Dounia Project works in under-served communities in New York, California, Morocco, and recently Brazil with 60 high school students that have limited access to technology and little or no exposure beyond their immediate communities. We engage them to explore real-world issues and solve them creatively using digital and collaborative tools such as video conferences, video production, and group chats with youth in other locations. Participating youth learn about other cultures by looking at issues from different perspectives and becoming aware and conscious about these problems that affect their communities as well as those of their fellow participants in other sites. They use the video conferences and group chats as means to express their concerns and discuss possible plans of action to address them. Participants are free to use any type of media to create their collaborative service projects, and video production is by far their favorite.
Youth in Morocco collaborated with youth in the Bronx, working on a few documentaries on women’s rights. Both groups had a lot to say on the subject and often the issues raised were similar in both locations as they were witnessing discrimination and violence committed towards women in their respective environments. The films they made were directly drawn from their own experiences, sometimes depicting their immediate families. Their projects were great aesthetically as well as in the messaging and participants gained recognition from their schools, neighborhoods, and the global online community. The film on ‘Moroccan Women’s Condition’ was awarded first prize and $1000 by Search For Common Ground as part of the 1001 Stories of Common Ground contest. The same film is the finalist for the Adobe Youth Voices Aspire Award and it already won first place by the online community votes.
Beyond the praises and outside recognition, students’ participation in Dounia Project has given them a voice, self-confidence, determination, aspiration, self-identity, motivation, and they all feel as global citizens. ‘I feel that I can do anything in my life and I can change the world by collaborating and brainstorming with other young people my age. It’s very interesting to see things from different perspectives and views from around the world. Sometimes we take too many things for granted, like the freedom to say whatever we want, but it’s not the case for all countries and I learn that connecting with my peers in Morocco.’ Navellys Nivar, 15 years old, Bronx, NY.
At the end, our youth learn that by working collaboratively, by interacting with other young people, by having the freedom to be creative and innovative and by expressing themselves fully, they understand and demonstrate that they can use their talents to actively participate in making their world a better place.
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