Community activist from the Jordan Valley village of Jiftlik, Raed Abu Joudeh is a business administration graduate from Al Najah University in Nablus who has participated in several MIFTAH workshops and trainings. All of them, he says, have had a positive impact on him.
Participating in MIFTAH’s activities motivated me towards developing local communities in the Jordan Valley and Bethlehem; as a result, I took part in as many activities as possible,” Abu Joudeh says.
The first of these was a ‘training of trainers’ workshop, part of the AMAL project entitled “Citizenship and advocacy” and which focused on women. Abu Joudeh was a facilitator/trainer aimed at putting theory into practice. He says the workshops were carried out successfully in Jiftlik, Fasayel and other regions in the Jordan Valley.
The training, he says, was followed by an open day in which the community’s needs and issues were discussed and then integrated in the project’s activities.
Another MIFTAH activity Abu Joudeh found beneficial was a series of meetings the organization held with prominent Palestinian figures, such as Ramallah/Al Bireh governor Leila Ghannam and various government ministers. “We met pioneer figures and listened to their success stories and how they became involved in community work,” he says. “We learned about their successes, which can be emulated by youth today.”
Abu Joudeh participated in another training of trainers on political participation, which resulted in a series of activities conducted in universities on the subject.
The AMAL connection
After graduating, Abu Joudeh found himself working outside of his field. While working in agriculture with his family, he was introduced to MIFTAH through a project on community development. About these early beginnings, Abu Joudeh says he was part of a community committee of 20 youths through which he got to know new people and expand his circle of acquaintances. “Because of the workshops, my ambition to become a trainer developed,” he says, but admits there was no one to point him in the right direction. “So I and a group of youths decided to take part in a training of trainers workshop and from there began to apply what we had learned on the ground.” This, he says, opened up two new opportunities: to develop his skills as a trainer through interning with Palestinian organizations such as Ru’ya (PalVision) and a workers’ center; and two, he says this opened doors to work with other people and parties as a coordinator for the Jordan Valley. “All of these opportunities and experiences boosted my confidence and ability to speak to large crowds.” While he says the financial benefits are a positive outcome, “still the biggest benefit is my ability to network with Jordan Valley organizations, the skills I have acquired and my personal experiences. I have become a real leader in the Jordan Valley,” he says with pride.
Abu Joudeh attributes much of his success to MIFTAH, which he says gave him the opportunity, through its training, to make a change. “This change in myself is very important to me. If I had not participated in these training workshops and advanced in this field, I would still be a farmer in the Valley. In short, I found myself in community work.”
After his experience with AMAL, Abu Joudeh says he found the courage to carry out initiatives and campaigns in the Jordan Valley such as renovating the Turkish prison building in Jiftlik so the community could benefit from it. He is also a part of a campaign for freedom of movement, which includes youths from all over Palestine.
Impacting family and surroundings
Abu Joudeh’s peers in Jiftlik now look up to him, comparing him to before MIFTAH’s activities and after. “I have become a success story for them,” he maintains. As for his family, the impact was not as positive or immediate. “The change was not one they wanted because of the nature of agricultural life in the Valley,” he admits. “There was also the fact that job opportunities suitable to my degree were scarce and the trainings I gave at the beginning were not even paid.” Things have changed, however. “Now they support me, even if it was a challenge in the beginning.”
The AMAL launching point
Raed Abu Joudeh pinpoints his involvement with AMAL as the launching point of his new life. “I was motivated to be part of youth participation at a large scale,” which he says prompted a change he did not expect. “I realized that youths do have a strong presence and could face and then overcome challenges. I realized that the youth could become leaders in our community,” he says. “I wanted to create a self far from what my society and community dictates for me.”
He continues: “Change is a must in our society and I was lucky enough to have this opportunity to make a change in how we deal with some of our society’s problems. I can truly say that in my community, things are better because there is awareness among our youth and a determination for change, even if we realize that this takes time and patience.”
Raed Abu Joudeh has big dreams. He wants to set up a conglomeration of institutions and organizations. These would primarily be run by young people, with a board of directors comprised of youth in 13 Jordan Valley communities, which would ultimately cater to the needs of each one.