards investigating their local and national heritage, as well as to develop their commitment to safeguarding and promoting this heritage. As well as schools and NGOs, museums have a vital role in promoting cultural heritage and creating an accessible environment to learn.
During this programme Mercy Corps designed and installed ten multimedia kiosks in the respective national museums in Amman and Beirut. The Kiosks are interactive learning tools which include a virtual tour of the museum, heritage games, and multimedia projects, including short movies, posters and photos related to the content developed by the youth. The Kiosks are a fun and interactive method for young people to learn and enjoy their culture. 61 museum guides were also trained in youth-oriented tours and child-friendly education techniques which focused on how to capture the attention of youth who visit museums. Mercy Corps encourages residents of Amman and Beirut and visitors alike, especially those with young children, to visit the museums and enjoy the Kiosks. In addition, Mercy Corps organised four cultural heritage festivals in Jordan and Lebanon with a total of around 24,200 attendees. The purpose of the festivals was to promote less recognised and non-tangible aspects of cultural heritage and to inspire curiosity among young people, educators, and parents.