I am excited to announce that I will be doing a series for UNHCR Innovation on approaches for disrupting status quo youth engagements in education and social development. The first article in this series with UNHCR Innovation shares some insights and recommendations from my recent training-of-trianers session for the #MeWeSyria/ Youth Venture program running with Questscope at the UNFPA/Questscope Youth Center in Zaatari refugee camp, as well as #MeWeSyria’s activation in Turkey with Darb Sy.
An excerpt is provided below. Read the full article on UNHCR Innovation, here.
“We sat on a bench under the sun conversing amidst sounds of young boys playing soccer and kids running to their next classes.
This is seemingly a normal interaction that could be anywhere, like Central Park in New York for instance. But this was not a normal setting by any means. The bench we were chatting on was in a refugee camp. This was not a park with trees and grass and birds. This was Zaatari camp, where we are surrounded by tents and trailers enclosed by concrete walls and barbed wire. For 5 years now, Syrian families have taken refuge from a civil war that has metastasized across the region and claimed more than 200,000 lives.
The kids we hear were playing on a makeshift patch of turf, where there used be only rocks and dust. The Questscope NGO and UNFPA have managed to bring in a small patch of color to this otherwise binary landscape of grey and brown.
The person I am sitting with is one of the young trainees I have been engaging while running the Ashoka Youth Venture’s #MeWeSyria program . But he is no ordinary teenage kid. He is a young Syrian who is raising his brother on his own and has his parents and siblings separated in numerous countries as a result of war. As a teenager, in one lifetime he has to play father, mother, and sibling for his younger brother…..”
A resilient peace and the future development of Syria depends on all of us collaborating as a team of teams towards valuing and supporting Syria’s young change makers today by flipping status quo approaches to youth refugee engagement. Status quo systems enabled the persistence of the war in Syria as we know it today. Let’s together flip systems to raise up, not contain, Syria’s young changemakers. This will require us to apply the following approaches in our youth engagements:
- Experiential programs that disrupt internal barriers to self-expression, critical thinking, creativity, and pluralism
- Peer-to-peer learning that self-replicates culture tipping towards: team of teams, fluid leadership, empathy and creative problem-solving
- Opportunities for young people to step into their own story and tackle the ‘whys’ instead of the ‘what’ and ‘hows’
- Replication templates that allow for co-creation with community leaders, youth mentors and teachers for localization and relevancy
#MeWeSyria has been made possible thanks in large part to support from the German Mission to the United Nations.