Capacity Building Workshop
Cultivating Mind and Soul
 July 2013
Francais ÚÑÈí

In This Issue

Local Safar Funds (Alumni Mobilization)
Taghmees joining Jeera visit to the New Badir community
Cultivating Mind and Soul

Social Channels

Share this issue on Facebook
Tweet this issue

Subscribe to our newsletter

Click here to subscribe to our newsletter

About AEF

The Arab Education Forum is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization active in the Arab World in the field of community and youth work . The mission of AEF is to contribute to an Arab cultural regeneration project that springs out of the inherent knowledge and experiences within the Arab societies

Safar Grant

Grant applications for the Safar/Istikshaf program are accepted throughout the month. The grant selection committee looks at the submitted applications in the first week of every month, provided that the application is submitted at least one month before the date of travel. For more information

Contact Us

6 Fares AlKhouri street- Shmesani
P.O Box 940286 11194 Amman Jordan
Tel: +96265687557


Ahmad Hammad bldg 4th floor El Bireh, Palestine P.O. Box 4361
Tel: +9722961829 or +972599127223




This project is funded by
the European Union

Local Safar Funds (Alumni Mobilization)

As part of the community organizing and alumni mobilization campaign, Istikshaf launched and activated in June 2012 in Alexandria the local Safar funds in 8 countries (Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan and Oman). These funds aim to sustain support for youth mobility through local partnerships in each Arab country. A number of activists in the field of mobility and learning through travel who either already started mobility initiatives or took grants from Safar were selected as coordinators of local Safar funds. Such funds are to enable Arab youth to learn and benefit from inspiring youth initiatives in their own countries as well as within the various Arab countries, by assisting them to access learning platforms and cultivate the culture of travel.

Prior to the selection of Local coordinators, three meetings were conducted online with AEF and Safar Advisory boards and team to discuss the work process of the Safar funds and responsibilities of coordinators. Even though the idea of “local Safar funds” has been initiated since several years, Safar project did not previously success in establishing a local Safar fund until a group of youth in Palestine adopted the concept and started their own initiative inspired by Safar Fund. We therefore started with examining the success factors of the Palestine local mobility fund, and based on that try to draw lessons to support other groups. Furthermore work trips were arranged to Palestine, Yemen, Lebanon and Morocco to meet a number of cultural and youth organizations to discuss possible partnerships and expand the idea of Local Safar funds in these countries.

On June 26th, an orientation session about Safar/Istikshaf was conducted for all coordinators in Alexandria. The coordinators also presented the process they have taken to establish the local Safar funds in their countries as well as the activities they have implemented in their respective countries so far. Furthermore, the coordinators as well as a few members of the Advisory/Voting Committee of Safar worked on a general plan for the local Safar funds and Safar structure.

Following the meeting, each coordinator was asked to prepare an action plan to include the activities they will be performing from July 2012 till June 2013. The activities would cover a wide range of themes, including: Organizing local learning trips and apprenticeships, updating the Istikshaf online guide, networking with organizations and youth, fundraising, media and outreach, etc.

The idea was that the local action plans created by the coordinators will eventually lead to the creation of a regional action plan that will facilitate the implementation of local mobility initiatives as a crucial advocacy tool for the promotion of the culture of mobility and strengthening the support network for mobility.


Taghmees joining Jeera visit to the New Badir community

Recently, Taghmees had the pleasure of joining the Arab Education Forum in their visit to the New Badir community, as a part of their ongoing Jeera initiative.

Our schedule was full of interactions with a variety of people and the spaces they have created to serve community and make their lives and their neighbors’ lives better. Our first visit was to the local library. Inside, staff and community members were busy setting up for a home-made food fair, raising funds to support the library’s summer learning programs. Outside, the air was alive with activity from children in ongoing sessions. We learned that there are over 70 libraries in Amman, each of them serving a similar function to a greater or lesser degree within our city.

Our following three visits were to independent women’s initiatives focused on faith-based organizing, vocational training, and home-based business. The women we encountered were inspirational in their dedication and ability to provide alternative solutions at a grassroots level. Most seemed to work on meager budgets, relying heavily on community efforts and support to achieve meaningful results.

As young women working to build Taghmees from the ground up, we have relied mostly on what we have and the connections we have made with others to create a community space for collaborative learning and shared solutions. Our experience with Jeera gave us living models to study and attitudes to learn. It filled us with hope to see others motivated by a desire to take action and create solutions rather than sit idle. We were reminded to move, because movement is a blessing – elharaka baraka!

Our thanks to the Arab Education Forum and their collaborators for Jeera and its vision for Amman “to become a hospitable city with regards to the experiences of her people. That learning becomes a continuous act through neighboring and various events and becomes hosted by the people and institutions as they choose the learning opportunities they want to create or search”.


Cultivating Mind and Soul

Words in any language are the written symbols of things existing in life; thus each word draws a picture of something. The word apple brings to mind the picture of an apple. This is very easy to understand for objects, but when we talk about some abstract words like identity or independence, you may find different pictures explaining the word on different scales… and one good exercise is to go back to the word’s origin to explore the core meaning of the word and the genuine picture it presents.Writing a handbook about transferring cultural values to youth requires digging deeper into the meaning of “culture” and trying to get the core meaning which the word presents.

In English, the Latin origin of the word refers to the process of ”cultivation of soul and mind” as proposed by Cicero in his Tusculan Disputationsv; where he has used the agricultural metaphor to describe the term. In Arabic, the root of the word “culture” or "Thaqafah" refers to different pictures. The first one refers to the process of straighten an arrow, the second one is to learn something and being very skillful in it, and the third one is to meet someone or something that changes along your journey.

Either in English or in Arabic, the root of the word refers to a long-term process, that requires an exterior factors (cultivating, straightening, learning and changing) to be internalized by an individual and then manifests itself in fruits, strength, skill or attitude.

Living in a highly globalized world makes it very difficult for youth to realize and experience their culture, because mostly we –as youth living in big cities around the world- use the internet and wear almost the same outfit and suffer from the generational gap that separates us from our parents and other older members in our communities. Is it important to get connected to our cultures? Yes, because plants can’t be cultivated in all types of soil, and the arrow must hit the proper object following a proper path, not any object in any direction. And you either consider culture as a plant or an arrow; both must have roots and directions, otherwise, they’ll die or miss their objective.

What do we want from youth? What do they want for themselves? What are the values we consider when we answer both questions? Do we see culture as roots making us stronger? Or a burden that pulls us backward? And how do we tell, if we are connected to the culture or not? Do we consider wearing traditional clothes, eating traditional food, and visiting monuments as being connected culturally? Or is there another deeper sense and manifestation of being connected to your own culture? And finally what makes you truly you?

Asking ourselves as youth workers and youth organizations the above questions is the first step towards designing a non-formal learning experience for youth to know their culture.

What we want from youth and what do they want for themselves is a question of direction. In my case when I asked these questions to myself; as an Egyptian youth worker, I found that my generation and the younger generations in Cairo and throughout Egypt do not value being Egyptians. We were raised in challenging social and economic conditions that made us always compare ourselves to our peers in the States or Central European countries. This always raises a conflict between whom we are and who we “shall” be. The problem begins when we start to think as “squares are better than circles”.The solution and the core idea of this paper is to say that squares and circles are different things; each is suitable in its own context. But to reach this, you have to pass through a whole process that the youth experience. What is a square? What is a circle? And how do both of them intersect in our very personal life?As important roots are to plant, stories are to humans. We inherit stories through our daily life before we study the history of our nation. Actually the history of our nations is only significant when it is connected to us, family and a history place. First step towards realizing culture is to realize our own story and to know ourselves. Thus, being culturally connected according to this definition is being connected to the bigger story of your people and cultural context. Knowing how far it is connected to the way we talk, dress, think, believe, eat and behave. Accordingly, some good activities you can do with young people are finding your family story. What was your grandpas’ occupation and where is he originally from? And how does the story grow to reach you now and here? The story of the neighborhood and the city gains special attraction from youth if they have some other ways to tell it. Facebook photo Album is a good example and blogging contest is another one.The question of “what if” is very important too; what if you tried to change some parts of the story? How would this impact the bigger story? We all had this essay question in history exams, but it also gained a significance difference if we apply it to our own lives, because then we might have a totally different story if our grandpa didn’t travel from the south to the north for instance because this means we probably won’t go to the same school or college we are now and this means we would have had different friends and maybe practicing a different sport too.

Monuments and traditional food and clothes are manifestations of a story too. It is important to know the stories of them, but what more important is to find the connection between the bigger story of your nation and the personal story of yours. And it is far more important to listen to the oral history of people than only adopting the formal history published in the State’s books and publications, because oral history gives a deeper sense to the story; the sense of human lives.By this stage you may have found out what it means to be a square. But what does it mean to be a circle? This means that part of realizing who we are is gained through realizing who the other is. The other might stand for the neighboring flat, village, city, religion or the whole world. This requires going a further distance out of your comfort zone; learn different languages, travel elsewhere, stay with people in their homes, learn not to judge the world with your own eyes solely before listening to the story of different people. They tell it and put their logic, they speak for themselves and how do they feel about being who they are. You learn to listen, question and be critical and humble to accept the world as it is. So before changing the world, change yourself.

Exchange programs are such a good opportunity, if you have time to reflect on your experience and document your learnt lessons. Travelling is not about “20 things to do in…”, it’s not about facebook photos showing “I was there”,Travelling is about being able to travel personally beyond your own limits, not just crossing country boarders. How do we –as youth workers- guarantee that this learning experience happened? There is no definitive answer here because learning is a very personal journey. But we ensure you that we are not facilitating exchange programs to just write about it in our annual report, or to get rid of the money by the donor organization before we miss the deadline. We have to be true to ourselves if we want youth to be true to their travelling and learning experience.

What do we want from youth and what do they want to themselves? A square or a triangle or a circle? It doesn’t matter much as long as they take a conscious decision of who they are and who they want to be. This might take them to be Egyptians, Bulgarians, Spanish or Americans. What important is that they explored their roots and thus gained better idea of their direction… This is taking time; it is an experience to live not an activity to play.. It is something to be internalized not only to be expressed in traditional clothes and food… It is culture which gives us roots to be stable and wings to extend to the world.

Nesma Gewily

You have received this email because you are a member/subscriber of When you joined this program, you agreed to receive periodic mailings of items we think you might find interesting , to {unsubscribe}Unsubscribe{/unsubscribe} click here.