Yala Young Leaders: Five years of changing lives and growing a family of young peace builders by Maroi Ech-Charkaouy from Morocco

12509467_1032015530174368_2397378075269145535_nAt the end of 2012, I was feeling down for many reasons: studies, I had no goals in life, I had hardly any friends, but I mainly felt that I was not able to trust anyone. I was basically living day to day waiting for something new to happen. I was once part of this “conservative” group; I attended all of the activities and camps, but I never felt like I belonged. They hated on everyone who was not like them. We were the only ones who could bring change to the country and the world, because we were good, young Muslims. I never felt that this was right, especially when it came to hating Jews. I know that the prophet himself had a Jewish neighbor and he never hated him, so why I should I hate on Jews?! So I stopped going to the activities, I started to hang out with guys (which was according to this group HARAM). I stopped having any relationship with them because, at the end of the day, spreading hate doesn’t make any change. I simply felt that it was time to stop hating and look at the bigger picture. I remember that I was scrolling down on my Facebook account and came across a page that called for peace in the MENA region; I had never paid attention to any other similar pages or groups, but this page was different and unique. I clicked on “Like” so I could check it out from time to time; there were some weekly questions – I liked to answer first so I could be the member of the week, but that only happened once. I “liked” the pictures and quotes that were shared but more importantly, it had this unique energy that attracted me to it. For the first time, I believed in PEACE. This was the beginning of a new era in my life.  I was free of hate and simply full of hope and determination for change. I joined the first online program that the page launched which was a huge turning point of my life. I did not only learn from the YaLa Online Academy program, but I gained many new friends from different places in the region and the world in general. YaLa grew within us and I am sure that many members would agree that we became a family. We care for each other, we support each other, and we try to make a change in this world with our simple actions. From less than 1000 followers when I joined to ONE MILLION followers today, the love is still the same, the connection is still the same and the members grew into awesome people from all over the region. We are young people determined to make peace and to live without borders, because we are a FAMILY and we want to be FREE to visit each other without the troubles of borders. Five years have gone by so fast, but YaLa has accomplished so much. Even though hate and conflict still exists in the region, YaLa has one million believers in peace and change; this one million will grow to two million to ten million and then to the whole region. People like the conservative group that I used to be part of will disappear, the hate will end and love will unite the MENA region. All of this is thanks to YaLa and the YaLa Team for making all of this happen. No one has ever said that change is EASY, but it will happen with DETERMINATION and HARD WORK.   Happy Birthday YaLa and thank you for opening my eyes to a new world full of hope and determination. Without YaLa, I would have never had the incredible and powerful friendships that I have now.

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