By: Mahdi Hallal (YES 2017-2018, Lebanon, placed by PAX in Rochester, NH)
On June 24, 242 YES alumni hosted the Hilaliye Street Festival in Lebanon. The event reflected the essence of YES, showcasing the power of collaboration, community engagement, and the remarkable contributions of the alumni.
The YES alumni network in Lebanon joined forces with the Hilalyeh Women Development Committee to organize the festival. They aimed to empower women, uplift the community, and address pressing needs. The alumni served as the driving force behind the festival, handling all the logistics with the utmost precision, ensuring that the attendees had a memorable and enjoyable experience. From the early hours until late in the evening, the festival provided an immersive experience for attendees, fostering a spirit of unity and celebration.
The festival commenced at 9:00 a.m. The atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation and excitement. As the day unfolded, over 1000 people attended the event, including Leen Al Yaman, Exchange Programs Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon. Attendees enjoyed a multitude of experiences, including the highly anticipated Kids Amusement Zone. Laughter filled the air as children reveled in engaging activities designed just for them.
The festival featured a diverse range of offerings. A garage sale sold items from women-led households, providing a platform for economic empowerment. The Exhibition Area showcased the talent and resilience of local businesses, crafts, and arts and highlighted the vital role women play in building thriving communities.
Throughout the day, various performances took place, enchanting attendees with captivating melodies and artistic expression. FEN Choral and a local youth singer graced the stage, filling the festival with soul-stirring music, while a DJ kept the energetic atmosphere alive.
Alumni went above and beyond in their roles as organizers. They passionately shared their own exchange experiences with the locals, igniting conversations and fostering cultural understanding. The YES alumni showcased the transformative power of international youth exchange and its impact on personal growth, global perspective, and community engagement. With their infectious enthusiasm and inspiring stories, they captivated the crowds, encouraging individuals to dream big, embrace diversity, and actively contribute to their communities.
An integral part of the festival was the opportunity to raise funds for betterment projects. Attendees generously contributed, knowing their donations would directly impact the community. These funds would be utilized to address pressing needs, such as installing solar streetlights, conducting maintenance for the Hilalyeh public garden, and supporting women-led businesses. The festival was a catalyst for positive change, demonstrating the power of collective action and community support.
Collaboration between the YES Alumni and the Hilalyeh Women Development Committee was a cornerstone of the event. Together, they created an environment that celebrated women's empowerment, fostering an atmosphere of gender mainstreaming and active participation. The festival showcased the talents, skills, and entrepreneurial spirit of women, highlighting their invaluable contributions to the community.
At 9:00 p.m., the festival drew to a close, leaving an enduring impact on Hilaliye and beyond. It became a symbol of unity, resilience, and hope. The Hilaliye Street Festival will be remembered as a momentous occasion and a testament to the transformative power of the YES program and the efforts of its alumni. It celebrated the 20th anniversary of the YES program, empowering women, inspiring change, and transforming communities. The event also highlighted the essential role of the YES alumni network in Lebanon, exhibiting their passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment for a better tomorrow and a better country.