Aie Serve: Uniting Youth Through Service

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The bellow article is featured on Youth Action Net Website
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What began in Tunisia in December 2010 led to the mass demonstrations in Egypt starting on January 25, and now the rest of the Arab world is following. Lebanon is no exception. On February 27th, many Lebanese youth activists gathered for a demonstration against the sectarian system in Lebanon, demanding changes in both the constitution and the way daily governmental business is carried out.

This rising consciousness and refusal to succumb to the status quo is rooted in the same spirit that prompted myself and a group of friends to launch Aie Serve four years ago. Instead of staying silent, we decided to take positive action.  Aie Serve is a youth-based, youth-managed, and youth-funded organization dedicated to promoting a culture of volunteerism in Lebanon. Translated from Japanese, aie (pronounced “I”) means love.

The idea for Aie Serve came during the aftermath of the 2006 July War on Lebanon and resulted from the sharp polarization of Lebanese youth along sectarian, political, and religious lines. We started brainstorming ways of tackling this issue and agreed that three basic values were missing in Lebanon: Love, Tolerance, and Respect. We espouse love for others based on who they are and not which political background or sect they are from, while promoting tolerance and respect of others’ point of views and beliefs.

Over time, we started gathering more ideas and people, organizing ourselves while focusing on serving our community and society at-large. Aie Serve evolved from a group of friends, to a group of community-service minded youth, to a team and an organization. Examples of Aie Serve volunteer activities include book and clothing donation drives, reforestation and recycling projects, and assistance to orphans and the elderly.

In the last four years, we’ve experienced exceptional growth in the number of projects we do, our members, and our outreach. The impact we see on the ground is both fulfilling and inspirational. We find volunteerism is now contagious wherever we go. What’s more – in keeping with our mission – we find that caring for others is a universal value that brings people together and bridges divides.

Those around me know quite well that I am an optimist and a hard worker and so I believe that with a vision, hard work, and true commitment a small, dedicated group can achieve great things… and the biggest proof is where Aie Serve stands to day!

Afif Tabsh is Co-founder and voluntary President of Aie Serve. In 2011, he was named one of ten finalists selected for the King Abdullah II Award for Youth Innovation and Achievement.

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A Conundrum: Optimism & Reality

I feel that nagging, blaming others and feeling helpless about life is something we’re really good at…especially Lebanese.

No matter how educated or how illiterate, how young or old, female or male, with a high paying job or jobless…we got to nag about something…we got to find problems in everything from the daily issues, to political arena, to economics, to how the whole world is working…whatever issue it is..we can find something to nag about in it and we’re always the victims….but we just don’t do anything about it!

Somewhere in my mid-teens I realized that I tend to fly outside the flock…in numerous ways. This kind of used to make me feel not on the same mental/personal/social page with others my age…whether at school or neighbors or family or…etc. One of those “odd” things I have in me is being optimistic …or what some like to label me “Utopian”… I tend to look at the bright side..even in those stressful moments or when bad things are happening to me or around me…

It is like that quote that says “If life gave you lemons, make lemonade!” …some…or let me say many around me..don’t get it. They don’t see the option of “lemonade” they just see “oh crap, I gotta eat those?!” (metaphorically ofcourse).

So life and people I meet along the way tend to leave an impact in me, and infact many tried to explain to me, one way or another, that being a “pessimist” or  what they like to call them self “realistic” is well…wiser…more profound..more mature. But hey..talk to me here…how come being a pessimist is more profound? ..how come that if you are negative and nag about what you got or didn’t get in life, make you any more mature?

I have to say I’m happy with that “Utopian” title…and I live by it everyday…living that optimism…that positive thinking(I don’t mean that I don’t get sad, I don’t frown and I don’t have mood swings…its just that I tend to be positive most of the time)…I try being that kind of person that if I look back 50 years from now …I’d say I’m completely content, happy and proud of every decision I’ve made…and infact proud of that positive attitude that got me through those 50 years!

So here’s the conundrum for you…my fellow reader… does reality have to be negative, harsh, demanding and unfair (atleast it is according to what I hear people say about it) or can it really be more shiny, happier, safer, more heavenly than we think it is…???

I guess it is all in our heads, whatever we decide it is …it will be…but the trick here is not just to THINK of it this or that…its about ACTING on our thoughts and decisions.

So what is your choice???

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