Above: Alaa Salous, upper right, with the students of Rosary Sisters School in Nablus. Below: Alaa in an advanced training workshop in Ramallah.
It was graduation time for the first and only Student's Council in Palestine. Proud parents beamed at their children. OneVoice Palestine Executive Director Samer Makhlouf handed out certificates to the new graduates while extending his congratulations to OVP's ever-growing Youth Leadership Program membership.
And surrounded by the 16 graduates from the Rosary Sisters School in Nablus, Alaa Salous, a OneVoice Palestine trainer, recalls his very own first basic training session.
"I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect," said Alaa, 23. "Having my friends around did help."
Alaa was among the first OneVoice Palestine activists to participate in a basic training session in Nablus. He has come a long way since then.
OVP launched the Youth Leader Training Program in 2008. Hundreds of young people in the West Bank and Gaza join the program every year, taking advantage of OVP's character building advanced courses and meeting new people who share the same interest in ending the conflict and building the independent Palestinian state.
"We have launched the program with the intention of making a difference," said Abdallah Hamarsheh, OVP's Youth Leadership Program director. "Along the way we've made modifications to the program, based on what we are looking to achieve and the feedback we've received from our youth leaders."
OVP's training program starts with introductory sessions for all new recruits, explaining OneVoice's message and goals for ending the conflict and achieving a sustainable peace agreement based on the two-state solution and the 1967 borders.
The introductory sessions are followed by basic training workshops. The youth leaders can vote for the subject of training based on what interests them on their personal and professional levels. Basic training courses can vary from teambuilding activities to communication and leadership skills.
Once OVP's youth leaders start to develop a sense of commitment to the program, they are introduced to some of the advanced workshops. Subjects in these workshops are usually more focused and oriented in terms of skill development and self-awareness, and include public speaking, media, and negotiation skills training. Highly trained professionals with immense experience in their respective fields develop the workshops.
Alaa was among the select few senior youth leaders in the West Bank to participate in OVP's recent project with Generations For Peace (GFP). This "training the trainers" program builds a small team of highly trained youth leaders capable of providing a successful training experience.
"OneVoice and GFP provided me with the tools to build a basic training project," said Alaa. "I have been working closely with members from my community in Nablus to implement some of the ideas I've learned and deliver a better understanding of the conflict and the two-state solution."
Alaa and fellow youth leader Rameh Mesmar worked on a series of basic training workshops for the students of Rosary Sisters School in Nablus. According to Alaa, they were developing "an original training experience involving the students in the conflict in a positive way."
This training consisted of character-building exercises based on his training with GFP. The students were also responsible for organizing the entire graduation ceremony, sending out invites, setting up the hall, and more. This was their "final test."
Alaa is currently working with OVP's chapter in Nablus, delivering OneVoice's message and goals within Alnajjah University's campus and providing new recruits with basic training based on OVP's youth leadership and development training program.