October 30, 2012, 3:09 PM
The four young women will receive training, support and seed funds from URI’s Young Leaders Program. They will also receive the help of a mentor in completing a service project, one that will have an impact in both their local communities and the broader geographic region.
In the past, those service projects have included the creation of a conflict resolution training and research center in Beirut, an interfaith blood drive in Kenya and an international photography competition in Amman, Jordan, on the subject of peace.
The program began in 2010 as a way for URI to provide the young participants in its leadership training programs with the long-term guidance and support they needed to become the next generation of interfaith leaders.
“Wherever I am, when I am contacted by members of a Cooperation Circle, I feel I am being approached by family members,” said former Youth Ambassador Rosen Dimov, 25. “The Youth Ambassadors Program gave me the necessary skills to further my inter-religious efforts.”
By selecting a pair of Youth Ambassadors from two regions in Europe – the United Kingdom and the Balkans – Young Leaders Program Coordinator Matthew Youde says URI will be able to go further in providing them with training and support.
“In pairs, they will have a (greater) sense of solidarity and teamwork,” Matthew said. “We can provide consistent training in person to the Ambassadors, and utilize the work of the Cooperation Circles to enable them to deliver their projects.”
The new Youth Ambassadors from Europe will soon be joined by four more Ambassadors from the Great Lakes Region of Africa who “are ready to learn and develop their abilities, are able to work on their own initiative, as well as with others, and are willing to embody a spirit of volunteerism,” Matthew said.
The four new Youth Ambassadors include Kathryn, a 24-year-old Atheist who has interned at the Three Faiths Forum – a London organization working to increase interfaith literacy in high schools – and is passionate about the idea of “community resilience.” She plans to design a training curriculum to help community groups, faith communities and alliances of local residents cope with emergencies and challenges in their areas.
They also include Fathima, a 22-year-old Muslim who served as Chair of the Islamic Society at Goldsmiths College in London. A keen environmentalist, Fathima hopes to create environmental workshops for high school students that will include the creation of art projects from recycled materials.
New Ambassador Vedrana, an 18-year-old Orthodox Christian, has been volunteering since she was 12 and currently attends the Bosnian campus of United World Colleges. By training other young people to become peer educators, Vedrana hopes to bridge the divide between different faith groups and ethnicities in Bosnia, an effort supported by the Balkans as a Soul Bridge Cooperation Circle.
Ambassador Lejla, a 25-year-old Muslim, has previously worked with children and teenagers with special needs and traveled to Sri Lanka as part of the Global Network of Religions for Children. Lejla plans to create a “Youth Café” that will serve as a safe place where young people from different backgrounds can encounter each other through common interests such as music, social service and art.
Matthew announced the selection of the new Youth Ambassadors while attending the first meeting of URI’s new “Young Leaders Team” for Europe (pictured above) in Bardarski Geran, Bulgaria. The team, which includes three generations of former youth ambassadors, plans to seek inclusion within URI as the Europe Youth Development Cooperation Circle.
“The purpose of the Young Leaders Team model is to provide a network for former Youth Ambassadors and other experienced youth in order to stay active within YLP, and to create a steering group in each region to help shape, improve and deliver YLP activities,” Matthew said, noting that young leaders from North America and Africa were planning to create similar groups.
More information about the Youth Ambassadors Program, including program rules and application forms, is available online at http://www.uri.org/action_areas/youth/201213 _youth_ambassadors_program.