I have just had one of the best weeks of my life.
Two years ago, two undergraduate students at Stanford - one American, one Bahraini - decided they wanted to get to know more about what was happening on the ground in the Middle East. Given the 2011 uprisings and the West's increased interest in youth activism in the region, they found willing professors and funders for a dialogue platform meant to bring Middle Eastern and American change agents together. And so AMENDS, the American and Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford, was born.
This year, the team of undergrad-led organisers received around 300 applications for about 35 delegate spots. Applications came from across the Middle East and North Africa as well as the States (and the UK...). Delegates are selected for their potential to affect real change in the region and on the basis of ongoing projects they are heading around a variety of social, economic, environmental, and political issues.
AMENDS Delegates engage in five days of dialogue with each other and participate in a series of workshops on communication, design, and funding. We meet with respected professors and entrepreneurs. The conference culminates in a series of TED-like talks in which delegates share their initiatives with each other and an audience invited from across Stanford and the Valley.
I have been incredibly blessed to get to know the organising team and my fellow delegates. They are incredible people doing absolutely amazing things. I have been inspired and am coming away from this week with another pile of projects I'm really excited to begin. I've made contacts for PhD research, been offered couches across the Middle East, and found friends for life.
If only every week could be spent in an atmosphere as joyous, hopeful, and respectful as this one...