“The greatest proof of responsible citizenship is to serve those you don't know”

On International Youth Day, Philanthropy Age spoke to Middle Eastern youth trying to make a difference in their communities

Here are the views from some of the Middle East's young activists on civic engagement, what it means to them and whether the region’s youth are engaged enough in tying to address various challenges within their societies.

Yorgui Teyrouz, founder and president, Donner Sang Compter

“Being a scout member for more than 15 years, being a volunteer in the first aid team of the Lebanese Red Cross, being an active member in three other NGOs before founding my blood donation NGO, Donner Sang Compter (DSC), I simply cannot imagine my life without civic engagement and volunteering. I always say that the greatest proof of responsible citizenship is to serve those you don't know. It feels good. It feels good also to know that you were not a simple visitor on this planet and that you actually left your mark and did something amazing for your surroundings.

“Concerning the engagement of youth in the Middle East, I will only refer to the Lebanese youth. Older people call us The Shisha Generation. But I don't agree with that. I see around me many friends who are active and concerned for their society. I see them volunteer at an early age in scouting, Red Cross and NGOs, supporting different causes, organising rallies for the environment, trying to be active in every possible way. Many are active, but the majority is not. They are too busy trying to find a job after their studies, or enclosed over their political party or simply too lazy to do anything. We, the active ones, still have so much to accomplish and so much to do, when it comes to encouraging other youth to be active for the society.”

Muna Easa Al Gurg, chair, Young Arab Leaders UAE

“I have learnt so much over the years about the importance of civic engagement through my work with the Al Gurg Foundation, Young Arab Leaders (YAL) and Emirates Foundation.

“Through YAL we have voluntarily mentored more than 700 entrepreneurs over the last year and through Emirates Foundation we have helped establish key youth volunteer groups that work with prisoners, with the elderly and during an emergency. I do see youth engaged with a passion for the cause through these programmes. Not only does this help the society but it equally gives young people a positive purpose in life.”

Khalifa Bin Hendi, co-founder, team1971

“Civic engagement is definitely important to me and it should be to any citizen in our community. We should all work together hand in hand to develop our communities and be responsible for our lives. I do not think youth are generally engaged enough in the Middle East because of various reasons and problems, which are often political. I feel blessed to be a UAE citizen living in a society that is highly engaged and active in the community and is shaping the future of the country.”

Khalid AlKhudair, founder and CEO, Glowork

“Civic Engagement is vital in the Middle East. We all have a role to play in ensuring our children's future is brighter than ours.”

Ramzi Jaber, co-founder and co-director, Visualizing Palestine

"Civic engagement is crucial to the advancement of the social, economic and political framework that we live in. There are youth who are definitely involved in the Middle East, but apathy remains rife. What brings hope is that there is a definite hunger for engagement. Laws, spaces, media, attitudes and other elements of society have to reform to allow our youth to engage with each other and instill a sense of civic duty."

Photo credit: Donner Sang Compter