Education Above All (EAA) foundation, through its programme Reach Out To Asia (Rota) recently partnered with Qatar University (QU) to send 20 male students on a 12-day volunteer mission to Tunisia, as part of its International Volunteer Trips programme.
The students travelled to Ain Draham city in north-western Tunisia, located in the Jendouba Governorate; a region rich in natural resources, but that suffers from high levels of poverty and unemployment, with higher dropout rates than the national average.
National vocational training programmes designed to respond to the needs of dropouts fall short of meeting the needs of young people in that area, where both literacy and job readiness are generally much lower.
There are over 130,700 hectares of public, forested land, covering around 42% of the governorate.
These forests are rich in raw materials, which after collection and transformation, have high economic value. There is also a large potential for eco-tourism in the region.
In collaboration with in-country partner Mercy Corps, Rota volunteers worked with a local Ain Draham community youth group, to develop and establish an eco-tourism trail. The ‘Ain Draham Trail’ will serve as a recreational attraction for visitors and tourists looking for a safe and enjoyable experience in nature, as well as offer a sustainable source of revenue for the local community.
Activities included identifying locations and setting up signage for start and end points, way points, building bridges, kiosks, fences and rest areas in different locations within the forest using natural resources, information boards, as well as organising a formal launch for the trail.
Essa al-Mannai, executive director, Rota, said: “The International Volunteer Trips programme provides an extremely rewarding experience for our youth, who are given the opportunity to learn about a different culture and enhance their leadership and interpersonal skills.
Returning home to Qatar, they serve as Rota ambassadors who inspire other young people to play an active role in the development of their communities.”
Volunteer students also participated in a ‘Youth Social Entrepreneurship’ training workshop, facilitated by Rota’s partner, Mercy Corps. QU student, Thamer Jamal Saleh, recalled that his time in Tunisia was truly a life-changing experience, which has taught him a great deal about the world around him.
“I witnessed first-hand some of the challenges facing youth in the Ain Draham community, and realised how invaluable our support is to Rota’s beneficiaries. The trip has not only inspired me to offer support to those who are less fortunate abroad, but has also encouraged me to make a meaningful impact in my own community back home.”