The Future is in Our Hands

By J.E. Rash, Founder, President, Legacy International

As I listened to the President’s comments on Civil Society, Religion, Peace and co-operation yesterday at the Clinton Global Initiative and today at  the United Nations,  I could not help reflecting on the past 36 years of our work at Legacy International.

Iraqi Youth Leadership participants develop food delivery project

Over that time our commitment, our capabilities, and our successes have only multiplied. Our commitment to youth began with a small Summer Camp, it grew to be an venue for addressing the needs of refugees, youth involved in conflict and American minority youth, as well as a cross-section of youth from all walks of society. We were the first to bring young Palestinian and Israeli youth together in this country; we expanded our vision to N. Ireland and to S.E.Asia; then again we expanded our work to addressing not only conflict resolution but also conflict prevention, both in the public and private sectors. At the same time, we created and continued to refine our cross cultural and subject specific leadership trainings, and  training of trainers programs. We again expanded to work with young professionals, governmental agencies, and educators (as we developed curriculum) especially our LivingSidebySide® program; now being used in Kyrgyzstan and other venues.

Kyrgyz Women’s program participants overcome ethnic differences and organize joint cultural event.

We focused and continue to focus on diverse subjects: Environment in the 1980′s, and later Public Health in Middle East and North Africa; Legislative and Parliamentary Development; education programs and exchanges in Central Asia, Disabilities in Ukraine and Russia; Dialogue with Religious Leaders in Indonesia and Central Asia.

As the President rightly said, (and which you can imagine made me very happy to hear) we are creating a Legacy, ’We are asking you to help us create this Legacy’… Well, Mr. President, we have been doing exactly that at Legacy International for 36 years.

Today with our Teams of Excellence™ we are continuing to offer a network of experts and their expertise to the global community. We have designed seminars and exchanges, consultations and we provide subject matter experts to  global organizations, governments, corporations, universities and young entrepreneurs, on Entrepreneurship, Social Marketing and Digital Marketing, Trade and Development , Educating for Employment, Technology for Young Women. We are developing with our partners here and in other countries, Centers for Public Health Education, English Language Programs , New approaches to Literacy Training that also educate youth to public health issues, Mother Child Health programs, Hygiene and  safety  programs.

Legislative Fellows Program participant with U.S. Congressional Mentors in Washington, DC.

Our work has placed us in Morocco, Algeria,Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Indonesia, Russia, Belarus, Bosnia, Indonesia, China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Mauritania, and other countries. What often began with grants from the Department of State of the United States, often from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and our Embassies were seeds for and remain incentives to sustain that work, even after the grants are completed. That is the Legacy International Commitment to those whom we serve.  The very best projects  are growing to be sustainable programs run by our former Fellows, in partnership with Legacy International and our subject specific partners.

I cannot commend or praise enough the young professionals and the partners we work with here and abroad. Dedicated public servants, educators, NGO staff, and our network of experts. You will find that list in this years new business prospectus. We are committed, as I said, to sustain the successes of those who we serve.

Indonesian Youth Leadership program participants plant trees to prevent beach erosion

Sustainability is a key; education is the foundation, opportunity for all, regardless of gender, religion, sect, tribe, nationality … we work on the the principle of Universal Values and Helping People to Help Themselves. We offer only the very best service, the most up to date knowledge and technical abilities, and most of all sincere concern and deep regard for service.

So I am grateful to finally hear the President of the United States affirm our commitment our life work, our vision and dream and our tireless effort and I wait to hear similar comments and promises from other World Leaders. Education and it’s consequent results, provides  opportunity for a life free of preventable disease, free of poverty and hunger, free of ignorance and inhuman treatment, is at the core the way to overcome extremism and terrorism. The need is to serve, educate and create opportunity for the youth (14-35) of the world; especially where the majority of a nation’s population is under the age of 29.

The President rightly addressed the critics of policies and apparent disparities in his UN address today; the world is not wrapped up in a neat package; it is complex and demanding and dangerous; but any action today must be based on a vision over the horizon of a better future.

Educators from Samara, Russian representing community based programs work together to support people with Disabilities.

He said, what I too have said many many times over; no child is born (bad) or evil; I firmly believe that goodness is at the heart of each child and it is incumbent upon us, with all our frailties and errors to strive to change ourselves, our nations, our world for the future generations, for the sake of humanity.

Our partners around the world share our dedication and our hope and our vision; even those who are living today, as I write this, in places away from their homes due to the ravages of war and criminal activities directed against them. I am humbled by the courage and the positivity I read or hear daily from former Legislative, Health, Professional Legacy Fellows and former Global Youth Village Alumni, as well as the many Alumni of Community Connections Professional educators and businessmen and women.

Visiting Microsoft in NYC, girls from MENA countries learn technology in US TechGirls program

The world we tend to work in is to say the least,  volatile and unpredictable, but there is hope and we will not give up our effort, our three and half decade effort to bring Peace and Understanding, education and opportunity to our brothers and sisters around the world. Join us, support us, work with us.  It is a noble goal to build truly civil Civil Societies. As we said many many years ago: The Future is in Our Hands.

The Case for Radical Empathy

jill-jacobsWay too many people still believe these hideous stereotypes about Israelis and Palestinians  By Jill Jacobs (reposted from WashingtonPost).

My heart jumped when I saw the poster at the entrance to the Muslim community center in Central Java, Indonesia, in 2009. I didn’t need to speak Indonesian to understand the photo of dead and injured Gazan children. Still, I asked for a translation. Uneasily, our group’s translator explained that the poster reported the amount of money the community group had raised in relief funds after Operation Cast Lead, just a few months before, and prayed for the health and safety of all Muslims . . . and for an end to “the Zionist entity.”

I had come to Indonesia with a delegation of U.S. faith leaders, organized by Legacy International and sponsored by the State Department, to speak at universities and community centers about religious pluralism in America. It wasn’t my turn to present that day, so I enjoyed a brief respite as I debated how and whether to address the poster with these members of Muhammadiyah, one of the largest Muslim organizations in Indonesia. In the end, I had little choice. “I have a question for the rabbi,” began one attendee during a Q&A session:  “Why do Jews kill Muslim children?”

Heart pounding, I stood up. I spoke of my pain at the loss of life among Gazan civilians, tragically including so many children. And then I took a deep breath. “I noticed the poster in the entranceway,” I began. I praised the group for raising money for humanitarian relief. But, I continued, “When you call for an end to the Zionist entity, I want you to know that you’re talking about my family and my friends and my people.” I spoke of my own commitments to Israel, of the significance of Israel to the Jewish people, and of my firm belief that a two-state solution will allow both peoples to live securely and peacefully.

To my shock, the audience applauded. Afterwards, many of those present told me that they had never before thought about who might live in Israel. That they had never thought a two-state solution to be possible. That they had believed that Jews wanted only to kill Muslims. And they crossed out the final line of the poster.

This incident did not transform Israeli-Palestinian or Jewish-Muslim relations. It did not drastically shift the perception of Jews in Indonesia. I did learn, though, that a little empathy goes a long way. Hearing my own concern about the death of Muslims, the group could be open to imagining the suffering of Jews.

During the current war between Israel and Hamas, we desperately need radical empathy. By this, I mean opening ourselves to the pain of the other exactly at the moment when we are terrified of this other, and exactly at the moment when fear for our lives and for our loved ones pushes us inward.

This is not a new idea. As far back as the first century CE, in the shadow of the destruction of Jerusalem, Rabban Gamliel, one of the most important rabbis of his time, taught that – “Anyone who has compassion for other human beings will merit compassion from above.”

Today, we suffer through increasingly vitriolic language from both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian partisans, and — even more frighteningly — violent protests in Europe,  Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and even the United States. Strident voices ignore or deny the painful narrative of the other.

The pro-Palestinian side places all blame on Israel and the occupation, dismisses or justifies rocket attacks on major Israeli cities, and allows criticism of Israel to slide into ugly anti-Semitism.  “Rocket attacks from Gaza are a desperate response to these injustices [of occupation],” Waleed Ahmad writes in Mondoweiss. “No people would ever tolerate an oppressive occupation and an unjust siege, so why should the Palestinians?” Protesters in London, Paris and Berlin have held signs saying “Hitler was right” and encouraging the reading of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the Executive Director of T’ruah, which mobilizes 1,800 rabbis, cantors, and their communities to protect human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories. Her most recent book is “Where Justice Dwells.”

DOSRabbi Jill Jacobs was a delegate in Legacy’s Religion and Society: A Dialogue program, traveling to Indonesian with a group of Religious scholars, clerics, and community leaders of Indonesia and the United States. The program goals were to increase their knowledge of the counterpart country and  establish a dialogue about the scholarship and practice of religion (particularly Islam) in both countries.  They examined the compatibility of religious practice with democratic social and political values in this two year program sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. State Department.

 

Progressive Leadership in Morocco

On the 15th anniversary of the ascension of His Majesty King Mohammad VI to the Throne of Morocco, Legacy President J.E. Rash reflects on the ongoing need for development work in Morocco and the King’s example of progressive leadership in the region.

Legacy has a long history of work in Morocco.  One simple story illustrates in several ways both the ongoing need in this country and the reason Morocco is an example of progressive leadership in the region, particularly when it comes to supporting women’s rights and education.

Former Congressman Bill Zeliff speaks with Moroccan children

Former Congressman Bill Zeliff speaks with Moroccan children

In September of 2012, Legacy sent a delegation, including former member of Congress Bill Zeliff; Amy Dailey, Oregon State Program Director for the Corporation for National and Community Service; and Sherry Shapiro, Senior Research Advisor for the Library of Congress, to Morocco.

As a part of that program the delegation traveled to Fez to visit an NGO called the Chourouk Center for Social Development.  Our delegation and staff were deeply touched by the work of this small organization and its three staff who offer job-training, literacy skills, and legal rights education for women. The Legacy delegation visited several of the beneficiaries of the NGO and was interviewed by the national media while there. Continue reading

Advocacy Tools to promote Change

Championing the rights of society’s most vulnerable members, whatever the social cause, requires strategy and planning to succeed. Those who take on advocacy roles are often at the forefront of social change. Yet they are often faced with clients who lack the resources; and, at times, even the means to maintain basic human needs for themselves and their families. Continue reading

Service is a Universal Value

Community service is a doorway to a stronger civil society, it is a doorway to health, equity, equality, education and empowerment. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”. There is no way to overestimate the value of community service; the value of working with, and for, those in-need in our communities.

universal core values“When citizens gather together to serve their local community it is a positive affirmation of our collective and individual future, it affirms the understanding that human beings are the protectors of this planet and of each other.”- J. E. Rash

Legacy International is committed to a Universal Values based approach to serving our fellow human beings. That means treating all people with respect, honoring their cultures, and understanding their needs and the contributions they can and do make to society, home and globally.  Our work is designed for the future leaders who lead and serve with hope and care for others. Whether they are a public health worker in rural Morocco, saving children’s lives, or a young activist in NYC or Indonesia involved in water clean ups, as each of these participants in Legacy’s program were, serving others stirs shared human core values and promotes beneficial change. Continue reading

The Digital Evolution or Revolution?

China’s Lack of Creativity in the midst of Economic Growth
by J.E.Rash, Founder and President, Legacy International

J.E. Rash, Founder and President, Legacy International

J.E. Rash

China: Despite China’s rapid growth and development, and reflecting on it’s global reach and influence, as well as new found affluence; there is no guarantee that the trajectory of growth and development will ever embrace or positively benefit the majority of people nor establish a permanent trusting relationship with the global community.  One of the reasons one could posit, vis a vis this premise, is that a subtle but essential component of the Digital Evolution- one that distinguishes it from A Digital Revolution- is Values: Core Universal Values.

In fact, it would be a very revealing and interesting study to examine how spiritual, cultural and social values influence sustainable development and the role that Digital marketing, social marketing, and socially conscious core values play in success models that are sustainable and reinforce those values. Continue reading

Successful Innovators in Agriculture

by Dr Khaled Hassouna
Legacy International’s Board of Advisors 

“There is a need to educate youth about agriculture in its broader definition to help overcome the view that it is a manual labour activity.” His article was recently published in the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture newsletter.

Khaled Hassouna“Agriculture was an activity practiced by people in the Middle East for thousands of years. Throughout these years, a culture of agriculture and farming communities was built. As the nations in the area developed their social structures, farming seemingly became associated with peasantry. The social casts evolved into landowners and peasant farmers. It seems that this image was sustained throughout the years and settled in the psyche of people.

As agriculture developed into many intricate disciplines, many crafts became associated with the value chain that we tend to refer to as agricultural process. As we discuss sustainable agriculture or sustainable natural resources management, we add new disciplines and crafts to life old practices and knowledge. The traditional farmer (peasant) and the agriculture engineer (if well trained) represent two ends of the spectrum needed by a new agriculture operator.  It became more and more obvious that we need operators in the agricultural process that are higher standard than earlier years in our human development.

If we believe that the agricultural revolution depended on machinery then on chemicals, then we are facing a new challenge. The NEW agricultural revolution needed to feed over six billion people will depend on producing a special caliber of agrofesionals. Continue reading

Collectivism Re. Adulthood, Women, and Television

by Rachel Mead
Arabic Language Institute

Rachel

Rachel poses at a pre-school in Touama next to the butterflies that she has painted.

We all came into this knowing that Moroccans would have different ways of looking at things, different backgrounds and cultural influences that make their daily lives much different from ours. Maybe because we were so ready to be culturally sensitive and culture-shocked and faced with all-around alien situations, when we actually got here… things weren’t that crazy. We had a whole session at orientation about thinking of things as “different” instead of weird, so we were prepared to start thinking about things as different immediately, but I think partly because the people we live with and learn with are so used to Americans and so accepting of and interested in our own culture and values, it took a little while for the real differences to show. And most of them, perhaps as we should have expected, come from the dissonance between our individualist culture in America and the collectivist culture here. I don’t think that one–individualist or collectivist–is better or worse than the other, but there are definitely things that are hard to get used to in each if you come from a background in the other. Continue reading

The Thrill of Teaching

Author: Ethan Reichsman

Ethan Reichsman is an Arabic Language student in Morocco at the Arabic Language Institute (ALI) program with Legacy International and The Center for Language and Culture.

There’s no thrill greater than walking into a classroom full of eager students, ready to learn. This is perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned in Morocco so far, and it’s just one of the benefits of teaching English here. I enjoy every lesson I teach, and look forward to my Saturday evening classes. The best part about it is their desire to learn. Because these students are studying English on a scholarship, they know how lucky they are, and are determined not to waste this opportunity, so they’re a joy to teach. All in all, teaching has been one of the most enjoyable and enlightening experiences I’ve had so far here.

One of the things I’m most glad about is that I’m teaching Beginning 1. The students I have were complete beginners, and knew only the most basic English. This has meant that I have been able to watch them progress from no English to being able to give and receive information. The change is astounding, and heartwarming. It helps that all of my students seem to be able to just soak up language, and make me look like a better teacher than I am. I count myself lucky to be able to teach them.

Ethan painting in the village of Touama

Ethan painting in the village of Touama

Of course, as I teach them, they teach me. They teach me patience, when explaining a difficult concept. They teach me organization, as I prepare for my daily lesson. They teach to prepare for anything, when my lesson plan goes completely awry. But most of all, they teach me to take pride in my work. I can leave class every Saturday and think, “I have made a difference. If even one of those children’s lives is improved by this class, then I have been successful.” This is the highlight of my week. I do know that I’m making a difference. Knowing English makes one very employable in Morocco, and one has to start somewhere. If I can foster a love of English in these kids, there’s a good chance their lives will be improved by it.

Teaching is an incredible experience, one that I will miss. I will miss the drive of the students, the feeling of making a real difference, and even the sheer fun we have in class. All of these factors add up to make teaching my favorite activity in Morocco, one which I look forward to continuing.

In what ways has teaching a language impacted you and others around you? We’d like to hear from you. Post your comments below!

In Honor of International Women’s Day 2013

International Women’s Day recently took place on March 8th. Here a post highlighting the amazing women Legacy has had the privilege of working with.

Legacy International serves to empower women through a number of initiatives we promote through the work of our organization. Women worldwide deserve equal access to health, education and economic security. Through our work, we have helped build the capacity of current and future generations of female pioneers in health, social innovation, and technology.

On International Women’s Day 2013, we highlight young women from the Middle East and North Africa who have participated and partnered with Legacy International through our dynamic programs.

mary-samirMary Samir seeks to help Egyptian women overcome cultural issues around educating youth and women about sexual health, reproductive rights, and violence against women. As an alumnus of the North African Community Health Initiative, She has taught classes all over the country, primarily Cairo and Upper Egypt. She recently spoke at an event which brought together 76 young women to talk about sexual health, reproductive rights, violence against women, and hygiene. Her program is called: “Because we are Girls”.

sharifa-al-baramiThe advancement of women is of prime importance to the economy, business and society. Meet Sharifa Al Barami, managing director of Aljazeera Global Services & Investments. Legacy International is proud to be partnering with her on the Legislative Fellows Program in Oman. Speaking as an Omani woman on empowerment, Sharifa notes, “Women are already very empowered; perhaps it’s time for us to focus on how more women can contribute in building the nation, shifting the focus away from gender and onto action. Empowerment, in my opinion, comes from within. It’s an internal process that only needs to be instigated with an external affecter.”

lara Kasbari teaching

Lara

In July 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the launch of TechGirls—a three-week, intensive youth exchange “to encourage innovation and promote the spread of new technologies to give women and girls the support that they need to become leaders in this field. The TechGirls exchange program aims to inspire girls from the Middle East and North Africa to pursue higher education and careers in technology through hands-on skills development.

sura-mubarak

Sura (right)

TechGirls 2012 Alumni: Sura Mubarak, Lara Kasbari  and Fatma Altahery carry on the torch as young Arab female pioneers in technology. They have all been working with local youth in their home countries teaching them tech skills centered on gaming, robotics and computer knowledge.

Sura from Jordan is very active as a robotics mentor with a tech group called the “Techno Musketeers” working on First Lego League projects.

fatma_altahery

Fatma

Fatma from Yemen has been teaching 3D Game Design to children in Yemen.

Lara from Palestine, recently completed teaching a series of computer literacy courses at the Diabetic Friends Center. It was a huge success.