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Tuesday, 25 August, 2009

Shira Avni, from Beit Yehudit - The International Cultural Centre for Youth (ICCY) in Emek Refaim, blogs about getting local residents to actively participate in the decision making that affects their lives.

Change can and must come from the people themselves and not by way of solutions provided to them by those on the outside. This is why I became involved in community social work. I specialise in helping people organise, identify the problems in their community and their causes and develop solutions.

My name is Shira Avni and I am the head of community development at Beit Yehudit - The International Cultural Centre for Youth (ICCY) in Emek Refaim. We are very happy that The Elders chose to hold their meeting with youth at the ICCY. For us the meeting signifies the connection between past and future, between the leadership and laypeople and the hope we all share for a better future for the world, for Israel, for Jerusalem and for our neighbourhood.

The ICCY's flagship project, the Ginot Ha'ir Council ("City Gardens Council"), is a council of local residents who meet to discuss local issues, with a commitment to being involved in the planning and decisions being made about their lives. As a social worker, Ginot Ha’ir has been the perfect place for me to help local residents work together to solve community problems.

Together, we have launched innovative community programmes that have been replicated at a national level. The 'time bank' volunteer programme allows residents to make a "deposit" of their time, and exchange community services with other bank depositors. 'Re’im' (friends) is a unique social programme for youth and adults who suffer from communication problems. 'Community gardens' brings together neighbours to cultivate public gardens which become activity centres.

By getting involved in local planning, environmental problems and issues relating to youth, residents are inspired to actively participate in the planning and decision-making processes affecting their lives, individual actions that contribute to a wider change.

Shira Avni is 28 years old. She is the head of community development at Beit Yehudit - The International Cultural Centre for Youth (ICCY) in Emek Refaim. Raised in the settlement of Efrat, she is a community social worker, and currently lives in Jerusalem.

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.

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