DOHA, Qatar – March 6th , 2012: Cisco announced today that Al Fakhoora, an international campaign committed to raising awareness of the plight of students in Gaza, has officially launched its Virtual Majlis initiative based on Cisco TelePresence technology to connect university students from Doha, Gaza and the US to create deeper understanding without stereotyping or prejudice, promote critical thinking and explore commonalities.
Highlights / Key Facts:
- Al Fakhoora is an international campaign committed to raising awareness of the plight of students in Gaza. It was established in January 2009 and is supported by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser, to endorse higher education and youth empowerment in Gaza. Sheikha Mozah is also the Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, which in 2001 opened Education City, a 14-square-kilometre educational district on the outskirts of Doha which houses educational institutions including schools, research centers, and university campuses.
- Al Fakhoora's latest project, created in partnership with US-based World in Conversation, is designed to give students in Gaza an opportunity to share their experiences and vocalize their frustrations while enabling students in the West to gain a deeper understanding of their situation. By using state-of-the-art videoconferencing to break down geographical and physical barriers, Fakhoora has created a virtual "Majlis," or sitting room, that connects university students worldwide and builds human connections based on first-hand interaction instead of media-led stereotypes.
- Through Cisco's involvement, what began as a "simple weekly video dialogue over Skype" has been transformed into a complete multi-point collaborative environment with voice, video and document sharing. Cisco TelePresence technology is enabling Al Fakhoora scholarship recipients in Gaza, using an office inside the UN building, to engage in a three-way conversation with students from Qatar Foundation at Education City in Qatar and students from Penn State University in the US. The students are connected using Cisco TelePresence Quick Set C20 and Codec C40 systems. For the students inside Gaza, participating in a global dialogue supports the freedom of education and provides them with much-needed emotional – and intellectual – support.
- Penn State's World in Conversation Project creates dialogues about social and cultural issues that expand perspectives and invite greater understanding between people. This project has taken the lead in organising the US student participation. The organisation boasts a decade of experience in promoting and facilitating cross cultural dialogue.
- The weekly Virtual Majlis sessions, which usually last from one to two hours, are co-hosted by an Al-Fakhoora team in Doha and Dr Laurie Mulvey, sociology lecturer at Penn State University and co-founder of the World in Conversation project. Each session is planned well in advance to meet the diverse interests of the students who attend, and a student facilitator trained by World in Conversation leads the dialogue to promote critical thinking and explore commonalities among participants. Bilingual students overcome language barriers by translating during each Virtual Majlis session.
- The Qatar-based team has an official "Tweeter" for the Virtual Majlis, who posts updates before, during and after each session in order to keep the meetings transparent. The team has also created a Facebook page to further their conversations and create a deeper understanding of each others' lives, and has uploaded videos of Virtual Majlis participants on Fakhoora's YouTube channel. Soon, the students in Gaza hope to have their own Twitter rep, blogger and media specialist.