Loris Tarazi is a youth volunteer and Board member at the East Jerusalem YMCA, and a graduated Change Agent (Cohort 4) of World YMCA. On 1st January 2022, she became the YMCA’s Youth Representative for the Global Youth Mobilization initiative, joining CEOs and youth representatives from six of the biggest youth organizations, collectively known as the Big Six. The Global Youth Mobilization is an initiative of young people and voluntary organizations taking action to address the negative impact of the pandemic on their lives, their communities and their countries to improve their lives now and in a post-COVID-19 world.
Loris’ journey at the YMCA began long before she can remember. Her family were involved in the YMCA community, and she joined YMCA summer camps for children. Loris was so involved in the summer camps, that she eventually became a camp leader. “I had asked the YMCA to be the summer camp coordinator because I had a vision for it, and I worked on it to achieve it”. She now leads the summer camp programme, coordinating learning and games activities for children aged 5-13. She has a unique way of leading and teaching, by leading by example, and through her work in the YMCA she aims to create a safe space for children and youth, where they can discover and be themselves. “I always admired people who help others, and I’m a big believer in the butterfly effect. Since I have been volunteering in my YMCA, I’m seeing this first hand: when one of the young leaders does a simple act of kindness to another, I see the kids watching them, then they do the same, which fills my heart.”
The YMCA Movement is not the only youth organization Loris has been engaged with. She joined the Scouts Movement at nine years old, and eventually became a guide leader, She was a part of the Scouts’ Council in First Ramallah Group. Loris also took part in international Scout camps and Discovery programs, and this exposure gave her wider experience on meeting new people, and leading and supporting fellow young people. For Loris, the learning journey never ends: it’s continuous and never ending.
Loris is now co-leading East Jerusalem YMCA’s children’s community project. She has been in her role for two years, since the start of the pandemic. The children in the community were particularly affected: their education was disrupted, and their mental health and wellbeing impacted, with many struggling to socialize. The YMCA provides them with a safe space, coordinates fun activities and provides skills building. East Jerusalem YMCA has also been implementing a GYM National Project – Hope Makers – which Loris has also been supporting.
“I have seen the great impact this initiative has made, just through the East Jerusalem YMCA National Project. So I can imagine the great change and impact that the whole Global Youth Mobilization has – imagine the other tens or maybe hundreds of projects being implemented, and I’m actually playing my small part in making it all happen. This tells me that the world still has a chance, and that drives and motivates me even more.”
As a graduate of the World YMCA Change Agent programme, Loris’ experience in the offered her a new perspective on the YMCA in general, and how big an effect the work it does has on people and their communities. This exposure gave Loris wider experience on leading and supporting fellow young people which has encouraged her to reach her limits and help others find theirs. She was a part of the COVID-19 Change Agent response team, in which she designed and edited the Change Agent lockdown cookbook which aimed to bring the Change Agents together through the confusing period at the start of the pandemic and give an inside look at the various cuisine seasoned with different cultures.
Most recently, Loris participated in the Youth-Led Solutions Initiative on Climate Change. Working with a group of young volunteers from East Jerusalem YMCA, they developed BrinGreen, which aims to create micro-green spaces across the cities of Ramallah and BeitSahour in Palestine. The project was one of six youth-led projects that premiered at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow.
Her belief in the importance of involving young people in the topics and issues happening all around the world, led to Loris becoming one of the directors of the first East Jerusalem-YMCA Model United Nations conference (EJ-YMUN).
In her spare time Loris is a keen musician, juggling her studies to complete her undergraduate degree in Computer Science at Birzeit University-Palestine and play the viola! She is also part of the YWCA youth group in the city of Ramallah, she still helps, and volunteers there whenever needed, and continues to support the women’s community of Palestine through the programs of the YWCA of Palestine-Ramallah. “I believe that the learning journey never ends, and one doesn’t finish working on oneself, it’s a continuous journey and never ending one, becoming the YMCA youth representative, not will only help me use the skills I already have, it will help me gain new ones and sparkle the ones I already have.”
Loris will participate in her first GYM Board meeting on 8 February, joining YMCA General Secretary Carlos Sanvee.