From the 17th to the 19th of July, 2017 Ecopeace hosted the second Regional Alumni Seminar at the Sharhabil bin Hassneh Eco-park. The event included Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian students and was facilitated by staff members from the three Ecopeace offices. Many of the participants were formerly involved with the water trustees and now, post-graduation are considered Alumni of the program.
The seminar consisted of three stages with each containing four areas of education. Many students were strangers and visibly anxious prior to the beginning of the event so the facilitators began with ice breaker games. In a matter of minutes everyone was laughing and sporting broad smiles regardless of nationality. Once everyone felt more comfortable, introductions were given as well as wonderful presentations by current Ecopeace interns. These presentations were especially powerful as they not only provided information, but also meaningful insight to their personal life experiences as water trustees and their involvement in environmental issues.
Following this introduction, the seminar began in earnest with the first scheduled stage. The general concept for the first stage was to introduce or further students thinking on specific topics relating to the region. Many participants possessed firsthand knowledge on the topics from experiences in their communities. The first stage included sessions based on demography/women’s role in society, conflict resolution, green economies and participants expectations of learning outcomes. Within the sessions, student representatives from each country presented their personal life stories and how their local communities are involved in environmental work. For example the Palestinian representative discussed her campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags. The Israeli representatives presented their work in raising awareness about urban trash and its removal throughout the Baka municipality.
These personal testimonies, allowed the student to really open up and connect with one another on a much deeper level. Afterward, students were divided into groups where concepts of environmental leadership were discussed. More specifically, students were given pictures depicting different leadership techniques and were asked to choose pictures which they felt most closely related to them followed by an explanation of their selection. The idea here was to really get people thinking abstractly about what leadership means to them and how it can be represented in non-traditional ways. Having an activity of this sort helped students to acknowledge that there are many ways in which they can serve as leaders.
Day two began with providing a lecture on the regional water crisis and modern day realities of climate inconsistencies and dynamic weather patterns. This information was presented within the context a larger context of Ecopeace’s efforts in sustainability and the formulation of a regional master plan. The lecture gave students insight to the motivation and origins of Ecopeaces work.
Following the lecture, students split into groups and took time to present some excellent work they had completed during the first stage.
As the day progressed, participants shifted their focus to stage two which followed a similar schedule as day one. The content, however, had students shifting their focus to a new set of topics. The groups included food security/agricultural water reuse, water energy nexus, eco-tourism and Ecopeace’s regional master plan. After being presented with this information, the students were engaged in a discussion session where they were able to further their understanding of the concepts.
After stage two, participants engaged in an open space session where they were given time to speak freely and comfortably about sensitive topics of the region. During the session, there was some basic facilitation but other mainly, the students were given direction over the conversation. The idea here was that students would feel more comfortable and able to ask questions and lead the conversation if they were in charge rather than program facilitators. In addition, the open session gave students an opportunity to address these issues with limited oversight from facilitators.
Stage three was not completed due to time constraints.
The seminar concluded with a student led feedback session in which students suggested improvements to future programs and if their expectations were fulfilled. This was also a crucial aspect of the event as it provided the program facilitators with valuable information as to their performance. This was followed by a graduation ceremony and the presentation of participation certificates. Overall, the three day event was a great success for everyone involved. It was enriching and inspiring to see Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli youth coming together and interacting with one another on such positive terms. With hope, these students will become the future of environmental protection and conflict resolution in the region.
Written By: Dina Almuhtadi and Ian Meier