“You will not be able to take our dreams.

You cannot sweep away our rainbow.

You cannot take away our happiness because we will live as we desire,”

On stage at the Rashad al Shawa Cultural Center in Gaza City, one young woman faces an audience of over 700 people. She is surrounded by Palestinian folklore dancers and four other young people her age who are reciting poetry and singing about the role youth can play in changing their society and bringing about a brighter future for themselves and their community. They are participants in AFSC’s Quaker Palestine Youth Program, celebrating their successes at the annual end of season festival.

In the West Bank, 200 young people stand behind displays set up in the verdant gardens surrounding AFSC’s Ramallah office. They eagerly explain their successful community projects and resulting changes to those who pass by. They speak of founding libraries and centers for innovation, campaigning against violence and supporting the local municipality to ensure better services for its residents. The collective message of their festival: “Our achievement knows no borders.”

All of these Palestinian youth have completed AFSC’s Popular Achievement community engagement program. Youth from across East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza have taken active roles to address issues such as the participation of women in social life and organizations, child labor in rural areas, lack of infrastructure, and the need for community spaces for youth.

The festivals, held in July 2011, are a testament to the efforts, hopes, dreams and concrete achievements of Palestinian young people. From the performance in Gaza where young participants took center stage and highlighted their aspirations, to the tranquil celebration in the AFSC garden where youth spoke authoritatively and cogently about their projects, these were glimpses into a future of hope.

The Gaza festival show and videos on Gaza community initiatives and past festival posters can be watched here.