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19 March 2008
Empowering Palestinian Children and Youth Though Digital Media
“When we saw the incredibly powerful work the Contrast Project was doing with young people in the Al-Amari Refugee camp near Ramallah, we quickly put together a proposal to support it…we still can’t believe we managed to win!”.
This is how
Lina Abdallah and Gregorio Bettiza, two young staff of the World Bank one based in the Jerusalem office and the other in the Washington DC headquarters, enthusiastically describe how the project they supported, Youth Empowerment Through Digital Media Training, won this year’s round of the Bank Youth Innovation Fund for the Middle East and North Africa region.
Youth in refugee camps of the West Bank and Gaza suffer from high unemployment, lack of opportunity, and physical and psychological challenges inflicted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and as a result of occupation and frequent Israeli military incursions. Some youth respond to these challenges by engaging in criminal or violent behavior, while others, suffering from despair or depression, become apathetic. There is an urgent need for programs to engage refugee youth and children in creative projects in which they can channel their energies into constructive activities.
In the past two years, the Contrast Project, in collaboration with the Voices Beyond Walls organization, has been supporting summer workshops for refugee children (ages 8-16) in photography and video through the Computer Clubhouse in the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah
. The goal is to use digital media as a tool for expression, empowerment, and advocacy for children and youth. In terms of expression, young people are encouraged to use creative media as therapeutic means of telling their stories and coping with hardships experienced.
Children are empowered by developing basic skill-sets in new media technology that can serve as a foundation for future work or study, while also exploring creative, proactive ways to deal with difficult situations. Children’s photographs and films become tools for advocacy and have been shown in the West Bank and internationally, helping to amplify youth voices and their messages. The workshops have been held during the children’s summer vacations, when schools are closed and they are most in need of positive activities.
“It was a nice training program that enabled us to stand in front of the cameras and express ourselves…”
said Haneen Abduldeen, a 14 year old girl from the Al-Amari Refugee Camp. Haneen was one of the participants in the video storytelling workshop in the summer of 2007, along with Haya Salah, a 16 year old girl from Um Al-Sharayet, a Ramallah suburb, who recalls:
“it was a wonderful experience for me as a young woman to be able to produce video films…. although I don’t think that last summer’s experience necessarily shaped my career goals, it did hugely contribute to developing my personality… I wish that every young person could have such a wonderful opportunity”.
In the past two summers, the workshops have been led primarily by international adult trainers. This year however, thanks to the Youth Innovation Fund the Contrast Project, local youth (ages 16-22) will be trained during the school year in a new spring training workshop, as an after school activity. These older youth will then themselves become the main trainers in this summer’s workshop for children.
Replacing international trainers with local youth trainers will reduce costs and add an element of local ownership and sustainability while at the same time giving the opportunity to a wider spectrum of young people to express themselves and further develop their skill sets for future employment and training opportunities. Mohammad Ghassan Aldasht, a 20 year old from Um Al-Sharayet near Ramallah, commenting on the spring 2008 training program said,
“Last summer we enjoyed the video storytelling workshop. Although time was so tight, but we produced a good short film...I look forward to participating in the spring training to develop more experience in the field of filmmaking”.
He added “As a Media and News student, film making is relevant to my studies look and I look forward to developing academic and career experiences in the field of media and film making”.
During the Spring 2008 program, 20-25 youth will be trained to develop professional experience in short film making and digital expression with the help and support from committed professionals in
the field of digital storytelling. The sessions will consist of hands-on training, enabling the trainees to create their own digital photographs and short videos, so that they gain first-hand experience and expertise in all the skills they will have to transmit during the Summer 2008 workshop to children.
The Spring 2008 program will end with a showcase of youth projects before these youth will go on training new youth this summer. We will follow these young people as they express themselves through photography and video while they progress through the training and learn all the techniques of pre-production planning and storyboarding; production skills including photography, video, sound, writing, interviewing, and drama; and post-production editing.
The Computer Clubhouse, which is hosted by the Youth Development Association, is part of a world-wide network of the Intel Computer Clubhouse (ICCN) with more than 100 Computer Clubhouses around the world. It is an after school program managed by Boston Museum of Science and started through support of Intel Foundation and MIT Media Laboratory. For more information about the Contrast Project see