Welcome to the YALA Peace blog, where I will be posting paintings, photos, descriptions, conversations, and more from the kids in this special project in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
YALA Peace (Young Artistic Leaders Association for Peace) is a creative arts after-school program for diverse teenage girls from all over the city. (Their varied ethnic and religious backgrounds include Argentinian-Jewish to Arab-Muslim to Filipino-Christian.)
With a James B. Reynolds grant, I created and am leading these weekly empowerment and peace building workshops at the Arab Jewish Community Center of Jaffa.
Through a focus on different creative mediums, like painting, photography, and creative writing, we explore self-discovery, liberating expression, and the sharing of our stories to one another.
The U.S. State Department-funded American Corner provides facilities for our program; YALA Peace workshops are conducted in English, allowing for a common neutral language for the participants to communicate with and an improvement over the year in the participants’ English level.
Since the start of the 2009 school year, YALA Peace members have been meeting at the renowned Arab Jewish Community Center in Jaffa to engage in trust-building, leadership, and artistic activities together. The girls in the program explore new creative mediums, become more comfortable bonding and speaking English with each other, and harness their unique voices to become young leaders.
I facilitate these meetings with an awareness to stretch the girls' comfort zones when it comes to personal growth. By the end of the year, the participants will be the masters of their own evolving language; they will have new tools with which to communicate with the world and themselves. I believe in the power of self-expression through arts; the girls are being trained to emerge as leaders with strong voices and encompassing experience and empathy connecting with the "other" in this conflicted and diverse city.
Enjoy meeting the courageous and creative stars of YALA Peace through this blog!