NEF Launches Olive Oil Without Borders III

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On September 21, NEF recognized International Peace Day as we celebrated the upcoming launch of Olive Oil Without Borders III.

Now in its third three-year phase, NEF’s USAID-funded Olive Oil Without Borders (OOWB) project received sign off to launch OOWB III this fall. OOWB is continuing to build relationships of trust, mutual understanding, and collaboration between Israelis and Palestinians through economic cooperation.

Why the olive sector? Olive farming is a cornerstone of the local rural economy in the West Bank and Israel where more than 100,000 families depend on the olive oil industry. The land belonging to farmers extends back generations upon generations and therefore has meaning beyond economic value. In a region where conflict and borders tend to shape every day life, NEF’s OOWB program aims to bring the mutual love that Palestinian and Israeli farmers have for their land to the forefront in order to foster shared economic opportunities. These efforts have resulted in increased production and revenue in the region’s olive sector and a more positive perception of “the other side” reported by those who have participated.  

“At an exhibition in Italy there was a flag of the Palestinians and a flag of the Israelis sitting in the same place, Palestinian oil and Israeli oil. For me it was something. ‘Wow,’ I thought to myself. I believe that we—Palestinians and Israelis—will sell something together in one bottle. I believe there is a market of people who believe that the Palestinian and Israelis can sit together and sell something as one.”

                   – Simha Helbrin

Israeli olive farmer and champion of OOWB

 

Phase III of OOWB will focus on 37 communities in Israel, the West Bank, and now will also extend to Jordan in areas where the NEF team has well-established relationships. NEF will work directly with at least 1,000 olive producers, mill operators, and olive oil distributors in these areas, and with the Olive Oil Councils, business, and policy leaders to promote cross-border shared solutions to trade and export organic and premium olive oil in the West Bank, Israel, and Jordan. 

Click here to watch and share the video, “Olive Oil Without Borders: Cross Border Partnerships

To read more about NEF’s cross-border work, click here.

 

Israelis and Palestinians Launch Cross-border Businesses

IMG_5289Prior to the Second Intifada, regular economic cooperation, cross-border employment opportunities, and a network of social relations existed between Palestinians and Israelis. When the construction of the separation barrier began in 2000, mobility along with social and economic interactions became severely limited, resulting in a generation of Palestinian and Israeli youth who have never known people from the “other side.”

Adi grew up in northern Israel where she had little to no interaction with Palestinians in the West Bank. When she heard about the Near East Foundation’s Youth Agribusiness Partnership (YAP) initiative, Adi jumped at the opportunity to get involved.

The YAP initiative, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Near East Foundation (NEF) and its partners—the Peres Center for Peace and the Palestinian Center for Agricultural Research and Development (PCARD), aims to build lasting relationships of trust and collaboration between Israelis and Palestinians through cross-border economic collaboration. This initiative builds on NEF’s past successes implementing similar projects in the region, but with a unique twist in that it specifically targets young Palestinian and Israeli women and men—whose interaction with the “other side” has been severely limited.

The YAP initiative focuses on sectors where there is a demonstrated opportunity to improve productivity and market linkages. These include fruits and vegetables, dates, herbs, and small ruminants (particularly dairy).

In each sector, there are significant gaps in technology and productivity between Israelis and Palestinians, but there are also opportunities to expand production and markets in both areas. In facilitating joint-cross border agribusiness enterprises, jobs are created, income is generated, markets are expanding, and young Palestinians and Israelis gain hands-on experience in business cooperation and conflict management.

“I believe in collaboration between people.” – Adi

Adi and Salah

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Adi, an Israeli botanist, makes a living cultivating Black Soldier Fly larvae. This particular type of larvae consumes organic waste, helping to reduce it. After engorging themselves on the waste, the protein-rich larvae can be used as a very nutritional source of animal feed. “I am becoming an expert in making the larvae, and they [Palestinians] have a lot of problems with the build-up of organic waste.”

Adi wanted to share her expertise on how to cultivate the larvae with Palestinians because she thought it not only would have a positive environmental influence and be a source for nutritional animal feed for farmers, but also help to create jobs.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have work [in the West Bank],” Adi said. “Cultivating the larvae creates an opportunity for many people to get work, help the environment, and to make money.”

Through the project, Adi was introduced to Salah, a Palestinian fish farmer, who was searching for a way to improve his product and his family’s future.

Salah operates his fish farm near the village of Tubas in the West Bank. Salah explained that collaborating with Adi and the “other side” provided a “rare opportunity to improve his future and to learn from agricultural experts.” He went on to say, “The high protein content provided by the fly larvae will make the fish I cultivate more hardy and robust, which will hopefully positively affect my production and sales.”

The project organizes opportunities for Israelis and Palestinians to go on field visits to both Israel and the West Bank in order to promote knowledge sharing. Salah said he enjoyed these learning opportunities the most out of all of the project activities: “The field visits and the techniques discussed during the lectures and the technologies we encountered where interesting—I learned how to better cultivate and sell my product [fish].”

“I learned a great deal from the Israeli agricultural experts that NEF put us in touch with, and I have benefitted a lot from Adi’s technical expertise.”

Adi also felt that the field visits and trainings provided a unique opportunity. “The meetings were very interesting. The main thing [for me] was to have a chance to meet our neighbors, person-to-person…woman-to-woman… man-to-man. This was the main thing.”

Adi went on to say, “The project gave us an opportunity to meet with them [Palestinians]. It can be risky to travel to Nablus, but when I go as a guest with Palestinians there is nothing to fear. We went to Nablus, and it was so interesting. All of my colleagues were really enthusiastic about it—we believe that people can connect, not politicians.”

“I don’t want it to stop,” Adi said. “I want it to continue! And I want the connection to continue too.”

Salah hopes that his community sees how he is benefitting from his participation in the project. He said, “Neither my family or friends have any problem with my participation in the project whatsoever. In fact, they’d love to participate in something like this too!”

Musa and Amin

2016_Palestine_YAP_500Musa, a Palestinian sheepherder and the mayor of Al Jiftlik in the West Bank, was in search of a solution to improve the health of his sheep and to increase the milk they produced, especially during the depths of winter and the extreme temperatures and dryness of mid-summer.

“Sheep require 24-hour supervision,” he said. “The warm climate creates health problems for my sheep. The grass that they graze on is not very beneficial in terms of nutrition.” 

Musa went on to explain that the nutrition-poor feed that is locally available to his sheep directly affects the quantity and quality of the milk they are able to produce, which then negatively impacts the quality of cheese he makes—often leading to years where no milk or cheese can be produced and sold.  

Through YAP, Musa was connected to Amin—an Israeli farmer. Musa went on to explain that the nutrition-poor feed that is locally available to his sheep directly affects the quantity and quality of the milk they are able to produce, which then negatively impacts the quality of cheese he makes—often leading to years where no milk or cheese can be produced and sold.

“The main reason I wanted to be a part of the [YAP] project was to gain knowledge. At the beginning, I didn’t want farming equipment or money, I just wanted to exchange information, knowledge, and experience,” said Musa.

Amin brings hay from Israel to Musa’s farm in the West Bank; hay that is superior to what Musa typically has access to in Al Jiftlik. Musa then mixes the hay with his crop waste, and compacts the mixture with machines purchased with the project grant to make silage as a supplemental food source for his sheep.

“The feed from the silage is far more nutritional than what we used to have. We do not have that quality here [in the West Bank].” Musa said. “This year there is plenty of food, milk, and cheese. In previous years there was neither the quality nor quantity. With the profits from these products, my expenses in the off-season have been cut in half!”

“There should be an exchange of experience between Israelis and Palestinians,” added Musa. “Why? Because the Israelis and I live on one land.”

Musa went on to say that, “Working with my partner [Amin] has helped me to develop my own expertise. We here in Al Jiftlik benefit from getting to know our partners, and they benefit from getting to know us. NEF helped to facilitate this cooperation; for example, I was able to visit Israel on a study tour where they have big farms and good ideas to share!”

Masha’al and Etai

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Masha’al, a 21-year-old woman from Al Jiftlik in the West Bank, started a small business as part of the YAP initiative making a healthy coffee-like beverage out of date seeds. Despite the uniqueness of her product, Masha’al faced many challenges with her business such poor infrastructure for her operation.

“I have challenges because of fluctuations in the electrical supply, so I work at night when it is stronger. Also the marketing aspect of my business has been very slow in developing.”

To make enough of a profit to support herself and her family, Masha’al knew that she needed guidance and support. When Masha’al came across the YAP project she saw it as a great opportunity to improve her business knowledge and plan so that she could take her small coffee business to the next level. “Through the project I am able to get to know other people, they help me with gaps in my overall business acumen…my marketing abilities and how to acquire the raw materials I need more cost-effectively.”

Through the project, Masha’al was connected to Etai—an aspiring Israeli entrepreneur from Tel Aviv who was interested in developing and selling a natural and healthy type of coffee in Israel.

“I’ve had this business idea to open a sort of alternative healthy beverage stand for a long time,” he said. When contemplating whether or not to join the YAP project Etai figured, “What do I have to lose?”

Etai’s primary reason for joining the YAP project was because he saw it as an opportunity to meet people from the “other side.” He explained, “One of my family members used to work with people from the other side. They did it because it was good for both sides…people these days don’t even think about it because it’s so hard [logistically].”

Together, with the assistance of the YAP project Masha’al and Etai developed a plan where they would manufacture the date coffee (in the West Bank and Israel), and then market and sell their products on both sides—expanding their market base while cooperating together to perfect their business model. Etai also introduced Masha’al to better date seeds from Israel so that she could improve the quality of her coffee.

Through collaboration with experts from Syracuse University’s Program for the Advancement of Conflict and Collaboration, the YAP training curriculum includes teaching tools and techniques geared toward collaboration and conflict mitigation. Etai particularly enjoyed the training sessions and getting to visit with and learn from other entrepreneurs.

“The trainings allowed me to network with other people who are connected to what I want to do. Moreover, in-between sessions, we were able to talk, brainstorm, and just get to know each other a little. During the first meeting, we had a conversation about if we were afraid of the “other side”—it was great to open up about such matters and not just connect solely on business-related issues.”

Masha’al spoke favorably of her experience working with Etai, saying, “The cooperation between us has been really great; we help one another. We learned a lot about running a business that we were unaware of before.” She continued, “I thought that they [the Israelis] liked to do things on their own and had no interest in working with us, but my view changed when I saw how they wanted to work and collaborate with us.”

Othman and Nitzan

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Othman is an organic mushroom farmer from Lubban Village in the West Bank. “My business is to convert mushroom spores into mushroom seeds to make it easier for other farmers to plant and grow mushrooms,” Othman explained.

“Mushrooms are not common to the area. It is a challenge to increase the shelf life of the mushrooms, which is normally very short. I needed expertise on how to do this without using chemicals; my mushrooms are organic through and through!”

It was through the YAP project that Othman was introduced to Nitzan, an Israeli woman who owns and operates an aqua/hydroponics facility (a method of growing plants in mineral nutrient solutions without soil) in Israel. “I’ve learned a lot from Nitzan’s technical experience—she has an MS in agricultural sciences, and she has taught me many things.”

For Nitzan, being a part of the YAP project provides her with an opportunity to share her knowledge on hydroponic farming with Palestinians, while also having the opportunity to connect and learn from them. Nitzan said that when she first met Othman, his eagerness to learn was evident, “I saw the need. He asked all the right questions. When a connection is there, the work can easily get done.” She went on to say that she feels that “the small steps of working together on a joint-project gives me the assurance that there will be a mutual future.”

“There is great cooperation between us,” Othman said. “We have met several times during the project, and I have toured Nitzan’s hydroponic facility. We’ve gotten to know each other and become friends. Nitzan is very knowledgeable in agriculture, and I depend on her considerably.”

“It was good to see the willingness from the other side,” Nitzan said. “Instead of just talking, we should take action—these small steps will lead to a kind of momentum.”

117 Israeli and Palestinian youth have participated in YAP cross-border training workshops and field trips, 51 joint cross borders business plans have been submitted to NEF for funding, and 30 have launched.

The YAP project is funded by the USAID, and in partnership with the Peres Center for Peace and the Palestinian Center for Agriculture Research and Development (PCARD).

 

Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and NEF Gratitude Scholarship Program: What is the UWC Experience?

This September, applications for the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and NEF Gratitude Scholarship Program will open for promising youth in the Middle East who are looking for a transformative educational experience at one of six United World College (UWC) schools in the September 2017 academic year.

UWC as a movement operates on three pillars: multiculturalism, peace, and environmentalism. Its mission is to provide a life-changing educational experience to a diverse cross-section of students to inspire them to create a more peaceful and sustainable future. The unique curriculum at UWC schools provides a well-rounded approach that pairs traditional academic coursework with creative action-oriented service opportunities. 

Campus life is a significant part of the UWC experience and is greatly influenced by the culture of the geographic locations in which each of its schools are located. This gives students the opportunity to learn about a different culture through their new surroundings as well as from a diverse community of classmates, faculty, and staff.

UWC’s alumni body is an impressive group of dynamic individuals, many of who attribute their success back to their tenure at a UWC school or college. To hear them speak of their time at their respective UWC alma maters is to understand how profoundly their experience influenced who they are today.

In a letter for UWC’s Impact Stories, Ruddy Ndina, alumnus of UWC Waterford Kamhlaba, discussed his experience as a refugee who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo with his family after war erupted in the late ’90s. After living in Mpaka refugee camp in Swaziland for over seven years in harsh living conditions, options for this future seemed limited. However, Ruddy’s parents were determined to see him succeed and instilled in him and his siblings a drive and determination that allowed Ruddy to excel academically and receive a scholarship to attend UWC Waterford Kamhlaba. When reflecting on his experience, Ruddy said:

“My time at Waterford was very transformative as it provided the platform to develop my academic and leadership skills whilst also contributing to the development of my community. I served in various leadership roles; however, the most meaningful experience for me was participating in the Mpaka Refugee Camp Community Service Project. This project was very close to my heart, especially because I once lived in that refugee camp and I could directly relate to some of their pains and struggles. The kids at the camp generally viewed me as a “big brother” and I was excited to inspire a deeper sense of appreciation for academics and leadership development.”

At the letter’s conclusion Ruddy emphasized, “My story is about empowerment and the trickling effect of UWC generosity in helping refugee students overcome their challenges and pursue a better life, just like every other “normal person.”  You can read Ruddy’s full story here.

Ruth Buttigieg, from Malta, graduated from UWC Adriatic, Italy in 2008 and went on to receive her MSc in public health nutrition from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. She is now living in Edinburgh, Scotland and works as a specialist in ketogenic diets for the management of diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer while studying for a PhD in nutrition at Queen Margaret University, investigating the role of dietary polyphenols in healthy aging.  Of her UWC experience Ruth had this to say: “My favourite UWC memory is of Easter during my first year there. It was the first time I spent Easter away from home and the idea of not having an Easter lunch was quite saddening. So, my friends and I decided to prepare our very own version of Easter lunch. It was the most random and most memorable Easter I had. At the table we were Catholics, Muslims, Atheists, Jews, Orthodox, Hindus, Buddhists, etc., yet we all sat together, ate and discussed each of our traditions. I’ll cherish that memory forever because it showed me that if you respect each other’s beliefs, then conflict can truly be a thing of the past.”

Another alumnus and former UWC International Board Chair Christian Hodeige spoke of his time at UWC Pear College, saying, “Certainly the idea of people being able to live together from totally different backgrounds, upbringings, religions, ethics, and political histories really blew my mind. One of the biggest gifts from UWC is the knowledge that multicultural living works. I am able to counter people who say that if we live in conflict, we must segregate each other. I think this knowledge, no matter how strenuous it was at the time, stays with you.” In regard to the learning environment Christian said, “My favorite times at college were the village meetings and the theory of knowledge courses. At the village meetings all teachers, all students, all staff could have their view. There was a lot of healthy debate, which created a very free and incredibly encouraging environment.”

To learn more about UWC schools and colleges and how to apply visit, www.uwc.org.

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and NEF Gratitude Scholarship Program was developed jointly by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and NEF to express gratitude on behalf of the global Armenian community. It will provide 100 academic scholarships over the next eight years to at-risk youth from the Arab Middle East who have been affected by conflict, displacement, and poverty. This year, selected youth will have the opportunity to receive a world-class education at the following participating United World College (UWC) schools:

UWC Dilijan (Dilijian, Armenia)
UWC Robert Bosch (Freiburg, Germany)
UWC Red Cross Nordic (Flekke, Norway)
UWC Maastricht (Maastricht, Netherlands)
UWC Adriatic College (Duino, Italy)
UWC Mahindra College (Pune, India)

Applicants from the following countries will be eligible to receive a scholarship for the 2017 academic year: Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. NEF is encouraging youth who meet the established criteria to pursue the application process for the scholarship in the participating countries, which will be available in the Fall of 2016.

Eligibility criteria includes the following:

•  16-17 years old by September of the entry year
•  High academic performance or potential
•  Basic knowledge of the English language
•  Comes from an underprivileged and/or at-risk group (refugee, orphan, or someone who comes from a marginalized background as recognized by the UWC national committee).

 

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The program will be administered through the Scholae Mundi Foundation, which aims to provide students with opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to the international community and catalyze social change.  http://www.scholae-mundi.org/en/ 

About Aurora Humanitarian Initiative
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is committed to building a board, global humanitarian movement. The initiative is rooted in inspiring stories of courage and survival that emerged during the Armenian Genocide, when 1.5 million Armenians perished. Those fortunate few who survived were saved by the courageous and heroic acts of institutions and individuals who intervened, at great risk. A century later, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative seeks to express gratitude, share remarkable stories of survivors and their saviors, and celebrate the strength of the human spirit. 

About UWC Movement

UWC makes education a force to unite peoples, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. To achieve, this UWC deliberately selects students of different ethnicities, religions, nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds. Selection for UWC is based on merit by selection committees in more than 150 countries. This unique and challenging education model places a high value on experiential learning, to prepare students for future roles in community leadership. Founded in 1962, UWC now has 15 schools and colleges on five continents, the majority of these are two-year residential colleges following the International Baccalaureate Diploma, a qualification UWC played a major part in developing. Currently, 75% of UWC students receive either full or partial financial assistance. UWC also has a network of short courses, often held in regions of political, economic, ethnic or environmental tension on themes such as conflict management or environmental awareness. The UWC movement aims to inspire a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and to creating a global fellowship for international understanding among its alumni, now numbering more than 50,000. 

For more information contact the UWC National Committees for each of the participating countries:
Syria
info@sy.uwc.org
http://www.sy.uwc.org

Lebanon
uwclebanon@gmail.com
http://www.lb.uwc.org/

Palestine Refugees In Lebanon
uwcpalestine.lebanon@gmail.com

Palestine
info@palestine.uwc.org
http://www.ps.uwc.org

Israel
roeishillel@gmail.com
http://www.il.uwc.org

Jordan
suhajouaneh@gmail.com

Egypt
Info@eg.uwc.org
http://www.eg.uwc.org  

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Palestinian Women Share Their Stories of Success

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Women play a key role in the Palestinian economy, yet Palestine has one of the lowest female labor participation rates in the world due to conservative social norms, limited access to financial resources, and lack of support. NEF works to empower Palestinian women to overcome these barriers that often keep them from realizing their full economic and social potential by helping them to expand their businesses through business development training and coaching.

Jameela, Fadia, and Fatmeh, three women who successfully expanded their businesses after taking part in NEF’s trainings, sat down to share their stories:

Jameela Al-Azait

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When Jameela’s husband unexpectedly died at a young age, she was left to single-handedly provide for her four young sons. Jameela, from Al-Azaa refugee camp north of Bethlehem, decided to turn her embroidery hobby into a small home-based business as a solution to support her family.

Jameela’s reputation and recognition for embroidery work quickly grew in her community, creating a higher demand for her products.

With a desire to expand her business to meet her increased demand, Jameela signed up to receive six months of NEF’s business development trainings and one-on-one coaching. She received training in business and financial management, branding, and marketing. Although she had owned her own business for several years, this was the first business development training Jameela had received.

Through the program, she was able to participate in local Bazaars to market her products and network with other people who were also a part of a similar line of work. At the Bazaars Jameela gained the attention of a large number of tourists every day—increasing her profits by 30 percent.

Today, Jameela’s business is well known in Hebron and Bethlehem. Along with improving her and her family’s life by turning a small home-based business into a successful embroidery shop, she also employs 15 women—mainly widows—providing them with sustainable income as well.

“My dream now is to expand my business more and more and to create more jobs for the women in need,” Jameela said. “The project not only impacted my business, it has also had an impact on my personality. I was living as a widow and only needed money to pay my family’s expenses, now I want to earn money to continue to improve and grow my business.”

Fadia Zahda

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Fadia, a university student from Hebron City and a divorced mother of three, created her own small home-based business—Wonder of Paper—which repurposes scrap paper into art pieces such as sculptures, toys, accessories, and various decorations.

For Fadia, the challenge of being a single parent and soul provider for her family made establishing her business that much more difficult. Despite this, Fadia succeeded in starting her business while completing her studies in “graphic design”.

A few years after the launch of Wonder of Paper, Fadia heard and signed up for NEF’s program. As a result of the trainings, Fadia developed an improved business plan, which led her to later receive a project supported grant. Through this grant, Fadia was able to invest in equipment that more efficiently met the demands of her business and shortened the time she spent handcrafting her products. She was also able to hire four female university students to help her, which in turn allowed them to embark on their own path to financial independence.

With extra time and help on her hands, Fadia has expanded the variety of products she sells to include hair accessories, school supplies for children, medals, and photo albums. She said, “Because of this experience, I have expanded my business. My work has increased. My business capital was 300 NIS (less than $100/month) and now it is 800 NIS (more than $250/month).”

Today, Fadia’s business has grown to the point where she is able to support her family and pay her university loans. She hopes to continue to expand Wonder of Paper, and soon host a summer camp at her store to teach children different forms of art.

Fatmeh Sa’adeh

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Fatmeh, a 48-year-old woman from Ramallah city, went from being a chef at a university cafeteria for 14 years to owning a small catering business and expanding it into a café. When she first opened Em Sameer Kitchen Fatmeh could only provide food for pickup orders because her store’s location didn’t include a sink, chairs, tables, or a refrigerator.

Four years after opening her café, still determined to grow her business, Fatmeh applied to NEF’s program. “I participated because I felt that I needed some managerial support,” Fatmeh said. “I have enough experience in making food; however, I was really in need of business and management training.”

After receiving training in marketing, product development, branding, and financial management, Fatmeh submitted her improved business plan and was awarded with a grant and loan of $3,400. She purchased refrigerators and raw food materials helping her to increase production.

After making these improvements to her business model and with the profits she made from the café, Fatmeh opened a dine-in restaurant where people could enjoy her specialty pastries and homemade Palestinian dishes. “Every woman should have a specific goal and vision,” Fatmeh said. “And depend on herself to achieve her goals and dreams.”

Fatmeh still continues to participate in NEF’s project—but this time, she works as a mentor for a different group of women entrepreneurs who want to see their businesses flourish. Through the improvement of her business model, Fatmeh’s business has substantially grown requiring her to hire additional employees to keep up with the café’s demand.

Today, Fatmeh reflects on her experience as a women entrepreneur:

“If a woman starts her business and she fails, that does not mean she should give up, she should learn from her experiences and become stronger to start again.”

Working primarily in Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Hebron NEF has trained 524 women in business development, of which 267 have expanded their businesses creating 330 new jobs for women.

NEF UK’s women’s entrepreneurship projects in Palestine are conducted in partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, the Rangoonwala Foundation, the Oak Foundation, and the Trafigura Foundation.

To read more about this work, click here.

 

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and Near East Foundation Gratitude Scholarship Program

Valued at nearly $7 million, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and Near East Foundation Gratitude Scholarship Program will provide 100 academic scholarships, over the next 8 years, to at-risk youth from the Arab Middle East who have been affected by conflict, displacement, and poverty. The scholarships will provide selected youth the opportunity to receive an international level education at the United World College (UWC) network of schools around the world, including in Armenia-based UWC Dilijan—an international co-educational boarding school currently hosting students from over 60 countries.

The application process for 2016 enrollment is currently closed. The application process for the academic year commencing in September 2017 will open between September and October of 2016 and will continue into mid February of 2017. The applicants from the following countries will be eligible to receive the scholarships for the current academic year: Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.  NEF is encouraging youth who meet the established criteria to pursue the application process for the scholarship in the participating countries in which they work beginning in the Fall of 2016.

Eligibility criteria includes the following:

•  16-17 years old by September 1, 2016
•  High Academic Performance
•  Proficient English
•  Identifies with at least one of the following:
          · Is a refugee or displaced person
          · Has endured the loss of one or more caretakers
          · Has or is living in extreme poverty

As its name indicates, the Gratitude Scholarship program was developed jointly by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and NEF to express gratitude on behalf of the global Armenian community to the people of the Middle East who offered shelter and food to those displaced by the Armenian Genocide over a century ago.

Just like 100 years ago, children are the most vulnerable victims of present-day turmoil in the Middle East. The majority of children displaced by war and poverty have no access to education. UNICEF estimates that there are more than two million out-of-school children in Syria, in addition to 700,000 Syrian refugee children in neighboring countries. 

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“We are proud to be able to help parents experiencing great hardship and uncertainty to secure a better future for their children, as our parents and grandparents were able to do for us,” says Ruben Vardanyan, co-founder of 100 LIVES. “It is with great pride that we announce our partnership with the Near East Foundation, and with eager anticipation that we look to identify the scholarship recipients.” 
 
NEF President, Dr. Charles Benjamin shares Mr. Vardanyan’s enthusiasm, saying at NEF’s October Centennial Gala that, “The Near East Foundation is proud to celebrate its centennial anniversary by enabling a hundred driven and in-need students to receive a world-class education. We are excited to join 100 Lives in rewarding talented students and future leaders with the opportunity to excel and succeed.”

Презентация PowerPoint

The program will be administered through the Scholae Mundi Foundation, which aims to provide students with opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to the international community and catalyze social change.  http://www.scholae-mundi.org/en/ 

About 100 LIVES
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is committed to building a broad, global humanitarian movement. The initiative is rooted in inspiring stories of courage and survival that emerged during the Armenian Genocide, when 1.5 million Armenians perished. Those fortunate few who survived were saved by the courageous and heroic acts of institutions and individuals who intervened, at great risk. A century later, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative seeks to express gratitude, share remarkable stories of survivors and their saviors, and celebrate the strength of the human spirit. 

About UWC Movement
UWC makes education a force to unite peoples, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. To achieve, this UWC deliberately selects students of different ethnicities, religions, nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds. Selection for UWC is based on merit by selection committees in more than 150 countries. This unique and challenging education model places a high value on experiential learning, to prepare students for future roles in community leadership. Founded in 1962, UWC now has 15 schools and colleges on five continents, the majority of these are two-year residential colleges following the International Baccalaureate Diploma, a qualification UWC played a major part in developing. Currently, 75% of UWC students receive either full or partial financial assistance. UWC also has a network of short courses, often held in regions of political, economic, ethnic or environmental tension on themes such as conflict management or environmental awareness. The UWC movement aims to inspire a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and to creating a global fellowship for international understanding among its alumni, now numbering more than 50,000. 

For more information contact the UWC National Committees for each of the participating countries:
Syria
info@sy.uwc.org
http://www.sy.uwc.org

Lebanon
uwclebanon@gmail.com
http://www.lb.uwc.org/

Palestine Refugees In Lebanon
uwcpalestine.lebanon@gmail.com

Palestine
info@palestine.uwc.org
http://www.ps.uwc.org

Israel
roeishillel@gmail.com
http://www.il.uwc.org

Jordan
suhajouaneh@gmail.com

Egypt
Info@eg.uwc.org
http://www.eg.uwc.org 

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Wastewater Reuse: an innovative solution for Palestinian farmers

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(Photo: Earth pond reservoir constructed by ANERA through funding from OFID)

West Bank—In the first effort of its kind in the Palestinian Territories, NEF has established a network of agricultural innovation sites to introduce and adapt the practice of wastewater reuse for agriculture irrigation. NEF’s Greening Jalameh project helps the many Palestinians who depend on farming as their major source of income overcome the scarcity of water resources in the West Bank.

Using wastewater from the Jenin Treatment Plant in the Jalameh Valley, NEF worked closely with Palestinian farmers and the community to demonstrate how treated wastewater can be used safely in agricultural production by connecting them with Israeli wastewater experts and farmers using this practice.

Through meetings with the mayor of Jenin, the Jenin Treatment Plant manager, the local cooperative, and irrigation experts, the project designed and installed a systematic irrigation network to serve surrounding farms. The irrigation system distributes treated wastewater from the Jenin Treatment Plant to 100 hectares—spanning seven farms—planted with varieties of fruit trees. 

Starting with an awareness-raising program, NEF introduced techniques to agronomists, local farmers, and community leaders to develop practical, technical, and management guidelines for using wastewater for agriculture on a large scale. NEF organized an intensive training course for Ministry of Agriculture extension staff and other agronomists on the use of treated wastewater. Field visits were arranged to Israeli wastewater treatment facilities and farms irrigated with treated wastewater for the Ministry of Agriculture staff and 80 Palestinian farmers and community leaders. And to foster capacity-building, NEF held workshops for 20 targeted farmers and 25 extension agents from the Ministry of Agriculture on how to apply the practice of wastewater reuse and other agricultural techniques to their farms.

Mohammad Shita, a community leader in the Municipality of Jenin, said he appreciated learning more about the use of treated wastewater—which has often been met with community skepticism due to a lack of information on the safety and benefits of use.

The project resulted in an increase in agricultural productivity, improved income for farmers, additional jobs in agriculture, and increased income reliability from agribusiness.

“It [the project] provided an opportunity to use wastewater—that used to cause pollution—and to treat it and use it for the purposes of irrigation,” Shita said. “The project also provided a great opportunity to plant new irrigated crops, reducing production costs and increasing profits.”

To implement this project, NEF worked in partnership with the Palestinian Center for Research and Development through Development Alternatives Inc.’s USAID-funded Compete Project and collaborated with ANERA and OFID. And to ensure to ensure sustainability of the management and maintenance of the irrigation system, NEF engaged the Marj Ben Amer Cooperative.

To learn more about this project, read ‘Greening Jalameh Final Report’.

Read more about our work in the Palestinian Territories.

 

Finding Common Ground: Peace-building through Economic Cooperation

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West Bank – Last June, a group of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications students visited the NEF offices in the West Bank, accompanied by two distinguished professors: Ken Harper and Steve Davis. 

The purpose of their visit was twofold. For the students, it was an opportunity to experience working outside of the United States and to learn how to report on controversial stories without becoming entrenched in any related political issues. For NEF and its partners, it was an opportunity to have in-depth stories told about the impact of our regional projects and the people who drive and benefit from them. 

For a period of just under two weeks the student journalists were introduced to participants in the Planting the Future and Olive Oil Without Borders projects, and were able to explore various areas of the West Bank and Israel to gain a better understanding of the area while witnessing Israelis and Palestinians working together towards increased economic development.

Upon the completion of their trip, the students have written stories, edited photographs, and have created the beautiful video above: Finding Common Ground—all available on their project’s website One Land, One Love. Click below to read their incredible stories profiling some of NEF’s beneficiaries from our projects in the West Bank.

Life of an Israeli farmer: Simha HalperinWritten By High T. Ferguson

Myasar Yseen: A mother, wife, olive farmer, soap-maker, and community leaderWritten By Lateshia Beachum

Olive farmer and serial entrepreneur, Nilham Azem, cares for his trees no matter the costWritten By Christine Rushton

Click here to view the video, Finding Common Ground.

To view more stories and photos, visit their website: One Land, One Love

Read more about our work in the Palestinian Territories.

Maysaa’s Medicinal Soap Business Takes Off

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West Bank—Maysaa’, a 34-year-old single woman from the town of Tubas in the West Bank, first heard about the Near East Foundation’s Youth Agribusiness Partnership while she was working with a small group of women making soap to sell. Maysaa’ decided to apply to be a participant, because she felt it would be an excellent opportunity to learn how to generate and sustain her own income.

The Youth Agribusiness Partnership project, implemented by NEF and funded by USAID, aims to bring about systemic change in the agricultural economies of Israel and the West Bank by providing agribusiness and entrepreneurship training for young Palestinian and Israeli men and women.

The project selection committee chose Maysaa’ to be trained as part of the herbs cohort. During the NEF-led sessions she learned methods to develop and strengthen her skills and resources so she could establish and manage a business successfully.

Through the program, Maysaa’ met several participants whose enthusiasm for and interest in the herbs industry was contagious, and she began thinking more about using medicinal herbs as an alternative medicine for various ailments.

“I started thinking about operating my own business of manufacturing natural soaps made of herbs and oils,” she said. “This idea developed through the training workshops I took part in with the Near East Foundation, which expanded my outlook and taught me what I needed to do to successfully operate my own business.”

Maysaa’ received a grant for her business idea to make natural medicinal soap from various organic herbs and oils. With the grant money she bought materials, tools, and marketing supplies to set up her workshop and business.

The Youth Agribusiness Partnership initiative facilitates joint cross-border agribusiness enterprises through small grants and technical assistance, and promotes reconciliation through cross-border cooperation. As such, NEF helped Maysaa’ find a suitable business partner from Israel with similar ambitions. She and Mazen, her Israeli business partner, decided to collaborate to expand her herbal/medicinal soap business.

Mazen provides her with the needed herbs and oils from Der Hanna, and Maysaa’, in turn, produces different kinds of herbal soap in her workshop in Tubas. She then gives back to him a proportion of the soap she produces. Maysaa’ said that she has found it “very beneficial” to work with an Israeli business partner, “especially when it comes to marketing and the sharing of expertise.”

“The project motivates and challenges me to utilize the natural resources available in my country, and it has encouraged me to be creative and innovative with my ideas.”

Reflecting on her participation in the project and establishment of her small business, Maysaa’ says she has already achieved great success, simply because she is a single woman operating in a conservative community. Thanks to her vision, diligence, and determination, Maysaa’ is producing more than 10 types of therapeutic soaps that treat various skin and hair conditions.

Maysaa’ said that this project has inspired her and given her the power to earn a living of her own. She says she hopes that projects like the Youth Agribusiness Partnership “continue in the coming years so that we can continue to network locally, across the border, and even internationally to one day reach world markets.”

Read more about our work in the Palestinian Territories.

Making Connections: Advancing Women’s Business in the Palestinian Territories

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West Bank—Sana Al-Sayeh started her business selling sweets about 12 years ago. In the past year, applying new marketing techniques nearly quadrupled her monthly profits from 80 dollars to 300 dollars.

Growing up learning the art of making cakes, chocolates and other sweets from her grandmother, Sana established Sana Sweets in 2003. Although she had a substantial client base through word of mouth, she struggled to fill her daily orders and lacked the necessary equipment to maximize her products.

The Near East Foundation (NEF) has helped more than 200 women entrepreneurs like Sana grow their businesses through a three-year program to advance women’s entrepreneurship in the Palestinian Territories. NEF project director, Hiba Hamza, explains that women play a key role in the Palestinian economy. However, limited opportunities to engage business associations greatly hinder their ability to launch and sustain viable businesses. In collaboration with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, NEF focuses on the “missing middle” of women entrepreneurs—women with existing businesses ready to be taken to scale, with the potential to revitalize the Palestinian economy and trigger positive social change.

NEF’s training, coaching, and product development workshops helped Sana to grow her business and obtain loans to buy needed equipment and materials to meet demand. NEF’s program advisors and mentors helped her market her brand by developing a new logo and packaging, and investing in promotional photos to advertise her products.

“One day I will have a brand name and stores at each city here in Palestine,” Sana said. “Who knows. Maybe I will export Sana Sweets internationally.”

Samaher Romi is another participant. She lives in a refugee camp in Hebron and decided to take a creative yet eco-friendly approach to her business: producing and designing chairs out of recycled car tires.

However, when Samaher first began her business she faced challenges that plague many women entrepreneurs in the region such as limited access to financial services and a culture that is not always accepting of women with ‘nontraditional feminine businesses’. With grants and loans available through NEF’s project, Samaher expanded her furniture business by drumming up demand and therefore increasing production and profits.

“I would like to thank the NEF team for supporting my business and for supporting the women who run small businesses in general,” Samaher said. “The project will increase the number of women who participate actively in the Palestinian economy.”

Another participant, Amal Kharma, transformed her home-based side business preparing food into a fully functioning cafeteria. Her business began as a way to bring in additional income by selling baked goods to relatives and neighbors. Unbeknownst to her, she was actually losing money on many of her orders because she priced her goods too low.

Through NEF’s program, Amal gained the business and marketing knowledge necessary to confidently establish new prices and make other business decisions that would result in an increase in profits of nearly 60 percent. Like Sana and Samaher, NEF also trained Amal on how to brand her products and promote them through social media. With her increased profits, Amal has expanded her business from solely pastries to include jams, pickles, and traditional Palestinian dishes.

“The project provided me with all the needed training and consulting and the funding to move my business to the next step.” She added, “I can now stand in front of all and say, ‘I am a successful businesswoman.”

After their experience with the program, all three women have gone on to train other women in their communities and refugee camps.

The Advancing Women’s Business in Palestine (AWBP) project is implemented by NEF in partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, with support from the Trafigura Foundation and Oak Foundation.

Read more about AWBP and NEF’s work in the Palestinian Territories.

 

Palestinian Youth Travel to Tel Aviv for International Agricultural Technology Exhibition

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Tel Aviv, Israel—Twenty-nine Palestinian participants of NEF’s USAID-funded Planting the Future project traveled from the West Bank to attend the 19th Annual International Agricultural Technology (AgriTech) Exhibition in Tel Aviv, Israel. Participants toured exhibitions at the trade fair and learned about cutting edge methods and technologies in their respective fields: dates, dairy, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Iyad Mallouh, manager of an agricultural cooperative in the West Bank and one of the Palestinian participants, said that he sees “unemployment, low income, and unstable political conditions” being major concerns for young Palestinians today.” He observed that these factors allow “no chance for youth to start to implement their ideas on the ground.” One of the objectives of Planting the Future is to promote economic development and cross-border dialogue through joint agricultural businesses to create jobs, generate income, and increase access to markets.

AgriTech is well known as the premier venue for showcasing new agricultural technology in the region. While there, NEF participants were able to gain knowledge and insight into the latest technologies being used in Israel for planting, irrigating, and harvesting to bring back to their own communities. In several sectors, there are gaps in technology and productivity between Israel and Palestine, underscoring the need for collaborative efforts to expand access to technology and markets.

Mallouh appreciated the networking opportunities at the event, because he was able not only to exchange ideas with others “who have good experiences and skills that we can benefit from” but also to establish new business partnerships. Says Mallouh, “We met some Israeli traders who are interested in importing our products, such as iceberg lettuce, red and white cabbage and many other types. Now we have started working with them officially.” 

Along with improving economic development in the region, Planting the Future also aims to improve relations between Palestinians and Israelis through these cross-border encounters and relationships. Mallouh observed that the project allowed Israelis and Palestinians to share information about their industries and cultures and to discuss how they could cooperate and “make peace, and deal like neighbors and not enemies”.

NEF is helping to build lasting trust and communication between Israelis and Palestinians—with a focus on youth. Mallouh says that in the months to come, he hopes to improve his work so he can start new projects with his neighbors.

Overall, 89 young Palestinians and 83 young Israelis have participated in joint training, field visits, and planning sessions. As of July 2015, 23 cross-border agribusiness projects have been approved for funding through the Planting the Future project. 

Click here to read more about our work in the Palestinian Territories.