“Ripples of Happiness”, a new initiative in the Middle East by the Coca-Cola Foundation and INJAZ Al-Arab

From Left to Right: Mrs. Olga Mjzoub from AUB, Mrs. Dima El Khouri from INJAZ-Lebanon, Mr. Antoine Tayyar from CoCa-Cola Middle East and Dr. Elie Samia from LAU.

The Coca-Cola Foundation in partnership with INJAZ Al-Arab represented by INJAZ Lebanon are inaugurating the Ripples of Happiness program today in Habtoor Grand Hotel, Sin El fil.

Mr. Antoine Tayyar, Public Affairs and Communication Director, Coca-Cola Middle East, opened the round table with an introduction about Coca-Cola and its vision. He played a short guidance video. According to Mr. Tayyar, the youth in the Middle East has a lot to say and it should be provided with the means to do so. It is very active and effective. He also pointed out that the big number of NGOs in the area helps a lot in making positive impact.

The program is aimed at training university students on identifying opportunities in their cities as well as inspiring them to implement projects that will have a positive impact within their communities. The Ripples of Happiness Program falls in line with both The Coca-Cola Foundation (NGO) and INJAZ Al-Arab’s longstanding strategy to empower youth and foster social responsibility. The program will stretch over several years and is funded by the Coca-Cola company. The Foundation focuses on four global priority areas that subscribe to Live Positively:

  • Water stewardship
  • Healthy and active lifestyle
  • Community recycling
  • Education

The program has been made from scratch for the Middle East. The budget for the program is multi-years and around $850,000 without including the promotion for it.

The universities:

  • Bethlehem University and Beir Zeit University in Palestine
  • University of Bahrain and Royal University for Women in Bahrain
  • College of Business Administration for Men and Women in Saudi Arabia
  • American University of Beirut and Lebanese American University in Lebanon
  • University of Jordan and Al Amman Ahliyya University in Jordan

The program involves 20 selected students in every university and will take place over 6 consecutive weeks, with one day each week holding a 1-2 hour session about subjects that will help putting the plan together and execute it.

Throughout the Ripples of Happiness program the students will have the opportunity to learn a wide range of fundamental corporate social responsibility concepts and important principles for work readiness. With training and mentoring from a team consisting of volunteers from Coca-Cola team in the Middle East and volunteers from the INJAZ Al-Arab network, the students will be engaging in sustainability focused activities aimed at making a positive impact within their communities.

The first phase will take place from March to April as this is suitable for the Universities and avoids clashes with exam times. The second phase will take place from September to October of 2012. During the 1st and 2nd weeks of the program, students will identify an opportunity in their community that is dear to their heart and to the future generations. They will also decide on a solution to tackle this opportunity, and then proceed to implement their solutions during the 4th and 5th weeks of the program. The 6th week they will be asked to compile all their documentation to create a one minute Submission Document that will be judged by a panel. The winners will be supported in taking their projects further and scaling them.

In Lebanon, the Ripples of Happiness program is hosted by the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University and commenced on March 16 as a pilot with aim to growing to more universities in the future. The choice of the Universities for the pilot program was based on their readiness to adopt the curriculum.

A judging panel combining representatives from the Coca-Cola Foundation, INJAZ Al-Arab, and various community leaders will then join forces to choose the top community project in each market. The winning project will receive a grant to support the implementation of the project on a larger scale.

Mrs. Dima El Khouri, Executive Director, INJAZ Lebanon introduced the organization and pointed out its importance for the students and their employability. According to Ms. El Khouri the important part of the program is the learning process that happens during/after the 6 weeks and the information the students will gain to be able to create other community projects  or engage in social entrepreneurship and create positive change. She was happy that she found an immediate positive response when the program was announced on INJAZ-Lebanon Facebook Page.

Dr. Elie Samia from LAU and Mrs Olga Majzoub from AUB spoke about how community service is part of their mission and about the motivation students showed for the program. Hundreds of students have applied making the selection quite difficult.

I’m not exactly comfortable with the name of the program: “Ripples of Happiness” but all in all it’s a good idea and I can’t wait to see what projects the students will propose!

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