BEIRUT: Around 3,000 Lebanese students, 200 top decision makers, and more than 50 leading corporations gathered Saturday for the second day of the Changemaker Festival.
The event operates at the intersection of education, youth, entrepreneurship, and impact. It aims to bridge the gap between the youth and the leaders, to create broad based partnerships that inspire action and deliver lasting and sustainable social change, organizers noted.
After the festival kicked off with an opening ceremony to distribute the Lebanon Impact Awards on day one, it was time to leave a meaningful impact on their target audience of school and university students on day two.
Under the title of “Inspiration,” the second day of the festival focused on empowering and inspiring young people through a series of activities that included workshops, panel discussions, meet and greets, outdoor activities and friendly competitions followed by the Hultz Prize award distribution that closed the day.
Teenagers and young adults gathered around the event’s Inspiration Café, which first hosted Lebanese and international singer Anthony Touma for a meet and greet session.
During the session, Touma shared an inspirational story with the crowed on how he was able to end a toxic relationship he had with a girl whom he whole-heartedly loved, but described as “too broken and hopeless” that she was pulling him down. After years of thinking that he gave up on his ex-girlfriend too fast he finally got back to her.
“The girl’s name is Lebanon,” said Touma.
Following the emotional talk, the crowd relocated to watch the Keynote lecture about Business 2.0 conducted by Ahmad Ashkar, founder of the Hult Prize foundation.
According to Ashkar, youth are not tomorrow’s leaders they are “the leaders of today”.
“We encourage young people to create businesses that can restore prosperity and give access to equal opportunity that had been denied to the youth of Lebanon for the last century and beyond,” said Ashkar. “Through Lebanon, we are going to return the Arab world back to its roots of innovation and we are not going to settle for being followers anymore.”
Following the keynote lecture, there was a panel discussion about building a social-media empire. The panel was moderated by Reem Kanj, co-founder and talent manager of Ego and East, and included Lana Sahely, founder of L’Armoire de Lana, and Cynthia Samuel, social media influencer and Miss Universe Lebanon 2015.
The panel incorporated tips on managing one’s social media account, tricks on dealing with online bullying, insights on how to assume one’s net worth and the challenges that influencers face on social media.
According to Cynthia Sameul, when someone chooses to put their self in the public sphere, they should expect criticism to follow.
“It’s like people are waiting for you to do something wrong,” said Sameul. “The problem of criticism doesn’t hold me back; it helps me keep going, because when I face people’s judgments I feel like I can do so much more.”
A break from the two panels held for the day gave students the opportunity to leave the lecture room and participate in eight workshops lead by the Beirut Digital District Academy. The workshops covered topics on sales, marketing, entrepreneurship, writing a resume, software engineering, career guidance, online privacy, public speaking, digital fabrication and coding and robotics.
The second panel was about turning influence to impact. The discussion included Badih Abou Chakra, actor and poet, Valerie Abou Chakra, Miss Lebanon 2015 and founder of Just Care, and Abed Agha, founder and CEO of Vinelab, and was moderated by Mohamad Kais, concept creator and TV and radio host.
During the session, the four panelists discussed the topic of how public figures can use their influence on social media to create an impact that can help in social change; they also talked about the age of technology that developed to the realm of social media.
According to Valerie, everyone can bring about an impact in their daily life, they don’t have to be influencers to contribute to social change.
“I often contribute to NGOs, and every time I do so I get overwhelmed with how impactful help can be,” said Valerie. “The fact makes me wonder why I waited for the title of Miss Lebanon to start my path in social contribution, while anyone can make a change, even if it’s as simple as putting a smile on someone’s face.”
The panel ended with a meet and greet with Mohamad Kais, where he discussed two points that mean a lot to him in this age: morals and ethics.
The day wrapped itself up with the Hult Prize ceremony, where a group of five students from the Rafic Hariri University won a fund of 250,000 USD for their idea of an add-on accessory, in the form of a blanket, that absorbs energy to exude heat in the winter or cool down the temperature in the summer according to what ambience the accessory is put in.
According to Jamal Khayyat, the host of the event, Changemakers exists to empower young people.
“The reason we wake up every morning energized is to make sure that we provide career opportunities and trainings , we inspire, and we expose young persons to a network we’ve been building for the past ten years,” said Khayyat. “In terms of Lebanon, this is just the start, today is the first year of our ten year collaboration.”
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