A few months ago, Cities for Children was lucky enough to be selected for representation at the 2016 iteration of the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS). Here’s a link to the talk, which was actually the first time the initiative has been publicly presented anywhere: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_J8ayg5t4g
I’ll be honest. I was a bit intimidated at the thought of being surrounded by bright-eyed, bushy-tailed optimists, when every day I woke up to self-doubt as well as world-doubt. The news over the past year has been emotionally and spiritually exhausting, and I was reaching the point where the word “change-maker” would plunge me into an existential crisis.
AMENDS was everything I had been afraid it would be. Powered by unrelenting optimists and change-makers who smiled at the odds, shrugged and strode forward. And although I’m still not sure if we’re “born to be” any one thing in particular, the simple truth did return to me that we can choose who we become – and that choice matters.
It was a week of rejuvenation, full of moments of Yes. You know, those rare, fleeting moments when the world makes sense again?
And there were so many stories of resilience that didn’t need to be articulated, because, well, you could see. Although we were all from very different places, spoke different languages (well, I didn’t speak Arabic) and had hugely different dream-projects, there was some common core that allowed deep connections to be made in that one week.
So by the time I went up on that stage, to talk about the Right to a Childhood and katchi communities, the words felt real again.
The videos were all posted up recently, which is why I’m reaching back into that little reservoir of inspiration that’s going to keep me going for a while. Very quickly, want to record and remember to thank a few of those who don’t even know how they helped resolve internal crises:
Rahmeh, my spunky, irrepressible roommate who is going to give Uber a hard time in Jordan.
Gulay, who worked with Syrian refugee children in Turkey. Every so often, she would catch my eye during a session and just know what I was thinking.
Melissa, who faced allegations of being an American Jewish spy and defied every stereotype to go on working with families of autistic children in Palestine – and now Turkey.
Sam, the cerebral.
Abdel Rahman, the sensitive-badass film-maker, who quoted Lion King and Malcolm X with equal aplomb.
Odai, who has an answer for everything and whose higher education portal for refugees in Europe…Just. Blows. My. Mind.
So glad Pakistan qualifies as part of that vast expanse of diversity that is MENA.