For the next eight weeks, I will be joining the organization Soliya as a volunteer group facilitator for their Connect Program. Soliya’s mission is “to improve relations between Western and predominantly Muslim societies by enabling youth to participate in cross-cultural dialogue and education. Soliya’s programs use video conferencing and new media to connect young people from around the world and engage them in conversations about pressing global issues using proven conflict resolution methodologies.”
The goal of the program is for students “to develop a global community of young adults who individually and collectively use new media and communication technologies to promote understanding and empathy within and between their societies.” From across many time zones, we will meet each Tuesday for lively participant-driven dialogues.
Our meetings will be held in Soliya’s specially designed web platform that simulates a classroom. Thus, each person will join the discussion with a webcam and microphone from places such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, and the United States. (Consider that when I’m logging on in Pittsburgh at 6:00 AM, the time in Cairo, Egypt is 1:00 PM. While this scheduling might seem complicated, the early or late hours truly demonstrate the level of commitment of both facilitators and participants.)
With the help of my Egyptian co-facilitator, we will discuss many topics, including culture, politics, religion, and identity. Most students are joining the group as a supplementary aspect of a college course that they are in. Facilitators were selected after a written evaluation and phone interview.
Want to learn more? Visit Soliya.net and check out this video from Linktv.org featuring the Soliya program at work! Additionally, see Soliya highlighted on CNN’s Inside the Middle East program.
– Tiffany, Program Assistant, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh