Voices of the Future: Growing Seeds of Citizens

Dr. Hela Ben Hadj M'Barak

ARDD – Legal Aid, is a Jordanian organization promoting access to justice for marginalized people in Jordan. Through its “Voices of the future” project, it aims at bringing the Jordanian and Syrian youth together through the peaceful mechanisms of art, dialogue, education and leadership.

What is it to be a teenager in wartime? Looking back to our own teenaged year we see glimpses of our past self; young love, awkwardness and the very beginning of who we are today. But for Syrian youth, this state of innocence and cheerful unconsciousness before adulthood is much darker than it should be. Anxiety, fear of rejection and extreme vulnerability bring a bitter taste to refugee teenagers who have relocated throughout the Kingdom. The teenage years are the most essential years to self-development, the exact moments when personality and psychological balance are defined. These are the moments thatcannot be missed. That is why ARDD-Legal Aid started the “Voices of the Future” initiative in Zarqa, Jordan where 60 Syrian and Jordanian teenagers spent their summer collaborating, learning new forms of expression and creating their own identities.

Poetry, painting, and lively debates are used by many teenagers around the world to illustrate and exteriorize theirfrustrations and misunderstandings. But for these Syrian and Jordanians, these instruments of expression held much more importance.Voices of the Future allowedthe teenagers to become actors of their own change by discussing and setting their own priorities. By giving these children a safe place to communicate their annoyances, successes and thoughts, Jordanians and Syrians were able to gain a sense of understanding of one another. Children are the future and today’s teenagers are growing up faster than ever before and in the blink of an eye, they will be leaders in their communities. By creating social cohesion and understanding through programs such as Voices of the Future, there will be a peaceful and accepting Jordan for generations to come. 

Indeed the challenges are great. When in the rest of the world, other teenagers’ main problems would be algebra and geometry lessons, in our geographical area our youngest citizens deal with refugee rights, extreme poverty and host community’s acceptance. How can we expect the youth of today to make their own place in the adults’ world with such an environment? What can be expected of them when they are pushed from the nest and expected to fly? For the challenge that weighs upon their shoulders proves to be impressive but their answer is even greater:  they shall not become a lost generation.

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