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CHF West Bank: Ahmad Derieh– Today’s Youth, Tomorrow’s Leader

Published 01/18/2011 by Global Communities

Ahmad Derieh: Today’s Youth, Tomorrow’s Leader

By Niveen Musleh
Beit Fajjar, Palestine; January 18th, 2011: Ahmed Derieh sees himself as son not only to his family, but to all families of Beit Fajjar – a struggling, crisis-ridden village near Bethlehem in the West Bank. The 21-year-old’s tireless dedication to the betterment of his village serves as inspiration to his fellow community members and makes for a shining example of the change makers of his generation.
In response to the persisting inter-family disputes that have plagued the community, Ahmad led Beit Fajjar’s Youth Shadow Local Council (YSLC) – an initiative implemented by CHF International through the Local Democratic Reform program (LDR), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – in putting together an event for high school graduates to be attended by the entire community, regardless of disagreements or past tensions, as a means to encourage a new attitude among the people of Beit Fajjar – one focused on unity and growth rather than divisions.
Ahmad’s work has created many fans in the community, including Beit Fajjar’s Mayor, Kamel Hammat, who is so pleased with Ahmad’s accomplishments and sees such potential that he has labeled him as a future leader. Mr. Hammat marveled at the graduation festival organized by the YSLC and noted that, “The youth council was able to succeed in doing what no one else has – gathering all the families together at one event. After years of confrontation and tension, the community has begun to believe that the wellbeing of Beit Fajjar should take precedence over power struggles between families.”
Under Ahmad’s leadership, the Beit Fajjar YSLC developed many creative projects. It organized Farah wo Marah (Joy and Happiness) Day, an event targeted at engaging local children through fun activities including games, contests, and face-painting. The event was such a success that other YSLCs established in the West Bank as part of the initiative by LDR, emulated it in the months that followed. The Beit Fajjar Youth Council also organized a tree-planting event to raise awareness about environmental preservation and concerns about pollution, as well as Beit Fajjar Arts Week – an event aimed at promoting cultural appreciation and interest within the community – which included a book fair, a painting exhibition, and Palestinian folklore.
Ahmad was acknowledged for his leading role in the Beit Fajjar Arts Week by the National Festival to Honor Palestinian Volunteers held in November 2010, at which he received an award for his contributions. He happily accepted it, commenting that, “I was thrilled to be given the award, especially because the Arts Week was so important to me. I know that reading is a way to provide nourishment to the mind – knowledge is like food for our minds and souls. In addition to giving us basic information about the surrounding world, it also encourages us to think for ourselves. It creates a hunger for knowledge and a thirst to continue learning.”
Looking forward, Ahmad was able to summarize his aspirations by stating that, “In villages like Beit Fajjar, where we live under siege and have limited access to basic services, the prospect of enjoying the services of youth and community centers seems like a farfetched luxury. But youth centers and activities are very important, since they shape the future of our community and help prepare our future leaders for the challenges to face them. This is why I am so determined to play a role in creating an environment that produces strong, enlightened and ethical leaders for my community Beit Fajjar and country Palestine. My experiences have inspired me to continue in this line of community service beyond my role with the YSLC and my graduation from school.”