Insights

#MeWeSyria at MiT/United Nations

What a surprising week. Solve MiT selected #MeWeSyria as a finalist to pitch our innovation at the United Nations, and we won!!! We are honored and excited at the prospect of connecting with the resources of MiT, other Solvers, and private sector partners and companies. This win could help us scale and globalize this year. If you are interested in supporting our network, please get in touch with me in the [get involved] section.

This is a victory for our brave and beautiful Syrian changemaker teams in Jordan (with Questscope), Turkey (with Darb_Syr), and Lebanon. This program is built on their hard work and dedication to fighting spaces of darkness and hopelessness each and every day. These are the invisible wars that threaten social and emotional development, and thus threaten our world. We should celebrate and support Syrian youth changemakers everywhere. Congrats to all our refugee teams!! Here’s to the next big steps!! We head to MiT in May!

You can watch our winning pitch at the United Nations below:

MiT Solve invite #MeWeSyria to UN | March 7th

MiT’s Solve have selected #MeWeSyria as a finalist to pitch at the United Nations on 7 March. This could be a big opportunity for our innovative program and refugee-led teams. The event will focus on solutions for refugee education. Follow @MeWeSyria for live updates and also PLEASE VOTE FOR US HERE!

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Expanding #MeWeSyria spaces in Turkey + Lebanon

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Because of intense travel for #MeWeSyria, I have had little time to share the many insights, successes, and impacts made since October 2016. Since then, we have expanded refugee-led #MeWeSyria teams in Turkey and Lebanon. I promise to share more in the coming weeks and months. Here is a short summary of basic goings-on. Much much more to come.

January 2017: 

The numbers: 20+ Syrian facilitators and teachers were trained and signed-on to the innovative storytelling for changemakers methodology of #MeWeSyria after an intensive 4 day training of trainers and co-creation session. 20 replicators will implement localized versions of #MeWeSyria in 3 cities across Lebanon, reaching 270+ teenagers and parents.

October 2016:

The numbers: 18+ Syrian facilitators and teachers were trained and signed-on to #MeWeSyria localization. These brave changemakers will implement localized versions of #MeWeSyria in 3 cities in Southeast Turkey, reaching 400+ teenagers and parents.

  • Trends and quick insights:

  • Because of the war, and the level of loss and destruction, every Syrian–be they an engineer, teacher, artist, student—is now being called upon to be healers for the mental health/trauma/emotional paralysis that are epidemics for today’s Syria’s young.

  • Most Syrian refugee youth volunteers have expressed an urgent need to have new engagements and interventions for working with Syrian refugees. Traditional trainings and youth programs are not serving the needs of today’s refugee youth. Youth need opportunities for social and emotional learning, communications practice, and resiliency-building.

  • All Syrian refugee trainees are themselves wrestling with trauma and barriers to social and emotional development as a result of war and forced displacement.

  • All trainees expressed increased fear and pressures with handling youth who have mental health challenges or trauma. Syrian teachers and youth facilitators are noticing more and more Syrian kids are living off the streets and getting involved in either forced childhood marriage or drug abuse.

  • Youth are becoming increasingly vulnerable to apathy, isolation, and anger. And parents of refugee youth remain helpless, frustrated, and ill-equipped to handle these sensitive cases.

  • All expressed a desire to have more access and support for integrating social and emotional learning and wellbeing/mindfulness practices in their youth interventions.

  • Peace is now becoming a divisive and dangerous word among some Syrian communities, because of the death and destruction that has been allowed to persist during the failed processes of attaining cease-fires and peace deals over the past 5+ years of war.

Protest and Pray | Aleppo

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There are so many incredible updates to share. In October, #MeWeSyria expanded its refugee storytelling for changemaker hubs in Gaziantep, Turkey. We have launched 9 new teams who will each replicate #MeWeSyria program to more than 400 Syrian teens. I will write more on these developments in the coming days, but for now, I wanted to focus on the tragedy befalling Aleppo, since many of our beneficiaries are from there.

#Syrians from living as in SHARE their messages & calls to action, my latest on Huffington Post, here

Excerpt: “He has two options: die by Assad’s rockets, or, kill himself,” ‘M’ tells me of his cousin who has been treating injured people inside of besieged Eastern Aleppo.”

Excerpt: “In the coming weeks and months, Aleppo may disappear from the headlines. The world will tend to fall back on comfortable complacency with the ‘meltdown of humanity’ that transpired in Aleppo. Time brings with it the threat of unacceptable acceptance of the murder of empathy, the murder of children, the murder of our collective dignity. Assad, Russia, and Iran will wait for this moment, and in fact depend on this human behavior. We, as a collective humanity, must not let Aleppo fall victim to this— an even bigger tragedy of social acceptance and indifference to genocide. Allowing this means guaranteeing that our kids and future generations will bear witness, and carry the burden of another massacre…another blow to the very universal things that make us human. It is on us. Not leaders. Not the international community. It is on our watch. So in the coming new year, let’s not forget to protest and to pray, as our Syrian changemakers ask.”

Read the full interview on Huffington Post…

Our latest on UNHCR Innovation hub

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Check out our latest article for #UnitedNations UNHCR Innovation on our storytelling for changemakers work with young Syrians. Please take a few to hear Syrian youth messages and engage w: their creativity and ideas. #MeWeSyriahttp://innovation.unhcr.org/narrative-control-power/

Here is an excerpt:

In life, there are things we cannot control: where we are born; the color of our skin; our parents; or the rapid pace of change in our personal lives and in our societies.

On the other hand, stories,  by nature, are  free. In the face of uncontrollable variables, every person, young and old, possesses the power of narrative and the ability to formulate new realities and ideas. Stories are blank canvases in which the author is in control, using the past and the imagination to create a new reality.

When it comes to the story of Syria, and how the international community and Syrians themselves interact with it, it’s  no surprise that extremists, political plays, and tragedy colonize the narrative space. It’s also not surprising that the production and consumption of stories of suffering, fear, and violence results in the international community’s desensitization to Syrians’ plight and of refugee youth from numerous communities. But less obvious is the risk of Syrian and other refugee youth accepting a world of consequences instead of innovating a world choices, for an entire generation. This risk carries direct implications for humanitarian efforts and for sustainable peace and development.

A story can be a simulator, where anyone can practice control, exercise imagination, build empathy, and test a range of human conditions, failures, and triumphs.

For most of us, the push of  a ‘record’ button on a camera, the push of a key, the ink on a piece of paper seem as though they are insignificant acts. But words and the process of connecting feelings and ideas to paper and media have power.

Check out recent pieces produced and shot by young Syrian refugees from the Darb-Syr community organization in Gaziantep, Turkey during Youth Venture’s #MeWeSyria program. What you see is a finished story, but the real story is what transpired  as young Syrians stepped into their stories and connected mind and heart with their breaths. Through collaborative storytelling exercises, young Syrians practiced working in creative teams, leadership, creative problem-solving skills, and connected passions with problems. What was built was not just a video, but a tangible youth-led space for empathy and ideas sharing that lasts beyond the actual days of the workshops and trainings READ MORE ON UNHCR

 

 

 

 

#storytelling for #Changemakers Darb Syr Questscope Ashoka’s Youth Venture

It’s on

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This week, world leaders and NGOs are convening in NY for the United Nations General Assembly. There will be a lot of talk on refugees and an echo chamber of governments and organizations repeating catchy quotes about what the world needs to do to improve education access, and the need to better serve youth, refugees, and migrants. On the one hand, it’s a moment to really focus the international community’s attention on pressing challenges. On the other hand, it’s also a chance for nations and organizations to promote themselves for trying to do what they should already be doing: advancing the health and wellbeing of people and planet. While the party happens in NY, Me/We is digging deep in designing and planning for HOW to build youth-led spaces for healing, empathy and problem solving.

 

So much has transpired since our last update on June, when we presented on #MeWeSyria at the Innovative Solutions Conference in Istanbul, Turkey with Ashoka Turkey. ‘What?’ you ask? Check out the snap-shot of updates below…

Codesigning new healing tactics and basic neuroscience into Me/We Storytelling program 

“He/She who controls the narrative has power. He/She who controls the amygdala controls #empathy.’ It’s been a really enlightening and fast-paced few days with my #MeWeSyria ally and partner @mikeniconchuk (humanitarian, neuroscience and empathy expert). Mike has been with refugees for many years and was in Zaatari refugee camp during the pilot of #MeWeSyria. Fast forward to today, we are refining and enhancing my #MeWeSyria storytelling program by building in experiential exercises and collaborative opportunities for peer to peer healing, empathy, and creative enterprise through #storytelling. Since 2013, Syrians from Questscope NGO in Zaatari refugee camp and Darb Syr NGO in Gaziantep, Turkey continue to bravely and selflessly replicate the program for Syrian teens. Mike and I are engaging in a little creative destruction to identify  ways to improve the program further for refugee replicators. These young refugees are doing important work for youth development and peace. Stay tuned for more updates on this end.  #MeWeSyria.

A note from refugees in Gaziantep

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Above is a letter from Syrian youth living as #refugees in #Turkey. These brave youth from #Syria are replicating and adapting my #MeWeSyria #storytelling for #changemakers program. In this report, they share in their own words how it has been going.

“We experienced that human needs can be discovered and feelings can be expressed through storytelling and #MeWeSyria let us really, for the first time, connect with what is inside of us. This plays a role to have resilience in our lives, gives us the tools of changing and gives us the hope and desire to continue changing when we are using empathy and problem-solving strategies.”–Darb Syr NGO / #MeWeSyria replicator 

I will be expanding and refining the program further in #Turkey, #Lebanon, and #Jordan over the next 6 months with #DarbSyr #Questscope #AshokaYouthVenture #Germany #Syria. Thanks for sending Hadi! Love to the wonderful Syrian teams in #Turkey and #Jordan!

Phase III funds secured! 

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Excited to announce I secured phase 3 partnership between my program #MeWeSyria and the German government. It was a small idea I had that many people and organizations didn’t take seriously years ago, except this woman from the German govt (Christiane Hullmann). She and her team believed in #MeWeSyria. They opened the door when I knocked. Since then, we have together activated multiple youth hubs for creative enterprise, empathy, changemaking and #storytelling with brave and talented Syrian teachers and volunteers in #Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and in #Gaziantep Turkey. Don’t let anyone tell you ‘No’ if you really believe in something. Everyone can do something. And the preservation and progress of our world requires all of us to step into our changemaker journeys, especially for Syria today and Kashmir. I’ll be expanding our program in this new phase with my Syrian friends and partners in #Lebanon, #Turkey, #Syria and #Jordan over the next 6 months. Teams of dedicated young Syrians are every day battling darkness and equipping youth with hope, education and social support through this program and others. We must support these people. Our world needs them. The world fails Syria, but Syria’s youth will not fail our world. Lots of work left to do and improvements to make. I’ll be reaching out to my friends for funding support. Stay tuned. Honored to keep working and co-creating with Turkish, Syrian and Jordanian teams: #YouthVenture #Questscope #DarbSyr.

Innovative Solutions for Refugees Conference

 

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How can we build more collaborative spaces for scaling up ad improving innovative solutions supporting refugees in Turkey and other countries in the region? Social entrepreneurs, Ashoka Fellows and private and public sector partners are coming together in Istanbul to build a team of teams for supporting Syrian changemakers and innovators, civic movements, community building, higher education of Syrians, and other needs.

#MeWeSyria, as part of Ashoka’s Youth Venture, are grateful to have been invited by Ashoka Turkey to pitch on youth-led  for social and emotional learning + changemaking, 14 June.

Details…http://www.ebrd.com/news/events/innovative-solutions-for-refugees.html

#ICYMI: Watch #MeWeSyria on UNHCR Panel

What is the value-added of integrating storytelling and creative arts programs in education and humanitarian response programs for young people? I had the pleasure of discussing this and other important innovation topics with Film Aid, Nee Nee Productions, UNHCR Innovation and +PlusSocialGood. Lots of great lessons learned and insights were shared. This is def worth a watch. Special thanks to UNHCR Innovation for inviting #MeWeSyria and Ashoka’s Youth Venture to participate.

Read my latest series for UNHCR Innovation here.

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#MeWeSyria series for UNHCR Innovation

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.

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“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…..”

Recommendations:

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.