Spreading Light, Creating Hope

From the Negev and Across the Country

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, over the past several years AJEEC-NISPED’s programs have expanded significantly. While we remain rooted in our home in the Negev, our presence nationwide and internationally continues to grow steadily and surely. Our programs have received significant recognition and have been welcomed into communities around the country.

Taliyah, a full-time gap year for young Arab women who have just graduated from high school and plan to pursue higher education, is an example of a national success story that grew from origins in the Negev. A truly life-changing experience offering a variety of activities for academic and personal growth, each week participants spend three days volunteering in local elementary schools in their communities and three days attending workshops and preparatory courses. This past autumn, the program expanded to two new communities in the Galilee, for a total of 9 cohorts around Israel and a record 178 participants. Taliyah participants, who form part of AJEEC-NISPED’s national youth organization, Shabibat AJEEC, are mentors and role models for the youth of their communities, particularly for girls. Taken together, Shabibat AJEEC’s programs now reach nearly 5,000 school students nationwide through tutoring and volunteer programs. Taliyah and Shabibat AJEEC are truly bringing “light” into the lives of young people around the country.

At each location, Taliyah has been welcomed not only by young people and their parents, but also by local authorities and partner organizations. As they complete the program and continue their studies, Taliyah alumni are equipped with the skills, experience, and self-confidence to take their place as future leaders. Their experience has given them a base to succeed in their careers and to serve their communities.

As Chanukah is the festival of lights, we felt that it was a good opportunity to introduce you to some of the inspiring participants in Taliyah who every day are spreading the light of empowerment and hope in communities across the country. Our aim is that, within 10 years, there will be active Taliyah cohorts in all major Arab communities in Israel.

We firmly believe that Taliyah and AJEEC-NISPED’s other programs will continue to grow and expand, “illuminating” more and more communities around the country.

With blessings for a Happy Chanukah!

Yours sincerely,

Kher Albaz   and Ariel Dloomy 

80% of graduates go onto university and employment

50% of funding comes from the government

Ilut

Rabia Abu Ras
"The Taliyah project has been a tremendous encouragement for volunteering in Ilut, and it has raised awareness of the importance of higher education among girls in the community."
Rabia Abu Ras, 26, holds a BA in Communications from the Emek Yezreel College. She is now Taliyah coordinator in the town of Ilut, located near Nazareth in the north of Israel. “Taliyah has been active in Ilut for three years. In fact, it was AJEEC-NISPED’s very first project in the north. This year, 23 young women are participating. Our main themes for discussions are identity and belonging. We also engage the community in numerous venues, such as public schools, the club for senior citizens at the community center, and the municipal library, among others. Taliyah’s positive impact has gone beyond the participants themselves, because it has encouraged other community members to volunteer.”

Segev Shalom

Urzhan Karim
"Many Taliyah participants in Segev Shalom come from neighboring unrecognized villages. It is often their first chance to venture outside of their immediate surroundings."
Urzhan Karim, Taliyah coordinator in the Negev Bedouin town of Segev Shalom, hails from the Majdal Krum in the Western Galilee. Currently, she is pursuing a BA in Economics and Business Administration at Open University. “As the manager of Taliyah Segev Shalom, most of my time is devoted to what we call the “Academy of Life”, a unique initiative that gives participants personalized attention to prepare them for university and careers. Taliyah is a watershed for many, because it is not common for women to spend time outside of their immediate families. Participants join workshops to give them new perspectives on the world in general, including but not limited to academics, gaining the tools that the need as they embark on their journeys.”

Majd al Krum

Asma Hamdan
"The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. They will bring change, and I count on them to set a good example for my own children."
Asma Hamdan, Taliyah coordinator in Majd al-Krum in the Western Galilee, is 33 and a mother of three. She has a BA in Psychology and Education and is currently studying group facilitation. “This is the first year of the Taliyah project in Majd al Krum, but it has been very welcome because there is a shortage of such opportunities in the town. I see it as a breakthrough, showing that youth can lead change into the future. It sets an example, one that I hope that my own children will follow as they get older and start to think about giving back to the community. Our participants work with schools and the local community center, supported by the Ministry of Education. Their diverse experiences, give them different perspectives on their community, preparing them for their future roles as leaders.”

Rahat

Hiyam Azbarga
"The vast majority of Taliyah volunteers in Rahat pursue academic studies, a direct result of their experience in the program."
Hiam Azbarga, Taliyah Coordinator in Rahat, is a third year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben Gurion University. “Taliyah was founded in Rahat, where it has been active for over 8 years. Our focus is academic preparation, from matriculation to applications to acceptance and enrollment. The 21 participants also learn the value of volunteerism, which helps them to open up personally and take control of their dreams.”

Kafr Qasem

Aya Tzabari
"The Taliyah project in Kfar Qasem focuses on preparing participants for academic studies. It is so important to expand these young women's perspectives so that they are exposed to paths and worlds that they never knew before."
Aya Tzbari holds a BA in Arabic and Linguistics from Tel Aviv University. She serves as Taliyah coordinator in Kafr Qasem while studying for a teaching certificate. “In our project, I accompany the participants as they work in schools and interact with public institutions, preparing an action plan that fits their needs and interests. Taliyah has operated in Kafr Qasem for three years already and its main focus is to prepare participants for university afterwards. I believe that it is of paramount importance to connect the participants’ aspirations and desires to role models who can teach and inspire them.”

Shfaram

Ashwak Mondia
"Taliyah in Shfaram allows young women to work with young men to serve the community together, while they also attend a training program that will help them to integrate into higher education and the workforce despite the challenges that they face."
Ashwak Mondia, 25, from Shfaram in the Galilee, holds a BA in Politics and Government and English Literature and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Public Policy. “The project in Shfaram promotes a spirit of community service, local leadership, social giving, and aspiration. By offering activities that also involve young men, Taliyah Shfaram ensures that participants will be ready for and confident in their future studies and careers. Despite the young age of the participants, I see how they quickly become mature and wise.

Hura

Ahmed al-Asseibi
"Taliyah’s greatest achievements are the opportunities that it gives to young women from very conservative and closed environments."
Ahmad al-Asseibi, 24, a fourth-year Physiotherapy student, lives in the Bedouin town of Hura in the Negev. He leads the Taliyah cohort, the only male in this position, and also teaches photography. “I have been a social activist with AJEEC-NISPED for over three years. It is an honor to work to help young women attain their potential. What distinguishes the Taliyah group in Hura is its size: there are 30 participants, the largest of all cohorts. We address many questions, including identity and belonging, as well as preparation for higher education. The project has been active in Hura for over 7 years. Many of the participants come from more conservative families, who have been reluctant to let young women enroll at universities.

Sakhnin

Sally Ghnaim
"Because of my role with Taliyah, my belief in the message of love, my desire to contribute to my city, and my friendships around Sakhnin all grew stronger."
Sally Ghnaim is 28 years old and from Sakhnin, in the Galilee. She holds a BA in Special Education with a focus on learning disabilities and previously worked to promote employment. “Today, I work as the coordinator of the Taliyah project in Sakhnin, my home city. Because of my role with Taliyah, my belief in the message of love, my desire to contribute to my city, and my friendships around Sakhnin all grew stronger. Taliyah opened in Sakhnin only this year. What makes our cohort special is that some of our activities bring our girls together with boys from the community for joint activities. We work closely with the local office of the Ministry of Social Affairs. I truly believe in the importance of community involvement and social action right in the place where people belong – in their own home communities.”

Qalansawa

Sana Qashqosh
"I believe in youth volunteerism, and it is sorely lacking in our community, which is why I chose to work with the Taliyah project."
Sana Qashqosh, 33, is a mother of two and holds a BA in Social Sciences. For the past three years, she has served as Taliyah coordinator in Qalansawa. “I believe in youth volunteerism, and it is sorely lacking in our community, which is why Taliyah is so important. The schools where our participants work always welcome us so warmly, and you can see how grateful are the teachers and excited are the students. Our engagement here in Qalansawa is unique because we work with special needs children. Despite the challenges and stress, I am so proud of how our participants never hesitate to help. They truly view their engagement as a responsibility to their communities.
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