“There is a gap between different ideologies and traditions in the Middle East, and I guess it is safe to say (this) is also the case internationally. I would like to see a more coherent society able to dialogue and collaborate, with a new leading class of youth able to influence and innovate.” This was Mary Joe Alavalas’ answer when asked about her vision as WYA Middle East’s new Regional Director.
Residing in Beirut, Lebanon, Mary Joe considers herself Mediterranean on account of her father’s Greek last name whose side of the family originated from there. She finished a BA in International Affairs and Diplomacy from Notre Dame University and a Masters program on European and International Policies Management in Sapienza University of Rome. Currently, Mary Joe is working to add a Masters in International Affairs and Diplomacy (with focus on International Law) to this already impressive background.
“I first learned about WYA in 2012 when the Middle East Regional office was founded, as I knew the first Regional Director at the time. I kept on hearing about WYA’s work from its members over the years, and finally got the chance to join just after returning back to Lebanon from Italy,” Mary Joe tells us when asked about the start of her WYA journey. As she takes the mantle of being WYA Middle East’s New Regional Director, Mary Joe says that she is most excited to meet the different groups, chapters, and individuals in the region and the world.
When asked about any special goals she plans to achieve during her directorship, Mary Joe highlights two action points. First, she wants to see WYA Middle East as the meeting point for different actors in the region. “I would like to consolidate different parties and perspectives favoring Human Rights and development. I would like to give the youth a platform and possibility to channel their skills and ideas in this direction, a sort of catalyst.” Second, Mary Joe hopes to achieve youth inclusion in order to understand the real needs and perspectives of the region’s youth. In connection to this, she would also like to connect to regional NGOs in order to harmonize efforts in the area of social development and the Sustainable Development Goals. “Quite frankly, I value pragmatism, putting theory into praxis through the system and not against it. I would like to include other NGOs working on similar topics and having common projects with them, possibly having an exchanges as well. I also like the idea of the Open Space conference, a simple approach for big tangible results.”
In parting, Mary Joe shares this message to the youth in the ME region as she starts her term as Regional Director: “I would like to encourage them to look at the other side, as there may be more in common than they think with groups they consider “others”… It’s time to bridge the gap!”