Successful completion of the "Youth For Better Life" project

From mid-July to mid-August, The East Jerusalem YMCA, supported by Horyzon, successfully implemented the "Youth For Better Life" project. The aim of the project was for 30 at-risk youth to strengthen their skills through art, music, creative expression and soft skills training. For this purpose, youths were selected who face various problems such as violence, poverty, drug use, mental illness, lack of support and lack of resources in the community. In addition, all participants came from the Jerusalem neighborhoods that were at the center of the conflict between Israeli settlers and Arab residents in May. For the young people, this period was marked by fear, stress and violence.

The soft skills training sessions, which focused on skills including identity, leadership, communication, conflict resolution and teamwork, helped the youth cope in their communities and deal with the day-to-day tensions in their neighborhoods. In addition, awareness sessions were offered on topics of importance to the youth, such as healthy eating and cybersecurity. Therapeutic sessions focused on promoting the youth's personal growth, self-development, and emotional empowerment.

One of the volunteers from The East Jerusalem YMCA conducted two sessions on "expression through art: the use of theater." These sessions enabled the youth to strengthen their self-confidence and feel part of a group. The theater activities served as a safe space where the youth could express their thoughts and emotions through expression of body and voice.

Once the sessions began, the youth, as well as the project coordinators, faced various challenges. Since the young people came from different backgrounds, they initially found it difficult to work with each other and with the trainers. However, by the end of the first week, they had made friends with each other and were familiar with the trainers and the topics covered.
The courses were well attended and the trainers received positive feedback. The participants also expressed the wish that similar programs should be organized on a regular basis. There were 31 participants (15 girls and 16 boys) between the ages of 14 and 18.

Here is the personal impression of an 18-year-old participant from the village of Silwan in southern East Jerusalem: "I participated in the "Youth For Better Life" program to develop myself, learn new skills and make new friends. When I was asked to describe the program after some time, I said, "...it frees the heart from all worries." The program helped me in many ways. Since I was introduced to the world of music and art for the first time, it awakened something new in me and tickled my soul. Thanks to the artistic activities, I was able to discover hidden talents. I began to see things in a different light. The program allowed me to paint with watercolors, something that was completely foreign to me, and that gave me a new sense of peace and inner joy."

Insights into the activities of the project can be found in the following video.