Junior Youth in the Middle East

The following story demonstrates how a junior youth group can integrate and bring together the life of a community:

"We started our junior youth group in a refugee camp which is home to about 10,000 refugees.  In each camp there are different centers and agencies under the umbrella of UNICEF offering various services to the local community.  We met with one of the centers and introduced the program.  They offered us rooms and facilities to hold our group gatherings and invited the youth to join our program.  They also offered the necessary stationary and refreshments.  In the first month we had 3 groups of 10 to 15 participants each.  This number grew steadily and now we have 8 groups with a total of 80 participants. The administration of the center is happy with our work and believes in our good intentions and our pure motive to service.  They appreciate the program and find it very special and deep.

Our junior youth groups have conducted different service projects during the past three months.  The degree of complexity of the service projects is increasing systematically for the past period.  Since the refugee camp is located in a poor area, with poor hygiene and infrastructure, the junior youth came up with many ideas for service projects.

Initially one group decided to clean one street of the camp.  However, after they evaluated their project and found out that the area soon became dirty again, they printed flyers to introduce their group and the need for the people's support and distributed them to every house on that street. The next step the group took was inviting all the children on that street and gave them a lesson on cleanliness.

This initiative led to the children coming regularly to the center asking for more classes. As a result, we have now around 30 children attending moral classes for children taught by 8 junior youth participants of our main program.

Another group decided to paint the dirty school wall and after reflecting on this idea they thought that painting it in white would be "tempting" to fill it with bad language and meaningless expressions.  So they suggested that we draw something on it.  With the help of one artist, the group made a beautiful mural on this part of the wall and it was appreciated very much by the people of the camp, as well as the camp officials and managers.  The camp committee contacted us saying they want to offer us the material needed to finish the entire wall with similar beautiful paintings!

My brother and I meet every few weeks to reflect on our activities, discuss our challenges and plan for the next weeks.  These meetings, as well as our daily reports, became a useful tool to understand and conclude the learning.  One of the important things we learned is that we are now part of this community; we understand their needs and challenges.  The junior youth groups started at the community center with a small number, and then we had to build the group week by week.

Therefore, we went with the junior youth to visit their friends' houses, or to walk in their neighborhoods and invite their friends and tell them about the group.  This reach-out method proved very useful in venturing into the camp and meeting parents.  Now the camp population warmed up to us and got used to seeing us with the junior youth.  This was a success for us since even the long established community centers in the camp have difficulty to reach out to the youth and have a low number participating in their activities.

Visiting the parents of the junior youth was very important and had a positive impact on the attendance of the junior youth in our groups. Often after the visit the family encouraged their children and junior youth to join the groups and classes.  They also invited their friends, relatives and neighbors to join the program.  Some parents even joined and supported in the service projects."