For the last 2 weeks, at a picturesque resort just outside of Ismailiya, there has been a cultural renaissance brewing. Amidst the vacationers lounging around the pool, a summer camp Nurturing Free Youth Expression through Digital Media, is encouraging youth from 7 different countries in the Arab World to use digital media to foster free and critical expression.
The organization born from the initiative of social entrepreneur Ranwa Yehia was created out a desire to provide youth with the necessary skills, information and know-how to enable them to participate actively as producers of technology, rather than merely passive consumers.
They center their approach around a yearly camp which brings about 60 kids from across the Middle East, to empower them to use computers as their canvas for free expression. But more than this, the camp offers youth a number of on-the-job training modules and workshops on open-source software and other related advanced technology.
For the past two weeks, campers have been immersed in team building, personal development, and skill bulling, which will serve them well in their future. Many of the campers we interviewed had an avid interest in music, video, and technology.
Ranwa’s camps have been a resounding success, and its campers have utilized their skills to effect positive change in their communities. A few children created and organized a school newspaper and continue to run it successfully. Two others from Palestine produced films which they uploaded onto the internet. Some of these youth come from conflict areas, and their artwork often reflects their personal situations as well as the tensions back in their homes. The camp not only provides them the technical skills, but also the critical thinking tools and confidence to find meaningful and constructive outlets for their ideas.
Elected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2008, Ranwa is on the fast track to realizing her full vision, and transforming it into a reality. She said that Ashoka helped her to realize the true value of her ability to make a positive social impact. Her entrepreneurial spirit and support network has allowed her to continue to push the expressive boundaries and capabilities of the next generation of changemakers.
Check out http://arabdigitalexpression.com/en for more information about Ranwa Yehia and her organization Nurturing Free Youth Expression through Digital Media.
Account written by Ashoka interns, Alex and Elaina, after a visit to the camp in Ismailiya on July 27, 2010