EDC West Bank Program is Highlighted at U.S. Middle East Meeting at the Aspen Institute
The Ruwwad Program in the West Bank and Gaza, a youth development program run by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), was highlighted at a December 3 meeting of the Aspen Institute’s Middle East Strategy Group, the U.S. government’s nonprofit partner in efforts to create jobs and economic activity in Palestinian areas.
EDC Vice President Ron Israel was asked to make a presentation about the Ruwwad Program at the meeting which included U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Tahanni Abu Daqqa, Minister of Youth for the Palestinian Authority, Sandy Weill, former chairman of Citigroup, Jean Case, chief executive of the Case Foundation, among others.
EDC’s Ruwwad program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), provides young Palestinians age 14-30 with the tools to become leaders—and promote social change across the West Bank and Gaza. Since 2005, Ruwwad (Arabic for “pioneers”) has reached 1,000 young people and volunteers who have received leadership training and conducted hands-on community service projects in their villages and communities.
“Ruwwad has been planned, designed, and implemented by youth, for youth and that’s part of what makes it successful,” said Israel. “We focus on positive leadership development for young men and women who want to pursue community service,” he said.
In her keynote address, Rice spoke about the need for programs that reach Palestinians directly and prepare them for responsibilities of citizenship and leadership.
“I want to demonstrate that America, not just the government, but our entire nation and our citizenry, will welcome the Palestinian people into the community of nations and will help them to develop a stake in the global economy,” she said.
Rice announced the building or renovation of several youth community centers in the West Bank that will offer opportunities to participate in sports, train coaches and establish sports leagues, and include high-tech classrooms at the centers to allow local, small businesses to use computers and mentors to train young people in technical skills.
EDC’s Ruwwad Program and its volunteers will be directly involved with the new centers, helping design and develop programming, determining what they should offer, and helping build the capacity of others to manage them.
“From our perspective—a youth development perspective, it’s important that Palestinian youth have some input into these centers, what services they provide and how they operate,” said Israel. “We are pleased to be asked to facilitate these discussions and make these new youth centers as strong and as useful as they can be,” he said.
Earlier, the USAID Palestinian Mission announced its plans for an additional $4 million for the Ruwwad program which has been extended for another two years, through 2010.