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Living Different Lives: From Bethlehem To Hackney

What’s the difference between living in East London and the West Bank? Young people from Hackney and Palestine got the chance to ask each other that question when a group of young Palestinians visited the capital at the end of last year.

In November 2007 ‘Mouth That Roars’, a Shoreditch-based video project, and ‘Hear By Right’, a Hackney participation project for young people, were host to some very special guests. A group of young people from the Palestinian Friendship Association (PFA) came to Hackney as part of a cultural exchange programme called ‘Bethlehem 2 Hackney’ to promote awareness of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and to share experiences and skills with teenagers from ‘Hear By Right.’ The project was facilitated by Mouth That Roars, which trains young people in video production who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to media resources.

The PFA has previously made two films with ‘Mouth That Roars’ in Palestine, Forbidden Rights and Our Everyday Lives - Bethlehem, which provide a view of life in Palestine which the Western world does not normally get a chance to see.

We went to interview Rita and Shaaban from the PFA, as well as Erica and Mirian from ‘Hear By Right’, to talk about the work which they were doing together during the visit.

The young people from the PFA use films to put across a message to the world. Shaaban said:

“We made these films to share with the world the situation that young people in Palestine live with.”

In particular the film Forbidden Rights talks about the human rights that are denied young Palestinians, like freedom and the rights to play and learn.

“The film talks about lots of rights which we don’t have in Palestine. [We wanted] to send a message to the people around the world that we want these rights,” said Shaaban.

The project in London was slightly different. Instead of making a film, the Hackney and Palestine groups worked together on a participation project about Children’s Rights. The Palestinians were trained by ‘Hear By Right’ to make workshops to deliver to young people in schools and youth clubs in Palestine. As Rita explained,

“This visit, it’s not a journey for the sake of a journey. There was a programme in place and we took a lot of things from this journey. We are going to share this experience and do these workshops with young people when we go back to Palestine.”

The Palestinian group enjoyed their experience working with young people from Hackney because of the opportunities for cultural exchange, as well as the fact that it was their first visit to Europe.

When we asked Shaaban about his opinion of London, he said,

"It’s a nice place, a big city – a huge city. We don’t have anything like this in Palestine. And there’s a lot of people in London, and traffic jams! I think there is everything available here.”

It seemed like Erica and Marian from ‘Hear By Right’ had learned a lot from the different perspective on life that the Palestinians shared with them. Erica said that working with Palestinian young people has taught her “to appreciate life, and to appreciate definitely what we have in England.” Marian added,

“We have so many rights that they could never even dream of. To actually meet people that don’t have rights that here we take for granted…it’s given us a bigger push to make a bigger impact with what we’re doing.”

The experience also taught Erica that, even though they live in different countries, “we actually do have the same things in common – we like the same things and we like to do the same things.” Marian agreed: “It’s like a different look at a different world, but we’re still the same.”

This story was produced by Gloire Ammany, 18, Mary McCarthy, 18, and Sarra Said-Wardell, 12, from Headliners, a journalism programme for young people aged eight to 19.


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