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Video: Middle East Youth Festival

April 26, 2010

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    Global Citizen Corps members take some time out at the first-ever Middle East Youth Festival. Photo: Mercy Corps

"I learned a lot and I think everyone did too. It was like a utopian village, something to aim for on a wider scale."

These words are from one of the delegates at Global Citizen Corps first-ever Global Festival; an event which brought together young people from Jordan, Lebanon, UK, U.S. and Ireland in Edinburgh for an action packed week! The Middle East Youth Festival in Edinburgh was many things to many people. To me it was a celebration — a series of inspiring, youth led actions, a logistical headache and a dream come true!

We aimed to make the exchange as youth-led as possible, building their understanding and their capacity for delivering meaningful actions. They received training on conflict issues, group work, peer education and public speaking before spending time planning and delivering actions. Staff from all countries participated in the planning and delivery, and the young people themselves trained, delivered and evaluated one another.

The first public action they delivered was a Friday night preview of a photography exhibition. The photos were taken by their peers in Gaza; they spent an afternoon with a facilitator looking at image composition and then moved on to discuss the image content and context. During the preview, they guided the public and engaged them in discussions of the issues that arose.

The second action was a film screening of "Knowledge is the Beginning," which explores issues of cooperation and peaceful change. The youth welcomed in viewers, handed out delicious baklava, introduced the film and responded with eloquence to tricky public questioning following the screening.

On the Wednesday of the Festival, pupils from two local schools attended a day event facilitated by the Festival delegates. English skills amongst the delegates widely varied, so they supported one another by working in groups of mixed nationality, age and gender to deliver training on peace and conflict issues. They closed the day by setting the participants the challenge of following their lead and developing their own peer awareness raising activities!

The Scottish Parliament hosted the final actions. Two delegates delivered a “Time for Reflection” presentation in the Scottish Parliament, which was available to the public and all Members of the Scottish Parliament. This was followed by an evening reception at the Parliament.

The actions taken by the Festival's participants reached nearly 5,000 members of the public — a powerful demonstration of the multiplying impact peer education can have! During the evaluation, it became apparent how much the participants appreciated the faith the staff had in them.

There was no plan B; the events had been publicised, tickets had been distributed, they had to be delivered and they were the ones to do it! Never once did they let us down, rather the staff were constantly overwhelmed by the skills, confidence and stamina that the participants demonstrated. They were truly Being the Change!