A U.S. Congressional delegation, headed by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), visited the Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center in the Ramallah and Al-Bireh Governorate. Rep. Lowey, a member of the Committee on Appropriations and Chair of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, was joined by Reps. Kay Granger (R-TX), Jesse Jackson Jr., (D-IL), Ben Chandler (D-KY) and Adam Schiff (D-CA). Also participating were Howard Sumka, Thomas Johnson, Nadia Basel, and Chris Grantham of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center is sponsored by Ruwwad, a USAID-funded youth empowerment program implemented by Education Development Center (EDC). During the visit, the delegation met with Ruwwad-supported National Youth Corps (NYC) leaders and volunteers who spoke about the status of Palestinian youth, their dreams and ambitions. The U.S. visitors were also updated on the U.S. Palestinian Partnership, an initiative that brings USAID and the U.S. private sector together with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and USAID implementing partners including the U.S.-based EDC.
Unique Opportunities for Youth
The delegation saw first-hand the efforts of these partners to develop the capacity of Palestinian youth through the Ruwwad Palestinian Youth Empowerment Program, its unique 30/30 leadership training, and the youth-led community initiatives carried out by NYC members. The visit offered details about the launching of the Youth Resource Development Centers, which are the platforms for youth programs such as the NYC and a media center being developed by EDC and the MYTecC program, in partnership with Cisco Systems, Inc.
Dr. Howard Sumka, USAID Mission Director for the West Bank and Gaza, along with others from USAID, the Minister and Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, representatives from EDC, CHF, the MYTecC program and NYC volunteers participated in the meeting. Ms. Tahani Abu Daqqa, Minister of Youth and Sports, spoke about youth in Palestinian society and the difficulties they face which negatively affect their future and ambitions.
“The Ministry of Youth and Sports is working with USAID under the auspices of the U.S.- Palestinian Partnership to improve and develop the skills and abilities of the youth, and to provide them with unique opportunities to participate in community development,” said Her Excellency Abu Daqqa.
National Youth Corps Leaders Share Their Positive Experiences
The youth presented a short documentary film prepared by interns at the National Media Center. The documentary, “Actions Speak Louder,” highlights the role of youth in the initiatives and campaigns that were implemented through NYC, and presented their goals, ambitions and dreams as youth leaders in their communities.
The visit was an opportunity to exchange views and ideas between the visiting delegation and the youth leaders, several of whom spoke about their volunteer experience in the National Youth Corps and the Ruwwad Project and how their experience has improved and developed their personalities and skills. One youth leader, Linda Abu Halaweh, described her experience visiting the United States in April 2008 as part of the International Youth Cultural Exchange organized by Ruwwad. She said the experience taught her how to express her points of view and enabled her to promote a positive image of Palestinian youth. Christin Shaheen, a youth leader, spoke of her experience in leading ERADA, a breast cancer awareness campaign which helped save the lives of four women in the Bir Zeit region.
The delegation’s visit left a positive impression on the youth leaders.
“Our meeting with Ms. Lowey, who is well known for her success in bringing positive change to the area of education both in the United States and overseas, is an amazing opportunity for us,” said Fakher Abu Mokho. “I discovered that we share a lot of interests and passions.”
Members of the delegation appreciated what they heard and saw throughout their visit. They agreed that such visits are essential to supporting the development of the Palestinian youth sector, which will bring about a better future and provide youth with the hope of living in peace.