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PAYCE Stories

Author: Palestinian American Youth Civic Engagement

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A podcast series created by young adults about making a difference in the United States, Palestine, and Jordan. Hear short, inspiring profiles of young adults using different forms of civic and political engagement. Season one was made by Palestinians and Americans using compelling stories from Des Moines Iowa. Season two from Palestine and around the States brings a new set of inspirational stories about social action and change. Season three are stories from Jordan and Palestine. They wil drop throughout the months of December and January. Season 4 is under production in the West Bank and throughout the U.S. The series is funded through generous support by the Stevens Initiative, Drake University, and Al-Quds Bard College. Episodes are created by Fellows and students in the Palestinian American Youth Civic Engagement Initiative and produced by Darcie Vandegrift.
42 Episodes
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Crack the walls

Crack the walls

2019-01-0305:30

The feminist media project created by PAYCE Fellow Zeina Melhem was featured in season two episode “One minute of norms.” Here, she shares the story of how Ruba Ahmad advocates as a hijabi woman to effect change.  Ruba describes her ability to break down the public/private dichotomy as a way to “crack the walls.”   Her work with refugee women is discussed as helping others “use their power” as Ruba admires their capacity to face challenges. 
PAYCE Fellow Hannah Curran brings us more of the story of artist Lina Abojaradeh.  Reaching thousands through online posts of her art, Lina overcame self-doubt and fear to become an artist’s voice in exile.  She defines success as a willingness to become unconventional.  Lina wants to move people to change their awareness and do something for the Palestinian cause. Song credit to bensound.com, “Memories.”
Try it: You will find yourself.  In this episode, PAYCE Fellow Aya Anwr explores what started development worker Youssef Qahwaji on his path.  When he was thirteen, he had the chance to participate in a Jordanian UNICEF workshop that expanded his horizons.  Seeing things from a different perspective, this was a change point towards his career.  Aya describes how she can identify with Youssef’s story and the insight she draws from his advice.
PAYCE Fellow Hanan Zahran talks to Omar Husseini about his perspective on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and how he moved from the U.S. to Palestine.  Hanan describes Omar’s work in “unconventional politics” through his job as a liaison to international visitors and his workplace.  He describes why he chooses his form of advocacy given the context for Jerusalemites.  Omar expresses his hope for Palestine and his hope for the future.  Hanan asks listeners: What can you do? This podcast contains audio footage of violence that may be unsuitable for some listeners.
From burden to success

From burden to success

2018-12-2705:48

Youth is sometimes seen as a problem that society has to “deal with.”  PAYCE Fellow Abdullah Hamdan created this episode to refute this mistaken framework.  He explores the story of Jordanian young adult advocate Youssef Qahwaji.  They discuss the summer 2018 peaceful protests in Amman and the personal story of Youssef overcoming failure.  Failure brings positive growth and enables you to value success in life.  The podcast ends with Abdullah’s vision for youth in the future in his community.  
PAYCE Fellow Genesis Guzman begins her podcast episode with a dramatization of negative messages girls receive before turning to Ala’ Hamamreh’s story.  Ala’ is one of the founders of Shaghaf Foundation.  Experiencing the limitations placed on girls as a child, Ala’ noticed these limits and challenged them.  The Shaghaf Foundation holds panels and activities to inspire women for change.  Ala’ notes that women in both Palestine and America face challenges because of the stronghold of patriarchy.  She believes that economic independence for women is the first step, which is a primary goal of Shaghaf Foundation.   Genesis finds hope through Ala’s story.
Lama Amr takes what she calls “weird paths” to find a way forward for a better world.  Working with colleagues, she is a social entrepreneur who has founded organizations BirHakaya and Build Palestine.  Her innovations include reorienting her thinking about Israeli checkpoints and choosing an unexpected college major.  PAYCE Fellow Darrien Alexander Fordham explores a series of choices that have lead Amr to educate and create change in Palestine and beyond.   Music from bensound.com “When in the West” by Blue Dot Sessions.
Productive agression

Productive agression

2018-12-2006:23

PAYCE Fellow Maddie Bjork explores the issue of women’s empowerment through the story of Ruba Ahmad. Ruba uses her anger and passion to create change and bring into sharp focus what she sees as imperatives for women and refugees.  Ruba and Maddie discuss Ruba's work as a policy assistant at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, wearing the hijab, and the need to elevate the voices of women refugees 
Live life for yourself

Live life for yourself

2018-12-2004:32

Youssef Qahwaji’s parents wanted him to be a doctor or engineer.  They were disappointed at first when he began to pursue a career in development and planning on projects related to youth empowerment.  As PAYCE Fellow Olivia Graham notes, it’s up to the individual to decide when they will follow someone else’s request, and when they will follow their own intuition.  Music credit by Bensound.com, “cute” and “when in the West.”
Ala’ Hamamreh is one of the founders of Shaghaf Foundation, a Palestinian NGO dedicated to projects in digital media and social entrepreneurship that create empowerment for young women.  In this episode, PAYCE Fellow Fadi Abushanab profiles Ala’s work.  ‘Shaghaf’ means passion in Arabic. Ala’ explains the work the organization has done and the changes it has brought her personally.  Ala’ and Fadi challenge the conventional definitions of politics by talking about both the desire to end Israeli occupation and to change Palestinian society with a shift of consciousness. Ala’ Hamamreh served as a peer facilitator in Amman 2018 and was in the first cohort of PAYCE Fellows in Des Moines.  Music by ShareAlike creative commons music, Jahzzar, “Traveler’s guide”. 
I did it, and I'm here

I did it, and I'm here

2018-12-1305:03

Omar Husseini bought a one-way ticket to Jerusalem, Palestine.  He never went back.  Instead of returning to California, he stayed in his father’s birthplace.  He advocates for Palestine through his work as a public relations representative in a university.  In response to the limited opportunities faced by Palestinians, Omar, age 28, explains to PAYCE Fellow Bri Dressel that he educates foreigners who come to visit so they can see the circumstances first hand. His weekend cultivation of the family farm is another form of activism with tangible results. Advocacy takes many forms within an individual’s sphere of influence. Music credit to bensound.com “better days” and “creative minds.”
Art became my voice

Art became my voice

2018-12-1306:50

PAYCE Fellow Renad Manasra profiles 20 year old Jordanian-based artist Lina Abojaradeh. Moving to Jordan from the United States was a significant change, but she found her voice through art. A Palestinian born in the United States, Lina has never visited Palestine.  She can’t. However, she uses her talent to represent her “homeland political issue.”  Lina found inspiration from other Palestinian artists and began to see art as a tool to advocate for causes important to her.  She seeks to make Palestinians more relatable and human to inspire action.  Learn more about Lina in episode 307 created by PAYCE Fellow Hannah Curran.
Palestine, not Pakistan!

Palestine, not Pakistan!

2018-12-1305:011

Raneem's profile of social entrepreneur Lama Amr reveals a common frustration the two share. PAYCE Fellow Raneem Garhreeb begins her podcast with the sound of an Israeli checkpoint, then pivots to humor through the voice of an American PAYCE colleague.  She does this to show a common experience of Palestinians abroad: Meeting people who confuse their home with Pakistan or who know nothing about the Palestinian situation.  In this light, Raneem considers how her podcast’s subject, young adult Lama Amr, uses her voice to inform the world.  A social entrepreneur, Lama has launched projects to support innovation and crowdfunding in Palestine, including BirHakaya and Build Palestine.  Connecting with youth all over the world, she works to make things happen. Her successes do not make her immune from the daily problem of checkpoints and occupation, but she believe these setbacks making her more creative.  Raneem connects Lama’s efforts to disseminate diverse stories about Palestine, seeing her as a model to follow to create change.  
Mini bonus episode!  PAYCE Logistics Coordinator Omar Husseini.  Summer 2018 Amman participants will know Omar’s logistical brilliance. His story of civic engagement will appear in two of the episodes in season 3.  In this pre-season mini-episode, hear why Omar is proud to play a crucial role in the PAYCE program. Music by bensound.com, "cute".
Trailer Season 3

Trailer Season 3

2018-12-1001:31

Can't wait for the stories from Amman?  Neither can we - they're coming soon!  Here's a shoutout from producer Darcie Vandegrift.
Is social media an alternative to political apathy? PAYCE Fellow Taylor Zitkus worked with a University of Hartford class to explore student apathy and also new forms of political expression on social media.  Taylor argues that social media counts as political engagement because it is a way to become educated, connect with others, and express important views.  
Salina from Al Quds-Bard interviews the founder of a campus club, Unheard Palestinian Stories.  She and her classmates describe how often it is difficult to tell one’s story.  Founder Baha’ Ebdeir created organization to create beauty out of pain through giving space to tell stories.  However, he and the club ran into a challenge.  There were plenty participants who wanted to speak, but fewer attendees wanted to listen.  Why don’t attendees feel curious to hear what others have to say?  Club members think that this is because of the current social context of living in an oppressive society where screaming feels like the only option.  But how do you create a space for listening?  “Listening is not a privilege.  It is a responsibility.” 
Hassan Essa ran for office as a young adult.  In this episode, PAYCE Fellow Hannah Curran of UNH Manchester interviews Essa about his earlier political activism, his campaign, the connection between poverty and politics, and his political activism as a young adult  Coming from a low-income district, neighbors took him seriously as a candidate and appreciated the fresh perspective.  Essa describes how poor people are harmed when politicians leave them out of policy agendas.  Though he didn’t win, he shifted the talking points within the city to focus more on poor people’s issues. 
Myqueal Lewis (Florida A&M U) presents this moving radio essay about his aspirations to become a teacher.  He thought of many pros and cons of pursuing this profession.  But recent gun violence has raised new questions.  This thought-provoking podcast combines personal reflection and interview with a high school gun control activist.  High schoolers are standing up to demand change to protect their lives.  Having adults who support young activists is a big motivator.  Myqueal concludes that a high school student he interviewed, Makaela, gives him an important perspective on activism. 
Not your habibti

Not your habibti

2018-10-1207:16

Huda and Lara from Al-Quds Bard interview storytelling activist Yasmeen Mjalli.  A Palestinian raised in the United States, Yasmeen moved to Ramallah after college.  To challenge the harmful effects of gender harassment, she performed an art project called Not Your Habibti to draw attention to the problem of how women are seen as possessions rather than subjects in control of their bodies and stories.  Yasmeen challenges the idea that women’s rights cannot be talked about under Occupation.   Related but different from #metoo, she invites women to tell her their stories in more personal, intimate ways. Many women were hesitant, but Yasmeen collected intimate stories which she turned into an art exhibit that has toured globally. 
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