Youth are community leaders and USAID is partnering with them to develop their communities.
Youth represent 30% of Palestinian society. They also have the highest rates of unemployment. To counter this, USAID promotes economic empowerment and entrepreneurship by increasing employability and offering skills training directly related to job opportunities.
USAID is proud to support Palestinian youth leaders working to empower other youth, and to address and advocate for core issues that impact their communities. Below are stories of some amazing Palestinian youth who are taking the lead and making an impact.
One of the Youngest Leaders in the Palestinian Hotel Industry - Meet Laith
“I seek to support youth in [my] local community by creating employment opportunities and mentorship.”
Third generation hotel owner and manager of the Orient Palace Hotel in Bethlehem, Laith is determined to uphold his family legacy in a time of crisis despite being one of the youngest leaders in the Palestinian hotel industry.
As a recent college graduate in an industry where most of his competitors have decades of experience, the young owner struggled to be taken seriously as a business leader. Laith found the best way to earn respect is by developing a close bond with his employees and providing opportunities for youth in his community.
Like many others in the tourism sector who suffered from the economic impact of COVID-19, the pandemic put a stop to Laith’s grand plans of expanding his family business to become the largest hotel in the West Bank. Through the Small and Medium Enterprise Assistance for Recovery and Transition Project (SMART), USAID is helping Laith install the required amenities needed for the hotel to operate, giving Laith “the opportunity to save [his] family’s business and make [his] father proud.”
With USAID’s support, Laith is more than doubling the hotel’s employees and expects to hire additional staff moving forward, placing a special priority on employing youth.
Youth Leader at the Age of 12 and Future Journalist - Meet Tala
“[My] dream to be a journalist is what inspires me to succeed, and [my message to youth] is to be kind to one another.”
At the young age of 12, Tala from Gaza already embodies the qualities of a young leader, and is a believer in the role youth need to play in leading change, doing good deeds, and raising awareness about bullying in their communities.
Determined to become a journalist in the future, Tala takes advantage of every opportunity to improve her skills, and is one of the most active youth in training sessions provided through USAID’s Positive Youth Engagement Project (PYE) project, having already attended 24 training sessions to improve her life skills, communication skills, time management, problem solving skills, leadership, and employability.
Tala believes that one of the main challenges youth face is having their parents not listen to them, telling them they are too young to make change. She sees parents’ participation in youth empowerment activities as key for change.
Tala’s message to other youth is to “be nice to each other”. Not only is Tala leading by example through her own action, she has also helped put together theater plays that promote kindness by showcasing the positive effects of good deeds and the negative impacts of bullying, which she identifies as a significant concern facing youth today.
“Paying it Forward” Through Youth Leadership and Advocacy for Youth Empowerment - Meet Hasan
“What inspires me to succeed is youth needs, [my] competitiveness, and [my] personal vision. Build your personal skills to survive and bloom!”
When he was 19 years old, Hasan from Jericho started his volunteerism journey through a USAID-funded program, changing his path dramatically, as he believes this was a real opportunity for him to create connections, acquire knowledge, and grow.
Following this experience, Hasan took part in establishing the youth-led Joud social enterprise to encourage the private sector to invest in corporate social responsibility initiatives to solve social problems. Hasan also took part in establishing the Jericho Day for Cultural Activities and the Shiam - Youth Make the Future local organization, which acts as an umbrella for Palestinian youth local councils.
Today, Hasan is giving back by helping provide similar opportunities to youth in his community through his role as a Program Officer through USAID’s Positive Youth Engagement (PYE) project, in cooperation with Mercy Corps and the International Youth Foundation. Through his work, Hasan advocates for youth voices and their involvement in determining policies related to youth aspirations.
According to Hasan, youth opportunities can be limited by cultural constraints that predetermine their future and lack of safe spaces and programs that enable them to build life skills in a positive environment. Listening to youth and giving them the tools they need to feel empowered, through projects like PYE, can encourage them to be agents of positive change. He believes this can be done by coupling formal education with empowerment and extracurricular programs, and establishing networks with local community centers to embrace youth and meet their needs.
Youth Serving Children and Providing Safe Spaces - Meet Taher
“The youth that [benefit from] this USAID-supported project offer a fresh perspective on things, and will help change the future for many.”
According to Taher, a young special education and rehabilitation worker from Gaza, “youth in Gaza have the brains. They just need the chance.” With the newly constructed USAID-funded Unlimited Friends Association educational and community center in Gaza, built by Anera, youth now have a platform that provides them with opportunities to expand their communal role in society.
Taher is one of those young people contributing to the success of the new center. No stranger to making a difference, he has been volunteering children with autism and special needs since 2018.
Taher is constantly looking to better himself for the sake of the children, participating in workshops and seminars “in order to enhance my skills and pass down new things to the kids.” He adds that the kids he works with have a ‘can-do attitude,’ and seek a self-dependence that most adults lack, including me. It’s just inspiring.”
Taher, who has been working closely with the association’s administration to set up and plan the operation of the center, expects the educational center to do wonders for the youth that benefit from this USAID-supported project and their communities.
Youth Empowering Youth - Meet Manar
“[My] goal is to leave a footprint wherever [I] go. I say to other youth: ‘dream big!’”
Volleyball trainer and one of the few sports teachers in her village, Manar from Beit Liqia in Ramallah has made the journey from trainee to trainer. Once a trainee of the Train the Trainers programs through USAID’s Positive Youth Engagement (PYE) project, Manar is now a youth trainer herself at the Beit Liqia Union Club under PYE.
Manar believes that with the needed guidance and support, youth's positive energies and efforts can position them as leaders of developing and improving their community.
According to Manar, raising awareness about the importance of youth’s role in their communities, creating linkages between youth and community organizations, and providing youth with the opportunities to participate in community activities will motivate them to innovate and to be civically engaged. From her experience, Manar shares that projects like PYE provide her and other youth with crucial life skills to achieve success, and builds their belief that they have something special to contribute to their communities.
Manar has taken it upon herself to promote youth empowerment through sports, particularly young girls, and is planning to open the first Palestinian volleyball academy for kids.